For your pleasure we present a development in the Type One metagame appended with two tournament reports fleshing out the deck we present giving a sense of how the deck performs in actual tournament play.
The Evolution Of Miracle Grow In Type One
Here is the relevant snippet from a Sideboard article by Alex Shvartsman:
"This deck has some very deep roots. Its story begins back in 1997 when Alan Comer (who was one of the best-known deck builders at the time) came up with the concept of Turbo-Xerox. This monoblue deck combined blue utility creatures such as Man o'-War and Ophidian with bounce spells and great many inexpensive library manipulation cards to allow it a very low land count.
"Times change but the urge to beat the system by lowering the land count remained. Comer known for running very miserly land ratios in pretty much any deck he plays continued his quest to find a winning deck with few land cards. He hit the jackpot with Miracle Grow - a blue weenie deck splashing green for Land Grant and Quirion Dryad - which would grow quickly thanks to the many one-casting cost library manipulation spells."
At an early PTQ in 2002 with limited season opening into full bloom I ran into Pat Chapin when I heard a couple of the guys hanging with him talking about Type One. I offered to play a game in between rounds and one of Chapin's friends proceeded to maul me with a deck that I had never seen in type one: Miracle Gro. At the time I was playing mono-blue Ophidian and I was shocked at how well he was doing. Chapin who I didn't know or recognize at the time piloted the deck in about half-a-dozen games against me before being called off to play in the top 8 (in which he drafted multiple Shadowmage Infiltrators) and won the tournament. I copied down his entire decklist posting it around the web and Beyond Dominia.
Over the Summer and into the Fall of 2002 Chapin solidified Gro's position in the type one metagame and it began to command greater respect with a 1st place win at the Vintage tournament at Gencon. Chapin made some extreme claims about its capacity to beat TnT and MaskNaught which I find skeptical to this day - but the general point was that Gro was a contender especially when piloted by a good player.
It took Onslaught Fetchlands to add the finishing touches to truly breaking the Gro concept in type one. The development was made in Germany this year (are they taking over Magic?). At the Dlman tournament Roland Bode piloted the breakout Gro variant distinguished with Psychatog.
Gro-A-Tog is the best Gro variant - it represents the supreme evolution of a theme. Gro-A-tog has the most synergy of all the Gro variants it adds the brokenness that Type One black offers and for the finishing touch abuses Fastbond. Thankfully wizards rotated Extended before this problem reached Extended: the core of this deck would have been legal. Gro is simply an excellent Aggro-Control concept. This is closer to Combo-Aggro-Control if there is such a thing. If there wasn't then there is now.
Here is a rundown of the important cards and a basic introduction on how to play it.
This is the card that makes this deck tick. It is damage via Tog a way to Grow the Dryad the drawing engine and the combo piece with Fastbond and Yawgmoth's Will. This is for all intents and purposes a"Gush deck." Every card in this deck is aimed at getting this engine active.
Men: Psychatog and Quirion Dryads
There is still disagreement about the correct configuration of the creatures. We suggest the four-Dryad three-Tog build for a variety of reasons: First seven creatures appears superior to both six and eight. With seven you are likely to get the right amount and not too many creatures. Some people play with eight but barely anyone plays with six. The rationale between the number of Togs and Dryads is that the Dryads are the card you want immediately because they are cheaper to cast than the Togs and more important in the early game against Control decks. However we readily endorse four-Tog configurations. For now the norm is going to be this configuration.
This is probably the area of most debate and contention. The creator of the deck advocates using three Daze... And he does with a passion. Some people have tried Mana Drain and realized how bad they were. You don't need to Drain into anything and Daze is far too situational - especially in powered formats. We swear by four Misdirections although some people only run three and a brave few run only two in the maindeck. Misdirection is an amazing card in type one: It is great against Sligh Hymn to Tourachs Sinkholes other countermagic Mind Twist Ancestral Recall Braingeyser Stroke of Genius and on and on. Moreover since this deck is an aggro-control deck playing free countermagic that basically acts to help ensure your spells resolve is a good idea. But when you consider and then realize how widely functional Misdirections are in this format it becomes a no-brainer that you want at least a few. As for why there are four Force of Wills in this deck we think that requires no explanation: Force of Will is one of the most environment-defining cards in the game.
4 Underground Seas 4 Tropical Islands 1 Library of Alexandria 4-5 Fetchlands. This is critical. This deck demands mana of all three colors immediately. The Green is necessary to cast Fastbond and Dryad. But you also want to cast Tog Demonic Tutor Vampiric Tutor and Demonic Consultation immediately. So while we prefer the five Fetchland configuration some may want a basic island in there to fetch out. The reason you only play the on-color Moxen is similar to the reason there is no Sol Ring: This deck does need mana acceleration but it really needs in-color acceleration. And because of the very light mana base you will get mana flooded in off-colors if you add in the Mox Pearl and the Mox Ruby.
