This past Wednesday I was given the opportunity to compete in Scarcity's Battle Royale event in an attempt to dethrone the current champion Gavin Verhey. While I wasn't successful at bringing home the gold, I am the one responsible for knocking out the champ, so I guess it wasn't a complete failure. I swear someday I will win a Magic tournament; I swear.
When it came down to battle, I think the format was fairly boring. I don't really know how to fix the problem of what was actually wrong with the tournament, but a few ideas are to change the budget a touch, add more participants (which will lead to more deck variety), and have some sort of playoff that will create a little drama for the end of the event. I think all of these are possible ways to make it less stale and would have helped our 3-way tie at the end of the event, but it is what it is. What was not stale or boring, however, was the deckbuilding process.
The first thing I did was take a look at all the best decks and figure out what I couldn't play. Easily cut were Primeval Titans, Stoneforge packages, Jace, and solid multicolor mana bases. Basically I figured out that monocolor aggressive decks like Tempered Steel, RDW, and Vampires were not only still playable, but probably among the best decks due to not containing any of the above cards. Sure, they each contain something above budget like Mox Opal, and fetchlands, but those could easily be forfeited in an attempt to make the deck good enough to beat the other budget decks.
I was not going to be the guy with mindless animals. I looked into other areas and figured out a few possible options in addition to just starting from scratch. First, Pyromancer Ascension stuck out to me as a deck that could definitely be good enough, and the other was Splinter Twin combo.
The problems with these decks were that they were too reliant on drawing a specific card and having said card in play long enough to secure a win. I fooled around with these decks, but ultimately I knew I was going to come up with something on my own. I am usually playing something different from the rest of the players in any given tournament, so I wasn't going to let this tournament change that, especially with the Battle Royale title on the line!
Without further ado, here is the first decent deck I came up with.
First of all, I really wanted to fit the fourth Squadron Hawk in here, but due to budget constraints I could only get my hands on three of them. After a few games I realized that however powerful the deck was, the consistency just wasn't what I was looking for. The deck mulliganed better than most decks in the format, but it still wasn't up to snuff. I couldn't quite put my finger on the exact problem, but I think it had something to do with only being able to afford three Squadron Hawks. The fourth may have made a difference, but on the budget I was on, that $3.00 would have been better suited as some kind of library manipulation. Possibly a full eight Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds would be a fine replacement, since I would have some deck thinning to find the Stoneforge Mystic, but that may just lead you into a trap of keeping a hand without the Stoneforge itself.
Then the unbelievable happened, and all my hard work went right out the window. Stoneforge Mystic got banned.
In panic, I tried to think of different decks I had seen or heard of that never quite picked up, or that were held down by Jace, Stoneforge Mystic, and Primeval Titan. I thought of decks I started working on in the past that just weren't quite good enough in the metagames I expected. I made some new brews that were decent, and I almost settled on this.
The problem, as I said earlier, was that I really don't like to give the beatdowns. You may know me as Benny Beatdowns, but the nickname didn't come from my swinging with little turd creatures turn after turn, so don't be confused. In addition to being a deck with wimpy creatures, it also fell into the other problem I was having with Pyromancer Ascension and Splinter Twin in that it was too reliant on certain cards to win the game. These creatures being even more vulnerable than Deceiver Exarch made me question the deck and ultimately give up on it.
I took a look at Shape Anew and Mass Polymorph and thought about how good cards like Emrakul and Iona would be in this format. Since I expected mostly monocolor decks, Iona had to be pretty much game over, and Emrakul basically reads game over. I quickly figured out these decks would have trouble with Splinter Twin and decided I couldn't let myself lose to the best deck in the format. I then started making the deck more and more controlling until I decided to look up the price of Eldrazi Temple. It was $2.25 and easily could be built around. Then it hit me.
Last year at PT San Juan, I was working on an Eldrazi White deck that I gave up on due to not having enough time to fine-tune the list. After I audibled to RDW and went something like 3-7 with that pile, the next week I saw the deck that I almost played in Block win a couple Standard tournaments online. I was bitter and never fully recovered from both my decision to audible and the beatings I took with that red deck.
