About two months before Grand Prix Providence, I had the terrifying privilege of being paired against my friend and deckbuilding evil genius Doug McKay at a 40 Duals/40 Fetches event at Jupiter Games. Knowing he doesn't play “real” decks, I knew I was in for an adventure. When he resolved a Food Chain, I knew I was dead. When he evoked a Mulldrifter with Food Chain in play, I knew I had to play this deck. Doug ended up making top four of that event, losing to the eventual winner.
The next day, I sent him a Facebook message asking how he felt about the deck after playing it through a large event, explaining how I wanted a deck for Providence that had the ability to go unfair, that had a strong backup plan, and that people wouldn't really know how to play against. The first line of his response was “I totally think it's the real deal after that event.”
Doug isn't one to mince words or toot his own horn, so that was exactly the endorsement I was looking for, and I built the deck that afternoon. I played the deck in the next Jupiter event, a 33-person GPT, and a dozen or so local Legacy pickup tournaments. I tweaked the deck a little each time, and I think the list I played in Providence is the best build I've come up with yet. Here's the list I ended up with for the Grand Prix:
- 1 AEthersnipe
- 2 Coiling Oracle
- 1 Drift of Phantasms
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 3 Fierce Empath
- 3 Llanowar Elves
- 2 Mulldrifter
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Quirion Ranger
- 3 Vengevine
- 4 Wirewood Symbiote
- 1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
The goal of this deck is to ramp out and hardcast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. The fastest Emrakul has hit the board for me is turn 3, and against little to no disruption, he usually drops by turn 5.
Food Chain is obviously the deck's engine, and it's pretty much disgusting. All of your creatures become Rite of Flame. Your Elvish Visionaries and Coiling Oracles are Rite of Flames that cantrip. Fierce Empath is a Rite of Flame that tutors for your win condition. Aethersnipe removes a problem permanent and nets you four mana. Mulldrifter is a Black Lotus that draws two. And all of the above trigger any Vengevines in your graveyard, which are just as good at attacking as they are at making another five mana.
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth is in the deck to refill your hand mid-combo if you have a Fierce Empath and can't quite make fifteen mana. Kozilek was Myojin of Seeing Winds in my list for a few weeks, but for the Grand Prix, I decided that resiliency to counterspells was more important than occasionally whiffing on Kozilek's draw four trigger. And Kozilek's ability to win the game on his own after a whiff is a pretty substantial bonus.
If your opponent is packing a lot of disruption or if you think they're sideboarding heavily to beat Food Chain, the deck sideboards into U/G Survival. The Food Chains, Empaths, Eldrazi, Aethersnipe, and Drift of Phantasms come out for everything except the Llawans and Faerie Macabre. Against Merfolk, you also take out the Mulldrifters to make room for Llawan.
The astute reader will see that there is no removal in the deck outside of Aethersnipe, Duplicant, and Sower of Temptation. Nor is there a single counterspell to speak of. I ran the deck at a Jupiter Games 40 Duals/40 Fetches event with a set of Spell Pierce in the sideboard, but the Pierces were useless if they weren't in my opening hand. The Pierces also have to be boarded in place of creatures, which is comparable to boarding out Dark Ritual in a Storm deck to make room for Chain of Vapor. Even worse, they came at the cost of not running Faerie Macabre or Llawan in the sideboard. I took three losses to Merfolk on the day due to not having my trump available, and I only beat my Dredge opponent because he forgot to return his exiled cards from game two to his deck before presenting for game three.
In the current meta, a deck like this just doesn't need or want countermagic. Against the type of deck that really fears counterspells (like Ad Nauseam Tendrils), they have to play around Force of Will and Spell Pierce anyway after they see that you're playing Islands. The threat of having them is almost as good as having them. Ad Nauseam and Epic Storm aren't that much faster than this deck; the extra turn or two that they spend looking for a Duress can be used to go off first. Phyrexian Revoker does work in the matchup as well, so you're far from cold to the faster combo decks.
