by Greg Komar
Hi all. My name is Greg Komar, I’m a student at SUNY Binghamton and I’ve become quite fond of hanging out and slinging cards at Jupiter Games. Up until Saturday, I’d never really done well at Jupiter NELC Qualifier event. Usually, I’d do okay, losing contention for top sixteen around round five or six. Not what you might consider to be “good,” but I could have been doing a lot worse, too. Saturday didn’t really feel any different. I was going on four hours of sleep, I showed up with my friends, Chris Scagnelli and Josh Mass, and figured I’d give my deck a try and at the least have a good time battling. I’d been testing my deck pretty frequently for weeks and I liked the U/R Delver deck a bunch. It’s a mix of the RUG Stifle/Delver decks that have been doing very, very well and the Doug McKay deck that Doug Top 8ed with at last month’s NELCQ. Here’s the list:
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Grim Lavamancer
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Chain Lightning
4 Force of Will
3 Spell Pierce
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Volcanic Island
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Smash to Smithereens
2 Shattering Spree
2 Red Elemental Blast
3 Surgical Extraction
Round One: vs. Hayden Anderson with Esper Doomsday
I’m not going to lie, this wasn’t really a game. In fact, I had no idea what Hayden was doing until round five when I asked him again what it was his deck was trying to accomplish. In game one, the only things I saw were that he was playing Preordain and Sensei’s Divining Top, and that his deck contained fetches, Underground Seas and Tundras. I had the turn one Delver of Secrets and the game ended quickly when I was able to Stifle a fetch activation and a turn or two later. I was able to cast Snapcaster Mage to flashback Stifle on another fetch activation. He scooped before he had to show me anything else. I put him on a Stoneforge-esque control deck, but because I didn’t really see anything, I boarded in my one of Jace, Crucible, and Smash to Smithereens. Game two was funny, as he casts Duress on me, sees Force of Will, Force of Will, Stifle, Snapcaster Mage, Lightning Bolt, and Brainstorm (I’m not 100% sure on the Brainstorm, It might have been a land.). He takes a Force of Will. He shrugs, and I’m pretty sure I get there. A few turns later, he has two Sensei’s Divining Tops in play, but he’s not actually doing anything. He puts a top on the top of his deck, which is fine, and then fetches. I’m totally fine with this for two reasons: first, at this point, he could still be a control deck as he still hasn’t really shown me anything. Second, and more importantly, if he shuffles away the second Top, I could, in theory, cast the Smash to Smithereens I drew the turn before then Stifle the Top’s replacement activation. You might think this would be an absolute loss in card advantage, but at this point Top was the only thing even remotely keeping him in the game. I’m just beating down with a Grim Lavamancer, so he has all of this time to Top into answers, therefore allowing him to have Top in play is not a good situation for me. I decide to let this all happen, but before I decide if I want to destroy the only Sensei’s Divining Top he now has, he plays a Lion’s Eye Diamond. Wait, what? Maybe a more experienced player would realize here what it was that my opponent was playing, but I didn’t. However, when he moved to his end step, my play was very clear in my mind – Lion’s Eye Diamond means combo, and I don’t like combo one bit. So on his end step, I cast Smash to Smithereens on his Lion’s Eye Diamond and he, again, was visibly annoyed. A turn or two later, I drew a Delver and he scooped up his cards. He walked away pissed off and I walked away still wondering what it was that I had just beaten. Oh well.
Round Two: Brian Finlayson-Schuler (BFS) playing RUG Stifle Delver.dec
BFS and I had a very, very close three games. I’m pretty sure I won the die roll and took game one, and then he took game two. I wish I could say more about these games, but I’m 99% sure that each of games one and two were close, but not that close. From what I can remember, game one I played two early Delver of Secrets and got there, and then in game two he played a couple Tarmogoyfs and I scooped up my cards. Game three was a nail-biter though. We ended the game with forty-five seconds on the clock. I was on the play, and while I don’t remember exactly what happened, I know I was on the back foot. He had a Tarmogoyf in play that was lethal in two swings, but I ripped back-to-back Submerges, which I used to limit his draws. On his last turn, I cast Snapcaster Mage end step so that I had two Snapcasters in play to his one Tarmogoyf. We each had at least three cards in hand. I was at eight and he was at six. I’m not even sure if I was able to flashback a card, but on my turn, I drew the second Submerge and thought for a minute. He was at six, and if I Submerged there, I could swing him down to two and any burn would be lethal – but I had yet to draw any burn that game. None, whatsoever, even though I run seven burn spells in the main. I decided to go for it anyway, as him being at two life was almost certainly game, even if I didn’t kill him that turn. The problem was, if I drew poorly, and he burned out one of my Snapcasters on the next turn and then played his Tarmogoyf again, I was literally just dead. I believe I had Stifle, Spell Pierce, Spell Pierce in my hand, and while he didn’t know this, my hand was literally just a bunch of useless cards. I cast the Submerge and he angrily scooped his cards. I’m still convinced he might have been able to pull it out, but I was certainly not going to protest the win. Again, my opponent left the game slightly frustrated, and I walked away quite pleased.
