Let me tell you a story.
This is a story about how I overcame the odds and bested countless competitors along the way to a stellar finish at Grand Prix Baltimore.
This is also the part of the story where I wake up still in my bed on Sunday morning, rolling over with my stomach twisting over on itself, sick with a virus.
Ah, illness. You find me at the best of times.
The weekend of GP Baltimore didn't go according to plan. The Friday before, Sarah and Chris (our 6 year old) got extremely sick with a stomach virus. Saturday morning, their conditions hadn't improved enough, so I made the command decision to skip GP Baltimore in favor of taking care of family business.
I know, I know. Being an adult sucks sometimes.
However, Sarah was feeling significantly better as the day progressed, leading me to make plans for attending on Sunday to play in side events and cube with Kenny Mayer, Justin Parnell, and the guys. Plans were made, cards were ready to be borrowed for side events, clearance gotten from Central Command (i.e., Sarah), and I was ready to go.
Only I woke in the middle of the night to discover that I was, in fact, not going anywhere for the next couple of days.
Seeing your whole family get sick while you're healthy has to feel somewhat akin to approaching a waterfall; you see all of the debris and whatnot falling off in front of you and you're just waiting for your turn to be crushed. That's how I felt leading up to Sunday, and in this loose analogy, Sunday was my date with the fall.
So I watched as the results of both the StarCityGames.com Standard Open: Memphis and GP Baltimore came in from the "comfort" of my bed. My possible decks for the weekend were Mono Red, U/B Zombies, and possibly Humans depending on the Wolf Run presence. With the exception of Mono Red, the decks had good showings.
What happened to Mono Red??
I honestly don't know, as there was a 1500+ person GP and plenty of things could've occurred. Perhaps all of the skilled players chose other decks? People got scared off after the StarCityGames.com Open: Charlotte win?
Like I said, I don't know; what I do know is that now is a glorious time for Mono Red. Seriously, when I played U/B Control, there was nary a deck I feared facing other than Mono Red. Matt Scott says that the only deck that U/B Zombies need worry about is Mono Red, and there really isn't a great "hoser" like in the past (I discussed this concept last week).
The only concern I have is that Matt Costa won GP Baltimore with a Delver list running four Geist of Saint Traft with Swords of War and Peace. If you remember last week, I said this was the one thing holding Mono Red down.
So the question becomes: how much do we expect people to start picking up "old Delver" and how much do we expect other archetypes to show up?
The answer is another two-fold question: will people be prepared for Delver and will those people who prepare for Delver be able to keep Delver down? People will continue playing U/B Control, and I think that those two decks are such a wash that neither will dominate. There's also plenty of other playable decks in Standard right now that if you're playing in a StarCityGames.com Open, you can reasonably expect to play six-to-eight different decks over nine or ten rounds.
With that said, I'll say that the resurgence (as it were) of "old Delver" won't keep me from rocking Mono Red.
After that, I'm comfortable with pretty much any matchup (though I'm placing a tentative "I'm not sure" on the G/R Aggro deck, as I've yet to play against it but four Swords seems rough). With the new expected metagame set to include U/B Control and U/B Zombies, let's take a look at what Mono Red should look like this week:
- 2 Porcelain Legionnaire
- 3 Chandra's Phoenix
- 3 Goblin Fireslinger
- 1 Grim Lavamancer
- 2 Hellrider
- 4 Stormblood Berserker
- 4 Stromkirk Noble
You'll notice the inclusion of Porcelain Legionnaire this week. I actually want a third, but space is limited. Porcelain Legionnaire does a couple of things. First, it dodges the flares people are Whipping back and forth. It trades with both sides of a Geralf's Messenger and lives. It's also a three-power creature for two mana that doesn't require you to damage your opponent first.
Mono Red doesn't have many options when it comes to two-drops these days. Luckily, Porcelain Legionnaire gives us a very aggressive option. Unfortunately, opponents with artifact removal are already going to be bringing it in for your Shrines, but then again, if they're hitting your Legionnaires with their Divine Offerings you're good to drop your Shrine at that point.
Another knock on Legionnaire (and the reason I'm only trying two) is that the little-artifact-that-could has all of one toughness, putting you directly in the line of fire of Fume Spitter, Tragic Slip, and even Galvanic Blast, which Stormblood Berserker doesn't need to worry about. For now we stick with two, though I'm excited about the possibilities.
I really wish I could run more Grim Lavamancers, as that guy can both control the board in the matchups he's good in and finish games with a flurry of Shocks against other decks, but his effect on the board is slow and inconsistent without fetch lands. I may see an argument for dropping a Fireslinger for a Grim Lavamancer, but Goblin Fireslinger is essentially guaranteed damage (albeit not that much) and sometimes you want that.
Hellrider is an addition I considered last week but couldn't pull the trigger on due to the perceived uptick in the number of Timely Reinforcements in the sideboards of U/W players. Hero of Oxid Ridge got that nod, but now that my concerns seem to have been unfounded, I think Hellrider is an easy choice over Hero.
There are four reasons that I can think of (so far):
4. It's (relatively) small, but you don't have to attack with Hellrider for the benefit. You can just kamikaze your smaller guys into their team turn after turn to get that damage in, then on the ultimate turn send in Hellrider too. Hero of Oxid Ridge requires him to attack for any benefit, so I like that Hellrider can sit back and watch his minions do the dirty work.