There are tons of little tricks that exist in this deck, but this is a tournament report, not a primer. Some of the neat things this deck can do will come out in the game descriptions, so let's just get into it.
I tracked down Morgan Chang who saved my weekend by providing me with the last foil for my 75, then went for breakfast with a handful of Jupiter Games regulars and some out-of-town friends. While we were waiting for our food, Nick Patnode commandeered a pile of New Phyrexia packs from a friend who had won a grinder the night before. We played some stupid game where Nick would tell us what color the rare and/or foil in the pack, was and with no other information of any kind, we all had to guess what it was. The winner each round got absolutely nothing. I guessed foil Artillerize every time and was right once. The owner of the packs guessed foil Batterskull every time, and he was also right once (sick). Breakfast was mediocre; somehow the restaurant managed to take 45 minutes to undercook everyone's pancakes. But that still beat having to play three extra rounds.
Round 4: Masaki with Zoo
Masaki won the die roll and had a turn 1 Forest into Green Sun's Zenith for Dryad Arbor, so I put him on a Natural Order deck. I led with a Noble Hierarch. He fetched for a Taiga, burned my Hierarch, and cast his own Hierarch. That made it pretty clear that he was on a Big Zoo deck, which is basically the nightmare matchup for Food Chain. They combine spot removal with an aggressive clock, which work together to make you dead before you can get any momentum. He spent the rest of the game burning my guys while adding a Wild Nacatl, Knight of the Reliquary, and Elspeth, Knight-Errant to the board. I died without getting anything going.
I started the tournament off right by sideboarding completely wrong. I brought in Umezawa's Jittes and the Sower of Temptation because both of those cards are good against Zoo in a vacuum. However, my board plan should have been focused on the fact that all of Zoo's relevant combo hate is artifact-based. I should have brought in Krosan Grip and Viridian Shaman, but I didn't, and he pretty much ended the game with his turn 2 Ethersworn Canonist.
I did manage to set up a turn where I had a Hierarch and an Empath in play with Aethersnipe in my hand. I had exactly enough mana to evoke Aethersnipe to bounce the Canonist, cast Food Chain, then go off comfortably from there. But Masaki was sharp enough not to give me that opportunity by burning off the Hierarch at the end of my turn and the Empath during his turn. This cost me the Hierarch's one mana, the six mana the two creatures would have given me with Food Chain, and the three mana Gaea's Cradle would have tapped for after evoking Aethersnipe. My master plan was just going to work with thirteen mana available; it certainly wasn't going to work with three.
Masaki was a very nice guy and a gracious winner. Congratulations to him for going on to make Top 16.
Round 5: David with Sneak and Tell
David was clearly inexperienced in competitive Magic, shuffling so I could see pretty much his whole deck, and not really sure what to do when he accidently flipped his eighth card over as he drew his opening hand, and a lot of other little tells told me he doesn't do this much.
I won the die roll and played a land. He followed with Island and Ponder. I played my second land, the Hierarch I drew that turn, and passed. He played Ancient Tomb and Lotus Petal. This is where this matchup gets clutch. He can cast either Show and Tell or Sneak Attack. Food Chain loves Show and Tell but hates Sneak Attack. If he casts Show and Tell, I put Mulldrifter into play, draw two, untap, and cast Food Chain on my turn then win through any beast he drops into play. I thought I was in good shape because he only had a Lotus Petal for red mana, so Sneak Attack seemed pretty safe. Unfortunately, his last three cards in hand were Lotus Petal, Sneak Attack, and Emrakul. He Snuck an Emrakul in and put me to five life with no permanents, leaving his board as Sneak Attack, Island, Ancient Tomb, and no cards in hand. I bucked up and started to rebuild my board presence, far from out of this game given his current situation. Fate was not on my side, and his next two draws were Volcanic Island and a Brainstorm, which found him a Woodfall Primus.