Standard operating procedure in type one is to fetch out Ancestral Recall first. While that remains true for most decks and remains true of this deck it isn't as true as it is for other decks. A surprising number of times Gush is superior - mostly because of Tog damage or Fastbond when you are mana light. However if neither of those situations are occurring then Ancestral is usually the appropriate card to fetch.
This is your Ace in the Hole. Opponents familiar with the deck are still surprised when it is played. Over the past year I have advocated that this card be unrestricted. Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee a deck with four Misdirections and four Force of Wills being able to abuse this card so badly. If four were legal we would play with four. Psychatog + Berserk is nuts.
This allows you to"go off"... But more than that it is a key ingredient of this deck. The idea situation is that this card is in your opening hand or first few draws because you won't have to waste a Tutor to fetch it. Although it might seem like a good idea you can try to"go off" in the first two turns but this is not a good idea. You want to go off after you get a Tog or a Dryad in play. Also if you try to"go off" too soon you might run out of steam and end the turn with one or two cards in hand while your opponent has a full grip. This is a key card but play intelligently with it.
This is a very very important card. If you draw this early and you have a slow start you may want to throw this back with a Brainstorm and fetchland because you want to save this critical card for the broken moment when you have multiple Gushes in the grave. Don't waste the card that should be banned.
The Cantrips: Brainstorm and Sleight of Hand
I am convinced that there is a precise balance of tutors and cantrips. For reasons that I cannot use reasoning to explain but have relied solely on play experience to support three Sleights are the optimal number. They help you keep a one-land hand and that is why they are used over Opt. Brainstorm is amazing in this deck functioning as a mana fixer an ancestral recall with fetchlands a Force of Will/Misdirection tutor and just a generally useful card as well as Tog fodder in the grave and a Dryad pumper.
My view on this card is that it is a necessary evil. It isn't an optimal card but it is a very nice feeling to know that it is there and when you draw it it has been pretty good.
Paul only casts this card when it is his last day on earth.
4 Underground Sea
4 Tropical Island
5 Fetchlands: Polluted Delta/ Flooded Strand - feel free to make one an Island
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Emerald
1 Black Lotus
3 Sleight of Hand
3 Merchant Scroll
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Cunning Wish
4 Force of Will
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Yawgmoth's Will
4 Qurion Dryad
So How Do I Play This Thing?
This is a very simple overview of the basic strategy of the deck.
Against a control deck your plan is to get a very early Dryad into play and then protect the hell out of it with all the draw and counter you can muster. Mid-to-late game you want a Tog because Dryads are comparatively inefficient. If you"go off" wait until you get a Tog - you don't need to play a Dryad because you'll likely only need the one 'Tog.
Against Combo play the threat only if you can use all of your draw and counter power to neutralize the combo deck's attempts to go off. The Combo player will probably try to combo out as soon as possible... So if you position yourself as the control player you should win. You basically want to play the control deck in the first couple of turns and then try to combo off yourself. If on turn one you have a Mox Sapphire and a Tropical Island with a Counterspell and a Dryad in hand don't play the Dryad. Leave the counter mana up.
Against Aggro get a Tog (which is preferable) or a Dryad or both (ideal) into play as soon as possible and beat down. Tog is very hard to kill and if you get in enough damage very quickly they will have to play somewhat defensively. If you can't beat down because the aggro deck has come out of the barrel too fast you may have to play defensively until you can Berserk over. But most importantly play intelligently to match your situation.
The basic idea to remember about this deck is that it has a lot of different games it plays: Combo Dryad-beatdown or Tog. You should adjust which game you are going to play depending on what deck you are playing against.
What to do with Fastbond? If you draw Fastbond in your opening hand you are lucky. If you have two mana and a Fastbond you can combo off very quickly. What you need is a Gush and a few search cards. After a while you will be able to play Yawgmoth's Will and play all of your spells again with Fastbond acting as a pseudo-Necropotence. To illustrate my point: Suppose your graveyard is a fetchland two Gushes a Merchant Scroll a Brainstorm a Force of Will and a Counterspell. Suppose further that you are at ten life and you have a Fastbond and two land and a Mox in play with a 4/4 Dryad. That is more than enough to win this turn. You play Yawgmoth's Will. Your goal at this point is to get Berserk. What is the most efficient way to get it? That is a tough question because it depends on what you draw. But here is one way you could go about it:
Disclaimer: This isn't supposed to be the perfect decision tree. It's here to illustrate what the deck can do:
One thing you could do is play Brainstorm now. The Gush that you need to play would then net you nothing because you have to put two cards back and you will see no new cards. First play Gush play the lands play Merchant Scroll for Mystical Tutor. You are now at nine life and the Dryad is a 7/7. Play the second Gush. Play the lands again. You are now at seven life. Play the Mystical Tutor searching for Berserk. Use the last land to play Brainstorm and draw the Berserk. Put two crappy cards back. If you haven't drawn into more land play the fetchland from your graveyard and use it. You now will take three damage: One from playing the fetchland one from activating it and one for when the land comes into play (the Fastbond does one damage to you). Now you are at four. At this point the Dryad should be 10/10. If you drew any other spells that you can play play them. Berserk the attacking Dryad and you have a 20/10 lethal Dryad.
