For those of you who didn't read my last article, I would suggest reading it before reading this one. You can find it here: http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/standard/22830_How_To_Prepare_For_States.html
In that article I lay the principles that I use to brew for the new formats. So it was no surprise to find me rocking a U/W Control deck this past weekend in Philadelphia. The week leading up to it involved me looking over some articles on people's takes on the new format. After looking at those and a few events on Magic-League, I was pretty sure I had things figured out.
All of the best cards seemed to be white or artifacts. I knew I wanted to play the following cards:
Many other decks seemed to have some of these cards, but none had all of them. I loved the raw power of planeswalkers, and I was convinced that even though nobody else had Elspeth Tirel, it was one of the best cards in the format. I just couldn't really find a matchup that it didn't seem great against. I finally set about trying to find the best color to complement these cards. After going through every card in Standard twice and testing a few different colors, I finally settled on blue.
The cards above are a little weak in the early game. Blue offered Mana Leak, which is very good in the early game. Whatever color I ran I knew I needed a few two-drops, and blue also had Think Twice, which is very good for helping you make your land drops. I had a bunch of ideas about the final numbers floating around in my head when Grif arrived Friday morning.
After eating a giant breakfast at a local diner, we set out to pick up our third for the drive down. We ended up picking him up and cruising down for the first few hours. We made great time the whole way until we hit some insane traffic. We did a pretty good job dodging traffic by jumping off and on the highway and making really good use of the GPS. We ended up arriving about twenty minutes late for the sealed grinder on Friday. Eventually the judges were convinced to let us play with a round one loss.
This weekend also had a team portion to the event very similar to Worlds. The top four teams of three players would play a separate event on Sunday for $2,000. My other teammates had dropped me, thinking I would be unable to play in the event. Thankfully I found Steve Sadin and Matt Ferrando to play with. Both of them managed to secure their place in the championship, but I found myself having to win a slot in Saturday's qualifier. I went to get some food and set about finalizing the last few cards in my list. I ended up playing very close to this list in the qualifier and the championship; it changed a little as I found a few of the cards I was missing for the qualifier for the championship:
Like I said, the list changed a little between events as I learned a little more about what I liked and what I didn't. I also was a little more concerned with beating the Solar Flare decks in the championship part and more worried about random aggro decks in the qualifier. Anyway, I did manage to qualify for the championship by finishing with two losses in the Standard qualifier. This meant I was now in a 32-person single elimination event that started in about fifteen minutes.
I ended up getting paired against Mono Red in the first round. I managed to destroy him game one with Timely Reinforcements, Oblivion Ring, and Wurmcoil Engine. Game two was about as close except he destroyed me with some Chandra's Phoenix and Shrine of Burning Rage. I ended up winning a super tight game three when he failed to Incinerate his Hero of Oxid Ridge that was blocked by my Wurmcoil Engine. It was quite the close match, and I felt fortunate to have won.
The next round saw me paired against my good friend, teammate, and editor Steve Sadin. You should be able to find coverage of this match on GGsLive.com. Game one I had a Timely Reinforcements to his one land and managed to wrap things up with Wurmcoil Engine and friends not too long after that. Game two was a bit closer, but I was victorious.
After durdling about for a little bit, Steve, Matt, and I headed to dinner but not before meeting up with Patrick Sullivan. We had a really good meal and talked quite a bit about what to play for the Modern portion of the team event. We had already settled on playing Steve's updated red deck for Standard and Ad Nauseam for Legacy.
In the top eight, I had another feature match against someone playing U/W with lots of good creatures. The match lasted almost the full fifty minutes, and I don't recall too much. I had been deprived of sleep for most of the previous night and had many interesting decisions throughout the match. I do know I had a Consecrated Sphinx for many turns in both games, so it would have been hard to lose after being ahead by so many cards, but I still was fried after this match.
