Insider Information - No Sleep 'Til Nationals
Thursday August 19th
I can't sleep. What a big surprise. I'm up by 10am to see Steven Birklid (Alaska #1) Matt Forner (Alaska #2) Chris Andersen (Chrandersen) E McKenzie (E) and Ben Friedman (Young Ringer) fast asleep. Must be nice guys. Really must be.
It makes little to no sense why I cannot sleep before a big tournament. I test more than anyone in the world (not an overstatement) so you would think I could sleep soundly knowing that I've put in all the work I possibly could. Yet I never can. I'm always tossing and turning wondering if my sideboard plans are correct. Did I test X matchup enough? Am I sure this is the best angle of attack for this tournament? It's actually insane.
What's more insane is that my tournament didn't even start till Friday! Why couldn't I sleep Wednesday night? It makes no sense!
I head to the site to see some friends both old and new and prepare my pals for the grinders. Last week I told everyone how my testing had revealed a great deal but nothing with which I was happy. After penning that article I gave Chrandersen a call and asked about the strength of R/G Valakut in the hope that he would tell me that it was terrible.
"It's okay but you should really be playing Mythic this weekend. It's getting no respect just like it was around Regionals time."
Chrandersen is the Idea Man of my group. He will consistently blurt out suggestions that make little to no sense but I keep him around because sometimes he blurts out an idea that has some merit. He's kind of awesome too.
So when he told me I should be playing Mythic I gave it some thought. There were definitely fewer Cunning Sparkmages around. Linvala was seeing some play but not to a degree that I felt was relevant. Maybe it was time to give it another go on MTGO.
I kept doing battle and refined the decklist until I came to the following:
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Dauntless Escort
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Sovereigns of Lost Alara
A few housekeeping notes about my decklist:
1) Dauntless Escort is better than Rhox War Monk. I'm not sure why people choose to include Rhox War Monk as it does next to nothing 90% of the time but trust me when I say that Dauntless Escort is exactly where you want to be with this slot. It's obvious how good the big rhino is against Day of Judgment decks but where it truly shines is in the Jund matchup. In that matchup you want to set up the Dauntless Escort plus Knight of the Reliquary soft lock until Knight of the Reliquary is active. Once KotR goes active Jund is put in a terrible spot because you can protect Escort and KotR with Sejiri Steppe. That is the ideal board position for Mythic while they are getting everything else set up.
2) Maindeck Mana Leak. I feel that this should be the industry standard but I've seen some decklists without it. Mana Leak is too good not to play maindeck as it is great in every matchup sans Pyromancer’s Ascension. It saved me multiple times at Nationals and I would never consider cutting it from the maindeck.
3) Changes to the manabase. I think this is the change with which I am happiest. When I began testing the Mythic decklists I studied had five Forests two Islands and two Plains. A mere two Islands does not let you consistently cast the best card in the deck - Jace the Mind Sculptor – especially if the mana accelerants are killed. Swapping a Forest for an Island was an easy change.
The other change while not major was adding Seaside Citadel over a Stirring Wildwood and the second Sejiri Steppe. Once again I had too many games in which my mana accelerants were removed and I couldn't cast my relevant spells. You will notice that Seaside Citadel is taking the place of other enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands except these allow you to cast all of the spells in your deck while the other two do not. These changes may not look like much but after making them my win percentage increased. And that's the goal after all isn't it?
4) Jace Beleren in the sideboard. This shouldn't be a big surprise but in case it looks strange here is an explanation. Mythic is a deck with eight one-mana accelerants so casting Jace Beleren on turn 2 against Day of Judgement decks is not only incredibly easy but game-ending. Josh Utter-Leyton had Jace’s Ingenuity in his sideboard for the same matchup (I think) but that seems miles worse than resolving Jace Beleren.
