I guess whenever you win a tournament you're supposed to write a tournament report. I always figured it was so people can get a grasp on what wins and how, rather than about the fact that there was a ton of traffic on 495 or how that waitress at the place where you and your friends went for dinner afterwards totally wanted you. And usually people write a short little summary of each game that they played and whatnot.
I was thinking about doing it like that, but I played Tog four out of the seven rounds, and almost all of the games went the same way. So instead of saying the same thing over and over again, loyal readers, I'll just end up going over how the matchups worked out and how they actually should work out.
Now for everyone's favorite part of the article, the decklist:
4 Underground Sea
4 Polluted Delta
3 Tropical Island
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Strip Mine
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Emerald
1 Black Lotus
1 Mana Crypt
4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
4 Accumulated Knowledge
3 Cunning Wish
2 Deep Analysis
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Time Walk
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Mind Twist
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Pernicious Deed
Round 1: Mike Lenzo, Tog 2-0
(insert obligatory whine about playing a teammate round 1)
Round 2: Manuel Fernandez, Tog 2-1
(insert obligatory exclamation of how lucky I got with Mana Crypt)
Round 3: Doug Linn, Fish 0-2
(insert obligatory mana screw response)
Round 4: Justin Schister, Dragon 2-0
(insert obligatory statement about his poor draws)
Round 5: Jason Stinnet, Tog ID
(insert obligatory comment about where I grabbed food)
Top 8: Jason Stinnet, Tog 2-0
(insert obligatory"We didn't drive two and a half hours to play a match we could've done in our dorm")
Top 4: Frankson Lee, TnT 2-0
(insert obligatory"I won on the last possible turn both games")
Top 2: Kevin Cron, Stax 2-0
(insert obligatory"We're teammates so we split")
There, that was easy, wasn't it? Oh sure, I could've hammed them up a little more and all. I mean, it's a lot more entertaining to read"FINALS: JP"The Irresistible Force" Meyer vs. Kevin"The Immovable Object" Cron, but this saves everyone's time.
Now, the actual important part. As you can see, I played a ton of Tog. I also won all the matches, and if it weren't for a technical mistake (I forgot to Intuition in response to Manuel's Will for three Deep Analysis,) I probably would've had an undefeated record there. It was simply because "Misassignment of role = game loss".
What Happened In My Games:
Typically, someone would try to grab the game from the get go. They'd typically do this in a bunch of ways. Sometimes it was trying to drop Xantid Swarm and using it to cast spells unmolested (heh, I said"molested"). Other times it involved checking with Duress, seeing that the coast is clear, and trying for a quick Intuition for Accumulated Knowledge. There's a problem with this strategy, though: it still takes a while to kill with Tog.
Now, against aggro, you can usually do your thing pretty easily. Mana Drain something, Intuition up some card drawing, maybe Force of Will something when you're tapped out, whatever. Against control, it's not so simple. The first problem is that after a counter war, both of your hands get pretty small. If you've only get three cards in your hand, you'll need like twenty cards in your graveyard if you expect to kill them. And it takes a long time to get twenty-ish cards into your graveyard.
Who's the Beatdown?
Now, stop thinking so much like a Type 1 player ("Ooh, look at me! I have twenty Moxes and thirty Black Lotuses and one hundred Ancestral Recalls and a Time Walk in my deck, so surely I should be able to kill on turn 2!") and think about how Tog worked back way back in Standard. Actually wait, never mind. I forgot that everything associated with that format is vilified in Type 1, so I'll have to explain what really happened.
In Standard, you had about seven or eight turns before what happened really"mattered." Sure, you should still try to counter that Fact or Fiction, but if you got tapped out, you didn't have to worry about a Tog killing you, both because of your removal that you could play on your turn, and because the number of cards was still usually pretty low. You also didn't have to worry about Upheaval wiping out the board, since your opponent didn't have enough mana yet for that.
The same thing holds pretty true in Type 1. That Xantid Swarm might look scary, but what's the worst that could happen? Turn 3 Mind Twist for three? They AK for two? What ends up happening is that they gain a small, temporary advantage, but are not at a stage in the game to take advantage of it. Now it's turn 4. Both of you probably have about the same amount of mana (around four or five). He's got a Xantid Swarm and probably four cards in hand to your two. And then your opponent, the aggro Tog player draws...Will? Eh, that's not so good. Another Swarm? Even worse. You, on the other hand, draw Deep Analysis and now you've got six cards in hand versus his four and have entered the midgame, where a lot more happens with the real advantage.