What follows is a deck by deck analysis of the various likely matchups for Gro-A-Tog.
This is not a comprehensive listing; some common-sense decisions have been made to exclude obscure and unlikely matches. As a disclaimer we are referring to well-known versions of the archetypes discussed and variations in those decklists may change the analysis. Also we don't claim that our analysis is perfect. It's here to give you a rough idea. Take a look at the tournament reports for real matches.
This is one of your best matchups. Four Misdirections is scary for any deck that relies heavily on burn spells but combine that with a near unkillable Tog and growing Dryads and you have a very big headache for the Sligh deck. I recommend reading the tournament reports below for examples of these matchups. Even Ankh Sligh is rather non-threatening to Gro-A-Tog. As Paul explained and I have experienced in testing I have purposely lost five life to use a fetchland because it really didn't matter. The basic game plan is to get a creature into play quickly and force the Sligh player to use burn spells on your creatures in order to clear the path for their men. That is good. That means they must use their burn on your men which will allow your Misdirections to become gold. If you are worried about drawing Misdirections don't: With four Brainstorms Sleight of Hands and Gushes you will have no trouble drawing them when you need them. Chances are that you'll have more than one. We believe it's possible for Sligh to win if they get the God hand; any deck that packs four Wastelands and a Strip Mine has the chance to go nuts with mana denial. But most importantly sometimes well sometimes Sligh just wins - that is the nature of Sligh.
Conclusion: Seven rounds of Sligh means you are a shoo-in for the top 8.
This is an even better matchup than Sligh. It has less burn and crappier creatures. While Blurred Mongoose might be a very strong solution to The Abyss vanilla 2/1s that cost two are incredibly weak against Gro-A-Tog. The only drawback is that you have a few less Misdirection targets - but that really isn't a drawback when the creatures cost more or have less power.
Also of note: Depending on how many colors this deck has (some are R/G/u and you'll find some other variations out there) it may or may not be able to use Blood Moon. In any case expect to face a lot of Wastelands and Red Elemental Blasts out of the Sideboard.
This is the toughest matchup in the aggro category. It has everything that is bad for aggro control:
Great Discard in the form of Duress Hymns and Hypnotic Specters; Great Land Destruction in Wasteland Strip Mine Sinkholes and sometimes Null Rod; and excellent creatures like Nantuko Shade and Hypnotic Specter among others.
However as good as this is it's still a close matchup. Use the Brainstorms to hide good stuff from discard and recognize that your Misdirections are going to be a real pain in the side of the Suicide player. One of the most important factors in who wins this match is playing first. Going first will make your Gushes active before Sinkhole becomes a real possibility outside of a Dark Ritual. Also if you can mount a quick offensive you have a really good chance. Head to Head your Tog is stronger than any creature they can throw out.
This can be a terrifying matchup... But in actual practice it is slightly in your favor and looks very good after game one. This deck lacks the mana disruption and uses slightly weaker hand denial. Moreover its threats while monstrous are few and vulnerable after sideboarding. Moreover we have traded Togs and Dryads with Phyrexian Dreadnoughts many times but sometimes you just take the twelve.
Don't get the mistaken impression that this is walk in the park: It isn't. But it isn't unfavorable if the Tog player knows what they are doing and has a strong sideboard
Tools 'N Tubbies (TNT)
We have some good news! This appears to be an incredibly bad matchup on paper - but when it plays out you will truly recognize the strength of Gro-A-Tog. Scroll down and take a look at the tournament matches against TnT. To prove that this isn't a fluke we have verified it in testing.
Their creatures aren't as good. The only time they seem to do well is if they can get out Survival of the Fittest and then it's tough because that's their only real trick. If they don't have Survival or you can keep it off the board you almost definitely win. You get to side out four Misdirections to optimize your deck. Tog kills all of their men. Sometimes they feel like they just have to block because your Tog is too good and Su-Chi doesn't make a great blocker.
Mono Blue Control
Bad mono blue has no chance. Literally: No chance. Good mono blue has a chance but it's a chance in hell. Just as mono blue was learning to adjust to Gro this monstrosity developed. Imagine that there is a Qurion Dryad and a Psychatog in play and you have a Control Magic in hand that you know will resolve. Do you see the dilemma? Take the Tog and you can't get it very large (not in monoblue anyway); take the Dryad and get run over by the opposing Tog. You have to take the tog but it's pathetic and your opponent will let their Dryad grow until you have no way of dealing with it. It's not pretty. Once you resolve a Dryad it's hard to lose to mono blue.