5) Telemin Performance in the sideboard. This one was brought to me by Alaska #1 the day before Nationals. I had tested a lot of cards against Pyromancer’s Ascension with little to no success. Qasali Pridemage died every time I cast it which makes perfect sense because a Pyromancer’s Ascension opponent would want to board up to four Burst Lightning and four Lightning Bolt against my mana accelerant deck. Celestial Purge was okay but it was quite easy for them to board in Dispel and ruin that plan.
My decision was between Relic of Progenitus - which was spreading like wildfire among the tournament players - or Telemin Performance. Telemin Performance seemed great coming from Mythic because we can accelerate to it quickly it isn't countered by Dispel or Flashfreeze and it ends the game on the spot if resolved. It also has the added benefit of killing anyone playing a Howling Mine deck immediately.
I got my deck handed it off to Alaska #1 and headed to the Mall of America with Owen Turtenwald and Captain Twincast himself Rusty Kubis (Story coming soon. It's worth the wait. Trust me.)
Nate Price did a good job of covering Owen's "new look" in coverage but here is the long and short of it:
Once upon a time there was a grinder named OwenT. OwenT in all his legendary grinder status decided he needed a break from the grind and wanted to go out to the club with his friends. Everyone was dressed and ready to go but all OwenT had was a bland red t-shirt old white shorts and disgusting white shoes. He was overcome with embarrassment. OwenT could grind with the best of em but even this legendary man wasn't ready to convince the ladies to hang with him.
Enter the suit-wearing idiot from the Pro Tour.
I'm pretty big on fashion. OwenT told me about the issue he had and I decided it was my duty as a friend to handle said issue. What better place to handle this crisis than the biggest mall in the country?!
We spent five hours at the Mall of America and got him classed up. It was fun to see OwenT grind through store after store to find his right look. I think for my first go with a human mannequin I did a pretty good job. Now you can see OwenT at a venue near you destroying tournaments in style.
You're Gonna Go Far Kid!
Once we returned to the site I came back to see my Mythic decklist doing well but just not quite getting there. Young Ringer and Alaska #1 lost in the finals of their grinders with my exact 75 which was frustrating to say the least as I wanted both of them to be competing with me at Nationals.
I was sick on Thursday evening (allergies FTL) and called it a night pretty early.
Friday August 20th
3am eh? Clearly I couldn't sleep at all. It wasn't helping matters that E was snoring like crazy. I managed to pass out again for what felt like a few minutes when I looked to my left to see that E was no longer in the bed with me. I took a second to readjust my headphones and what I heard next pretty disturbing.
Vomiting. Violent violent vomiting.
This was easily the second most violent vomiting I had ever heard in my life. E was giving the toilet a piece of his mind and no one was sure why. Apparently dinner did not sit well with him.
After dealing with that endeavor I toss and turned for another three hours or so and got ready to game.
Round 1 versus Griffin Lussier (Esper Control)
This was Griffin's first Nationals and it showed a little. Not in a "what a giant donk he was" way but more in a "he was super nervous" way. Game 1 I tried to grind Griffin out but he was having none of it and Grave Titan finally did me in.
Game 2 the game went long again and I had a Jace the Mind Sculptor for long enough to take advantage. The crucial turn of the game was when I played a Sovereigns of Lost Alara with a Knight of the Reliquary up. I sent Lotus Cobra in for lethal and Griffin tried to resolve a Condemn. I searched up a Sejiri Steppe to counter that Griffin realized he should have blocked with his Wall of Omens first before casting Condemn and we were off to game 3.
Game 3 was another drawn-out affair. Griffin was able to resolve a Grave Titan while I had Jace the Mind Sculptor in play so I was getting in a little trouble. Fortunately my deck lent me a copy of Eldrazi Conscription for my Noble Hierarch. Unfortunately I had to pay full price but annihilator was important this time around. Jace the Mind Sculptor bounced Grave Titan back to Griffin's hand and a few swings from an 11/12 Noble Hierarch later and I was victorious.
Round 2 versus Reid Duke (GW Aggro)
Reid is a member of the forums on which I work on Constructed decks. This was my first time meeting him in real life and it was a pleasurable experience. His choice was a GW deck that looked a lot like Naya but eschewed Red for cards I did not get the chance to see.
