What the hell is that? Hippos?
Oh, you didn't know? You better call someone... About a month before the Ontario regionals, my playtest group and I began searching for that perfect deck to play against a broad field. We were trying to decide if there was a deck that would work well against the metagame, or if we should just break down and play a modified PT Chicago deck. We started our trek by each making three drastically different decks and using them in our playtest gauntlet. The decks that I chose were Fires, an aggro B/U deck with Phyrexian Scutas and maindeck hate for Fires, and an odd G/W/u deck that used lots of creatures including, in my opinion, the best creature currently available in Standard: Questing Phelddagrif. I enjoyed playing the Phelddagrif deck and it seemed to do all right against the creature-based decks, but it was losing to U/W control and Counter-Rebel quite a lot.
After our first couple sessions, we had each narrowed our deck prospects, thinking that the possible decks to beat were Fires, Red Zone, Counter-Rebel, and Skies. The only rogue deck left that had given some resistance to these decks was the Hippo deck. I was still being ridiculed on my choice to keep testing the deck, but really felt like it could be a contender against ALL of the top decks. I thought that it was very versatile, because it had multiple main deck cards that were impossible for one tier 1 deck to deal with that still worked well against the other tier 1 decks. What I mean is that there were silver bullets that were still good cards on their own. My Phelddagrif deck has Armadillo Cloaks and River Boas against Fires and Red Zone, Meddling Mages and River Boas against U/W control and Counter-Rebel, and a giant hippo to wreck anything that used Black. I still wasn't sure that it could consistently beat control decks, but after adding Rishadan Ports I found that the match up was much better. At this point my mana base was pretty stretched, and yet managed to hold together.
As the Ontario Regionals quickly approached, I scoured the net for any Top 8 decklist I could find from the various Regionals and Nationals that had already taken place. Fires, Counter-Rebel, and Netherhaups began to shape our metagame, and we had decided that those were the decks to focus on. The night before Regionals, I was the only person that had chosen a deck to play. Nobody could find a deck that they liked. I didn't really care all that much because I felt those hippos were the way to go and continued to playtest through the night with my friends - by playtest, I mean that we ordered pizza and drafted...
The decklist that I decided to play with, which coincidentally was the deck that won regionals is:
4x Adakar Wastes
4x Rishadan Port
2x Coastal Tower
4x Birds of Paradise
4x River Boa
3x Meddling Mage
2x Eldamiri's Call
2x Aura Mutation
4x Noble Panther
4x Armadillo Cloak
3x Chimeric Idol
4x Questing Phelddagrif
3x Parallax Wave
1x Voice of All
4x Sunweb... No, this isn't a typo... I'll explain in the report
3x Kavu Chameleon
2x Last Breath
2x Circle of Protection: Green
1x Teferi's Response
Now on to the report:
Wake Up, Shower, McDonalds, Late.
That seems to be the way my Magic experiences always start. There are 189 people here this morning and that means 8 grueling rounds of Swiss, cutting to a top 8 playoff.
Round 1, George Ossipov playing Mono-Black Land Destruction
I sit down and lose the die roll, and he starts with a Swamp. I'm thinking, "Great, I get to eat my first Void player today." I lay a Coastal Tower. Go. He lays a Swamp. Blight. "Well, okay then." I lay Adarkar Wastes and proceed to Meddling Mage - "Rain of Tears." From there I decide to lay a couple of Parallax Waves for his Chilling Apparition and drop the hippo. I heard somewhere that Mono-Black Can't Kill a Phelddagrif with Parallax Wave and Plains backup. I untap, Cloak him up, and game 2 begins. I end up siding in my lone Teferi's Response, which ends up being the first and last time that this card is useful.
After reading an article earlier about how if you flash a response to your opponent playing Ports he won't Port you game 2, I decided to make room for it in my sideboard. Let me just tell you now that I was Ported all day long and that the response tech was useless. Anyways, now that I know it's land destruction, I just have to play around it - and once the hippo hits play it's only a matter of time before the Cloak hits and I have my first win of the day. Go me!
Round 2, Nick Page playing a Red Zone/Call deck
He wins the die roll and plays. We start laying threats for each other, and he doesn't seem to be putting up much offence, which is what my hippo deck loves. Turn 6, I decide that this game is going on to long, and lay my hippo with plains backup in case he's playing Flametongue Kavu. After the usual cloakage, I do the motions, which consist of me racing his Blastoderm and Ancient Hydra with my Cloaked Questing Phelddagrif and Chimeric Idol. I side in four of my super-secret tech for my enchantment removal and start shuffling up. Turn 3, he plays Blastoderm. On turn 3, I lay my first Sunweb of the tournament via my Birds... And he picks it up, looks at it a couple seconds, and says sure.