Before you read what we have to say scroll down into the tournament report and read Paul's match against Trey Van Cleave. Keeper is both among your worst and best matchups.
Against a Keeper player who knows what they are doing very well and has an excellent build this is a rough road - but luckily there are only a handful of these people in the world. Against someone who has a decent build and is a very good player but who isn't intimately familiar with the metagame like Trey Van Cleave you will run them over.
Against blue based control the Dryads are the key - that's the game you play. It's the basic Gro game. The Togs simply bolster those matchups and dramatically improve the others. It's simply the nature of the design and concept. Aggro-Control is supposed to be strong against Control but when you consider four Force of Wills four Misdirections (which are incredibly good against Keeper) and an amazing draw engine (the Gush engine) you have a really good game. Many of Keeper's"big" spells are Misdirectable.
Also Balance while very strong can be weaker in some situations: They play Balance - and in response you Gush until you have no lands. Keeper can bring in some great stuff against you but you bring in a game breaker as well: Duress.
The problem for Keeper isn't that you can out-counter them: Outcountering Keeper is a pointless endeavor if that were the goal. The problem is that you have a threat on the board that you can successfully support. It's a theoretical problem and a practical problem - an aggro control concept that can outdraw the control concept should win - and that is the case here. We are of the opinion that many Keeper players while proficient in general matters don't quite understand how to play against GroAtog yet.
So to all Keeper players reading this to learn how to beat GroAtog here is a little secret we have discovered in testing and it is somewhat counterintuitive: Moat and Abyss are not optimal sideboard cards against GroAtog. They are clunky and too easily answered without actually affecting the game in the way the Keeper player desires. Part of the problem is the spell's casting cost. The other part is that you waste valuable resources (Tutors and mana acceleration) getting these enchantments into play... And they aren't the answers you need. The proper answer is a combination of extremely efficient countermagic (Mana Drains and Red Elemental Blasts) broken spells and spot removal. The more Swords to Plowshares and Powder Kegs the Keeper player uses the harder it is for the GroAtog.
For those of you who don't know parfait is a mono white control deck. Yeah we know. Mono White. Mono. White. In Type One.
Parfait has a lot of anti-creature hate: Multiple Swords to Plowshares Balance Moat Humility Wrath of Gods and potentially limitless Pegasi tokens. Sound scary? It's not. We have watched TnT and Mask beat Parfait match after match. Parfait is theoretically a decent deck... But in actual reality it's not.
Mono. White. 'Nuff said.
Nether Void has a lot of good answers to Tog. It's packed with mana denial. If a Nether Void resolves that is a significant obstacle - it's worse than Moat and Abyss combined. Even if they don't have a threat on the board (which they're likely to have given that Mishra's Factories and Nantuko Shades cost so little) they are likely to find a path around the Nether Void before you do. This enchantment attacks the most vulnerable element of the deck - one that it uses to its advantage with Gushing. At least in the case of Moat or Abyss a Yawgmoth's Will after using a Cunning Wish can mean a win - but with a Nether Void the black deck will run you over with Shade. It has everything Suicide Black has but more: Diabolic Edicts Factories and even Powder Keg! It also will have smothers in the sideboard to add to the headache.
The goal of the GroAtog deck is straightforward but not easy: Get a friggin' creature into play. The usual play sequence is something like this: You play a land and pass the turn they Waste your land and in response you Brainstorm. There is nothing inherently bad about this play scenario. The problem comes in that you have lost time. They are more likely to draw into a Dark Ritual/Lotus/Mox and able to make more explosive plays the subsequent turn. It's also two more turns until you are able to cast a Dryad and three until a tog. If you can get a tog into play the GroAtog deck should win as long as your life isn't too low and there aren't too many Shades and Hippies on the opposing player' side.
WorldGorger Dragon Academy Trix etc
If you stop the combo deck's first rush with a barrage of countermagic you can win quite easily. That is the reason why mono blue is such a terrifying matchup for combo decks. Take Kai's 2000 Invitational Trix deck: If you stop the massive draw-sevens like Wheel Windfall and cards like Necro and Bargain - basically if you stop all of the major card drawers - you have taken the tempo of the game. This principle basically remains the same against all of these decks.
However if the combo player knows the ins-and-outs of the GroAtog and if the deck design permits they may realize that adjusting the play style to try and actually out-control the GroAtog and they may be able to - assuming they ignore the Dryads. But that can be a deadly strategy because the Combo player may find itself dead a turn or two earlier than it expected due to Berserk multiple Gushes or Fastbond.
Tournament Report - Paul
This is a great deck. I play it differently than Steve as I almost always try to get a Berserk in hand and then I plow for the win with the Tog. I almost never cast Cunning Wish but view it as a necessary evil. I think versions that run Berserk in the side are silly; it's much easier to find in the main deck - and I never want to pay three mana to Cunning Wish unless it's my last day on Earth.
