The Captain’s Log – TCG 50k Invitational Tournament Report Pt. 2
The last time we spoke I left you with an 8-1 record, flying high after a very satisfying day one. I came out with experience and knowledge of the matchups and I knew what I wanted to see every round and what I wanted to avoid. After a long day one my friends and I decided to go see what Indianapolis had to offer. To my surprise the city was booming.
There was a Big Ten football game at the Colt’s stadium so the city was jammed full of Wisconsin and Indiana fans. Everywhere we went it was a sea of red blinding out every nook and cranny of each restaurant, bar, and street corner. After walking around the city for a bit one of my friends decided to ask a police officer where a group of three fine young gentlemen should go to eat after a long day to unwind. The pleasant officer quickly suggested the Tilted Kilt. I never had the opportunity to thank the police officer for this recommendation, but consider this my official thank you. This place was a jamming and happening place full of young, excited, and blood crazed fans. This place went for a certain type of theme and boy did they nail it. It was a perfect atmosphere to take a load off, relax and take in all that Indianapolis had to offer.
After a fine meal and some great entertainment we decided it would be best to get back to the hotel and regroup for our next adventure. I mean after a 12 hour day of playing magic and locking up a day 2 appearance starting at 9 am the next morning who needs a full nights rest? Not this guy. Once we got back to the hotel dropped our bags off and gathered our things we began to go over our options. After care consideration we decided to go to a “Classy” establishment close by. We figured it was right near our hotel and it was exactly what we were looking for. A nice place to hang out, see some people, and enjoy the evening. I couldn’t convince our whole crew to come out which I take as a personal failure, because this to me is a huge part of any magic trip, making those memories not related to magic and making sure all are there to enjoy the stories for later. But I couldn’t convince everyone to leave the hotel. So I embarked on a journey with an old reliable friend to go down this road we have gone down so many times, exploring a new foreign area with all the expectation and anticipation in the world building up.
When we arrived we were both pleasantly surprised, the place looked much nicer inside than out. Both Zach and I settled into a cozy area of the bar to sit back and get a vibe for the place. We often converse and just like to people watch in situations like this, then talk about what we see. This alone is very entertaining and I would encourage you to do the same with your friends. It is really amazing what you can see and learn from just watching people and how they act and interact when they think no one is watching them (try not to be creepy about it, nobody likes that guy). As the night progressed the physical toll of the day was beginning to effect my body, apparently I am not as young as I used to be, but I was determined not to leave my man behind, just not my style. But after a few drinks I told him I needed to get some rest and he understood with the importance of day 2 and all. Zach stayed behind because he quickly got sidetracked, then entertained and I knew he could handle himself there. But back to the Magic.
As it stood I felt very comfortable playing against any of the midrange decks. I felt like I was more powerful in the late game with Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdicts, and all the card advantage I had and Midrange was not nearly quick enough to punish me for my sometimes slow starts. BR aggro and Mono Red aggro were the decks I wanted to avoid like the plague. These decks are both very quick and BR is very resilient to removal and sweepers. This is not an unwinnable matchup by any means, but it is very close and comes down to your opponent sometimes just drawing too quickly to compete with. Then there was the control mirror. I felt that I had an extreme edge in the mirror because of Lingering Souls and to a certain extent I was right….
Round 10 Gerry Thompson UWR Flash
When I saw who my first round was for the second day, I doubled checked to make sure and when I confirmed it I got very excited. I am not one to get flustered easily and I am always excited for a good challenge. I don’t feel intimidated or pressured easily because I realize that this is just a game and that while a known figure like Gerry has more time logged in playing, I am more than capable. If I was going to lose it wasn’t going to be because I was going to give it away on nerves. Gerry was going to have to take it from me and earn it at every step of the game.
Knowing Gerry’s play style and the decks that he usually plays I assumed he was on URW flash and that it was probably the list without Thundermaw Hellkite, but I was unsure if he was playing Geist of Saint Traft. Having this type of information before you play an opponent is very crucial and can be the difference between winning and losing a game. This information that you know beforehand mainly goes into what you should or should not keep as your opening hand. If you are playing against control and you have a bunch of anti-aggro cards like Supreme Verdicts then you can ship that back in favor of something more fitting of the control mirror such as plenty of land and card draw. Often you do not even need counter magic early and simply the threat is enough to stave off any potential opposing threat.
