This past weekend I decided to play in my Regional championships. My rating has been frozen ever since I went to work for Wizards of the Coast, and I had never unfroze it until this weekend. I am not sure what it was, so despite the fact that I thought it would be high enough to qualify for Nationals, I couldn't be sure. In addition, I could use the practice, regaining the tournament mentality before San Diego. I also spent a lot of time perfecting my B/u/r Korlash deck that I am confident will take a place in the metagame, and wanted to show off its power.
The night before the tournament, Mark Herberholz and our friend Eric Thoren playtest a little at my place. Eric decides to run my deck in the tournament. Heezy is obviously not able to play. Heezy is on R/G all night and comes to the conclusion that we should be keeping Rise/Fall in against most Gruul, instead cutting the Chroniclers. I am skeptical, but keep his advice in mind.
After 3.5 hours of sleep, we drive to the site and the rush to find those last few cards begins. After all is said and done, I end up running the following list:
For explanations of card choices and over view of strategy, read this. The changes I made since then are as follows:
In the side, I had 1 less Last Gasp obviously, but I also cut an Extirpate. In their place, I went with a second Detritivore and a Shadow of Doubt. Both are strong in the mirror, which, I discovered that morning, would be very prevalent. In addition, Shadow gives me some extra points versus Dragonstorm or Mystical Teachings. The random miser's Shadow also gives a stronger bluff game. First because those that read my articles assume I have none. Second, because if my opponent sees it, they will play around it as though I had more, if I represent it. It is very similar to the miser's Disrupt, back in the day.
Before the tournament there is an announcement regarding Blood Moon versus Urborg. Rulings have gone back and forth for a month now, and everyone wants to know how the two will interact with one another. Head Judge Sean Jeffries announces that all non-basics will be Badlands! Success! Urborg has won the battle! I stand up and cheer. This is very good news for Korlash and friends. Another judge walks over to Sean and whispers in his hear. Another announcement is made....
... Actually, Blood Moon always wins!
What!?!? There are NO takebacks!
But alas, I had prepared for such an eventuality and ran ten basics for just such a scenario. On to the tournament.
Round 1, I am paired with another member of team RIW. He has experience against my deck and certainly has tools to deal with it. He is playing an interesting take on R/G, running Tarmogoyf, Mogg War Marshal, Greater Gargadon, and Threaten. It is difficult to describe just how bad Threaten Gargadon is for me. I lose Game 1 to turn 1 Gargadon turn 2 War Marshal. I sideboard —4 Chronicler, -1 Detritivore, -1 Persecute for +3 Last Gasp, +2 Volcanic Hammer, +1 Tendrils. Game 2 is a nail-biter that I pull off on the strength of Rising a Gargadon. Game 3 I lose a heartbreaker to double Gargadon.
What a frown. My opponent tells me after the match that he read my article and anticipated a lot of Korlash, hence the hate. Yeah, yeah, I know Flores, you told me so. This is why so many Pros don't share their real tech. I literally lost because of my article. Well, at least this should help my street cred. Let it never be said that Patrick Chapin won't share his tech with his readers.
Round 2, I am paired with R/G again. All in all, not a memorable match-up. I pull it off without too much difficulty. Flores told me the key to this type of deck beating R/G is infinite Last Gasps. He even told me to play the Hammers so that I would have even more ways to kill Kird Ape. He was 100% correct, and this was another match won with my sideboard. I sideboard the same this match as in the previous.
My next opponent has Zoo with Tarmogoyf. He gives me a hell of a time, coming out blazing. Our first game reaches a point where I Persecute him. He has me name a color. I name Red, of course. He tries to Char me in response. We call a judge, obviously, and my opponent graciously admits his error. I win the game on four life... I sideboard the same as in the Gruul matches and proceed to lose game 2 to a Tarmogoyf that I just couldn't Last Gasp (it was already a 3/4, but if I can just prevent the damage, I would take control on my next turn. The problem was that the Last Gasp would add a 4th type to the yard). I pull off game 3 on a slow draw by my opponent.
As I walk around, it is becoming clear that Korlash has really arrived. At least fourteen people, many whom I have never met, are running my deck. This is obviously a great feeling, but I have to focus on each and every match. I have no more room for error. The Top 8 will only have one round played out, since there are four invites. This means the plaque will go to whoever is first after Swiss. Losing in the first round does not bode well for the plan to win the Swiss portion.
Round 4, I face Gruul again. This time, my opponent has Solifuge, Magus of the Moon, and Gargadon. Game 1, my opponent plays his Magus of the Moon when I have no Swamps in play. I draw Dimir Signet and have my one maindeck Last Gasp. Nice! I sideboard the usual six, and proceed to win using all four Tendrils to gain a total of about 35 life.
Round 5. This time, I am paired with a young mage piloting URzatron. Game 1 I Detritivore him out. Game 2 he mulligans into oblivion. I sideboarded out 2 Tendrils and 2 Damnations. I bring in Persecute, 2 Detritivores , Shadow of Doubt, and a Last Gasp. The one Tendrils left in is anti-Demonfire technology. The two Damnations give me answers to whatever monsters he runs. I wanted a couple of Last Gasps to help with the Sulfur Elementals.
Round 6, my opponent leads with the ever-popular combination of Stomping Grounds plus Kird Ape. Aside from Gargadon, his technology is Blood Moon. I get a 1/1 Korlash into play and double Grandeur, effectively negating the majority of his trumps. The sideboarding is the usual, and Tendrils wins it for me again. I wish I had been recording my opponents' names, but I had plenty of other things to occupy my mind, as this was my first big tournament in five years.