Round One - Adam Richie
So of course here I was playing against my teammate in round one; that totally sucks. This tournament was a bit low-tech - and since we both submitted our decklists last they had already set up random pairings and put us against each other. He was playing Mask with a splash of white. Unfortunately for Adam there were no surprises in his deck for me... I lent him the deck a few hours earlier.
Game One - Adam doesn't get an amazing draw and I do resolving an early Ancestral Recall into a wave of brokenness. I finally get the Tog out and drive for the win.
Game Two - In come Smothers and Compost. He gets down an Illusionary Mask on turn one; this will be a hellish game for me and my countermagic. I still put up a good fight but sometimes Mask just wins.
Game Three - He gets out Planar Void - that's frightening! Unfortunately this is all the good stuff he really gets down allowing me to Smother a guy then drive in the win.
Round 2 - Zack
This guy has the more controlling version of Tog (HulkSmash); it's not a Gro deck just card advantage counters and The Beast. He gets off better card drawing than me - and I don't sideboard in Duress which I should have. I also let him get away with a rules error on Mana Drain. If you Misdirect a Mana Drain to the Misdirection he doesn't get the mana. That could have made a big difference. In game three he draws seven cards off of two Accumulated Knowledges. Anyway I don't have enough practice with the deck yet and I lose this match 2-1.
Round 3 - Ankh Sligh
Let me just tell you now that Sligh has a tough time against Gro-A-tog. I win game one and in game 2 I get out Chill - which is probably not even the best sideboard card. He gets out Ankh of Mishra and Scald (which also may not be the best sideboard card); I take five damage to make a land with my Polluted Delta and I could really care less. Sligh is a deck that's about putting the pressure on and being fast and scary but all I really need to do is resolve Tog and swing - which is not hard.
Round 4 - Not so good goblin Sligh
This is obviously not the best Sligh deck. It has some sub-par critters in it. I win with ease. My experience with Sligh today makes me question the validity of the deck. I'm not really sure it's good anymore.
Round 5 - The Big Match Me Vs. Trey"Pro Tour" Van Cleve
This guy thinks he's amazing because he's on the Pro Tour or something and can beat up scrubs with his Keeper deck. I am not intimidated. We roll ten six-sided dice to see who goes first and I win the roll. Let the games begin.
Game One - I get nasty with some Dryads and beat on Trey a bit. He balances or something and he gets down Morphling. I get out a Tog and a Dryad he chips at my life with Morphling. I have Fastbond out and proceed to make my Dryad crazy playing Gushes and all sorts of neat things. I have it set up so that on the next turn I'll attack and he can only block one of my guys. I'm at seven life he has no cards in hand. This was a hellish game where he used three Wastelands and a Strip Mine on me putting me at minimal land. I was careful to play out two lands so that I can Counterspell unfortunately he has a Wasteland just sitting on the board and if he kills my underground sea my counter ability is gone and who knows what could happen to me?
This is a really intense moment. He draws his card and stares at it for like five minutes then he looks at my life total: Seven. For the next ten minutes he argues with me trying to convince me that maaaaaaaaybe I'm at five life so he could kill me. After I don't cave to his"mind games" he taps three land one being his Wasteland and tries to cast Cunning Wish. I extend my hand and say"Good game Trey - I win" as I lay my Counterspell and smile to myself for beating this jerk.
Game Two - In go Duresses; these guys are crucial. I casually ask Trey to give me a piece of paper so I can note exactly what dealt every point of damage in this game. We won't be arguing about that anymore.
He goes first and then I Duress him looking at two Swords to Plowshares Balance Red Elemental Blast and Demonic Tutor. I make him lose the Tutor then I make notes about what he has. Later I duress away the balance. Then I lay two Dryads and make them big. He uses up his Swords. We get in a little counter war and the REB goes away. I tutor up Berserk. He plays Morphling I play Tog. He has one card in hand and I have a force ready. I do the math and attack with the Tog. He untaps Morphling and blocks. I start the discarding he stares at me like I'm an idiot; I slap down Berserk and he looks at it in disgust.
If you ever have to play Trey Van Cleave show no mercy. Make him cry; do it for me.
Round 6 - Wade
So I hear 4-1-1 gets in and we ID.
Quarter-Finals - Adam Richie
I have to play Adam again. I win game one he gets an amazing round two and I win round three. He is a bit upset; I'm the only person he lost to all day.
Semi Finals -- Wade - TNT
I have minimal practice playing Tog against TNT so I ask Steve for advice. He confirms my suspicions about the deck and I feel confident. He also won his first round and it looks like me and him could be the finals and we could walk out of here with both prizes. This sounds worth shooting for.
Game One - I get the most amazing draw ever. It's Ancestral Demonic Tutor Force of Will Gush sufficient land and Tog. He gets out Sylvan library and I let that through... Big mistake. Although he gets down to four life on sylvan he gets to cast all four Survivals and I don't have a counter for the last one. He gets out Phyrexian Colossus and Quirion Ranger and Goblin Welder. I lose.