Game 1 was a pretty big beating. I was making a comeback of sorts but Fauna Shaman found Reid a third Noble Hierarch to make his Vengevine a 7/6. Knight of the Reliquary plus Sejiri Steppe gave the 7/6 Vengevine protection from Green and we were off to game 2.
Game 2 I am fairly confident that I nut drew Reid and mangled him with Sovereigns of Lost Alara.
In game 3 Reid had to mulligan but his first few plays were all mana accelerants and Knight of the Reliquary. He only had one land when I slammed down Linvala Keeper of Silence. I felt like I was in pretty good shape but Reid peeled a Sunpetal Grove to Path to Exile my favorite angel.
I was still in pretty good shape as I had a Sovereigns of Lost Alara the next turn for my Lotus Cobra. Reid tried to bluff a Path to Exile on the last turn of the game but I was still getting in there. He didn't have it and victory was mine.
Round 3 versus Brandon Ayers (Naya)
Brandon is a Nebraska player who is familiar with my former room the Zack Wolff. He's a quiet kid with some skills so I wasn't surprised to see him be x-1 after Day 1.
Game 1 Brandon is busy mulliganing. And he did that so many times that he conceded the game instead of showing me any cards in his deck. This was a play that I really liked not because it gave me the win but because people don't do it enough.
I'm pretty sure Brandon knew what I was playing but I didn't have a clue what deck he was piloting. I could try to guess what deck he was on but with so many viable decks in Standard I would rather leave my deck configured as is than try and play the guessing game. This gave Brandon a very nice game 2 advantage.
Game 2 he revealed he was playing Naya and beat me up pretty badly:
Turn 1 Noble Hierarch
Turn 2 Lotus Cobra fetchland (no crack) plus Birds of Paradise
Turn 3 Bloodbraid Elf revealing Oblivion Ring (target my Lotus Cobra). Fetchland plus another Bloodbraid Elf revealing Lotus Cobra.
I decided to concede after that. There was no way I was coming back from that beatdown. Time to go get those Linvalas!
Game 3 I had a very good draw. Turn 3 Linvala shut off his mana sources and a Sovereigns of Lost Alara was not far behind.
Round 4 versus Matt Forner (RG Valakut)
I was paired against Alaska #2! We were testing this matchup the night before and I was pretty far ahead. Part of the reason I chose to play Mythic was because of how good a matchup it had against RG Valakut.
Game 1 I am sure that I screwed up somewhere but I am not sure where. I've been trying to reconstruct the game for a while now but I simply cannot remember it. What I do remember is that I was playing very conservatively to keep Mana Leak up and it ended up not countering anything of relevance. Inferno Titan came down I couldn't stop it and I lost.
Game 2 I had to mulligan to five but my draw was actually perfect. I was attacking for enough damage with Elspeth to put pressure on Alaska #2 that when it came time to cast his Inferno Titan I had the Mana Leak ready. Alaska #2 had another Inferno Titan the next turn but I had peeled a Deprive and we were off to game 3!
Game 3 I got crushed harder than I have been crushed in a long time. My draw was pretty slow and a turn 4 Inferno Titan is pretty unforgiving. So is a turn 5 Inferno Titan.
It was draft time. I really wanted to 4-0 Constructed but my own mistakes got in the way. It was time to rebound in the best way possible: by drafting an awesome White Weenie deck!
2 Elite Vanguard
2 Blinding Mage
2 Stormfront Pegasus
2 Wild Griffin
2 Cloud Crusader
2 Mighty Leap
3 Squadron Hawk
1 Safe Passage
1 Armored Ascension
1 Serra Angel
1 Awakener Druid
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Spined Wurm
This deck looks pretty sick right? Next week we will talk about my record with this deck what other shenanigans I got into over the weekend and how my 13th place while a very respectable finish left me disappointed.
I guess I'll talk a little about Pro Tour: Amsterdam too!
Until next week...