Good morning/afternoon/evening/night folks!
Sorry about not writing last week as my daughter decided that the laptop cord that stretched from the wall to the coffee table was a fine leg wrap and took the laptop with her screwing up the hard drive in the 2.5 foot-fall from the top of the table to the floor. Thus my half-written article was lost to the ages shortly before my drive to Charlotte and I just gave up in frustration. There would be other articles; the gods of fate had decided that last week would be article-free.
As it were I did travel to Charlotte NC. I was able to package the trip to Sarah as a Magic excursion wrapped in a family get-together as I have family still living in Rock Hill SC (a suburb of Charlotte). She bought off on the idea and after setting up a babysitter for the older children she Zoey and I took off on that Friday to go to Charlotte.
The trip down was fun in that we were both on the verge of passing out at every turn unable to find a decent coffee joint and Zoey decided to throw up about an hour out from Charlotte. When we arrived we went back to our default hotel the Hampton Inn beside the Convention Center where we were informed that the only room remaining that night was a suite which was double the price.
However luckily without me asking he cut the price of the room in half for us so we got a free upgrade which was pretty sweet.
The next day I went to the tournament site torn between U/B Zombies and U/B Control. If Spirits and Wolf Run Ramp were going to show up in large order U/B Control would be a great choice. While I loved U/B Zombies and really wanted to try it out I couldn't feasibly put the dirt-dwellers up against Primeval and Inferno Titan all day long.
Could you imagine that? A cobbled together Zombie coming up to the Bash Brothers Primeval and Inferno saying "Braaaaiiiinnnnssss" while getting his smashed in…
Yeah I decided against it.
Which in all fairness when I played Wolf Run Ramp in round one my decision was somewhat validated. I ended up losing game one to a turn three Thrun (his one-of in the main deck) but quickly dispatched him in games two and three.
After that I lose to W/B Humans/Tokens before beating a dedicated B/W Tokens deck. And by beat I mean I won a game two that featured a Sorin Lord of Innistrad that resolved on turn four (and never died) four Sorin Emblems two Liliana of the Veil ultimates a Paraselene taking out all of my Curse of Death's Hold and a Grafdigger's Cage that never left the board. I'm filing that game up there with the "I beat a nut draw from Enchantress with One-Drop Zoo" in the annals of "games I never expected to win."
With that my tournament was done. Several cubes later I was essentially done for the weekend.
I do find it funny that after I decided not to play U/B Zombies thinking it was a bad choice that it makes the finals. /ironic
I did however get to return home with two new kittens (try talking your lady out of two cute kittens. It's actually impossible turns out).
So Baltimore was coming up and U/B Control had left a rather sore taste in my mouth. What to play what to play?
I made a vow to myself: I was going to either attack or ramp this (past by the time you read this) weekend. If I ramped I was just going to play the Kibler version of the deck that won Pro Tour Dark Ascension and got top four this past weekend. But if I attacked instead?
Well there are multiple options I'm considering. The first and most likely is Mono Red and not because it won this past weekend. I fully understand why the deck won this tournament and it had a direct correlation to the drop in the number of Geist of Saint Traft and Sword of War and Peace.
What did I beat? Everything. Except for Delver decks. Yeah other than the single most populous deck online I could beat everything! That's a great place to be at lemme tell ya.
Why couldn't I beat them? Because of the aforementioned cards. I could curve out on them have them do practically nothing other than drop Geist Sword equip and I'd still just lose. There was literally no way to interact if I didn't draw one of my Ancient Grudge. Even if I did I still had to contend with Geist beating my face in. Sure I could leave back blockers for it you say but I'm a Mono Red deck; I'm leaving guys back/not attacking (in other words not getting damage in) to stop a 2/2 guy all while the opponent just Vapor Snags my guy putting me way back on tempo and life then beating my face in some more.
To put it bluntly: Mono Red just couldn't beat Geist of Saint Traft which is funny since the card doesn't seem that great in the matchup at first glance. However there's good news for those of us who want to play a one-drop on turn one who's only ability is tapping to deal one damage to a player: the new it deck Esper Spirits plays no Geists main deck and even then they choose to bring Geists in against removal heavy decks.
Does that list (of removal heavy decks) include Mono Red? If I were on the Esper Spirits side I know for sure that it would. However I don't know how many Spirits pilots have been on the Mono Red side of the equation so I'm hesitant to believe they understand how good that card is against Mono Red. Even still Geist is not a universal sideboard card for Spirits either.
So if the one matchup that I could never beat is going by the wayside (people are switching from Delver to Spirits if you haven't been picking up what I'm putting down) what's there to question? Why not just run Mono Red and be done with the decision process?
If I remember correctly that was on a fortune cookie I ate one time. Old ancient proverb and it speaks the truth.
But what if we can anticipate the hate? This ain't the days of yore. This isn't Kor Firewalker we're dealing with here. This isn't Burrenton Forge-Tender or Paladin en-Vec or Auriok Champion. This is Timely Reinforcements that while good isn't game over like some of those cards were. Red decks would have a tough time just interacting with the aforementioned Firewalker Forge-Tender Paladin and Champion at all.