Now if it's okay, I'd like to go on a small tangent and explain my use of not one, not two, but FOUR Sunwebs in the sideboard. Not only is Sunweb cheap and easy to cast, it has the added ability of killing Blastoderms dead, and forces the Fires/Red Zone player to use up two threats to kill it... And that's assuming they have direct damage in their hand.
Anyway, after I lay the Web he untaps, thinks, and lays Blastoderm #2 and says go. I kinda laugh at this point because my janky tech is really doing its job. Phelddagrif hits the table and I say go. He untaps, removes some fade counters, and lays Blastoderm #3. Good game, team! I really think that I can wait three turns and show my opponent who's boss by giving my hippo a friend to talk to. We're talking two hippos, baby! After two turns of them going airborne, we shake hands, and have enough time before the next round to grab a sub. One of the many great things about this deck is that the games are always over fairly quickly and you always have time to relax, trade, and get something to eat.
Round 3, Ryan Kish playing Fires W/ Jade Leeches
Ryan and I have played five or six times before, and the trash talking is flying. At one point, Duncan the Judge comes over to remind us that we have to be civilized. After he decides to play, I start off with three Meddling Mages in a row, calling: Flametongue Kavu, Saproling Burst, and Blastoderm. He gets a couple Jade Leeches down and I take some early damage like usual. I finally get some sweet stall-down action going, and after about six turns of just laying random threats on both sides, I draw a parallax wave. "I'll Wave out all your creatures and attack you for eighteen?"
On to game 2.
I sided in the Sunwebs and the 2 COPs. Well, a turn 2 COP Green and a turn 5 hippo work their magic, and once I get up to thirty-two life with my Armadillo Cloaked hippo, he only has one turn to live. Thanks for coming out, we have some lovely hippo tokens as parting gifts; He wasn't very happy. A Sunweb hit the table in that time too, although it was really just for fun because he was already in a bad position.
Standings go up and I'm in first place. My friends are not doing as well, but my friend Dave is also 3-0 with Blue Skies.
Round 4, John Hall, playing Counter-Rebel
Well, I guess I was bound to have a control matchup sooner or later. John is a member of Team Beast and I get ready for a tough match. John wins the die roll and decides to play laying a Coastal Tower. I follow suit. He lays an island and says go. I drop a Port and Port him during his upkeep. He lays a plains and says go. I'm pretty worried that he's playing with Power Sinks because they're very good against Fires... But our testing showed that I need to get a Meddling Mage out quick against control, so I risk it and lay the mage. It goes through. A small grin shines through on me as I slowly name Wrath of God. John goes and lays nothing. I'm very surprised at this and, seeing he's kept a land-shy hand, start the Port assault. I also lay a second Meddling Mage and call Blinding Angel because he still hadn't laid a rebel. Better safe than sorry, I guess. Anyways, he is visibly in trouble and finally lays a Sky Marshall. I attack with both mages and he blocks the Wrath of God one. I Wax/Wane, which is countered, but my second one goes through for the game. After, while we're sideboarding, he tells me that he didn't want to play the Ramosian Sky Marshal, but had to try and salvage that game. In go the Last Breaths for my Aura Mutations. He starts off with a rebel-heavy hand and taps out turn 2 for a Defiant Falcon. I drop a plains, smile, and lay a Meddling Mage - Wrath of God. Let's Race. Once I know that he can't clear the board, I don't have to hold back and force a hippo through. Next turn it gets Armadillo Cloaked up and goes airborne. The trick to beating rebels is to cloak up something that flies. This is important, because Defiant Vanguard stalls the ground once a searcher is active and you need a flier with trample to get past the recurring Defiant Falcons. John makes a mistake at the end of this game and forgets that I can pump up my hippo with its green ability. He doesn't block with my airborne hippo with his Sky Marshal, which would have given him an additional turn to try and find answers.
