It's amazing how even when I have my deck prepared and have byes I'm always running around before the player meeting starts. I figured out my last few sideboard spots on the way here, and was playing largely the list I advocated for in the most recent StarCityGames.com® newsletter:
Of course there was one problem.
Winter Orb, despite being a $3 card, is actually impossible to find. Of course, if I was a smart person I would have just ordered one after not being able to find one at the last Legacy event I played, but I am not a smart person. The SCG booth has none, and the other dealer has one… but it's an Alpha version and is $300. While I've got two byes to find one, writing it on my list without knowing if I can get one is very risky. Fortunately, the SCG booth was able to help me out and a mild crisis was averted.
After scribbling out my list and wishing Nicole good luck in her quest to burn people, I set off to get some breakfast.
Byes are awesome.
I waited in line for a half hour for it, but my bacon egg and cheese wrap is amazing. I got Nicole food as well, and now I wait.
Okay maybe not, but I definitely am itching to play. I'm pretty tired, as we made the somewhat foolish choice to play Werewolf at Frank Skarren's house until about 2am last night and I'm beginning to regret it. Still, it was good to see Grand Prix Top 8 competitors Peter Ingram and Alec Nezin, and as always, my favorite Gold level pro, Christian Calcano.
The games were very interesting too, so it was definitely worth it. In the last game, Pete was a wolf and started the game attacking Alec (who was also a wolf) and got him killed. Despite my reservations about how Pete must be good, we still got him in the end!
With my byes behind me, it was time to head right to the feature match area for a match with Chris Andersen. Chris has been having a great year, and I'm pretty sure he is playing Lands, which does not bode well for me.
Lands has been doing very well lately, and it's not surprising that, in turn, Delver of Secrets-based decks have not been doing well. Lands has many tools to beat Delver decks – Punishing Fire to handle the creatures, Wasteland and Rishadian Port to wreck a somewhat fragile manabase with no basics, Life from the Loam to grind, Maze of Ith to deal with our singular big threats, and a very fast kill with Dark Depths.
Having Deathrite Shaman does help a bit, but it is a huge uphill battle. The games play out pretty much as expected, and I lose in three games.
Going into round four I am looking to break a rather nasty streak. I'm pretty sure that in my last five or so Opens that I have lost my first two rounds after my byes, and starting 0-2 in every Open you've played for six months is pretty awful. I do have a few good finishes in that span (top 16 of #SCGRICH and top 4 of #SCGMKE), but they had to be salvaged from poor starts.
So to say I want to win this one is an understatement.
My opponent is playing the Esper Mentor deck championed by our own Patrick Chapin, and while my Dazes are very good at keeping Monastery Mentor in check, game 1 he was able to resolve a Tasigur, the Golden Fang for one mana. It seems rather unfair that I can't Abrupt Decay it, don't you think? Unfortunately my deck has no maindeck answers to a large creature that cost more than four mana besides countering, but I was able to engage it in combat with a Tarmogoyf and win the fight with a Disfigure.
For game 2, I sideboard in better removal options like Murderous Cut and Go for the Throat to better deal with his Tasigur and Monastery Mentors. I also decided to bring in Winter Orb as a way to punish him for playing three and four mana sorcery speed threats. Ideally, he would play a threat, I would counter it, untap, and Winter Orb, and that's exactly what happened.
The streak is broken!
For round five it is back to the feature match area.
I notice my opponent, Sam Roukas, has his sleeves sleeved, and he confirms that his deck is in fact triple sleeved.
Yo dawg, I heard you like sleeves, so I sleeved yo sleeves so you can sleeve while you sleeve.
I suppose the karma gods didn't like me judging my opponent for wanting to protect his valuable Legacy cards, and they saw fit to send me to five cards on the draw for game 1. My hand was largely creature-based, and Swords to Plowshares, Swords to Plowshares, Snapcaster Mage back Swords to Plowshares was more than enough to do me in. Miracles seems to be a reasonable matchup, so I'm confident going into game 2.
For the next game I'm on the play. I keep a reasonable hand and sign the slip as a loss in about ten minutes. I did stall on lands a bit in the midgame, but I just had a huge amount of trouble properly interacting with him. Sam made a very good read on me not having Daze on his turn 4 based on how I had played the previous turn and just slammed a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and that was basically all she wrote.
I'm definitely a bit frustrated as I sit down for round six, as my back is already against the wall. Miracles and Lands are two of the more popular decks in the room, and I'm not thrilled with my matchup against either.
My opponent then casts a Baleful Strix into Veteran Explorer, and I wish I was playing anything else. Both cards are very good against Sultai Delver, with Baleful Strix being quite the annoyance if you can't Daze it. Somehow I am able to pull through in a long game thanks to Dark Confidant, and a triple Delver of Secrets draw in game 2 takes down the match.
I walk around to find Nicole, and when I find her she seems a bit frazzled. I ask her if she lost, and she says “I just mulliganed to five and kept a zero land hand on the play and won.”
She was playing against a Delver deck, and after telling her she is a sicko, I applaud her very brave keep. She understood that four cards would likely not be enough to actually kill a Delver player, and this hand had enough gas that a land or two off the top might get it done. Being able to scry would help a lot in that regard too. While her opponent was surprised that she did nothing turn 1 and just said go, I can imagine he was even more surprised when he signed the slip in her favor.