As for game one it was a real battle of attrition. It was clear to me early on that I would not be in a situation to overwhelm Gerry with my multiple Spirit tokens or Restoration Angel attacks because that would leave me open to Supreme Verdict or a blow out if he was indeed playing Thundermaw Hellkite. When playing this deck it is very important to not overextend and give them extra value out of their Thundermaw Hellkites. It usually isn’t a problem if they get to kill two tokens, but if they get the full four or more it is often tough to come back from that. So knowing I was in need of an alternate avenue of a win condition I settled into the late game and began to target him with my Thought Scours and eventually found my one of Nephalia Drownyard. Now this may seem counter intuitive to be milling your opponent especially when he has a Rune Chanter’s Pike, but even if I had not milled him, there would be enough instants in his graveyard to have done lethal, so I saw my window and took it. As the game progressed I was trading one of his attack phases for what was essentially a quarter of a card (1 spirit token) and then milling him at the end of his turn. It was becoming overwhelmingly evident that I was getting weaker and weaker to a flying monster. The culprit was Moorland Haunt. The ability to make an end of turn creature after a Supreme Verdict was too much to overcome. And this is how the game ended. It eventually came down to me having to cast a Supreme Verdict to kill a token because I ran out of flying blockers. A spirit flashed in at the end of turn compliments of the Moorland Haunt then suited up main phase with the Pike. I attempted to cast a Snapcaster Mage with the intention to Azorious Charm his attacking flyer, but a swift Counterflux ended my plan of that. Really a counterspell that is uncounterable? Talk about a quick way to end a counter battle. This card is simply bonkers and had me immediately questioning my decision to play black instead of red. On to game two…
Game two was shaping up just like game one and I felt ok with this because in game two I have both Drownyards available along with Jace, the Memory Adept. I was building my board and setting up a situation where it would be difficult for Gerry to punch through, all the while being careful not to overextend, to match his pressure with my blockers, and also kept multiple different threats on the board to make sure I could play around Detention Sphere. After trading with creatures here and there, chump blocking when appropriate and countering significant spells and all the while milling him down each turn I was feeling eager and could taste the win. Then after all of my Restoration Angels had been countered or chump blocked away and all I was left with was Spirit tokens suddenly an Izzet Staticaster flashed into play, altering the game state forever. I did my best to counter the creature, but it was obvious this was the line of play Gerry was on and he had ample countermagic to protect his threat. Staticaster quickly diced up some spirits and turned the clock up a lot quicker. As it stood I was 3 cards away from milling Gerry T to death when it came down to an Azorious Charm on his attacking Spirit and once again Gerry had the Counterflux. This was a tough loss and absolutely not what I wanted to start the day with, but I learned a valuable lesion, I needed an answer to Runechanter’s Pike and fast.
Round 11 Brant (Last name unknown) BR Zombies
This may sound bad but when I sat down I knew he was playing BR Zombies just by the look of him. He just had that twinge in his eye and I could feel it in my gut that this was going to be a tough match. I buckled down and tried to let the previous match go. I had to focus on the rest of this tournament because I knew a 13-3 record would absolutely make it in and I was sitting at 8-2. Game one my opponent won the die role which made me cringe a little, knowing that this made it even harder. I kept a diverse opener with the appropriate land and cards to deal with various threats, but with only one Azorious Charm. My opponent kept a hand with turn 1 Grave Crawler, turn 2 Knight of Infamy, turn 3 Gerafls Messenger, and turn 4 Hell Rider. With that curve there wasn’t much I could do. I played an on time Augur of Bolas, but with Knight of Infamy’s Exalted trigger it stood no chance. I was quickly blown out by multiple Hell Rider triggers and we were on to game 2.
Game 2 I brought in my Tragic Slips, Supreme Verdict number 4, 2 Terminus, and Jace, the Memory Adept and it was all for not. Game 2 came down to a clear misplay on my part. It was third turn and it was blatantly evident that this game was going long due to my opponent’s slow start and with my early game on the board. I drew a Terminus with only a Grave Crawler on the board and after a quick decision I decided to cast it for its reduced price. This was wrong for many reasons. I wasn’t under any great amount of early pressure, it was clear that I was going to make it to the late game, and I didn’t have anything else to utilize the rest of my mana on that turn. The right play would have been to hold the Terminus, take the little amount of damage that crawler was going to deal and hold out for some more value that was sure to come. Eventually I was proven correct when my opponent played another Grave Crawler then a Geralf’s Messenger. If I would have held that Terminus I would have gained so much value and surely would have went on to win that game. As it stood I did not draw another Terminus and that was that.
Wow what a come down after a great day one. A 0-2 start placed me at an 8-3 overall record and feeling angry and let down. I needed time to recollect myself and get my head back in the game because I was far from out of it. I took some time outside getting some fresh air, walked around the huge convention center, and tried to get back to an even level. This is an important part of tournament play especially one of this size and magnitude, being able to refocus and not throw away a whole day of work because of a rocky start.
