The Captain’s Log – TCG 50k Invitational Tournament Report
In my last article I discussed which of the two decks I was pondering over for the TCG 50k Invitational. You can see the lists here. I spoke in detail on why I thought both of these decks could be the best choices for me, though the debating and discussing did not end with that article. I wasn’t happy with either of the deck lists for various reasons. The UW list I felt was just not strong enough and in a format with a great mana base why restrict yourself to two colors at the cost of not being able to play more powerful cards.
Enter Bant control (or four color control). This is a perfect example of this idea. With all the available shock lands why not splash such powerful cards? My issue with this deck was simple; it just didn’t do anything really. Its main goal was to stall the game through multiple Thragtusks and eventually mill them out. While this is a powerful strategy trying to do this for 16 rounds was not appealing to me.
On a brief side note, I blame the current state of standard on Thragtusk. I know you have probably heard this before, but it is worth stating that this card is simply ridiculous and I don’t think in a good way. The ability to splash it in just about any deck mixed with its very annoying guaranteed value, all matched with the possibility of casting it off of a Cavern of Souls set to “Beast”, makes for what is nothing short of a miserable format in my opinion. It forces decks like BR to just go very quick and try to sneak under Thragtusk or other decks like the Bant mirror to ignore it, stall the ground, and mill them out.
With all that being said I was sure that I wanted to be on that end of the spectrum, forcing games to go long. It is not like me to play these quick hyper aggressive decks, like BR zombies.I feel the variance of the decks and not being able to control draws, outweighs the potential for them to be explosive or volatile. Eliminating those decks I was back to my earlier dilemma of which control deck was for me. I went back and forth debating which cards were more powerful than others. What really stood out were Lingering Souls and Nephalia Drownyard. These cards seem to go hand in hand to me because they look to accomplish the same things. Both of these cards want to stall the game but in different ways. Lingering Souls forces opponents to over extend creatures to the board, buying you time to find board sweepers all the while. Nephalia Drownyard takes advantage of the time you bought with Linger Souls and provides a reasonable clock all, while being able to hold up mana to counterspell important spells or to Azorious Charm Wolf-Runned creatures threating to do huge amounts of trample damage.
Knowing these two cards were something I wanted to play, I used the base of my shell from my previous UW list. I just had to make some alterations and additions. This is the list that I settled on for the Invitational.
On to the tournament…
Round 1 and 2: Byes
Round 3: Kevin Subr Bant Control (with Drownyard)
Yes! This was the matchup I wanted for this deck. What a great first round matchup. Game one went as planned. The game was very slow both players setting up their boards through card draw and land drops. Farseeks for him and Lingering Souls for me. Lingering Souls buys so much time against this deck. Because his deck isn’t fast at attacking means Lingering Souls buys you four blocks from a single Thragtusk, assuming you elect to block individually. In these four turns you have the potential to draw so many things to further advance your board. This is precisely what happened in game one. My opponent continued to play Thragtusk after Thragtusk which I continually blocked with my tokens 1 at a time or 3 at a time to trade with Thragtusk. This game hinged on one card and one card only…Elixir of Immortality. This card has the biggest impact on the game giving the Bant player the ability to continually reshuffle all their used up spells. I was able to mill his elixir on its second way through with plenty of cards left in my deck and then it was only a matter of time until my Drownyard ate away his library.
Game 2 played out more in his favor. I brought in the extra Drownyard for the Vault of the Archangel along with an Elixir of my own and some more support cards. This game played out similarly to game one but much easier. With more milling power coupled with Detention Spheres and Jace, Memory Adept my deck was inevitability much stronger than his and eventually he fell to the power of Nephalia Drownyard. There is was my first win of the day and I was on the board 3-0. Always feels good to get your first official win coming off of byes.
Round 4: Matt Severa BR Zombies
This is by far the worst matchup for this deck but it is by no means unwinnable. The deck is fast agile and has a decent amount of reach with Thundermaw Hellkite and morbid Brimstone Volleys. Game one I was on the draw and in this matchup that is a huge disadvantage. Not knowing what I was playing against I kept a solid all-around hand. My opponent did not keep a quick start and allowed me the time to sweep away all of his Grave Crawlers and Diregraf Ghouls leaving behind a single Falkenrath Aristocrat which would be forever locked down by my Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. This game quickly got out of reach for my opponent when I played my Jace, gaining card advantage and protection from haste creatures.
Game two went completely different. The mana base in my deck laughed at me while my opponent played a turn 1 play, turn two an additional two one-drops into a burn spell eot on turn 3 and finished me off with a Hellrider. To that there was not much I could do and sometimes that deck is just unstoppable.