I boarded in Phyrexian Revokers, Sower of Temptation, Duplicant, and Krosan Grips. I mulliganed to a hand of Forest, Revoker, Kozilek, Sower, Duplicant, Brainstorm. One-landers are almost always a bad idea, but if his plan is to Show and Tell early, Kozilek is going to go the distance. And if his plan is Sneak Attack, I just need to find a second land and Revoke his ability to do that. I found my second land on turn 3, but it was Gaea's Cradle. No love. He then snuck a bunch of creatures into play to attack me. I showed him my hand after the game, and he said “Wow. I just never drew a Show and Tell. That would have sucked.”
Off to a good start! At this point in the tournament, I had to flash back to last year's Bazaar of Moxen Vintage main event where I found myself 2-2 with five rounds still to play. I ran it back to finish 7-2 and put some Power in my binder. I could certainly run four rounds of Legacy today.
Round 6: Sam with Four-Color Landstill that boards into Team America
I put early pressure on the board, which he dealt with on a threat-by-threat basis. On turn 4, I cast Food Chain, which he wisely countered. On turn 5, I cast Food Chain, which he wisely countered. On turn 6, I cast Food Chain, and he misplayed by not having a third counter. While I was going off, the tables next to us stopped playing to watch, and the older players among them reminisced about how sweet Food Chain used to be. I had to disagree and argue that it's still sweet. Sam died to my Emrakul.
Game 2, I boarded into the beatdown plan. There are very few decks in the current meta and even fewer control decks that are prepared to battle against a dedicated Vengevine-based attack plan. He made it even worse for himself by boarding into Team America. Quick, make a list in your head of every Legacy deck that's colder to Vengevine than Team America. Pretty short, huh? I don't have notes from this particular game because I'm pretty sure he didn't do anything. I recall him playing some lands, and I have his life total going 20, 19, 17, 16, 7, dead.
He wasn't upset by the loss at all; in fact he was almost excited by it. Losing with a smile was a common theme among people I defeated for this whole tournament. That's a big part of why Legacy rules. And I'm glad I was able to find a deck that's almost as fun to lose to as it is to win with.
From here, 3-0 made Day Two. 3-0 is just winning an 8-man event. I've done that before; ain't no thing.
Round 7: Sam Black with Team America
I tested this matchup a lot with my locals because of the deck's recent popularity, and I thought it was a bad matchup on paper. I started out something like 0-6 in testing because I was trying to combo; then one fateful game I drew a Vengevine and realized that no other card in either deck matters in this matchup. As soon as I made that fundamental shift in my game plan, Team America became awfully hard to lose to.
Sam won the die roll and helped me out by casting a turn 2 Hymn to Tourach and hitting a Vengevine. I untapped, cast two creatures, and he died to that Vengevine without much else happening. The only thing of note was that he Hymned me a second time in that game and hit Drift of Phantasms, which drew a curious eyebrow raise. I'm not sure if that was a blessing or a curse, since he hadn't seen any blue cards, blue mana, or combo pieces that game. It revealed that I had more than mono-green aggro going on but didn't reveal what. I can only wonder if it changed his board plan at all. I'm hoping that it did, since I was off the combo plan for game two anyway.
All the combo pieces came out; all the beatdown cards came in. Sam kept me off any momentum for the early part of the game, having both Mental Misstep and Darkblast in his opener. I managed to sneak an attack in with an exalted Vengevine that put him to twelve from the attack, the Misstep, and a fetchland activation. On his turn, he shredded my hand with Hymn, killed the Vengevine, and fellow Wisconsinite Bob Maher joined Sam's board in the form of a Dark Confidant.
Having nothing in play or in hand and looking at a Confidant is one of the worst feelings in Eternal Magic. Bob starting beating down and was joined by a second copy. A Brainstorm made the double upkeep triggers laughable, and the Bobs kept rolling. But Sam ran out of Brainstorms and after a few unfortunate upkeeps that took him from twelve life to one, nobody was laughing. With myself at nine and Sam at one, I drew a Phyrexian Revoker and turned off any potential Jace, the Mind Sculptor shenanigans. Sam survived his upkeep and attacked with the Maher twins. I didn't block, falling to five. Sam looked at his hand, shrugged, and played a third Dark Confidant, much to the amusement of everybody watching. I played draw-go for the turn and let a flipped Vendilion Clique end the game for me.