Round 12 Luca Russelli Jund Midrange
When my opponent played a first turn Overgrown Tomb I Immediately exhaled. I knew this was a positive matchup and I just needed to play appropriately and not tap out unless it was extremely necessary to avoid a Rakdo’s Return and I should be alright. This game was a battle of attrition and we traded card for card at numerous points of the game. This game went so long it actually came down to me having four cards left in my deck with an earlier activation of Jace, Architect of Thought supplying me with the knowledge of the three bottom cards of my library. My opponent cast a huge Rakdos’s Return on his main phase and with me with a full grip of cards and four cards in my deck I had no counterspells or Snapcaster Mages in hand, but I knew the second from the top was a Dissipate, but what was that mystery fourth card on the top of my deck? Knowing my exact deck list I took the time to count out everything I had in play and make a mental checklist of my deck and was able to figure out what the top card of my deck was. Because of this I was able to not use my Azorious Charm to draw a card into a useless Restoration Angel (at this point in the game it was more valuable to have that card still in my library). My opponent was a little mad because he had realized that game one took nearly half of our time and in order for him to win the match he needed this to end quickly. I explained the situation to him and explained that I was not stalling, but if he felt like I was at any point to feel free to call a judge over and I would not feel slighted by it in the least.
As it turned out the last four cards in my deck were Restoration Angel, Dissipate, Snapcaster Mage, and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. The game ended with both players with zero cards in their deck and with me passing the turn to him to draw the card in his deck that wasn’t there. Whoa…what a game. It was clear the rest of the way was not going to be easy, but I was up for the challenge.
Game 2 was a strange game we both mulliganed (me to 5 and him to 6) and we found ourselves in odd situations due to the cards we drew. I was in position with multiple Lingering Souls to race his multiple Rakdos Keyruin/Wolfrun hand. My ability to kill his draw step by Azorious Charming his pumped up Keyruin not only killed his draw step for several turns (I drew a few Charms/Snapcasters) , but also insured I was not going to get blown out by a Bonfire of the Damned of which I did not have a counter for. So after a 35 minute game 1 we ended game 2 in 10 minutes…makes sense right? Alright I bounced back and was officially on the board for day 2 at 9-3.
Round 13 Chad Balk BR Zombies
Chad was on the Zombie list that won a Star City Games Invitational qualifier the night before and this list was honed to beat the zombie mirror by cutting the Hellkites and other cards that gave it reach for early game removal in the form of Pillar of Flames. This proved to be excellent for me because this gives the deck much less volatility and punch. The games went long which went in my favor and no Dragons were coming to slay my board of Spirit tokens and large amount of life thanks to Sphinx’s Revelations.
Game 2 was uneventful to say the least, my opponent mulliganed to 5 and I had a tragic slip with a Snapcaster Mage to back it up. This early game disruption matched with card advantage proved to be too much and my opponent simply ran out of resources way too quickly. I was on a roll, 10-3. Three to go to top 8 and my quest for the title.
Round 14 Pat Price 4 Color “Goodness”
I was unfamiliar with this deck before the tournament, but after watching the rest of the room play when my matches would occasionally end early I became very familiar. This deck seemed to be literally every single good card in standard. It had Thragtusk, Huntmaster of the Fells, Sphinx’s Revelation, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, Farseek to get all these threats early, and an unbelievable solid manabase. I knew this was going to be a slow game and it was going to be really swingy and would hinge on playing Sphinx’s Revelation at the latest possible opportunity to gain the most value out of it. Knowing this I began with my mill plan early targeting my opponent with Thought Scour as to not hit my only Drownyard and to speed of the clock when I eventually drew it. When it comes down to it game one it seems like they simply just cannot win. As long as you don’t put yourself in a situation where your life is so low you lose from an end of turn Restoration Angel on Thragtusk you are pretty much a lock. You simply Verdict away all of their threats and use your planeswalkers for card advantage. This is what happened in this match and while I did take the match it did take a considerable amount of time to do so. At the end of this game my opponent’s life was at 49 and mine was at 21. All that needs to be said there is, Nephalia Drownyard: not caring about peoples life totals since Innistrad block.
Knowing that all I really had to worry about was a resolved planeswalker against this deck I side boarded appropriately/ I tried to stay vigilant against this game plan. My opponent mulliganed to 6 on the play and was unable to establish a threat on board due to my disruption and not being able to play Cavern of Souls because of playing four colors.