You'll notice that I have Xantid Swarm in my sideboard, too. I think my opponents overvalued Swarm, which made them actually quite good for me. I would go for a turn 1 or 2 Swarm and my opponent would counter it, and that's by far the best thing that they could do. There was only one game where Swarm was actually useful for its ability, which allowed me to Smother my opponent's Tog and attack for the win.
Working the Lategame Against Control
Immediately after the tourney, I swapped out the Wastelands for basics (two Islands and a Swamp) and cut the Xantid Swarms for Back to Basics. I feel that this works much more along the lines of how to really work the lategame. With Back to Basics, you can make sure that your opponent can never really leave the earlygame and enter the midgame and lategame, where the game really is won or lost. With the Basics on the table, it becomes a lot harder to cast Deep Analysis or set up a Will, even if people are running the lone basic Island, which, for some reason, everyone thinks allows them to work under Back to Basics with no problems.
The lategame is also the reason that I included Last Word in the sideboard (Darksteel was allowed at this tournament even though it doesn't become legal in sanctioned tourneys until next month.) It almost doesn't matter that the spell costs 2UU, because once you reach the lategame, you're bound to have plenty of extra colorless mana that really isn't useful in a counter war anyway. The lategame almost always revolves around resolving a single spell, usually something like Will or Twist or Balance, which because of the fact that the game has gone on for a large number of turns, makes those cards almost instantly deadly, because of the number of turns that they erased or duplicated. With Last Word thrown into the mix, it requires the other deck to do a lot more setting up in order for them to be able to resolve their game winning spell, which in the meantime allows you to either win or to"win."
More"Who's the Beatdown?"
TnT has historically been an excellent matchup for Tog, since both of the decks have similar clocks (TnT goldfishes around turn 4 while Tog goldfishes around turn 5,) but Tog is able to abuse its counters (especially Mana Drain and TnT's four-mana creatures), so that it can cast all of its spells many turns earlier. Frankson's TnT deck didn't have any Darksteel or Mirrodin cards in it. The addition of Sundering Titan and Duplicant completely changes the way the matchup plays out. Before, TnT was in a bind because it couldn't really play the aggro role that well, since it could get outraced, and it really couldn't play the control role that well since it would take too long for it to really be able to abuse Survival of the Fittest and Genesis.
Those two cards completely change the decks' focuses in the matchup. TnT needs to be the control deck now that it can milk Survival and Genesis to find Goblin Welder (rather than Juggernaut) which it can use to take out Togs' land with Sundering Titan and open up the chance to play other creatures without fear of Mana Drain. Tog can't even try killing without a Pernicious Deed if an active Welder is out, as the TnT player can just Weld Duplicant into play to kill the Tog. But don't forget, if TnT tries to play the beatdown, it will lose to Mana Drain once again.
While on the topic of Mishra's Workshop decks, I should mention that both Jason and I were rather surprised by a lot of Stax players by 2-0'ing them. Stax has more mana and more removal, while Tog has more damage, so that should mean that Stax is the control player and Tog is the beatdown player. That's how we assigned the roles when we tested, which allowed Tog to win. It seemed like a lot of Stax players thought that they were more of the beatdown deck here, since they kept casting what they thought were threats, but in actuality were not. Goblin Welder was probably the best instance of this. Most people get really scared about Goblin Welder, because it disrupts the symmetry of the cards in Stax. The problem was that it really didn't stop Psychatog from being cast and it couldn't keep Psychatog off the table (note the TnT matchup here, where Goblin Welder can do both in conjunction with Survival.) Therefore, these cards that appeared to be threats actually weren't doing anything. That Smokestack couldn't sweep the board fast enough (in fact, it usually adds another three points of damage to Tog), that Tangle Wire couldn't keep me from casting Intuition for AK, and that Trinisphere doesn't make Tog cost any more mana.
This article's gone on kind of long so far, so I'm going to have to stop now instead of adding more filler where I take quotes out of context or make fun of somebody. But rest assured, they'll be plenty of assclownery in my next article!
jpmeyer at cwru dot edu
PS: Please don't kill me just because I showed that there are similarities between Type 1 and Standard and that Standard isn't"the format with a permanent Nether Void in play."
PPS: Bonus points to anyone who knows where the title of this essay comes from
PPPS: I'll have bio picture once Smmennycakes wipes the barbecue sauce off of his digital camera and sends me the picture we took at the tourney. I mean, I never knew that dropping your digital camera into a vat of barbecue sauce messes it up. Whodathunkit?