Round 8: Eli with Merfolk
I was excited to finally play against Merfolk, since it had managed to dodge me all day despite being one of the most represented decks in the tournament. The inclusion of Llawan in the sideboard singlehandedly swings this matchup from slightly awful to highly favored. Don't play this list without Llawan. Ever. Period.
But drawing them meant he wasn't drawing Force of Wills, so I stuck a Food Chain and went off. Merfolk can be a little tricky in their ability to have tons of permanents in play. My attack with Emrakul put Eli to very low life and dead on board, but it left him with a level two Coralhelm Commander equipped with Sword of Fire and Ice and one land. I was at eight life. He could have ripped a land, leveled Commander to four, attacked with the 6/6 flier, and Shocked me with the Sword for lethal. But he didn't, and I won the game at one life.
I boarded in the thirteen-card Merfolk plan described above. Eli had a triple Merrow Reejerey draw that put a lot of damage on board fast, but I had an early Fauna Shaman to keep things fair. I used Fauna Shaman to search for Llawan, which got hit by Force of Will. I decided to run two Llawans because Merfolk usually can't answer the second one without having a slow draw that folds to aggressive Vengevine beatdown. It puts them in a position where they can build up their board to handle my threats or build up their hand to battle my trump card.
On the Food Chain side of things, those plans are not mutually exclusive (i.e. Fauna Shaman a Vengevine to search for Llawan), and Merfolk can't really fight both of them at once. He definitely was not on a slow draw, and his one Force couldn't handle the second Llawan. He did have two Mutavaults in play when Llawan dropped, which kept him in the game. He ripped Umezawa's Jitte the turn after having all his creatures bounced, but he only had enough mana to cast it; he couldn't put it on a Mutavault and swing. The next turn, he suited up a Vault and attacked; I blocked with Llawan and blew him out with Krosan Grip on his Jitte. From there, it was just a formality of turning my guys sideways for a couple turns.
Round 9: Simon with Stoneforge Bant
Simon was playing an aggressive U/G/W deck featuring Stoneforge Mystic and the usual counterspell suspects of Force of Will and Mental Misstep. Game one, I led on Llanowar Elves, which inspired him to Stoneforge for Umezawa's Jitte on his second turn. He let a Wirewood Symbiote resolve, and I followed it up with Elvish Visionary. For anyone who has never had those two cards in play next to each other at the same time, you're not living life to the fullest. Wirewood Symbiote is the type of card that you can't afford to let an opponent keep in play if you can do anything about it. It blanks all removal that would otherwise be sent at Elves, blanks non-trampling combat, keeps counters off of Jitte, triggers Vengevines indefinitely, and if Visionary is the Elf you have in play, it draws an extra card each turn. Simon put his Jitte on a Tarmogoyf and battled; Visionary jumped in front of the pointy-stick-wielding Lhurgoyf, then jumped safely into my hand before combat damage with help from Symbiote. I kept his attackers at bay long enough with just that interaction to take over the game and combo off.
Simon was clearly frustrated by his play, saying he shouldn't have gotten Jitte. The only Equipment I could think of that would have actually helped in that situation was Sword of Feast and Famine, so I made a note that he was probably running it. I sideboarded the eleven-card beatdown package for this matchup.
Game two, Simon did indeed Stoneforge for Sword of Feast and Famine. I thought I was slick by discarding Vengevine to his Sword trigger when he started hitting me with it. But that small advantage was buried quickly under his double mana and card advantage backed with some timely removal.
Game three, I was in pretty firm control the entire time. He used Swords to Plowshares on an early Fauna Shaman, which put me to 21 life after activating a fetchland, and I ended the game at that same 21 life.