After a very short bathroom break and chugging some water, I had to fight Jason Imperiale. For those of you who don't know, this man is one of the best team drafters in the last five years. He has not been seen much lately because of a new job, but he is quite good at slinging spells. He was running a Puresteel Paladin deck with Mentor of the Meek, which seems really insane with all of the Germ tokens and cheap guys the deck wants to naturally play. This match was also on GGsLive so hopefully they will post the video; I was told it should be up by Friday. I won a very long game one and lost a very short game two. The round was timed so we ended up going to life totals in game three, and I was very far ahead because of Elspeth Tirel and Timely Reinforcements, with Jason not thinking it worked the way it did.
I think it is high time we had a better solution in single elimination events than the life total rule. It makes clock management far too important and is a really bad way to finish a match, especially one with so much money on the line. At this time I have been unable to think of a better solution, but if anybody has one, please post it in the forums, as I really think this is something Wizards should address in the near future. Obviously for this match the simple thing to do would be to have it untimed. After all we started play for the top eight Saturday morning around nine, so we should have had more than enough time to play all three rounds.
We split the finals, and he scooped the match since our team would get an extra $1000 if one our members won. Sadly the team portion of the event went about as badly as could be expected. Steve won his match, but Matt and I both could have played better in our matches and in part lost because of that. A big congrats goes to Drew Levin and his team for winning the team portion of the event.
Before I move on to talking about the deck, I just want to say how much fun the team part of the event was. You constantly found your teammates checking in with you and sweating your matches. By adding the team part to the event, I really felt like my weekend was much more enjoyable. The fact that Steve was often found after a match smiling, holding a cereal granola bar or some other wonderful food item, made it that much better. I know when they were playing in the sealed and I showed up with some snacks, it put huge smiles on their faces. The food was great, but it felt like I was a kid again playing a team sport. I was pulling for these guys and riding the emotional rollercoaster with them. This is pretty rare at a Magic event.
With another StarCityGames.com Open Series event this weekend, I would play the following:
Just a quick sideboard and matchup guide for those of you who do run it this weekend.
Timely Reinforcements is about as good as it gets. Don't be afraid to Dismember the first guy they play; they have quite a few in most lists. Gideon Jura is a great way to protect yourself from Hero of Oxid Ridge. Playing Wurmcoil Engine is almost always better than anything else you could do in game one. Elspeth Tirel is often better going to six than making three guys, as it forces them to keep mana up for Shine of the Burning Rage. Try to keep your Oblivion Ring for Koth the Hammer or Shrine. Post-board you have more of the same.
This matchup is all about jamming your spells. They will almost always win a very long game of attrition, so you need to just cast your spells every turn and hope to stick one. Day of Judgment is really good for when they Sun Titan for Phantasmal Image. Dissipate on a Think Twice is a very reasonable play as well, as you both want to have more cards than the other guy, which end up being leveraged to win the game most of the time.
This can vary a little based on their colors, but I think most of the time it plays out about the same. You have Oblivion Ring for their Birthing Pod, and without it, they will struggle to win. All of your cards are quite a bit more powerful than theirs, so this matchup really hinges on their ability to keep a Pod in play. I've beaten an active Birthing Pod a few times, but I don't think I should have won many of those games. Elspeth Tirel really shines in this matchup, often being able to wrath them and clear any Birthing Pods.
I have not played this matchup much at all. Just looking at the lists and using my limited experience, I would imagine it to be favorable. Day of Judgment is obviously going to be your best card against them. Watch out for Leonin Relic-Warder freeing something from an Oblivion Ring. Overall, this matchup seems like it should be a cakewalk, as you even have a decent chance against any of their nuts draws.
I won't say too much about these matchups, as these lists tend to vary by quite a bit. Against these decks, you are going to want your Jace, Memory Adept, White Sun's Zenith, and usually Mind Control. What you board out really depends on what you see. You want to take a pretty aggressive approach to casting your spells most of the time.
For those of you playing this weekend, I highly recommend this deck. I felt very in control in most of my games, and your matchups against all of the aggro decks are very good. I expect RDW and other creature-based decks to continue to make up the bulk of the metagame with some Solar Flare that is a little more tuned to fight those decks. If I am right, this deck is ripe to take down another tournament. Good luck to those of you playing this weekend. I will be playing some Sealed, trying to get back on the gravy train.