I could say that Griselbrand failed me yet again, but the far more likely truth is that I failed him.
Last week, I drove to the Modern Grand Prix in Columbus, Ohio. It was a scant six hours from Roanoke, but it also meant we had to drive through desolate West Virginia to get there. Without the use of our cell phones, we were forced to do mundane things such as talk to each other. That spurred discussions of the Top 50 Best Players in the United States (and where they would rank themselves), how Charles Gindy was going to have an awesome weekend (and definitely not drop his deck in a toilet on accident), and why someone should tell Todd Anderson that big tournaments don't end after Day 1.
Anyway, I was all set to play Reanimator. Many people were telling me it wasn't a good deck, but they weren't giving me good reasons. All they would say was, "It can't beat Grafdigger's Cage," which told me they hadn't even looked at my decklist.
I mean, seriously? My plan A game 1 is Goryo's Vengeance because it's so cheap and can't be disrupted in game 1. You think I'm really going to stick to that plan after sideboarding? Last week, I even lined out my sideboard plans against the top decks, most of which included shaving Goryo's Vengeance.
Through the Breach is in the deck for a reason peeps. You have any idea how many Cages I've beaten by annihilating it with Emrakul and then casting Goryo's the next turn? The same goes for Blood Moon, Leyline of Punishment, and their ilk. When a problem card exists, you don't just scrap your entire deck, especially if you've got something with promise. You work to find a solution. In my case, a solution wasn't even necessary.
Anyway, of all the tournaments to lose in, this one felt the worst. I feel like most of the Magic community views players or decks only as good as their last tournament finish. For Modern Reanimator, it was over before it even began.
Trust me, I wouldn't waste your or my time on a deck I didn't think was legitimately good. After I posted the rough, initial list a month or so ago, I continued testing and tuning the deck on Magic Online. If I wasn't winning as much as I was, I wouldn't have considered playing it at the Grand Prix. Maybe I would have mentioned where my testing had taken me, but I wouldn't have dedicated an entire article to it.
Some said that I did poorly because I spoiled my deck before the tournament, and there might be some truth to that. However, I don't care too much. I enjoy providing information to the masses, even at my own expense, and will continue to do so.
Here is what I played:
So did I lose because I'm bad, my deck was bad, or just because sometimes when you play Magic you lose? I have no idea if it was just one of those or more. You can decide for yourself.
Round 4: U/W Tron
Tron is a slow deck with not much interaction. In the first game, I cast Goryo's Vengeance on turn 2 and in the second game, I killed all of his permanents on turn 4 thanks to Boseiju, Who Shelters All.
Round Five: U/W Faeries
This was a feature match covered here.
In the first game, I had basically the nuts, but he held on for a while. He wasn't exactly dead, but he didn't really have a shot either. How do you beat Griselbrand, Emrakul, Griselbrand, Griselbrand, Emrakul anyway?
The second and third games were where I probably made some mistakes. His deck basically rolls over and dies to a Boseiju, yet I didn't take any mulligans to help get me there. My hand in game 3 was especially poor, yet I kept anyway.
Round Six: G/R Tron
He went Tron piece, Expedition Map, different Tron piece, so I decided it was time to kill all of his permanents before he Karned me. A couple turns later, I did it again.
I cast one spell total in the second and third game after mulliganing to five and six. He kept hands that relied on Relic of Progenitus or Grafdigger's Cage, despite me beating him with Through the Breach in game 1. Both games, I had all the combo pieces minus one and sat there drawing useless cards until he finally killed me on turn 10 or so.
Round Seven: U/R Storm
I died on turn 3 two games in a row, but it's a little more complicated than that. In game 2, after yet another mulligan, my hand was:
My first real option was which big creature would be best in that situation. Storm and Burn are the two decks that reliably beat you post-annihilation, so Griselbrand is usually better. Post-board, you can dig for Nourishing Shoal plus Autochthon Wurm and draw almost your entire deck. Once there, you can remove three Simian Spirit Guides for Seething Song, which allows you to Through the Breach Emrakul and attack for 22.
Griselbrand was the obvious choice, but I also had to decide when to cast Time of Need. I didn't think he could kill me before turn 3, so I didn't HAVE to cast Time of Need until turn 2. However, if I Time of Needed on turn 1 and drew a land, I would get to Breach him turn 2, hopefully setting up the win on turn 3.
If I didn't Time of Need and drew a land on turn 2, I could cast it turn 2 and then kill him turn 3 also. Not casting Time of Need on turn 1 also opened the door to drawing a Griselbrand on my turn 2 and doing what I was doing in option 1, except that I'd be able to kill him that turn.