He used a Stoneforge Mystic to search for Umezawa's Jitte, but I stuck mine first, and he had to settle for using his to kill it. He had a second Stoneforge to search for Batterskull, but I had Phyrexian Revoker naming Stoneforge Mystic so he couldn't sneak it into play. The game stalled for a while until I found a Fauna Shaman and searched for a Wirewood Symbiote to get extra mileage out of my Visionaries and Shamans. On his last turn, he looked at my Revoker, tapped a Tundra, tanked, untapped the Tundra, and passed the turn. It was clear his plan was to let me attack, Swords to Plowshares my Revoker, and sneak in a Batterskull to try to stabilize. On his end step, I used Fauna Shaman and her Symbiote friends to get all four Vengevines into my graveyard. That represented enough power that, even through Batterskull, he was still in really bad shape and would have to have a hot rip on his next turn. I untapped and drew Krosan Grip for the turn, which made it all a moot point. Day two achieved.
Day Two was a great experience. Jupiter Games absolutely dominated this tournament. Sitting down on Day Two was like playing a typical bigger event at Jupiter. Every seat I sat in for all six rounds of the day, I had at least one person I knew from home within conversation range. Not to mention the party that was happening up at the top tables. It was a pretty awesome feeling seeing all the people I regularly grind against enjoying success on the big stage.
Round 10: Adam with Bant Aggro
Game one, we traded some of my creatures for some of his counterspells and removal, and I kept pressure on him by pecking away points of life wherever I could. When he was at eleven life, I stuck a Food Chain and went off. I could only make fourteen mana with what I had on board and in hand. I found the fifteenth by using Fierce Empath to get Aethersnipe instead of Emrakul, evoking Aethersnipe to bounce Empath, then using Empath to get Emrakul. He tanked when Emrakul attacked and carefully sacrificed for annihilator so he still had a respectable board after the attack, including a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. However, Dryad Arbor can't block my spaghetti monster, which Adam didn't realize had flying, so it was all for naught.
Bant is a pretty annoying archetype to play against because it's so wide-open in what cards can be in it. Some have tons of creatures; some are controlling; some have Natural Order; some have a combination of the above, so when you see Tropical Islands and Tundras next to each other, you really can't have a solid idea what you're playing against. Adam helped me out a little by dropping a Maze of Ith while shuffling, which made me assume he's playing Knight of the Reliquary, which led to further extrapolation that he's playing Karakas. I boarded into the beatdown plan for game two.
Game two, Adam stuck an Umezawa's Jitte that I didn't have an answer to. Jitte is bad news for any deck full of 1/1s, and I died to it as many fellow tribal mages have before.
Game three, I had the early Jitte, but I found out just what kind of Bant deck Adam was playing. He had removal going nuts and killed anything and everything that tried to pick up Umezawa's discarded weapon. He cast a Vendilion Clique that made very short work of me with help from two of his own Noble Hierarchs. On the last turn when I was already at two life staring down five flying power, Adam found a Jitte of his own and suited up the Clique for a final nail in the coffin.
Round 11: Andrew with BUG Still
Game one, I kept playing one-drops while he went to town with Innocent Bloods, Go for the Throats, and whatever other removal his deck had to offer. We reached a game state where he was at seventeen life, and my board was just lands and a Noble Hierarch. He played Standstill. His deck was not kind enough to hand him a Mishra's Factory (which I assume was his plan), and I was content to pick at him with Hierarch from seventeen life down to seven. He decided he'd had enough and cracked his own Standstill with Go for the Throat during my end step. The Standstill put me to ten cards in hand, so I discarded a land and two Vengevines. He died to those Vengevines on the following turn.
Game two was the coolest game I played all tournament. I sideboarded in Revokers, the fourth Vengevine, and Krosan Grips, taking out Drift of Phantasms, Kozilek, a Food Chain, an Empath, Aethersnipe, and a Coiling Oracle to make room. It was the only game of the tournament where I sideboarded that heavily and still kept the combo in. Changing up the plan so they don't know what you're doing is a powerful ability to have, and Vengevine beatdown is really good against blue decks. But I've played Standstill decks a lot in the past, and I'm intimately familiar with the limits of how much removal and countermagic can be put in the same deck. He had a ton of removal game one, so I thought the combo was still a good bet game two. Additionally, he died to Vengevines game one and hadn't actually seen any combo pieces. As far as he knew, I was just a green aggro deck.