Game three I opened my hand and at first glance I was extremely happy and snap kept. As I looked further at my hand I realized none of the lands could be put into play untapped in any sequencing unless I drew an Island early. As it turned out I didn’t draw that island, so I was forced to play my tragic slip, Augur of Bolas, and Lingering Souls all a turn behind. It proved to be too much for me. This was absolutely a loser keep in retrospect and it simply isn’t enough to have drawn tragic slips against BR. You must be able to play them early and often. Lost that one leaving me at 3-1
Round 5 Eric Turben URW Flash
In this matchup I felt like I was a favorite going in. The pressure is on him to play something because I can just sit there wait for my Drownyard and eventually Mill him out for the win, so it is important to not “flinch” first by playing an unnecessary spell into his open mana. The game played out just like this. I cycled my draw spells, targeted him with my Thought Scours so I would not hit my own Drownyard and eventually he was forced to play a threat I could either; Allow then chump with Spirit tokens, Or counter then cast Sphinx’s Revelation to reload.
Game 2 my opponent tried to beat me with a quick Geist of Saint Traft, but with numerous Lingering Souls tokens and the uncounterable sweeper Supreme Verdict he didn’t stand a chance. Round 5 win, leaving me at 4-1. The only card I really had to potentially play around in this matchup was Izzet Staticastor. This card is a nightmare for tokens and if left uncheck it can nullify that part of the strategy.
Round 6: Mark (Last name unknown) BR Zombies
Game one came down to an unfortunate missed Exalted trigger on his Knight of Infamy. Now I’m not a huge fan of these new trigger rules and I think it encourages people to not play honestly, but I do see the side of some people when they say “I shouldn’t have to play for my opponent too”. This is completely true because when it comes down to it Magic is a skill based game and some people do not have the skill, mental focus, or strategy that others have. These things come from many hours/ days/ years of practice. That being said it still did feel dirty when I blocked an attacking Knight of Infamy with my Augur of Bolas to protect my Tamiyo and then killed the Knight. I allowed for a generous amount of time for my opponent to announce the trigger or even say “attack for 3” as he had in previous combat phases. He did not and I asked if it was alright to move into the blocking phase of combat and he said yes. After that my opponent was very anger and began to tilt and made several suboptimal plays and the game ended quickly after that.
Game 2 my opponent kept a reasonable starting hand with early pressure which I was able to stifle with Augur of Bolas, Azorious Charm, and Tragic Slip. Then rebought Snapcaster Mage all of that. As the game went long my opponent drew land and irrelevant one drops as I was drawing Sphinx’s Revelations and Supreme Verdicts. The match ended shortly after, with me at 5-1 with a good lesson to be learned from my opponent; if you make one mistake it is important to let it go so you do not cause yourself to make suboptimal plays.
Round 7: Chris Mullen Bant Control (with Drownyard)
As expected, as the day went longer the more this matchup came. As I settled into the long game I made sure I remained patient and did not cast unnecessary spells. They could put me into a position of weakness that my opponent could take advantage of. I remembered the cards that were crucial in this matchup were Planeswalkers, mainly Tamiyo, and Elixir of Immortality as I did not have one main deck. These were the cards I would want to focus my counter magic on and try to ensure would not resolve. In game one it is important to note that there were no adverse effects for flashing back spells with Snapcaster or recasting Lingering Souls because I did not have an Elixir main deck. After sideboard, exiling these spells is relevant because not being able to reshuffle those cards is could matter.
Game one essentially ended when I milled his Elixir in the mid game and had plenty of time to stall with Lingering Souls tokens. It didn’t matter how many cards he drew once the Elixir was gone. In fact he was just speeding up his impending doom.
Game 2 was a long drawn out game, surprise huh? The second game in this matchup become a bit more volatile because if your opponent brings in Jace, Memory Adept, that is sometimes too quick of a clock to deal with. Luckily he did not have said Jace and I was able to stall out with some Spirits trading with Thragtusk and eventually got double drownyard going to become 6-1 on the day.
At this point I was feeling very confident that I had made the right choice. I chose to play a deck that wasn’t exactly mainstream, although people did know about it. Because of this people sometimes were unsure how to sideboard against it, what my exact list was, and how many counters/threats they needed to account for. Being unknown is something pretty remarkable and an advantage that cannot be understated.