Round 5, Jeremy Elgar playing Void
Jeremy wins the roll and plays first. This game is pretty uneventful, as he doesn't have a Void and my turn 4 hippo with plains backup gives him a four-turn clock. I remembered to mentioning that this deck manhandles Black decks, right? I side in three Chills for the enchantment removal and end up playing one turn 2. I lay a Parallax Wave and a Meddling Mage-Terminate. At this point I have Waved out a Chilling Apparition and a Blazing Specter. A Noble Panther hits a table, followed by an end step Eladamri's Call for the bomb in this matchup. No not the mighty Questing Phelddagrif - the mighty Voice of All-Red. I play the Voice of All, and attack with my Meddling Mage and Noble Panther. He draws and says go. I untap and play an Armadillo Cloak on the invincible Voice of All. In response, he Scorching Lavas my Meddling Mage, Terminates my Noble Panther, and reveals the other two Terminates in his hand and congratulated me.
Round 6, Jeff Gerstl playing Fires
I proceed to lose my sixth consecutive die roll with a miserable three and will be drawing for my eleventh time straight. This game goes according to plan and I hold off his early troops with a River Boa and a Parallax Wave. A Flametongue Kavu takes a cheap shot at my River Boa once my Parallax Wave has zero counters on it. I finally decide that Jeff needs to see what this deck can do and drop both the hippos in my hand. (By the way, what's the plural for the word hippo? Is it hippos or hippi?) Anyways, I drop my second Wave of the game, Wave out his lone Birds of Paradise, and fly in for the win with my magical hippo squad. After the usual sideboarding, I start off riding a Circle of Protection: Green. Then I get out a hippo turn 6, but take some damage from the Derms just so I can be sure my hippo is safe. I untap and Cloak up my hippo like nobody's business, going back up to sixteen. He lays a Saproling Burst and I get hit down to seven after being able to only prevent the Blastoderm damage. Geeze, that was kinda close. I untap, once again make the hippo airborne, and come in for the win.
In between rounds, I'm trading with everybody and Duncan the judge comes up to me and congratulates me on my 100% win percentage. If that's not a confidence booster, I don't know what is...
Round 7, Mike Dolle playing a GoMar variant
We decide to intentionally draw because we're the only 6-0 players and it guarantees us a spot in the Top 8. We play a game for fun and I wreck him. I'm very happy that his deck will be in the Top 8 because I think it'll be an easy matchup for me if we meet. Mike was a very nice person and I enjoyed talking and playing with him.
Round 8, ?????? playing a R/G/b Fires variant
Since I am in first place and he is in sixth, I give him a little hassle about knocking him out of the Top 8 being my duty, but tell him I'm willing to draw with him. He is new to the idea of math and drawing, and decides that he wants to play it out. I am a little puzzled, but tell him that if he loses he's out of Top 8 for sure and we start. He just wrecks me. I swear I have never lost this bad in my life. Since I was already guaranteed to get in I kept a questionable hand both games, and proceeded to see neither a Parallax Wave nor a Questing Phelddagrif either game. I couldn't believe it. This is supposed to be my best matchup - and for the life of me, I can't understand how many answers he had for the questions I put on the table. The pinnacle of this embarrassing hippo loss was when he played a Hunted Wumpus TURN 4 and I had NO CREATURES IN MY HAND. All land makes Sporto a dull hippo player.
I end up being 5th place after the Swiss, and the Top 8 competitors are whisked from the hall to play out the Top 8 at Skyfox games headquarters across the street.
Top 8, Boyd Hardie playing Counter-Rebel
Boyd's a "fun" opponent to play against. We've met about four times in Limited drafts and he's wrecked me; I would say that this was my toughest match of the tournament. I feel I got pretty lucky, although I didn't make any mistakes and it's not THAT bad of a matchup. Anyways, we armwrestle to see who goes first and I let my twenty-six inch pythons do the talking for me and finally got to play first. I got the perfect start of Coastal Tower, then Port his Coastal Tower during his upkeep, allowing me to play the crucial Meddling Mage-Wrath of God. Let's Race. From there, I just had to draw out counterspells, all the while utilizing the beatstick known as Meddling Mage and keep the pressure on. I finally got my second hippopotamus to resolve and played an Armadillo Cloak on it. I attacked and trampled on through a couple Defiant Falcons before pumping up and trampling over for game 1.
I was very relieved after winning the first game and thought that I could at least win one more game. Last Breaths went in and Aura Mutations went out.
Game 2 started off with another pretty good hand - and Boyd made a crucial mistake. On his turn 2, instead of leaving mana open to possibly counter my turn 2 play, he tapped out. I think that he actually didn't have the counterspell... But even bluffing it might have been able to stop my turn 2 Meddling Mage-Wrath of God. Let's Race once again. After that, it was just a matter of me drawing out all his counterspells and beating down with a River Boa and a Voice of All-White. I was still extremely worried, though, because I knew that he had sided in Dominates, and if he Dominated both of those creatures, I might not have been able to pull it out. I mean, I had a great defense/offence position with the Boa and Voice on offence with a Hippo, two Chimeric Idols, and the Meddling Mage on defense. In the end, though, he couldn't draw the Dominates, and his life total went down four life at a time. Looks like I'm onto the next round.