Round Three: Phil Feichtner with Belcher
This was… interesting. Phil opens up with a Probe, which tells me he’s probably on combo. He sees the Force of Will in my hand and another blue card (Snapcaster, I think) and proceeds to go off. It doesn’t go well for him. In game two, the exact same thing happens. There’s one difference, which I found funny. In game one, he tries to resolve belcher, and I force it and I kill him with Delver of Secrets. In game two, he shows me two Land Grants and fails to find with each, telling me he is on the storm plan. Then he goes Rite of Flame, Desperate Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond, and with one mana and a Lion’s Eye Diamond open, casts Burning Wish. What happened next was strange, and again, if I was a little more aware or if I thought it mattered, I would have probably would have called a judge. He cast Burning Wish and asked me if it was okay. I said it was, and then he said he was going to sacrifice his Lion’s Eye Diamond. You can’t do that, actually. For those that don’t know, you have to hold priority and sacrifice your Lion’s Eye Diamond while you hold priority. The way he did it, when he asked me if Burning Wish was good, when I said yes, the spell should have resolved. Regardless, he activated his Lion’s Eye Diamond and I showed him the force and he shrugged. Then I told him that he had to discard the card in his hand, and he looked at it and shrugged again. He discarded his only card, a Belcher, not that he had the mana to play it or activate it, and scooped the next turn.
So at this point, I’m 3-0, which I think is the best I had ever done. It was pretty sick, actually.
Round Four: Adam Barnello w/ UWR Control
This was my first of three feature matches on the day – which was awesome, however this was the only one I didn’t completely scrub out in. Game one was less than exciting. I will say this: the U/W Stoneforge decks are easy, easy prey for the U/R/(G) Delver decks. Stifle hurts them a lot. Burn hurts them a lot. I’m not sure how the green version of Delver decks with Tarmogoyf goes, but I beat both of my Stoneforge opponents 2-0 on the day without nearly as much trouble as some of my other games.
Game two was much more interesting. As Jupiter’s comments on our game state, we each had relative haymakers, and then we each followed it up with seemingly the perfect answer. He had Jace, I had Snapcaster for Chain Lightning plus Lavamancer and an unflipped Delver when it was at five, I had Crucible and he Purify The Graved the only two lands in my yard. Then I played Jace, and he had Red Blast. I slightly overextended with a red blast in hand and he resolved a Wrath of God. I made a mistake early on with letting a Sword of Fire and Ice resolve. My hand at the time was all burn, and I was under the impression that I would be successful in just burning off everything in response to the equip. At some point, he made one play which I think was incorrect. I was tapped out and he had a Stoneforge and a Mishra’s Factory in play. He chose to animate Factory and equip the Sword of Fire and Ice to it, and go for the dome. In doing so, he killed my Grim Lavamancer ( I think), but I think if he had just equipped to his Stoneforge, I might not have been able to come back from that. Instead, I was able to just burn the Stoneforge when I untapped and he didn’t have the flexibility to attack with his Factory again. Also, at some point, I had Jace in play, and I had to Brainstorm with Jace, crack a fetch, cast a Brainstorm, then cast a Snapcaster Mage to flashback preordain, putting two cards to the bottom, hoping to draw my one of dismember (I boarded one out) or the one of Smash to Smithereens that I had boarded in. I drew the Smash, and it got me there. Otherwise, I would have lost Jace to that Sword of Fire/Ice that I should have just never let resolve. Eventually, he just ran out of gas and I won. It felt almost unreal. Barnello was my first opponent on the day that seemed like he wasn’t too upset about the loss and he was very cordial. I really, really enjoyed our games.
Round Five: Doug McKay Mirror-ish
A little aside on Doug McKay: At Jupiter’s last NELC (November), Doug McKay piloted a U/R Delver deck very similar to the one that I played. Doug was piloting the same deck this with relative changes, and a deck very, very similar to the one that I was playing. That’s because I started off with Doug’s deck and made some changes, but the point still stands that Doug McKay designed my deck and it was really cool getting to play against him. That being said, our decks were still very different – I didn’t play Fireblast or Price of Progress, where as he didn’t play Stifle or Wasteland.