Game Two - Wade mulligans I go first. He takes some beats and soon realizes he must block the tog. He plays lots of Welders and they all have to chump. Sooner or later it's too much.
Game Three - This goes on for a while and I have Dryads and a Tog. He welds up a Juggernaut to block my Tog and I scramble to throw away cards to keep the beast alive. He takes a hit from the Dryad. I play another Dryad and attack; he looks and realizes that he can kill the Dryad if he Welds up a Juggernaut. He chooses not to block the Tog - and I pump and Berserk to barely kill him. If he'd have blocked the Tog I wouldn't have been able to win that turn. It was a very intense match.
Steve tells me he won. I try to hide my excitement and then explode. I won too Steve! Let's grab these prizes and get out of here. We all leave winners and make a run for McDonalds for some Chicken Nuggets and Apple Pies.
Tournament Report - Steve:
I sat down across from a gentleman and proceed to lose the coin toss. He opened with a forest and a Fyndhorn Elf. I sighed relief. For me the randomness is frightening... Especially in a format like type one. I could be staring down at a monstrous creature before I laid my first land. When I saw the elf I realized this was probably either an elf deck or some very janky. His next turn he played a City of Traitors and tapped four mana to cast Eureka. Ack!
My hand included a Psychatog and a Quirion Dryad. But I was guessing that my creatures would be puny compared to the behemoths he would be dropping. Fortunately I had a Force of Will in hand and proceeded to use it. I played the Dryad and passed the turn. He played Natural Order and moved a Verdant Force into play. The tokens began.
On my turn I played Tog and he politely asked:"What is that?" This guy must have been living under a rock. When you get this lucky you don't complain. On his fourth turn he attacked with the Force and I blocked with a Tog that proceeded to kill the Verdant Force. That was an obvious mistake on his part. But I guess outside of doing the math it doesn't seem like a one-power creature would - or should - be able to survive combat with the Green Goliath let alone kill it. In the next two turns I proceeded to Gush and Berserk over one of the tokens for the kill.
After game one my opponent asked if you are allowed to sideboard. The tournament coordinator said that he could. I was a little worried because he moved in about nine cards. I believe that I sided in three Duress and an Edict for four Misdirections. If I had thought a moment longer I probably would have sided in Naturalizes as well.
In the first few turns he played a Sol Ring City of Solitude City of Traitors and a Forest. I wasn't worried about the City of Solitude. I had a Cunning Wish in hand and I figured there was nothing that I really badly needed to counter - not even Choke would be that scary. I drew a Duress and snatched a Eureka. Shortly after I Naturalized the City via Cunning Wish. For the relevant part of the game he failed to draw a second green source but spent about four turns beating me down with a Factory while I let my Dryad get big enough to survive the combat. As soon as he got double green I actively attempted to keep Counterspell mana open. This proved ineffective because his next spell was a Scragnoth. Fortunately my Dryads are not blue and while he had about six cards in hand I played Yawgmoth's Will reusing multiple Gushes in my graveyard going to one life with Fastbond and Time Walking into the win.
I sit down across from a kid whom Paul said is playing with Swamps. That is not a friendly color for this deck. In the end I didn't see much of his deck - and what I did see seemed slightly janky. He played a swamp and passed the turn: Phew. I believe that I did something broken and started to combo out from a turn 1 Fastbond or something nearly equivalent. By turn 3 or 4 I had an early Dryad and Tog in play and was about to go for the jugular. I had used one Gush and needed another to keep things going... So I cast Demonic Consultation naming"Gush."
The demons hate me. The 1st and 5th card were both Gushes with the remaining Gush being the second-to-last card. He was at twenty. If I could have been allowed to actually cast the Gush I would have won.
Game Two: I don't believe I sided in anything relevant. He played a Zuran Orb Mishra's Factory and a Powder Keg. I played a Dryad. He played a second Keg - and when he blew the first keg it killed the other as well. Thinking ahead can avert mistakes like that. He played a Nantuko Shade which was no match for my Tog. I believe that a broken Will ended this game.
Game Three: He had a very early double Dark Ritual Mind Twist that I Misdirected to him. This game was over.
Game One: My opponent appears pretty confident and opens with a Kird Ape. He was playing a very solid R/G zoo deck that included Blurred Mongeese many Fetchlands Wastelands and Gorilla Shamans. He Wastelanded my first land and used Gorilla Shaman's ability on my Mox. Relatively soon after I played a Dryad. He Lightning Bolted the Dryad which I Misdirected to his Ape. I was pleased that by turn 3 or so he had only one card in hand. I think my Dryads went all the way in this game.