As it was, I didn't draw a land or Griselbrand on my first draw step and cast Time of Need using a Spirit Guide. I drew a land on turn 3 and could hit him with Griselbrand, but I wouldn't be able to outright kill him. I could draw some cards, but I wouldn't be able to beat a large Past in Flames turn. Rather than tip my hand that he was going to die on my turn 4, I decided to pass, Through the Breach on his end of turn (assuming I didn't die by then), and then kill him.
I didn't get to that point.
After that, I dropped.
I was talking to Jason Ford about this earlier, but when playing combo decks, it doesn't feel like everything is in your control. Typically, if someone wants to beat you and only you, they can. Also, since you're relying on pieces of your strategy to come together at the right time, when they don't, you're not sure if your deck is flawed or if you're just losing a normal game of Magic where something goes wrong.
It's very hard to tell, especially considering my success with Reanimator in Legacy and in Modern on Magic Online. On the surface, nothing truly out of the ordinary happened, so it could just be another day at the office. However, with decks like Delver, at least I feel like I'm in control of my destiny. For me, even the appearance of free will is reassuring.
Perhaps I should have played something like this:
Now THIS is a deck that is weak to graveyard hate, but yet again, we sidestep that by turning to Through the Breach for help.
A similar version could use Fury of the Horde instead of Nourishing Shoal and Conflagrate to kill them once Griselbrand is in play. Fury is more compact, but it opens to you up to losing to stuff like Vapor Snag or Path to Exile. I'd prefer to not have my hyper combo finish lose to a lowly removal spell. On top of that, Shoal is actually a fine card against aggressive decks.
Who knows if either of those would have been better. It's not like I lost because I couldn't kill them the turn I Griselbranded them (outside of that one instance versus Storm, but the non-Fury of the Horde versions would have lost anyway).
As I said a couple weeks before, I likely would have played Birthing Pod (or at least had it as my backup) if I had practiced with the deck. Well, Pro Tour Return to Ravnica is coming up, and I plan to be fully prepared for that one. Expect to face me in the Modern two-man queues with all kinds of crazy Pod decks in the near future.
Aside from the obvious Kiki-Jiki combos, there's Melira Pod, which is an oldie but a goodie, and ones with Body Double / Reveillark (or Reveillark / Phyrexian Metamorph or Phantasmal Image), Saffi Eriksdotter / Crypt Champion, Yosei, the Morning Star / Sheoldred, Whispering One, and Devoted Druid / Quillspike for creature combos.
Several of these decks run off Blasting Station or crazy stuff like Wall of Omens or Lotus Cobra. As I see it, there are several different versions you can play. Fauna Shaman has even made an appearance.
This weekend, I'm catching a flight to the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Buffalo, New York. I'm excited to play my first real Standard tournament with M13 legal. I brewed up a deck Saturday night and played it in the Elite IQ on Sunday, but I had to drop at 4-1 to return home. Since then, I've been tuning the deck, and I'm very excited for the weekend. For once, I'm not going to spoil it, but it might not matter. Most people know what I'm playing by round 3 anyway.
For Legacy, I've got some options. There's always the bucket list to fall back on, and I think have some new additions. Misthollow Griffin / Food Chain is a combination that is relatively unexplored, and I think there are a few directions to take it. The first is a straight combo version with Manipulate Fate.
This is a fairly stock list:
- 1 AEthersnipe
- 2 Drift of Phantasms
- 3 Fierce Empath
- 3 Misthollow Griffin
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
The second version is a value-centric strategy used primarily by Tom Raney in old Aluren builds. Cabal Therapy / Repeal / Gitaxian Probe is a fantastic set of cards that work well together in this type of shell. Basically, you control the game until you can set up your combo. Veteran Explorer goes well with all of those cards, but I'm not sure if it fits in the deck.
I don't have a list built for that version yet, mostly because I suspect that it's worse than the combo version.
Elias Watsfeldt made Top 8 of Grand Prix Ghent with this interesting version of Show and Tell:
I wrote a little piece on this deck for the StarCityGames.com Newsletter, so you should check that out if you can. Basically, his deck is proactive and super consistent. There's not much else you can ask for in a Legacy deck.
Loosely copying Elias' shell, we can also build similar decks:
I wouldn't necessarily play this in a tournament anytime soon, but if using the graveyard becomes a popular strategy in Legacy, this is probably where I want to be.
I'm also considering playing Stoneblade, U/W Control (with four Terminus), or a mix of both. That type of deck really appeals to me, and I've had a lot of success with Counterbalance in Legacy. Right now might not be the right time for that card, but Terminus seems like a house at the moment.
Land Tax is intriguing, but not many people have had success with it. Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek also seems pretty good, but I don't know if that's actually true or not. Mostly I'd be guessing at what's good and what isn't, and that's not a great recipe for success.
Then again, I might just play Dredge...