As much as I would like to go over these games, I’ll make it short and sweet. I got rolled, hard. In the first game, he had drawn all four Delvers very early and I was only able to burn off the first three. The last one got there, to my dismay. My Stifles and Wastelands ended up being completely irrelevant, as he drew more lands than usual and my strategy of keeping him off lands did not work, at all. Game two was also incredibly frustrating as again, he respected my Stifles and at one point I had three lands in play to his four fetch lands. My Stifles got Spell Pierced and it all went downhill.
I don’t think I was frustrated, but I was definitely nervous. This was also a feature match, and a win here meant that I could easily draw into the top eight, where as now I needed to win in the last two rounds. To make matters worse, afterwards I found out that I would still need to draw, because a record of 5-2-0 would not get me into the top eight.
Another short aside: the version of the deck that I piloted has several weaknesses and strengths. It’s somewhat of an mix and mash between the U/R Delver deck that Doug was piloting and the classic RUG Delver decks that run Stifles and Wastelands versus Fireblast and Price of Progress. I originally started off playing Price and Fireblast and swapped when I realized I wasn’t comfortable playing Fireblast. In the future, I might consider boarding in a singleton Price of Progress because against some opponents, it would have done so much damage. As far as my deck versus the classic RUG decks that are winning everywhere, my deck is weak against them because of Goyfs. My deck has a natural weakness towards Goyf and Knight of the Reliquary, which is why I have dismember in the main deck at all. Because of that, the Delver decks with Goyf are especially good against me.
Round Six: Adam Najman – RUG Delver
Speak of the Devil… I win the die roll and keep an okay hand, not knowing what he’s playing. We both respect one another’s Stifles and Wastelands and he ends up getting the edge on me, both because he drew better and because his deck is definitely the favorite against mine. It wasn’t overly exciting, and with what was certainly a recurring theme, when I started missing land drops his Dazes became that good (he was playing the full four) and when I had to start playing Snapcasters just to regain tempo, he always had the Spell Snare (he was playing the full four).
Game Two, I’m on the play. I’ll go into this in a moment, but I want to clarify that the only reason I won this game was because he drew poorly and I was able to keep him off of any colored sources, besides the two wastelands he had in play. I think the fact that he drew this poorly may be the only reason I made it into top eight, because what happened next was unbelievably unlucky on my part.
As we are shuffling up for game three, I casually mention that I think he’s really good and I would almost rather draw with him and just win out, not expecting him to accept, because he beat me handily in game one and because this time he is on the play, which is huge in these match ups. But I think because of how he lost game two, he actually accepted, which was awesome. We both knew the stakes – we would have to win the next round to make Top 8, and then it was done. While I think he may have made the correct choice to I.D. with me there, it was definitely in my favor. I can safely say that he would have beaten me, both because he played tight and because his deck, as I mentioned earlier, was strong against mine. It ended up not mattering, as he still made Top 8, but I really think that I would have lost that game three, and ultimately wouldn’t have Top 8’ed, because even if I had won out, being 5-2 wouldn’t have gotten me there.
Round Seven: Nick Tinko U/W Stoneforge w/ Delver
This is it. My win-and-in. You read about these things in a lot of tournament reports, this is the nail biter, this is the one that really counts. My luck didn’t run out, instead I got luckier than I had in the entire tournament. As nice as my opponent was, he made a lot of mistakes and when I realized he was on U/W Stoneforge, I felt pretty confident. When he Brainstormed with no fetches in play at the end of my turn with no pressure on the board from me at all, I felt like I had already Top 8’ed. I know this sounds completely obnoxious and elitist, but it was blatantly obvious to me that he still had a lot to learn. Again, he was a nice guy, but I played tight, and at no point did I ever feel like I might have lost in the first game.
Game two was more of the same, except for one huge mistake which almost cost me the game. I am so far in the lead. I have a Jace on thirteen loyalty and he has an active Stoneforge, with a Batterskull in hand. I have six untapped lands with Spell Pierce, Smash to Smithereens, Snapcaster Mage, and Shattering Spree in hand. I move to my end step, and he activates Stoneforge. He puts Batterskull into play, and with Living Weapon on the stack, I smash it. He forces with one blue open. I can spell pierce, but I want to save it if he tries to Jace my Jace, so I let it resolve. Then I try to Shattering Spree it. Then Kevin Jones stops us and reminds us that Shattering Spree is a sorcery. Oh my, and just like that I can feel my win falling through my hands. “GREG“, I think to myself,” WHAT ARE YOU DOING? READ THE CARD.” So, with my four mana open, I make a play that would get me destroyed by a Spell Snare. I Snapcaster back Smash and cast it again. Kevin reminded me afterwards that if he had the Spell Snare, I was in a really deep hole, but thinking on it now, if he had the Spell Snare he would have just Snared the first Smash to Smithereens instead of Force of Will-ing it, so I think I was still okay. Smash resolved, and on his turn he cast Swords to Plowshares on my Snapcaster and attacked me for one. On my turn, I looked at the Red Blast sitting in my hand, debated if he actually had a Stifle and another counter even though I had never seen one in either game (Stifle, that is) and went for it. He extended his hand.