From there it was pretty simple deckbuilding because there are only so many cards you can play in a white control deck on a budget. Here is what I played…
Some cards appear to be extremely questionable and rightfully so, they are. I chose to play them for certain reasons though, so allow me to explain my decisions (spoiler: they were as bad as they possibly could have been).
Celestial Purge – I was very much expecting that at least two of the other people in the four-person tournament to be playing some combination of Splinter Twin, Vampires, RDW, Pyromancer Ascension or at least a deck with a couple targets for this card like Liliana Vess, Grave Titan, Bloodchief Ascension, or something. I also figured that if they weren't playing a deck with many targets for Celestial Purge, then they were very likely a white beatdown deck or a green beatdown deck. Both of these decks I felt I had enough tools to overcome with a few dead cards, so I thought it was a genius decision.
Due Respect – This one on the other hand was pretty much just a placeholder. I originally had Safe Passage here to be a decent card against Splinter Twin with the combination of untapping and wrathing the Exarch away or topdecking a Celestial Purge, but I really wanted to just blow through my deck as fast as possible in order to find my Eye of Ugin or Emrakul fast enough. Due Respect was a possible Time Walk effect that I wanted to try out that was also good against Splinter Twin by buying me a turn and drawing me a card after they assembled the combo. This card wasn't stellar for me either, but I did cast it seven times in my match vs. Sean in order to dig for a way to beat his triple Tumble Magnets.
In addition to the decks that I worked on, I had other starting points written down in my notebook that I never quite got around to testing. Among them was a MBC deck that overloaded on creature removal. This deck I was pretty sure would never lose to a deck that relied on winning with a creature, but I was worried about Pyromancer Ascension. The other idea I had, and was pretty excited about, started with two Green Sun's Zeniths and a Primeval Titan. That would have been the majority of my bankroll, but I could make a decent Valakut or Eldrazi Green deck out of this start for sure. I am very scatterbrained, though, so most of my ideas never make it past the first few cards.
As for the actual games, nothing too exciting really happened because the matchups were all pretty boring, controlling game states. The coolest things I did were both against Sean McKeown in my first match of the night. During the game, I Jedi mind tricked Sean into not tapping my Emrakul with his Tumble Magnet so I could deal him fifteen damage and annihilate his side of the battlefield.
This allowed me to later in the game set up my other awesome series of plays against his three Tumble Magnets. How I did this was I entered combat, let him tap the Emrakul, then cast Day of Judgment. Following this four-mana spell, I tapped seven mana worth of resources plus my Eye of Ugin and searched out that same Emrakul. Following this series of plays, on the same turn mind you, I would cast said Emrakul.
On the following turn, I would make him use an additional Tumble Magnet to lock down the Emrakul. On one of these turns, I thought about Jedi mind tricking him again, but I knew he was already pretty embarrassed with a growing crowd watching us, so I saved him further humiliation and just kept going with the DoJ + Eye of Ugin + Emrakul play. I eventually got all his Magnets tapped and hit him for the final points of damage.
Jason Ford was my next opponent, and before the match started, he told me that he was likely a huge dog in the matchup. I pretty much agreed with a smile and went on to get smashed 2-0. Nothing interesting happened here, regardless of what he tries to tell you in his Battle Royale article.
Then it was on to Gavin. I really wanted to beat Gavin. I don't know what it was. Maybe it was the fact that he was reigning champion; maybe it was the fact that I knew his tournament report would be better than mine; or maybe it was the fact that he beat me in Nationals in 2006.
All right, clearly it was because he beat me due to my own misplay back in 2006 when I meant to Mana Leak his convoke spell but accidently put a Remand on the table and had to take a pain land damage to cast said Mana Leak after he tapped an additional three creatures to cast the spell again. I died that match to double Shining Shoal for one (I was at two life) on my Meloku tokens while I played around a Shoal for two by not attacking or blocking with Meloku. Not only did the one damage matter, but having the Remand would have also been sufficient at locking up the match.
Regardless, nothing interesting happened here either. I played around Mana Leaks better than anyone in the history of Magic and quickly filled out the slip 2-0 in my favor. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Hope you enjoyed.
Benny the Kid
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