Top 4, Jason Robar playing Netherhaups
Wow, a bye! That's what I was thinking as I sat down to this match. Netherhaups is just gravy. Anyways, I won the roll and played a River Boa turn 2, a Chimeric Idol turn 3, and a Parallax Wave turn 4. The Parallax Wave is my best friend in the world against Jokulhaups. So I Wave his Nether Spirit and start knocking the teeth out of his head. Questing Phelddagrif makes a cameo turn 5 with Parallax Wave, Brushland, AND Plains backup turn 6. During Jason's turn, he plays a Dark Suspicions and I tell him that I will have an end step effect. He announces that it's the end of his main phase and I ask him if it's his endstep. He clarifies by saying it's the end of his turn. I play Aura Mutation the Dark Suspicions and he says it's still his main phase. I tell him I specifically said that I did this during his end step, but for some reason the judge rules in his favor. Now some people might say okay... But I'm a little more outspoken than that, and tell him some things that I won't repeat in this report. Anybody who tries to rules lawyer me is in for a fight, I tell you. Anyways, after all that his effect was a main phase Scorching Lava with Kicker. Yes, it is an instant, and yes, he could have done that at any time. I drop the forest I had in my hand and attack him with a hippo and four Saproling tokens for the win.
Side in the Chills and go onto game 2. Game 2 went according to plan again: I started with a River Boa, and was hit by a Nether Spirit. I played a Chimeric Idol and a Parallax Wave the following turn. He plays Dark Suspicions again and I just laugh. Looks like Aura Mutation is good in this matchup. He gets beat down over the course of four turns, killing my Chimeric Idol and River Boa along the way. He still hasn't found his Obliterates or Johkulhaups. I end up killing him with the following seven-card hand: Forest, Forest, Bird of Paradise, Bird of Paradise, Noble Panther, Questing Phelddagrif, Questing Phelddagrif. I said some more ill words to him after the match, but focused on the finals.
It was about this time that I looked over and noticed that there was still a quarterfinal game going on. Damn Counter-Rebel on Counter-Rebel matchup. These games took forever! I swear I waited over an hour for them to finish, and then another half an hour waiting for the Fires on Counter-Rebel matchup. Whatever. I did manage to get some mini-masters in while I was waiting, though. Anyways, on to the finals...
Top 2, Herbert Chung playing Counter-Rebel
I sit down and tell him that the unstoppable hippo deck has made it to the finals. He shudders. I am pretty tired and tell him that I'll split with him if I get the win. He hesitates, but I remind him that I'd rolled two Counter-Rebel decks today and that he's been playing long complicated games for the last three hours. He agrees and we both go home happy.
The day is mine!
My favorite part of the day was every time that I beat someone two straight games I got to see the look of disgust on their face when they realized they just got bent over by a two-ton blob of fat (not me, the hippo). I also enjoyed playing with cards that not everyone has a chance to play with, like Sunweb. I will be playing this deck again for sure, but now my sideboard Teferi's Response is going to be a Rolling Stones. It's all about degrading your opponent, baby! I think it's time for the best part of any tournament report...
Questing Phelddagrif, for being the new type 2 Morphling
Armadillo Cloak, for being a Champ
To my playtest group including Cliff "I'm from MOTL and hung" Lee, Dave "Tiny" Trehn, Mike "It's 2:30, Get out of my house" Ferneyhough, and Eugene "I'm not 16, I'm 21" Lo
To Mike Croft, for thinking that his Void deck can actually beat the big, hungry hippo
To Boyd Hardie, for having little, puny, girlie arms. Don't worry Boyd, there's nothing wrong with being dainty
To all my opponents (except for Jason Robar): I really enjoyed all my games with you. Thanks for taking that big hippo loss in strides
To the Hermanator, for building my confidence by losing all the time
Wizards of the Coast prize support. I have a question: How am I supposed to drink out of my trophy if you didn't even give me one?
To Jason Robar for being an uptight, rules lawyering, toothless loser!!!
The Olympic Committee. How come this isn't an Olympic Sport? I almost got a paper cut at least twice over the course of the day. And don't even get me started on my hangnail! Magic is just as physical as ballroom dancing. (They shoot hippos, don't they? - The Ferrett, obscure as usual)