Ah, the West Coast.
It's been quite a while since I've been back on this side of the country, and I've definitely missed it. The trees, the water, the rain. Oh man, the rain. It rains in Virginia, but it's just not the same as the Pacific Northwest. It seems more that we're the inconvenience for the rain rather than the rain being an inconvenience for us.
It's good to be home.
The first leg of my trip was to Portland for the Open Series. I wasn't sure what exactly I wanted to play, so I was leaning on Brad Nelson and Brian Braun-Duin to help me figure it out.
BBD had been working on a R/W deck that seemed pretty sweet, and he had been doing pretty well with it on MTGO. He talked me through the deck, and I felt pretty comfortable battling with it; however, Brad was pretty high on Yuuya's deck from Worlds and was trying to talk us into it.
I didn't get to play any games with it since I was trying to get all caught up at work after being out with my teeth issue and getting ready to be gone for almost two weeks, but BBD had been battling on MTGO with it and just kept losing.
I was torn. I was trying to rely on the insight from Brad and BBD who were advocating different decks while saying that the other was bad. I was excited by the prospect of jamming Stormbreath Dragon again, but Brad really felt like Yuuya's deck was busted, and the idea of Cruising and playing Ascendancy in both formats was pretty appealing.
In the end I decided to go with Brad after talking about it since we were staying in the same hotel room. The sideboard strategy really set the deck ahead since a lot of decks would try to play a controlling game against you post-board, and you get to side into the same strategy except you also have four Treasure Cruise in your deck and they don't.
Everyone wanted to engage in this battle of resources without Ancestral Recall, and it was a bloodbath.
Well, everyone except for Siege Rhino.
Tom, Brad and I all played the same 75. Brad made the top 8 and lost in the finals, while Tom and I both went 7-2 for a top 32 finish.
24-6 was the end result for the three of us combined, with all six losses coming at the hands of Siege Rhino.
Glenn Jones and Gerry Thompson had been working on their Whip deck in a group chat all week, and it really did look beautiful. The two of them played magnificently and definitely deserved to get into the top 8 as well, but another Rhino-Lover took the crown with a more midrange Rhino deck with no Whips.
With or without Whips the lesson learned from Portland was that Siege Rhino is back on top.
What does that mean for those who are devout to the Jeskai Way? What is the next step to try and combat the Rhinos?
Yuuya's deck played a healthy dose of Disdainful Strokes as a good reactive spell against them, but the problem is that sitting back on our heels isn't always the best strategy. We still need to get em' dead. Glare of Heresy is also pretty sweet against them too, but the six-point life swing from the trigger is rough too.
We can try to be proactive with something like Hushwing Gryff, but our token strategy is making them already want to bring in cards like Drown in Sorrow to complement their Bile Blight. We can try to go wide against them with Hordeling Outburst and Raise the Alarm with our Jeskai Ascendancy, but that strategy is also vulnerable to the aforementioned Born of the God's all-stars.
We can try to go with a more controlling route ourselves with End Hostilities and Elspeth, Sun's Champion, but the issue is that there are multiple forms of Abzan, and this strategy isn't the best against all the different flavors.
The truth is that I don't really know what the next step is. As I write this I am sitting in the banquet room of my mom's restaurant in Tacoma (It's Greek to Me) with a large cast of masterful magicians battling behind me trying to answer this very question (Glenn Jones, Gerry Thompson, Brad Nelson, Joshua Ravitz, Mani Davoudi, Ross Merriam, Brian Swatkins, Chris Marshall, Chris Cothren, Tom Ross, and David McDarby).
Will we be successful? I sure hope so, but I honestly wouldn't be surprised if we just sleeve up Siege Rhino in some form and charge into battle at the Season Four Invitational. I'm going to just keep eating these delicious gyros and battling until we figure it out though.
For Legacy though, while I'm pretty sure that I'm the only one on it, I am still pretty keen on Reanimator. I played the Jeskai Ascendancy deck last week in Portland along with Brad and Tom, and while Brad did well with the deck (he lost a couple win-and-ins), I was pretty unhappy with the deck. It's not all that good against the more "fringe decks" that you're going to run against. I played against Burn and was demolished, and sometimes people are just going to decide to jam interesting cards into their decks to see what will happen. Imagine my surprise when I Gitaxian Probed my opponent and saw Sudden Shock sitting next to Pyroblast, Swords to Plowshares, and Lightning Bolt.
