US Nationals was last weekend and I scored a top 8 with R/B Midrange:
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 2 Glorybringer
- 4 Goblin Chainwhirler
- 2 Soul-Scar Mage
- 3 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
- 2 Pia Nalaar
This is the exact same 75 cards I played at Pro Tour Dominaria where I finished in 3rd place and Reid Duke finished 15th. I played R/B Midrange again because our preparation for Pro Tour Dominaria was so intense and our results with the deck were so strong that I strongly believed that we already solved Standard. I didn't want to overvalue a few recent weeks' worth of poor results, panic, and make changes to my deck. This is the mix of cards I wanted for a more broad and open metagame, exactly what I would expect at a tournament like US Nationals. Any change I have could made would pull away from percentages in other matchups, and I think almost all changes would end up losing me total percentage points.
At this point, I don't believe I need to elaborate on why I love The Chainwhirler …
The choice between Mono-Red and R/B is a simple one for me since playing black gives you access to Scrapheap Scrounger. Last week , I included a tweet in my article that, to me, was strong evidence that Scrapheap Scrounger has been one of the most oppressive cards in the history of the Pro Tour. But in addition to Scrounger, you also get Duress which is the literal best card you can play if your concern is U/W Control or U/W God-Pharaoh's Gift, decks that are traditionally played by players with the intention of having a good matchup against Chainwhirler decks.
Bomat Courier has been called a controversial inclusion, but from my perspective R/B Midrange has all positive matchups as long as you come prepared with Bomat Courier and Duress against control and other non-creature decks. Bomat Courier is absurd against non-creature decks because without the issue of it being blocked, it's just "deal one damage, draw one card" every turn for one mana. Imagine a card that was "1R, sorcery, deal five damage to target opponent, discard your hand, and draw five cards." That card would get banned in five seconds!
Soul-Scar Mage is weak filler, but you really want more one casting cost spells to make Hazoret the Fervent able to attack immediately, and this one happens to combo beautifully with The Chainwhirler. The first time I ever actually did it was Round 4 of Pro Tour Dominaria and while I was completely blowing my opponent out, I had to ask "may I borrow some dice?" to sprinkle -1/-1 counters across their battlefield. It also enables burn spells to kill an opposing Hazoret the Fervent, something that shouldn't ever be overlooked in the mirror.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance has four abilities and sort of looks like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but when Chandra happens to be good in a game, it's usually very good if not the best card in Standard for that particular situation. This and Glorybringer are generally always robust threats against whatever sideboard cards your opponent has against your "plan A" beatdown strategy. When they have Invoke the Divine for Arguel's Blood Fast or Fumigate for your various creatures and you instead have Chandra, it's simply brutal. You sidestep their best cards and you get a proactive threat that also happens to be a card advantage engine. It's ability to crew Heart of Kiran is huge as well.
Speaking of Heart of Kiran, I'm shocked it hasn't seen wider adoption in Standard, and I feel the public has grossly misevaluated its power. Legendary is a big enough drawback that unfortunately I can only justify three, but more players should be playing this card. It can be game-winning all by itself and that's worth quite a bit in my eyes.
My favorite part of playing with Chandra and Glorybringer is no matter how I sideboard, I can never be caught with too few removal spells in my deck. This is a little shell players have been trying to play in Standard recently; players either take out all their creatures to blank opposing removal spells or sideboard in creatures in the hopes that the opponent is underprepared for it. It's come up for me multiple times that I pair Chandra with The Chainwhirler or Soul-Scar Mage to either outright kill or just substantially weaken a card like Lyra Dawnbringer, something that was supposed to take me by surprise and would otherwise be a big problem.
The last interesting card I play that doesn't seem to have picked up in popularity is Unlicensed Disintegration. People know that when they play against red in Standard their removal is capped at dealing four damage, so they intentionally play creatures that are five toughness. The most popular of this bunch is the aforementioned Lyra Dawnbringer, The Scarab God, and Ghalta, Primal Hunger. I think Unlicensed Disintegration's range is wide, but when you remove a blocker, even one that could have been killed by Abrade or Lightning Strike, and deal three damage to the opponent, you've created the same effect of Searing Blaze, an incredibly powerful card in its own right. Even casting a turn 3 Unlicensed Disintegration after deploying a Scrapheap Scrounger on turn 2 is a very solid play, but most of the value is captured by killing the huge creatures that red strategies normally can't deal with.
I could have studied the metagame for hours on end and pored over my decklist looking to make small tweaks, but instead I told myself that it would be a badass move to show up with the decklist everyone already knew was coming.
I like what I'm holding.
If you're a dedicated reader to my column, you'll notice a trend from week to week of me giving away the best technology and most up to date decklists I have and there's clear evidence of this in the tournament results surrounding the publication of my article. My lists are outperforming many other author's lists on the market today and I give away the goods right here and will continue to do so directly to benefit my readers. What I will not do, however, is give any information to my opponents who might be at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary and despite my repeated strong finishes, I won't show them how to update and improve R/B Midrange.
I will reiterate since it's a position I'm proud to take: fans of my articles will get the best of the best and my opponents/competitors will get absolutely nothing from me. Nothing.