He did indeed have a ton of removal game two, but Vengevine laughs at non-white removal so I still kept a clock on him. I stuck a Food Chain on a turn I knew the coast was clear but still wasn't close to being able to go off. He managed to stabilize, and we found ourselves in the following position: He had Pernicious Deed, Standstill, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and seven lands including three Mishra's Factories in play, four life, and five cards in hand. I had lands, Food Chain, Elvish Visionary, and Fierce Empath in play; the Emrakul from Fierce Empath was the only card in my hand, and there were two Vengevines in the graveyard. He had the board locked down between Deed and Factories, and he was happily sealing my fate with Jace. My two Vengevines in the graveyard meant that if any two non-Emrakul creatures found their way into my hand at the same time, I was back in the game, so despite Jace's sculpting, I still had a lot of outs.
When Jace was at eleven loyalty, I managed to find my second creature, and the fireworks began. I cast the first one; it got countered. I cast the second, and my Vengevines triggered. With the Vengevine triggers on the stack, Andrew had to tank. If he didn't crack Pernicious Deed in response and clear out my creatures and Food Chain, I'd have enough mana to cast Emrakul by eating the two Vengevines. If he did crack Pernicious Deed in response, I'd have eight hasty power in play to his four life and two open mana. He knew I knew he was dead if I cast Emrakul, so he took his chances that I'd play around removal and/or attack Jace instead of him with the two Vengevines. I didn't, and I didn't. I sent the Vines at his face, and he extended the hand.
Round 12: Mike with Merfolk
I was happy to sit across from Merfolk again. I was less happy to mulligan to four. Mike put a bunch of fish on the board, including a Lord of Atlantis and Merfolk Sovereign. Despite the brutal mulligan, I managed to have a mini Survival of the Fittest combo turn at three life with Fauna Shaman, Wirewood Symbiote, and Quirion Ranger that put three Vengevines into play and removed all my walk-able Islands from play. Unfortunately, Mike remembered what Merfolk Sovereign's second ability was and danced the last three points right under my wall of plants.
I boarded in the Merfolk plan for game two. I had Phyrexian Revoker for his Aether Vial, Krosan Grip for his Jitte, and Fauna Shaman for an army of Vengevines. I ground out the match through the red zone. At one point, I had two Vengevines in play, entered combat, declared attackers, and he activated Wasteland on my Wooded Foothills in response to attacks. I had a Gaea's Cradle and Tropical Island in play, so Wasting the Foothills seemed strange. Given the board state, Vengevine was the best card in my deck. I didn't care if it was in my hand, in play, or in the graveyard.
What I did care about was getting it shuffled into my deck with Submerge in response to a shuffle effect. So I let the Wasteland resolve and destroy my Foothills. He died the next turn to my double Vengevine. He showed me Submerge and Dismember over the course of the game; those are Merfolk's best outs to a resolved Llawan, so they were important to keep in mind.
Game three, Mike mulliganed to five cards. He put some pressure on me and got me down to eight life. I found a Llawan and had the choice of playing safe by putting two chumps into play or casting the Llawan and hoping he didn't have Force of Will; if he had it, I'd be dead on board. Even if I did play it safe with a blocking party of Symbiotes and Visionaries, I'd still need to resolve Llawan at some point in the game. If he had the Force now, he'd still have it later. So I ripped off the Band-Aid and cast the Cephalid Queen. She resolved, and the game was over.
Round 13: Dennis with Merfolk
Merfolk again? What luck! Unfortunately, Merfolk has a lot of power, and it's one of those decks that just “has it” sometimes to power through bad matchups. Game one, I didn't have the Llawan blanket to hide behind. He got some pressure on me, found a Lord of Atlantis to swim through my Tropical Islands, and I was dead.
