"Never become a prisoner of your own style." - Armin Van Buuren
I barely limped into day two of the SCG Open in our nation's capital, and I found myself grinding for the extra one point into top 64, in which I came up short. I don't know what's been happening lately, but I know that I need to pick up my play if I'm going to have a shot at the top 16 on the Players' Championship leaderboard. Having two byes is awesome, and it would help a ton if I managed to obtain my second one for next season.
G/R Devotion was a fine deck, but I know that it probably won't be that great of a deck for the IQs. Whenever there are smaller events following major week one tournaments, the overreaction tends to be pretty big. Responding to this overreaction is key, and I think I know where I want to be for the first IQ.
Before I left Washington DC, I had the chance to jam some games with Kevin Jones. He was on the usual Jeskai stuff, while I was on an attempt at a G/B Constellation/Devotion hybrid. I really liked where the Roanoke crowd ended up with their Constellation build: four Hornet Queen, the usual Eidolon of Blossoms, Frontier Siege, and Doomwake Giant; but I also liked the strong elements of my devotion build: Polukranos, World Eater, Genesis Hydra, and more mana accelerants. There was also Ugin. What's not to love about Ugin? It's the best onboard end game available, and getting to it quickly was the way to go.
Except for one major flaw.
The decks that are trying to get to Ugin quickly are only trying to get there quickly. The green devotion decks, including the one I played in Washington D.C., often flailed around when we didn't have it and was too easily disrupted by the other green decks just playing Magic. With that, I was already off of G/R Devotion for the first IQ, and probably anything involving that color combination, in general. There were better decks out there, put simply.
I was expecting more R/W and Jeskai up in Westchester, where the IQ was being held. That's Kevin Jones territory, and I know for sure that many of the players that follow in his footsteps will be there. This puts me on this build:
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Hornet Queen
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Doomwake Giant
- 3 Eidolon of Blossoms
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
The final inclusion of the deck was Whip of Erebos, a powerhouse of the midgame in Khans of Tarkir Standard. I didn't expect the card to perform that well, but I wanted a source of lifegain, as well as a way to not play the fourth Doomwake Giant while lowering my curve to better facilitate resources gained from Frontier Siege and Eidolon of Blossoms. I didn't really want to play the second Whip, but the fourth Eidolon may have been a little too soft to Drown in Sorrow and Anger of the Gods, so I went with the conservative route.
After losing my first round to the child prodigy Oliver Tomajko, I wound up going undefeated through the rest of Swiss to lock up a top 8 berth along with Andrew Jessup, Andrew Boswell, and Ross Merriam. I was pretty glad that Ross and I were in separate brackets, as the points were extremely important to the both of us. He's trying to get some more padding on his lead in the Season One race (before Jim went and won SCG Indy), while I'm looking to get into the top 16 to get two byes for Season Two. More importantly, I dodged playing one of the three R/W Aggro decks in the top 8 as well, along with the as The Bos's Abzan Aggro deck. Those decks are absolutely brutal on the play, and if I stumble at any point, none of them would relent. I ended up losing in the top 4 to the eventual winner of the event, who was on, you guessed it, R/W Aggro. I felt that the matchup was pretty good, but my opponent was very prepared, and he played very well. I picked up three points along the way, putting me in a tie with Todd Anderson for 16th place on Season Two as of that Thursday.
Going back, I would probably cut the second Whip of Erebos, but I'm not sure what for. I know that it would have to be an enchantment, since we're already on the low end of our enchantment count, but I'm not entirely sure which one. I'm skeptical about the fourth Frontier Siege and the fourth Eidolon of Blossoms. Maybe the fourth Doomwake Giant if you expect tokens. I don't wanna play stuff like Brain Maggot, as it doesn't really do anything, especially with Wild Slash and red-based fast midrange decks being popular. Maybe if there's a way to play an Abzan Constellation build.
Siege Rhino is still a messed up Magic card...
I knew that Saturday's IQ would be even more important, as I wanted to jump ahead of Todd as much as I could. I know that he can very easily move ahead of me, but if I can put myself in a position where neither of us are within reach of anyone else behind us, then that'd be ideal. This means that I'd have to get about five or six more points between now and the SCG Regional Championships. Not impossible by any means, but I know I can't mess around. It's really fun and interesting to be invested in situations like this, and while I know that at the end of the day, I gotta just play Magic and work on getting better for the long term, I'm very motivated to continue grinding.
I wasn't sure what I was going to play on Saturday. I expected much more green-based midrange, because Brooklyn usually has such, but Mardu is on a bit of a rise there as well. Maybe U/B Control could be a good choice. I'm pretty terrible at using my life total as a resource defensively though.
Then again, that's what I said about getting into super grindy matches, and it's turning out okay.
If I expect a lot of Abzan Midrange, then maybe just adjusting the sideboard to be better equipped for those decks is just the better plan. Liliana Vess can replace a Nissa, Worldwaker, which allows me to be more lenient with my sideboard options. I could also just be overthinking things and can probably lean on the ridiculous top end power of the deck to muscle my way through the competition. One thing I would really love in the sideboard is another land, specifically a green Temple. I generally board out most of my mana accelerants against Abzan and other grindy matchups, since we aren't really trying to race them in the resource department, but it does well to make sure we get said resources in general. Adding a 24th land would really help smooth things out and allows us to be more lenient (or aggressive, depending on who you talk to) with our mulligans. In fact, I really like mulliganing more in these matchups because of how important resource advantage is and how much less important curving out, damage, and card advantage are.
I think I'm going to leave the maindeck the same, and go with this sideboard:
There may be a decent chance that the Temple should be a black Temple, but I only really like bringing in Thoughtseize on the draw in rock mirrors, and I don't think we need more black sources. I also want to be able to cast my two-ish mana accelerants and my Coursers on time as well, so the edge goes to the green Temple.
I think the biggest takeaway for these past couple of weeks for me is how important it's becoming for me to just play good decks. I'm actively looking to do what I can to learn how far my range can go. There's little time to spend messing around now, and I have to work as hard as I can to capitalize on my position for Season Two. The important thing is to just play Magic and do everything I can to maximize my chances
With that, I think I've found a Jeskai build that I can actually stomach. I haven't liked any of the Jeskai tokens decks, as having to sidestep everything is just not what I want to be doing. I took the philosophy of the Temur decks, or at least what they were trying to do, and ported that over to the Jeskai clan:
There are a heck of a lot of three-drops here, but that's exactly what I want. Having a bunch of threes lets me skimp on a land, a practice I usually don't like doing but is warranted here. Aggressively scrying and Delvering your way through is my gameplan, even if it means putting a Siege Rhino on top of the library to push, or two-for-one'ing myself. I'm not going to mess around with flimsy tokens and 2/2s that can't ever get past a Sylvan Caryatid, even if it's good in the "lategame." My lategame is trying to kill them before they develop their midgame, and playing a Soulfire Grand Master against a Sylvan Caryatid field seems unreasonably lame, so I'm just going to jam more action with the third Valorous Stance. If you're expecting a lot of green-based midrange decks, then I'd start with something like this.
With all this Standard happening, I'm feeling more and more confident about the Regional Championships coming up, but I still have another format to play. That Sunday, there's an Elite IQ, and it's Modern. I haven't gotten the chance to play Modern in a while, and the timing of the event is pretty good, since it'll be the day after the Pro Tour swiss rounds are over.
What will I be playing in that event?