Owen Turtenwald (@OwenTweetenwald) July 1, 2018
This was my first draft deck at US Nationals in which I achieved a smooth 3-0, only losing one game where my opponent resolved Icy Manipulator and Fight with Fire with kicker. With the information that those cards exist in my opponent's deck, I was able to play the sideboarded games more conservatively with my counterspells, and when you take those two great cards off the table, winning was elementary. The Mirari Conjecture was my MVP despite only having Warlord's Fury and Weight of Memory - with two cards in the pack at the end of pack two! - as my sorceries.
Owen Turtenwald (@OwenTweetenwald) July 1, 2018
Pack one pick one Song of Freyalise into Slimefoot the Stowaway meant I drafted on easy mode during the second draft of US Nationals, as I only took the best black or green card from every pack. I went 2-1 in this draft and the highlight was using Song of Freyalise with Yargle, Glutton of Urborg on turn 6. Call me old-fashioned, but if they only start at twenty life and you hack them in half with a 10/4 trampling Frog and the rest of your battlefield is now full of 2/2 Saproling tokens, I feel that's quite powerful.
Is a 10/4 vigilance, trample, and indestructible any good? If so, why?
Owen Turtenwald (@OwenTweetenwald) June 30, 2018
I made a rule for myself years ago I would never complain about bad luck at the table to my opponent, and I have yet to break that rule until this tournament. Game 1, I activated Bomat Courier and put seven new cards in hand and my opponent, holding only one card, played Commit on his end step, untapped, immediately played Memory, and my hand of seven spells turned into seven lands.
I started to draw them one at a time...
And I was stuck on four mana, so I thought to myself, "As long as the rest of the cards are spells, I can play a land. cast a spell, and still be in reasonable shape." Lands even had added value in this particular instance because I wanted to empty my hand for Hazoret the Fervent. Then I continued drawing…
I wanted to throw my hand on the table and concede immediately, but since I'm me and I play to the bitter end, I sat there drawing and passing every turn. I can only imagine what my opponent was thinking before I mentioned it at the table and tried not to come off as salty. I just thought it was unreal.
In the top 8 I made it to game three against Jeskai Control, and I played to a favorable position with Glorybringer and Hazoret on the battlefield with a Duress on the stack. I took Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and let my opponent keep Glimmer of Genius. Glimmer of Genius was cast and one turn later they had Harnessed Lightning for Glorybringer and Teferi put Hazoret back in my library.
One thing people may not know about me is I actually like to get a little unlucky or at least I greatly prefer getting unlucky to any other form of losing, especially when my final game is livestreamed on Twitch and nobody can deny that my play was impeccable. Having seen the entire match, I'd be surprised if someone felt I wasn't the clear favorite and getting unlucky to me just means the outcome of the game was no longer in my control. All I do is strive to play as best as possible, and I've had issues losing focus lately, so making top 8 of US Nationals, a 750-person tournament, was just what I needed to restore my confidence.
The level of competition at US Nationals was high and just because some of my opponents had good fortune at times, it didn't promise anything. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and each of my opponents executed each play well in each of my matches. How could one be mad at that result? Congratulations to the winners, and I'll be rooting for America at the World Magic Cup as I do every year.
Preparing For Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
"I look at the Team Pro Tour as a once in a lifetime opportunity." - Reid Duke
" Starting Saturday July 7th, I plan to do nothing but prepare for the Team Pro Tour until go time, twelve hours a day, seven days a week." - William Jensen
Those are my teammates for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, a tournament with an $850,000 prize pool and a first prize of $150,000, $50,000 per player. Historically, team tournaments have had a lower total prize per player for first place than an individual Pro Tour, but WotC really stepped things up this time. The format is Team Constructed with Standard, Modern, and Legacy.
- Golden State Warriors
- New England Patriots
- New York Yankees
- The Peach Garden Oath
Other teams don't even have names because they haven't yet reached our level of success, let alone keep a solid roster together for longer than one pro season. Last time I checked, our record in Team Sealed Grand Prix was seven top 4 finishes out of fourteen attempts, including two wins. Can you imagine showing up to a GP and making the elimination rounds half the time? That is an unprecedented level of dominance.
The sad part for me is I'm the worst performing player on my team! William Jensen is the reigning World Champion and Reid Duke's Pro Tour results this season are 15th, 28th, and 6th. I like to think of myself as the Tom Brady or LeBron James of Magic, but all I've been able to muster this season is 3rd place at Pro Tour Dominaria, 18th at Pro Tour Ixalan, and 7th at US Nationals.
William and Reid have both read Romance of the Three Kingdoms as children and I grew up playing a video game called Dynasty Warriors based on the characters in the story. One day we jokingly referred to ourselves as great warriors and that playing Khans of Tarkir Team Sealed Deck was similar to saving the troubled and aiding the endangered. Listening to their level of enthusiasm and passion, I also solemnly vow to not only uphold the realm but also practice my ass off to give us the best chance to win.
I'll leave you now with the actual Oath of the Peach Garden.
When saying the names Liu Bei , Guan Yu and Zhang Fei , although the surnames are different, yet we have come together as brothers. From this day forward, we shall join forces for a common purpose: to save the troubled and to aid the endangered. We shall avenge the nation above, and pacify the citizenry below. We seek not to be born on the same day, in the same month and in the same year. We merely hope to die on the same day, in the same month and in the same year. May the Gods of Heaven and Earth attest to what is in our hearts. If we should ever do anything to betray our friendship, may heaven and the people of the earth both strike us dead.