Round 8: Jacob (Last name unknown) Mono Red
This is round that I could lock up day two with if I won no matter what happened in round nine. I wanted the anticipation to be over right here and right now. So I could just be playing for better placement on day two in round nine. That being said mono red can be tough, but not as tough as BR zombies. I think this deck is a lot quicker than BR but doesn’t have nearly as much staying power and creature resiliency. Once you kill a creature in mono red you will never have to deal with it again, the same cannot be said for Grave Crawler and Geralf’s Messenger. Because of this your Supreme Verdicts become much better and you have more control in stabilizing the board.
Game one my opponent simply got overwhelmed by sheer card advantage and was unable to overcome a slow start. He had to lose value by casting Searing Spear on multiple Augur of Bolas after they had already snagged an Azorious Charm and a Supreme Verdict just to give him a chance. It was not a winning battle.
Game 2 I shifted my deck into a much leaner streamlined version, cutting most expensive spells such as Planeswalkers, and even one Sphinx’s Revelation. I wanted to ensure that I was going to make it to the late game and that I could cast every spell in my hand. My goal was to eventually beat him by drawing and triggering my Restoration Angels on my Augurs. Unfortunately he crept right under me playing a total of 5 quick creatures by turn 3 with no miracle Terminus for me. On to game three.
I had kept the same plan in game three because I felt it was my best chance to survive. Jace and Tamiyo are great spells, but not so great when they sit in your hand and you look at them while your life total gets gnawed to the bone. In game 3 my opponent mulliganed to five cards which can be a death sentence for mono red. Despite this my opponent made a match out of it. I ended up nearly running my opponent out of cards in part due to my card advantage from Augur of Bolas and Snapcaster Mage. The game came down to a top decked Thundrmaw Hellkite. I had Sphinx’s Revelation, Tragic Slip and Dissipate in hand with one untapped Spirit on the board (waiting for a Falkenrath Aristocrat). My opponent cast the dragon and I had a choice, let it resolve and kill my spirits then Tragic Slip it or Dissipate the dragon to keep some spirits alive. I chose to let the Spirits die and then kill the dragon allowing me to also Sphinx’s Revelation at the end of turn allowing me to pull ahead out of a low life range while also still holding a counterspell. A sigh of relief rushed over me, I had done it.
Match won I automatically made day two of the invitational. By no means was I satisfied, but going into a tournament with a semi unknown deck with little time to test can be daunting. Making day two was justification in my choice of decks.
With a sigh of relief I regained my composure and focus. I was ready for my next victim.
Round 9: Mike Jabczynski Jund Midrange
Traditionally control has no problem with midrange decks and this was no exception. Midrange is too slow to beat control right off the bat and not as powerful as control in the long game. Although my opponent did have some things main deck to try and alter that. Game one played out very slow trading card for card with both of us trying to gain card advantage; Me through Sphinx’s Revelation, him through Thragtusk and Rakdos’s Return. Being able to hold up mana to counter his crucial spells then still being able to utilize all of that mana on the end of his turn is crucial and game changing. A problem card in this matchup is Rakdos Keyrune, but eventually I was able to mold a game state in my favor. I baited my opponent into thinking he would get through with lethal combat damage if he tapped out to Wolf Run his Keyrune. Before damage I Azorious Charmed the Keyruin, then milled it from the top of his library with Drownyard. My opponent did draw his one of main deck Slaughter Games in game one but it proved to be inconsequential because I had already drawn and used all three of my Sphinx’s Revelation.
After sideboard this matchup does not shift tremendously. With my opponent having access to multiple Slaughter Games, I needed to make sure my win conditions would be diverse so he could not lock me out of the game. I brought in a variety of things such as “big Jace” as well as protection spells like Negate and an additional Supreme Verdict. Game 2 all came down to a very interesting line of plays. I had a full grip and a Tamiyo at 7 loyalty, my opponent was in fear of her ultimate and had no other option than going for it and tapping out to cast a Rakdos’s Return. Despite the full grip I had no counter magic in hand. I was caught with my pants down so to speak. The spell resolved and he redirected the 6 damage to Tamiyo thus equalizing the board. Fortunately the next card I drew was another Sphinx’s Revelation and with nothing on his board except a Thragtusk which continued to be locked down by my Tamiyo I quickly regained control of the game and took the match shortly after.
There I was after 9 rounds on day one (7 that I played), I stood at a very respectable 8-1 and ranked 16th ending the day. Overall I was very happy with my decks performance and thrilled with my play all day (except the one loose keep). I had big expectations for day two because the news from my friends was that there was a lot of midrange at the top tables. I was happy with this matchup and eager to continue my dominance.
Come back next week on Wednesday for when I will go into day two and discuss my performance throughout the rest of the tournament. I’ll also brainstorm on what I would change about my deck after a long two days of great games and new experience. Hope you enjoyed the article and I will see you next week.