Boarded the Merfolk plan, of course. We traded some guys for some counters and ended up in a situation where he had six power in play, and my board was Fauna Shaman with no creatures in hand and fourteen life. I peeled for my turn and drew another land. I had to pass the turn. He bashed me down to eight life. I ripped again and found the creature. I Fauna Shamaned for Llawan and cast it right into his Force of Will. He dropped another lord and killed me the next turn. If I'd found a creature on the first draw step, I could have run Llawan number one into the Force, and the way would be clear for the second. But since I missed on drawing a creature, I got overrun. Hitting runner-runner creatures in that spot might be a lot to ask for, though I believe having that potential solidifies my argument that two Llawans is the right number to keep this match as favorable as I want it to be.
Round 14: Matthew with Deadguy Ale
Matt was shuffling so that I could see the bottom two cards each time he riffled. When I saw Vindicate and Hymn in the mix, I knew this would be a matchup dependent on Vengevine and, as such, a good match for me. It turned out he was playing B/W Deadguy Ale, which made me even happier than when I thought he was on Junk. Deadguy has all the same discard spells and black removal that gets eaten by Vengevine without the Knights of the Reliquary or Tarmogoyfs to go bigger than my threats.
Game one, he had some disruption in the form of Thoughtseize and Tidehollow Sculler. But he wasted his early Swords to Plowshares on my turn 1 Noble Hierarch, which cleared the way for Fauna Shaman to get active. I Fauna-ed for a Vengevine at the end of his turn, then untapped and drew another one. That let me cast one of them and save the other to Fauna away later, essentially putting me a turn ahead of the plan I was already happy to be executing. On his turn, he hit me with Hymn to Tourach. I used Fauna Shaman to ditch Vengevine for Vengevine in response, resulting in both going to my graveyard. I drew a creature on my turn, Fauna-ed it for Wirewood Symbiote, cast Symbiote, used it to bounce Fauna Shaman, and recast the Shaman to close the game with Vengevines.
I boarded in the beatdown plan for maximum Vengevine-age. Matt Thoughtseized me on turn 1. I shot back with a turn 1 Noble Hierarch. He cast Tidehollow Sculler on turn 2 stealing my Mulldrifter. I cast two more Noble Hierarchs and battled for three with the first one. He used Stoneforge Mystic to find Umezawa's Jitte and Thoughtseized me in the same turn. I drew Umezawa's Jitte for my turn, sick life, et cetera. I cast it and equipped it, then served in. Matt blocked with Stoneforge Mystic, forgetting about my triple exalted triggers. That let me eat the Mystic in combat and free my Mulldrifter from its Tidehollow prison in the same swing. On his turn, he cast his own Jitte to kill mine, then dropped another Sculler stealing my Mulldrifter again. The turn after, he dropped Elspeth, Knight-Errant and started gumming up the ground with Soldier tokens. I found a Phyrexian Revoker to turn off Elspeth, and the board stood still for a few turns. Eventually, I drew a Krosan Grip, which let my Mulldrifter soar. Backed by three Noble Hierarchs, he soared into Matt's life total in five-point chunks until there was none left to take.
Round 15: Dave with Merfolk
I played next to Dave a few rounds earlier, so I knew he was on Merfolk. More importantly, I knew he had Surgical Extraction in his board. Talk about a beating on my Vengevine plan; I just had to hope he didn't know to bring it in against me.
This match started off a little strange. I mulliganed to six, and he followed suit, joking that he wanted to keep things fair. I bantered back saying if he wanted to keep it fair, he should go to five, since he's on the draw. He asked how he was supposed to keep tempo advantage on so few cards, and I said “that's not really my problem.” He got really serious and said, “Oh. You're one of those. Good.”
Then he stared at me while he was shuffling without blinking or breaking eye contact for a very long time. Then he started riffling his deck with the bottom cards facing towards me, so I looked down to see as much of his deck as I could. He said, “I'm riffling toward you; don't look down.” Obviously, I didn't take my eyes off his cards—free information is good stuff.