Game Two: I expected that he would side in at least four Red Elemental Blasts and perhaps some Pyroblasts. Most of all I feared Blood Moon so I sided in an Island a Naturalize and perhaps the Blue Elemental Blasts and the Divert. I thought about siding in the Smothers but decided against it. I had an opening hand of at least 2 Fetchlands and 2 Dual Lands. I somehow managed to make him think that I was mana light. He drew and used 2 Wastelands and a Strip Mine in the first four turns. However it didn't matter because I kept drawing more despite the Island getting Stripped. Despite the use of Red Elemental Blast which I anticipated I managed to get bigger and better threats than he did and I countered the last creature he cast so that I would simply win immediately.
I was paired up against one of the two TnT players. We had talked before about the tournament and he also knew what I was playing.
Game One consisted of no turn 1 threat on his part. He mulliganed to six and commented sarcastically that his new hand was much faster. I replied"Really?" I believe I Force of Willed a turn 2 threat pitching Misdirection. With one card in hand he played a Survival of the Fittest. I had Cunning Wish in hand but not enough mana open to cast it. I untapped and passed the turn. Instead of playing a Tog I decided to kill the Survival immediately - a more conservative play. I passed the turn and he drew: Was it a creature?
No. Thank goodness too. At the end of his turn I Cunning Wished for Naturalize and killed the Survival. Soon the Tog managed to go all the way.
After Survival of the Fittest the scariest card that he had was Genesis which would spell my doom. So I knew my plan was to beat down quick and hard. That is exactly what happened.
Game Two: I sided in three Naturalizes two Smothers and a Diabolic Edict. I sided out four Misdirections a Cunning Wish and a Demonic Consultation.
My opening hand was Naturalize Gush Force of Will Diabolic Edict Dual Land Fetchland and something else. He played: Mox Mox Mishra's Workshop Sol Ring: Su-Chi. I mulled over it for a minute and decided to Force of Will the Su-Chi rather than take damage before being able to Edict or Naturalize. This turned out to be the correct play. He used the two remaining mana and Time Walked. At this point he played a land and passed the turn. I laid a land and passed the turn.
He never managed to get a red mana source and by the end of the game he had multiple Red Elemental Blasts in hand. He had played a Tormod's Crypt which effectively acted as a Counterspell to Yawgmoth's Will. I wished him good luck for the next round.
At this point I was trying to calculate if I could draw the next two rounds into the top 8. We decided that it was likely but not certain because of certain possibilities such as getting paired down in round 6 with someone who has to play or the slight chance that 4-0-2 is edged out by a couple of 4-1-1s. So we decided to play. I knew my opponent was playing Super Grow - a Miracle Grow variant. In particular he has Swords to Plowshares Werebears and Mystic Enforcer.
Game 1 was rather quick. My opening hand had Mox Emerald land Fastbond Gush and some search. When the turn 1 Fastbond resolved I went off rather quickly but I let him have one turn before I won with one life (because of Fastbond). I didn't see much of his deck so I didn't know that he was running Enforcer. I assumed it would be a more standard build.
Game Two I made the mistake of siding out a Psychatog - something you do against control decks - and I sided in three Duress which was also a mistake. When I Duressed him on an early turn I saw all creatures including Mystic Enforcer. I panicked when I could not draw a creature. I rapidly began searching through my library to answer his Werebear and massively outdrew him but to no avail. The next turn he played an Enforcer and my hand was full of Misdirections but no Force of Will. Of course my next turn I draw a Force of Will. The game ended with a Werebear and Enforcer beating down while I had two Force of Wills and three Misdirections in hand. I sided out the Duresses and stuffed the Tog back in.
Game Three: My opening hand was two Togs a Dryad a Misdirection a Mox and two land. This hand was a far cry from the"where the hell are my dudes?" situation from last game. I played a turn two Dryad which he dazed. I played a turn three tog which he Swords to Plowshared. I let all this happen because I had another Tog in hand.
This is one of the biggest uncertainties in playing an Aggro Control deck: Do you protect the threat at all costs to save time or do you act more conservatively and let the critters die when you have more in hand? Ultimately it seems to be a function of what your opponent's deck does. If they have very few ways to deal with permanents but many counterspells fighting like hell to get that critter in play and keep it in play seems to be the better choice. In this case I took the opposite path - and I think I was correct. As usual it ended with a massive Yawgmoth's Will and a handshake.
It's Adam one of our crew playing a Masknaught build that I helped build the night before. We drew into the top 8 and went to get our decks checked before the top 8 began. I was going into the top 8 with the number one seed. There were three players who were in contention for the 8th place in the top 8. One of them was Trey Van Cleave playing Keeper. Admittedly Keeper is a pretty good matchup for a deck like this - as his games against Paul playing GroAtog demonstrated. Nevertheless I wasn't eager to play Trey.
A guy named JT beat out Trey by one point in the tiebreakers to become my first opponent in the top 8. He was playing Sligh. Yummy.