Good luck with those Fatestitchers…
The Thought Scours were awesome, and I wish that I had been able to find another Mental Note over the Ponder that Tom and I played since we only had access to four Mental Note between the three of us. The effect that you get from the cards really turbo-charges your Treasure Cruises, which is exactly what you want to happen. Unfortunately, you have to actually get Jeskai Ascendancy into play and since it costs three-mana, sometimes it can feel like an eternity. We also went to four Lightning Bolts over the 3/2 split with Swords to Plowshares that Rich Shay had in his original version of the deck, and while I liked having the extra bolt, it still felt like we just didn't have enough interaction to bridge the gap until we get the Ascendancy into play, and even then things had to go right to be able to win.
When things went right though, it was a thing of beauty. There were games that I was able to win with Jeskai Ascendancy that I just didn't think would be possible, and there were also games that I lost because I didn't play it correctly. Using a Lightning Bolt to kill an innocuous creature since it didn't really look like you would be able to win this turn and end up two or three points short of lethal was a common occurrence. You really have to play to win the game and not try to leave yourself a contingency plan. Your Fatestichers are exiled at the end of your turn, and you aren't likely going to be able to go off on the following turn since you will either be dead or just out of resources.
All that being said, the interactions between Treasure Cruise and Jeskai Ascendancy are just absurd, and I expect that there are decks in Legacy and Modern that use them that will end up getting one or both banned. I'm just not sure what the shell is, but I hope that someone can find it.
As for Reanimator, here is the list that I am considering:
I think that this is where I want to be with my maindeck, but I'm not quite sure where I want to be with the sideboard.
These are all possibilities for sideboard cards, but I'm just not sure what configuration I want.
David McDarby winning with his Knight of the Reliquary deck might be a bad omen for me, but I'm just going to have to hope that it's not since I feel like Reanimator is pretty well-positioned against the other combo decks, the Stoneforge Mystic decks, and the U/R Delver variants. Knight of the Reliquary and Karakas are the two big hits to the deck, but as long as David's deck doesn't pick up in popularity, I think that Reanimator is a solid choice.
As I said earlier, I am very excited to be back here in Tacoma. We have a rental house (less than 0.5 miles from The Greek) for the six of us (Brad, Ross, Marshall, Swatkins, Cothren, and myself) and everything has just been awesome. In fact, we even got a package that showed up at our door less than 30 minutes after arriving.
We heard a knock at the door. Puzzled, I opened the door just as the UPS driver was hopping back in his truck and driving away. On the porch was a big Styrofoam box with an Omaha Steaks label on the top. There was also an itemized list of the package contents on top which we read out loud to everyone.
We checked the address. It was correct, but the name and phone number on the package was quite unfamiliar. There was also a greeting card on the top signed from an Aunt and Uncle saying Merry Xmas.
I contacted the property owner, and they had no idea. We thought they might have ordered it and then would charge us for whatever meats we wanted to cook, but they had no idea.
This all sounded quite delicious, but it was somebody's Xmas gift. We couldn't really just rip into it in good conscience without trying to contact them. It needed to be refrigerated ASAP, so we really didn't have a lot of time.
I sent them a text message and figured we give them an hour before we opened it and put the boxes in the freezer to keep it all fresh. We'd give it a day or so and then just devour the meals ourselves and not feel too bad about it since we did try to get it back to them.
About two hours later I received a response. They used to live at the house, but were still in Tacoma. She was overly gracious for us trying to get ahold of them to return the gift and set up a time to pick it up on the following day.
She was nice, and super happy to get her gift. She even brought us a Starbucks Gift Card! She also said that they didn't really like cheesecake and also gave us those too! Who says doing the right thing doesn't pay?!
It was nice to get the gift card and the cheesecakes, but to be honest I'd rather just have steaks; so that's what we did. We went out for some awesome Indian food (where I got it a bit too spicy) and then went grocery shopping for the week. Steaks, spaghetti, tacos, and breakfast meals are on the agenda for the week to keep our energy high and thoughts focused so that we can take this tournament down.
I'd be happy for any of my friends to do well this weekend, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I wanted it pretty bad. I haven't done very well in the Invitational historically, and I am really hungry for a solid finish.
If I don't do well, then at least I can drown my sorrows in some gourmet cheesecake, but to be honest, I'd rather have steak.