So he called a judge and told him I was looking at his cards while he was shuffling. The judge clearly couldn't tell if he was being serious or not, and when he realized he was, he said, “so stop showing them?” Dave then asked why there isn't any penalty for that; it seems shady, et cetera. It's a good thing he stopped when he did because the only penalty either of us was close to committing was his with Unsporting Conduct.
We got through that unpleasantness and started the match. He had clearly never played against Wirewood Symbiote or Quirion Ranger before. More than once, I caught him by pulling my creatures out of combat, untapping them to join combat, and removing my Tropical Island from play to nerf his islandwalk. Despite all that, I couldn't find a second actual Forest until it was too late. Having to bounce my Tropical Island every turn to stay alive kept me on two lands the entire game, and I died with Food Chain and enough gas to go off in my hand.
Game two, Dave beat me down to eight, but I was racing back with a Vengevine. The race was close, but I drew Llawan, and it stuck. That was that.
Game three, he was beating me down as Merfolk tends to do. I stubbornly refused to play the Tropical Island in my hand because I didn't want to get destroyed by a Lord of Atlantis. It wasn't an issue since I had a Noble Hierarch in play and still had access to my Brainstorms. I stuck a Fauna Shaman, and at the end of his turn, I searched up Llawan. Still, during his end step, he had three cards in hand; he tapped an Island and pointed a Merrow Reejerey at my Noble Hierarch. I raised an eyebrow; then he looked flustered and Dismembered my Noble Hierarch instead, presumably to keep me off blue mana to cast Llawan. That was a little annoying because it forced me to play the Island in my hand. The board was stable without an Island in play, but he had lethal with an Island in play. He had two cards in hand, one of which I knew was Reejerey. I tanked for a long time going over the entire game to decide if he had been playing as if he had Force of Will. I decided the evidence wasn't strong enough for me to believe he had it, so I dropped the Trop and went for it. Llawan resolved, and the game was over.
After the match, Dave and I talked a bit. He apologized for the rocky start, and he seems like a cool enough dude. Things get a little heated when you're on the bubble for a pro-level money finish. There are certainly no hard feelings on my end.
11-4, 57th place
It was an awesome weekend for myself and many of my friends and colleagues. Jupiter Games put two in the Top 8, two in top 16, at least two in top 32, and a ton in top 64. When all was tallied up, the Jupiter regulars took home one quarter of the total Grand Prix prize purse. The mastermind himself Doug McKay put six of eight people who played his decks into Day Two, including Will Fisher's top 16 with RUG Bloodbraid Elf.
Even though Doug was one of the two who missed Day Two, I hope he's proud of his effect on the tournament, and I wish him the best in Nagoya.
Jon Barber and Nick Patnode were unfortunate victims of a round 15 re-pair that resulted in the two friends battling each other for a top 16 spot. But when so many people you know and play with are at the top of the field, these things are bound to happen. It's a good problem to have.
Personally I felt like my sideboard blunder against Masaki in my first round of play was my only glaring player error. I can think back one at least one less-than-optimal play, but I know I didn't brain fart and hand any games over. It feels pretty good to look back on a tournament and not be able to find any obvious punts.
As for the deck itself, I can't recommend it enough. I went 7-2 on the weekend against blue decks that aren't Sneaky Tell, including a 3-1 record against Merfolk. I didn't drop a game to Hymn to Tourach strategies, which are pretty popular these days. And I played an Elf-based combo deck without losing a game to Mental Misstep.
Even in the matches I lost, I was always in them to the end. My four losses came down to one blank rip against Merfolk, a Show and Tell opponent never drawing a Show and Tell, an opponent having just one too many removal spells for me to take over the game with Jitte, and a tremendous sideboard error. None of those are indicative of unfixable flaws in the list or the strategy as a whole, and I like those odds.
The deck is sweet, powerful, and a blast to play. It rewards familiarity with the deep interactions in the deck and gives a pilot a lot of room to outplay opponents. I'll be playing it at Jupiter Games' upcoming 3K open event, and I'll almost certainly still be playing it at the StarCityGames.com Legacy Open in Baltimore.
Thanks for reading.
“Bosh N Roll” everywhere.