Now, if the day comes where creatures with less than or equal to one power are prevalent, I can see switching back to Hero, but as it stands, Hellrider seems to be where it's at right now when it comes to four-drop red guys. I could even see a switch to Koth of the Hammer, but we address that in the sideboard.
Speaking of Koth, actually, you'll see the full suite of Koths in the sideboard. When I played U/B Control, there was almost no way, post-board, I could beat a Koth of the Hammer against Mono Red. My plan against Mono Red was to board out my permission for more removal and the Batterskull or two I had in the board, trying to control their creatures (and preserve my life total) long enough to get two Curse of Death's Hold online, which essentially shut down their creatures and allowed me to either mill them out or win with Batterskull.
Koth? Yeah, in a perfect world I may get to kill him with a Batterskull Germ, but in all reality an on-curve Koth is probably just game over.
Therefore, with an expected resurgence of U/B Control (which should keep Wolf Run at bay), we can devote the slots we'd previously reserved for Wolf Run to U/B. Four Koths should be plenty to wrap up that matchup, as between Shrine, Chandra's Phoenix, and Koth we should be more than fine.
You'll also notice the Dismembers in the sideboard. What are those there for!?
People are starting to move in on the B/U Zombies archetype, and for good reason. The deck is synergistic. The deck can be fast. The deck is resilient. Take a look at my friend Matt Scott's (Congrats man! Awesome showing, and good luck trying to get to Barcelona with that baby on the way!) Zombies list:
- 4 Diregraf Captain
- 4 Diregraf Ghoul
- 2 Fume Spitter
- 4 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 2 Phyrexian Obliterator
- 2 Skirsdag High Priest
Between the maindeck and sideboard, you'll see four Phyrexian Obliterators. Mono Red has exactly zero ways to deal with that guy without blowing up its own side of the board. If Obliterator sits back, you can't do anything short of attacking with Chandra's Phoenix. If Obliterator attacks, you have to let it get through. The guy's a beast, and without Dismember, Obliterator threatens to turn an otherwise decent matchup into an un-winnable matchup.
We have answers for U/B Control and Zombies, what about Delver?
Well, you'll see we pack the full set of Ancient Grudges, as Swords are still an issue and you'll just lose to one if unanswered. You'll also see Phyrexian Metamorphs as a way to deal with Geist of Saint Traft. This isn't a great matchup, but I don't expect it to be 90% of the field, either, so I'm willing to risk randomly losing to Geist + Sword.
Now that we've been over the Mono Red deck a bit, I actually want to dedicate the remainder of my article to an important issue.
Unless you've been living under a Magic: The Gathering-rock recently, you know that my good friend (and fellow StarCityGames.com contributor) Justin Parnell had his all-foil, powered Cube stolen while at GP Baltimore on Sunday.
Even if I didn't know Justin personally, this is just unacceptable. Theft has been an issue for far too long now. These are actual theft rings, not just some scumbag who swipes bags from under seats. Justin was scoped out; the person who stole his bag knew what Justin had in there and timed his swipe based on Justin's patterns where he would turn to watch the adjacent Cube match and turn back to check his bag. This isn't some kid who wanted to make a buck. This is serious.
People have made comments questioning Justin's intelligence level and also questioning the measures Justin went through in order to protect his stuff. What you don't understand is that Justin is probably the most careful and vigilant person I know in regards to his Cube. If you haven't read his column here on StarCityGames.com (which you should have), you'll know he loves cubing and loves his Cube, putting a ton of time and effort into perfecting it. He doesn't just leave it lying out and about; he was scoped out and targeted.
People who make the comment that this was somehow Justin's fault in any way obviously have no idea what we're dealing with, and that's part of the issue here. We're not dealing with petty thieves. The assumption that this was simply a mistake on Justin's part to not watch his bag leads me to believe that most people think this is just a common occurrence (thievery at events), that there are small-time thieves at every event and the only way they'll get anything is through complacency by tournament patrons.
While this is partially true (you should always maintain control of your bags and cards: wrap the strap of your bag around your leg during rounds, don't set it down if you don't need to, etc.) and there are small-time thieves around, there is a bigger issue going on. The fact that plenty of people believe this isn't as bad as it truly has become is part of the reason it keeps getting worse; we're not ready for how prepared the thieves are.
What I mean is, these guys are showing up with the intent to leave with a lot of cards which aren't theirs, and they show up with plans already in place. We show up with the intent to win a tournament and have fun with friends. Guess who's prepared to win the "steal your stuff" fight?
Well, I say we fight back.
Between rounds or after my tournament is over, I've started keeping an eye on people who are birding matches. I watch their actions to see if someone is doing something they shouldn't be. I think if we were all a bit more cognizant of our surroundings, just a bit, that we could probably catch more of this in the act. Sure, we're not going to spend all of our time at an event watching other people's stuff, but if more people took a moment to take in their surroundings, I'm sure this would get caught more.
We need to band together as a community and stop this. It's truly getting old at this point.
As for Justin's cube: there is an effort underway to get it back and get the guy/gal/group responsible. If you have any information, please email me at mikemartinlfs (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll make sure the information gets forwarded to Justin, Matt Scott, and the guys in the Facebook group dedicated to recovering the lost Cube.
That's all for this week. Hopefully you guys will get a full report about a PTQ win from this past weekend in Richmond, as that's where I'll be.
Thanks for reading!
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