Timely Reinforcements while a good card is still interactable (even though my Microsoft Word spellcheck tells me this isn't a word I'm using it regardless!). You can still interact with the tokens and the life gain while relevant doesn't stop what you're trying to do. In other words the hate isn't as strong with this one.
As for Sword of War and Peace the same applies. Sure a Sword is brutal. Is it as brutal as Kor Firewalker though? Obviously if it hits it's pretty brutal but unlike Firewalker you have the ability to interact with it. While I'd love to have Smash to Smithereens to board in I will say that I'm perfectly fine running Ancient Grudge with a couple of Rootbound Crag (another great thing about Grudge is that it's a clean answer to the lifelink aspect of a Wurmcoil Engine).
Now I'm not saying these two cards aren't good against Red; to the contrary if these cards show up in great numbers you'd be well served in re-reading that ancient proverb about hate and Red Decks. I'm just saying that a couple of Timely and Swords aren't going to ruin our tournament.
So part of the debate about what deck I want to play this weekend comes down to how much hate I expect. You can somewhat anticipate the hate cards as well as I try to in the list I would run this weekend:
- 3 Chandra's Phoenix
- 2 Goblin Fireslinger
- 2 Grim Lavamancer
- 2 Hero of Oxid Ridge
- 1 Spikeshot Elder
- 4 Stormblood Berserker
- 4 Stromkirk Noble
An omission from my sideboard that some of you Mono Red folks may notice is Vulshok Refugee. I always feel like I'm not really doing anything when I play this card. Did you know it was a Human and Stromkirk Noble could care less about it?
You'll see Hero of Oxid Ridge over Hellrider as well. While I really think Hellrider is actually better in the abstract the fact that I expect some number of Timely Reinforcements leads me to believe that the additional benefit of Hero of Oxid Ridge outweighs the slight benefit of Hellrider providing direct damage.
The Phyrexian Metamorph are there because of Geist of Saint Traft. You can bring them in for other matchups (Wolf Run seems good copying an Inferno Titan to dome them for three) but it's there as a concession to the fact that you just can't beat that card on a normal draw by Delver decks. Remember it can also copy a Shrine of Burning Rage as well.
There's a (very small) part of me that wants to run a singleton Forest and four Evolving Wilds instead of Rootbound Crag just so I can up the number of Grim Lavamancer as that card always impresses me. However I know the times where I draw that Forest in my opening hand or have three Evolving Wilds Stromkirk Noble Stormblood Berserker Shrine of Burning Rage and Chandra's Phoenix as my opener I'm going to want to shoot myself. While Grim Lavamancer plus Evolving Wilds is fun it hurts far far too much.
So done deal right? This is the deck for me right?
Well not so fast buster.
It has a good chance of being the deck that I run. However due to the hate considerations I must consider all options. If I show up and wander the room seeing a ton of Sworded Geists in play testing games I'm going to need a fallback plan.
What's that plan?
Well first is probably Huntmaster Wolf Run. The deck is ridiculously powerful and does a lot of dirty things. (By a lot of dirty things I of course mean play a Primeval Titan and win.) The deck seems relatively easy to pilot while maintaining decent matchups across the board. Since we've all seen the deck list a thousand times let's move on.
Next I'm considering that U/B Zombies deck I didn't run in Charlotte. What would my list look like?
- 4 Diregraf Captain
- 4 Diregraf Ghoul
- 3 Fume Spitter
- 4 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 2 Skirsdag High Priest
Fume Spitter and Skirsdag High Priest are really good in conjunction with each other; I'll be honest I wasn't on the Fume Spitter plan until I saw the second place list from Charlotte. After seeing it that piece of technology should've been fairly obvious but it seemed to have slipped my memory banks of Scars drafts in days gone by.
Another option is going the Humans route. This is likely to not be my choice since that deck flat out stinks against Wolf Run which I still expect in decent numbers. However if I somehow come to find that Wolf Run Ramp was lost on a large contingent of players and those players picked up Geist and Sword I could be talked into Humans.
Also I have it on good authority that B/W Tokens is a good call this weekend. (Well good authority in this case being Matt Eitel and his infatuation with the deck for this weekend.) I can't say that he's wrong it just depends on how Ratchet Bomb-happy people get when building a sideboard for this event. I really think that once the Bombs start moving out of the board that the B/W Tokens deck will show up and dominate an event. If Matt's correct and the number of Ratchet Bombs has died down in sideboards B/W may just surprise people.
If you attended Baltimore or the StarCityGames.com Open: Memphis this past weekend and battled with any of these decks let me know how it turned out for you in the comments! I'd love to hear if you guys came to similar conclusions and how that turned out for you!
Additionally if you're planning on attending the StarCityGames.com Open: Tampa this upcoming weekend good luck to you as well!
Until next week
Shoctologist on Magic Online
@mikemartinlfs on Twitter