And that is how my first Top 8 happened.
Quarterfinals: Doug McKay – U/R Delver Mirror
And just like that, I felt like I had played seven rounds just to get dreamcrushed, again. I asked if he wanted to split, knowing that he would never agree, which he didn’t, and we played. Since this one isn’t a feature match, I’ll try and recap, but given I was on four hours of sleep and I had already played seven rounds, my memory was kind of fuzzy. Game one, I probably drew better. I was on the play, I think, and I had the perfect mix of Stifle, Wasteland, enough of my own colored mana, and I was able to stick my guys. That’s really all it comes down to is drawing better, not getting owned by Stifle, Wasteland, or Price of Progress. While I could have easily just found all four Volcanic Island at certain points, I didn’t want to set myself to get blown out. Eventually, I just ground it out and got there.
It was then that I realized that every time I had won game one on the day, I had won the match. I was starting to feel pretty confident.
Game two was interesting. I tried something that I didn’t think would work, but it did, brilliantly. Although removal is incredibly important in this matchup, Dismember seemed to be bad here as the four life loss is huge against a deck playing four Chain Lightning and four Lightning Bolt. I brought in two Red Blasts and one Pyroblast and I thought for a moment about bringing in the Jace, but I had this other idea. The most important card in this matchup is Snapcaster Mage, so I brought in Surgical Extraction. Honestly, I think I should have brought it in a lot more on the day, as Wasteland-ing a land then Extract-ing it is huge. Either way, at one point I have four lands in play and on his end step, I cast Surgical Extraction targeting the Snapcaster Mage in his graveyard. He Forces, which I let resolve. Then I tap two lands, leaving two open, and cast my own Snapcaster Mage, targeting Surgical Extraction, which I cast on his Snapcaster Mage. He Spell Pierces, which I pay for. He Pierces again, which I allow to resolve. I untap with a Snapcaster in play, four less life, and he had four less cards in his hand. I still had two Snapcasters in hand, and I basically knew that there was nothing he could do that would allow him to win, as I was up so many cards and I was drawing really, really well.
Semifinals: Adam Najman, RUG Delver
I really wanted to split again, as I knew that was not going to end pretty for me, but his friends convinced him to play “for honor” even though it made more sense to do a prize split. I couldn’t blame him, though I don’t think he really realized until after he beat me just how good Tarmogoyf was against me. But maybe he did. This was my third feature match and I won’t be ruining anything by telling you that I got slaughtered. Neither game had any semblance to the word “close” as, honestly, I got blown out by minor mana screw and major Goyf beats. At several points, I had to simply hope he didn’t have anything. And he always did, and that’s just the way it goes. Buy, at the same time, I’m really, really happy I had the idea to split with Adam in the Swiss and I think Adam actually went on to win the entire thing, so major props to him for winning. I also think this was the first time he had ever Top 8ed, so even more props.
To recap, it was an awesome event. They always are. I have fun when I don’t win, and doing well was just amazing. It’s not even an ego thing, it’s just nice knowing that I’m good enough to sling spells with the best of ’em, and anyone that has invested a lot of time and money into Magic knows what I’m talking about – other people write about it all the time, but it’s that feeling that you get when you realize that all of the energy isn’t wasted when you could be doing other things, and that was awesome for me.
For those interested, there are some minor changes I would make. I definitely wanted at least one ponder, so I might cut the nineteenth land (possibly the Mountain, just because it was almost never better than an Island or a Volcanic) or the third Preordain, which I was very happy with. Also, I want to cut the third chain lightning and experiment with a one-of Forked Bolt. For most of you that don’t know what it does, I’ll let you look it up, but I wonder if Legacy isn’t ripe for a card like that right now. I think I might cut the third Spell Pierce for a fourth Daze, maybe even boarding in a third and fourth Pierce, which I’m pretty sure is the exact counter suite that Doug McKay was using. Doug always seems to be ahead of the curve, I’ve noticed. Guy is a champion, no doubt. I also might cut a Red Blast and a Surgical from my board, as I never boarded in more than three Red Blasts or two Surgicals, though I didn’t play against any really graveyard dependant strategies. Maybe those will become two more Spell Pierces. I also think that the RUG Deck is probably just better than this deck, as Goyf is just such a workhorse, but considering I didn’t have the stuff for that deck, I’m still very happy with how this one performed.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this. I hope you enjoyed it, as I certainly enjoyed writing it. Happy Holidays, all.