Round 7, I face someone running my exact list from Thursday's article. The kids up at RIW Hobbies said I was crazy for testing the Korlash mirror! I win game 1 on the strength of Chronicler beatdown combined with Persecute for Black. I sideboard out -3 Tendrils, -3 Damnations, -1 Last Gasp. I bring in +1 Persecute, +1 Nightmare Void, +2 Detritivore, +3 Extirpates. The key is to control their Korlashes with your own, and their Chroniclers with discard.
Game 2 begins with my opponent Urborging my Urborg then Extirpating it. This is a huge mistake, in my opinion, as it is important to use Extirpates on Korlash, Chronicler, Detritivore, or Extirpate, the cards that decide the match-up (by the time you can hit Persecute, it is already too late). I return the favor by hitting his Extirpates with one of my own. I examine his deck carefully and see that he has boarded out Rise/Fall and kept in a lot of removal. I will use this information to my advantage. I transmute up a Persecute after seeing his hand of 2 Damnations, 2 Tendrils, and a Chronicler. I knock the Black spells out of his hand, not fearing the Chronic, as he has no Blue. Now I go get Nightmare Void and knock the Chronicler out of his hand. I wait for the right moment and Extirpate his Chroniclers, insuring that I will win the long game. He mounts a small comeback with two consecutive top-deck Korlashes, but I am in too strong a position, and I Detritivore him out.
In the final round, I am paired with a U/w/r Boom/Bust Mage, featuring Lightning Helix, Court Hussar, Compulsive Research, Aeon Chronicler, Remand, Mana Leak, Lightning Angel, Grand Arbiter, Numot, Signets, and Boom/Bust. I win game 1 on the strength of Persecute Blue hitting my opponents Compulsive Research and Court Hussar. This turned game-winning when my opponent drew five land over his next seven turns.
Game 2, I am locked quickly by Signet into Grand Arbiter into Numot, the Devastator. It is at this point I sideboard back in the one Damnation I took out.
Game 3 goes long, and Grand Arbiter gives me headaches, but I win off the back of several Detritivores and Chroniclers, as well three key Rise/Falls.
PES announces the final standings...
... and I am in first place! Apparently, many of my opponents got their second loss from me, then proceeded to win out (to win the product being given to Top 32 competitors).
There is to be only one round of Top 8, and the final four are invited to Nationals. Team RIW came out in force, putting four people in the Top 8, Mike Jacob, Travis Ladouceur, Kyle Boggemes, and myself. The breakdown of decks was 3 Dragonstorm (one with Pact of Negation, two without), 2 B/u/r Korlash (72/75 identical), 1 Dralnu, 1 U/w CounterMesa, and 1 B/g Discard.
I was paired against traditional Dragonstorm. Game 1, my opponent is in on Hunted Dragon after I transmute to Persecute. We knock each other around a bunch, then I Damnation. I follow with a Korlash that is lethal in one hit. Two Gigadrowses later, Korlash is victorious.
I learned from many practice games vs. Mike Jacob and Aaron Breider (Michigan's premier Dragonstorm Players) that the key to sideboarding this match-up was to take out -1 Last Gasp, -1 Detritivore, -1 Korlash, and all -4 Chroniclers. I brought in +1 Persecute, +1 Nightmare Void, +1 Shadow of Doubt, +1 Tendrils and +3 Extirpates. The key is to disrupt the opponent with discard, insuring that I don't die to a Storm of four. I use Tendrils to gain enough life to not die in one hit. Then I use a Damnation to eliminate most of his victory conditions. After locking up the Dragonstorm player with Nightmare Void or Extirpate, or 5-6 dead dragons, I take my time and win with a Korlash (chosen over Chronic for his speed and regeneration, as well as ability to attack into Dragons with no fear).
I receive a plaque, product, and an invite, but more than any of that, the sense of satisfaction of knowing I've still got it. Jeroen, you said that I had not won anything in years? Here's one for the books.
If I were to play again, the only change I would make to the maindeck would be -1 Aeon Chronicler and +1 Last Gasp, swapping the Chronicler to the sideboard. This would only be if I expected Gruul/Zoo to be as popular as it was at Regionals (where it was by far the most popular strategy). The only card I never sideboarded was the Leyline of the Void, but it is worth it if you expect any reasonable amount of Dredge. If you expect little Dredge, if any, you can cut it for the fourth Extirpate or the final Detritivore, depending on what you expect to face. In addition, I have not tested Stuffy Doll, but it was suggested that I try it. It seems slow, but it survives my Damnations and works well with Tendrils. In addition, Quicken is a card I had not considered, but might be interesting, particularly in conjunction with Persecute (after a Mystical Teachings), Rise/Fall (in combat), and Damnation (during an attack with a hasty Gargadon or Solifuge). This is a card that particularly excites me. Maybe in place of the two maindeck Last Gasps, and a Swamp, I could run three Quickens. I dunno. It is definitely worth trying. It feels like it could be diesel.
- Team RIW for countless hours of practicing.
- Mike Jacob for Q'ing, as well as Kyle and Travis for making Top 8.
- Pam and everyone else who lent me cards, including Paul Nicolo.
- PES for running an excellent tournament.
- Michael J. Flores, for more technology than Microsoft, including inventing Last Gasp and Volcanic Hammer (which I used on a freakin' Whirling Dervish!)
- Mark Herberholz, for advice all day on match-ups leading to multiple wins that I would not have otherwise achieved.
- Everyone who took my deck to his or her Regionals.
- Blood Moon for winning the War
- Josh Wludyka for going 0-483 with the same deck that seven other people Top 32'ed with (Korlash)
- Flores for suggesting to everyone and their mother to play Gargadon to hose B/u/r control decks.
Alright, I am out. Thanks everyone. Next stop, my comeback Pro Tour, San Diego, where I and the man I feel deserves the Resident Genius Award, Mark Herberholz will be representing America. Watch for us!