Game One: This is was a silly hand. I opened with 2 Misdirections 2 pitchable spells and an early Dryad. He played an early Gorilla Shaman and Jackal Pup. As soon as I played the Dryad he tried to burn it - which I Misdirected to his Jackal Pup. He tried the same thing again and I used the other Misdirection on his other critter. My Dryad was 3/3 and my hand was Regrowth and a Fetchland. I untapped and played Regrowth on a Misdirection holding the Fetchland to make him think that I had Misdirection up. Besides who Regrowths Misdirection when they don't have another blue spell?
I do. And it worked.
He never played another burn spell the whole game and I ended the game with eighteen life - the only damage was from my fetchlands.
I sided in two Blue Elemental Blasts a basic Island and a Divert and out three counterspells and a Demonic Consultation. During this entire game he never had more than one mountain. He played two Shamans and two Grim Lavamancers. I blue elemental blasted the first Lavamancer and shortly thereafter Yawgmoth's Willed and Blue Elemental Blasted his blockers for the sole purpose of getting Dryads bigger. We shook hands and parted.
I walked over to Paul. He had just been paired against Adam one of our crew and was going to the Semi-Finals. He was going to be playing against TnT and was nervous. I took his TnT deck and played a practice game while we were waiting. That gave Paul some confidence going in.
His opening hand against the TnT deck was incredibly busty: Time Walk Ancestral Recall Demonic Tutor Force of Will Brainstorm and two land. The TnT player had to mulligan into a terrible hand: Double Mishra's Workshop Goblin Welder double Moxen and a Taiga. He went Workshop Mox Mox"go." Paul made the mistake of playing Ancestral on his turn instead of on Wade's upkeep and had to discard a Brainstorm and another good card. Furthermore Paul let a Sylvan Library resolve - a mistake which allowed Wade to get multiple Survivals. However Paul still managed to win the match.
After beating the Super Grow deck in the semi-finals I had to play against the"Hulk Smash" Meyer-Battista Tog. I was confident that I could win if I stuck to the game plan of being the Aggro-control deck. Ironically in light of Paul's game I played an Ancestral on his upkeep that resolved. In one of the games I think it was this one he had a turn 1 Time Walk. On turn 2 I played a Dryad which resolved. This is very good. I had multiple backup counterspells which I hadn't used at this point.
He laid a land putting him to potential Mana Drain mana. I said that I hated walking into Mana Drains: but I played a tog anyway. He Mana Drained and I Misdirected the drain to my Misdirection. I passed the turn. I think he played an Intuition and then I untapped and Double Gushed on turn four for lethal damage with my Tog and Dryad. Everything went according to plan.
I sided in three Duresses and decided in the end not to side in the Divert. I also sided in a Multani's Presence. I sided out a Demonic Consultation a Berserk a Tog and something else. My opening hand was a Mox Sapphire a Mox Emerald an Underground Sea a Duress a Counterspell a Sleight of Hand and a Merchant Scroll. He laid a land and passed the turn. I played a turn 1 Duress which saw a Powder Keg Cunning Wish Gush Yawgmoth's Will Intuition and a land. Thinking long game I thought how nice it would be to deprive him of his Will I almost took it. I wasn't scared of him Kegging away my Moxen because that would mean one less keg for my Dryad. However the Keg interfered with my game plan and I figured I would just have to stop the will before it happened. I laid the Sapphire and Sleighted not using the Emerald in case he played another Keg. He played a land and passed the turn. I laid the Mox and another land. Then I tapped the Moxen for the Dryad.
He had two blue up but no Drain. Evidently he just drew a Force of Will because he pitched Cunning Wish... And I simply counterspelled and the Dryad resolved. Next turn I played a second Dryad a Merchant Scroll for Ancestral. I can't remember what he did - I think he laid a land and played Intuition.
On my fourth turn I played tog. A few turns went by and the turn before I could do lethal damage because my Dryads were 2/2s and I only had 1 Misdirection a Force of Will and a Fastbond. I calculated damage and I could kill him next turn with the cards in hand. He had six mana by now and I had written down that he still had Yawgmoth's Will. If he got that to resolve my game would be over. He played a Tog which I countered. He countered and I Misdirected leaving me with only Fastbond in hand. Since he only had three mana up I knew that if he played Yawgmoth's Will this turn he wouldn't be able to use it - but if he survived to the next turn I would lose. If I Forced I wouldn't have lethal damage... Or would I?
I did because my Dryads got one more power each. That was enough. But even better I topdecked Gush. More than enough.
Now I waited on Paul. Paul turns to me and says"Steve did you win?" Didn't sound too good. I answered affirmatively to which he replied"We win! We are awesome." Finally.
We'll see you at Origins. So stop and say"hi."
- Adam Ritchie team player
- Marc Hutchison who played a TnT a good guy
- Zach who played HulkSmash and Wade who played TnT
- Trey Van Cleave - you know why.