This was by far the most absurd round of the tournament.
My opponent is playing Mono-Black Pox, and game 1, a few Innocent Bloods, a Smallpox, and a Wasteland sees my opponent casting Nether Void on turn 4 when I have zero permanents on the battlefield. I didn't win that one.
Game 2, I have a solid draw on the play and am able to do my thing.
Game 3, I mulligan to five and keep an iffy hand.
My opponent plays Swamp, Dark Ritual, and Liliana of the Veil on the play. I do not have a Force of Will, and am floored. Many turns of discarding, having my lands destroyed, and seeing my hand disappear happen, but my opponent is unable to find a way to put me away faster than two damage a turn from Cursed Scroll. When I make it to two lands on the battlefield and no cards in hand, my opponent ultimates Liliana, points at my two lands in play, and says “those are your piles.”
This is what happens, and three attacks later from a 7/8 Tarmgoyf, and I've somehow beaten a turn 1 Liliana of the Veil after about fifteen turns.
Stop with the Baleful Strix!
My opponent this round was on a U/B Tezzeret/Thopter Foundry deck, and once again I had to slog through more Baleful Strix. Thankfully, Dark Confidant did some amazing work, which let me grind through and take game 1.
The “slightly bigger” mirror can be tough, and my last opponent of the day was playing Sultai Delver as well, sans Dark Confidant.
Instead he had Gurmag Angler and True-Name Nemesis, which are both quite good against me. Delver mirrors are often very interactive and complex, and I could write an entire article on one game. Disfigure is an insane tempo play in the mirror, and after a hard fought match, I was able to move on to day two at 7-2.
Or so I thought.
When I check the pairings Sunday morning, I see that it has been recorded that I lost the final round yesterday. I rush to the judge staff, very concerned for my tournament life, but they are able to fix it. Pairings are swapped around, and I find myself facing Andrew Boswell and his Temur Delver deck.
While Temur Delver has draws that will beat anyone, I think that I am favored in the matchup. Deathrite Shaman is a must-kill threat, and they have no good answer to Tarmogoyf either. Otherwise I have a similar removal and disruption package. Game 1 is a complicated back and forth affair that sees me eventually come out on top.
Game 2, I keep a slightly risky one-lander and spend multiple turns with zero permanents in play.
Game 3, Andrew keeps a slightly risky one-lander and spends multiple turns with zero permanents in play.
Once again I am called to the feature match area, and once again it is a poor matchup. Jonathan Morawski is playing Lands, and I again know I'm fighting an uphill battle.
Game 1, we both mulligan, and I am super happy with my six card hand on the play:
I'm very excited for a chance to steal game 1, as the matchup gets much more reasonable after sideboarding. I play my Deathrite Shaman and say go.
Jonathan draws his card, plays a Thespian's Stage, plays Mox Diamond discarding Wooded Foothills, plays another Mox Diamond discarding Rishadian Port, and casts Life from the Loam on the two lands he discarded. I can't Daze as he has mana available, but I will be able to nuke the Life from the Loam with my Deathrite Shaman next turn, which doesn't seem too bad.
On my turn, I Brainstorm to fish for a Stifle or Wasteland to defend against a Dark Depths, or a land to exile Life from the Loam. I find neither, pass the turn, and Jonathan's last card in hand that I don't know is Dark Depths. A turn 2 20/20 follows, and we're off to game 2.
With my back to the wall, I take a mulligan in game 1 and keep this hand:
I take game 2 with a solid draw backed by a Tarmogoyf and some removal, and in game 3, I make an error by leaving myself with black mana untapped instead of green on a Ponder. I thought I'd rather draw a removal spell, but when I saw my second Tarmogoyf and had to shuffle it away, it sealed my fate.
Just like that, I'm dead for top 8.
One of my biggest problem rounds in a tournament is the round after I am eliminated from top 8 contention. I think my lifetime winning percentage in the match after I can't top 8 anymore has to be around 30%. This is very bad, as while I'm a very competitive person who wants to win the event more than anything else, even when dead for top 8 you are still playing for points and a reasonable amount of money.
Thankfully, Dark Confidant was once again there to save me in game 3 against a B/W Rest in Peace/Helm of Obedience combo deck. Considering how good Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void already are against me even without the combo, Dark Confidant was instrumental in getting out of this one alive.
I thought Miracles was close... it does not seem so.
While I again had somewhat sketchy hands, another solid Miracles player would again crush me. Game 2 was interesting, as despite my opponent's turn 2 Rest in Peace making my threats anemic, I was almost able to steal it with a well-timed Winter Orb.
If you are looking for a great card against Miracles from an aggressive deck, Winter Orb is definitely something to consider.
As I sat down against Dylan Donegan for my final round of the event, we discussed how our tournaments had gone. I was pretty unhappy with my deck, as it felt like many of the matches I lost were popular decks that are bad matchups, and many of the matches I won I just barely squeaked out. Delver decks are typically good against combo decks, and I had played against none of those. It seems like the two best decks in the format are Miracles and Lands, and Delver is pretty poor against both of those.
Dylan was playing Grixis Delver, and while he had avoided playing Lands all tournament, he agreed that Miracles felt pretty bad. Dylan bested me in an uneventful two games.
Man, I wish had just played Storm or something.