Round 15 Will Curse 4 Color Goodness
Fresh off my last round opponent I got to play this matchup again and I was sure to implement the knowledge and experience I had just gained and give it to my new opponent. I was on the same plan as before, targeting my opponent with my Thought Scours and settling in for the long game making sure I drew the appropriate land and board sweepers. Game one ended by mill much like it had most of the previous games throughout the weekend and it took the majority of our time which was the norm as well.
Game 2 my opponent managed to resolve a Jace, Memory Adept and proceeded to mill me out uneventfully while I was scouring for a Detention Sphere or some sort of pressure to apply to Jace. I didn’t find an answer and Jace took over and ate away my deck.
Game 3 started with 8 minutes on the clock and I knew a draw here knocked us both out of top 8 contention, but we did not have an agreement on who would take the win in the event of a draw. I knew we both had to play quick and we did. There was no slow playing on either end because we both understood the stakes. I started with an opener that I couldn’t be happier with, Jace, the Memory Adept with plenty of mana to cast it. I got him out quickly and started milling his Library away. Time was called, but I felt that I was in a position that was favorable. My opponent continued to put pressure on my Jace and was only able to kill it when there were ten cards left in his library and me at 28 life with him having a Restoration Angle, Thragtusk, and Beast token in play. I had one card left in my hand and it was a Sphinx’s Revelation. If time would have been able to go on normally I would have taken my board state a 100 out of 100 times. Me at a safe life with card draw in my hand and my opponent with some creatures on the board. I asked my opponent if he would concede to me as I was unable to finish him off in the final turn, but his response was “Will you concede to me? I’m technically ahead on board.” I understand where he was coming from because even if he had the draw we would both be in contention to play for 9-16 which paid out a solid thousand dollars, but I thought I was a clear favorite at that point. So there I was, after all the hard work, I was eliminated from top 8 contention by a draw. Left only with a bad taste in my mouth and the potential to play for top 16. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the opportunity to play for a thousand dollars in a game of Magic, but I didn’t travel eleven hours across the country to play for top 16. I didn’t play through hours and hours and hundreds of people for top 16, my goal was clear from day one. So needless to say I was let down.
Round 16 Jeff Levine 4 Color Peddler
So here I was let down and destroyed that my tournament was ended like it was, but with one round to play and with a significant amount of money on the line. As I was milling out this deck game one I realized that it was very similar to the 4 color “Goodness” deck that I played the previous two rounds, but with one huge difference. My opponent had main deck Izzet Staticasters and Nightshade Peddlers. This was a combination I was not ready for and caught me a bit off guard. There I was fully extended on the board with a plethora of Spirit tokens and suddenly realized that I had been playing around the wrong card. Had I been more focused and not extremely let down from my previous round’s draw I may have had my head in the game and focused more on what was at hand, but to be honest I probably wouldn’t have seen that one coming so late in the tournament. Needless to say the Staticaster made quick work of my tokens and I was unable to stabilize. My life total quickly shrunk thanks to a massive amount of large creatures.
Game 2 I was able to stabilize at 4 life and managed to keep all of his Staticasters off of the board. With that card firmly in the graveyard and a massive amount of tokens clogging the board my opponent’s library quickly withered away.
Game 3 this was it 9-16 or 17-32. My board was developing to be very good and I was starting to feel comfortable. I had Tamiyo, the Moon Sage on board locking down my opponents lone Thragtusk. With inevitability on my side I was feeling a bit of reprieve. The only thing I was worried about really was an end of turn Restoration Angel to blow me out. As if my opponent was waiting until my Tamiyo, was at 8 loyalty to threaten an ultimate my opponent played an end of turn Restoration Angel to free his Thragtusk, make a Beast token, and gained an additional 3/4 flyer. With only one Azorious Charm in hand it was simply too much to overcome in one turn and I died on his attack.
Dissipointed? To say the least, yes. This was not where I thought I was going to end up. To have the ability to play for such high prizes in a game that you love doesn’t happen every day and I was upset with myself and the loss of that opportunity. That being said 25th place is still nothing to be ashamed of. I learned a great deal about this deck; the problems that it has and the strengths that it has as well. Some things I had to think about in the progression of this were ways to deal with the two most problematic cards, those being Rune Chanter’s Pike and Izzet Staticaster. There are some cards that come to mind like Pithing Needle that is versatile, but very lackluster, and also Rest in Peace against Pike.
I like where this deck was positioned going into the tournament because I think it is a dominant favorite against Bant control and strong against just about any midrange out there. I think there still will be a place out there for this deck in the metagame, but the holes need to be addressed because even the most modest UWR flash player will quickly realize Izzet Staticaster is insane against you.
Hope you enjoyed the report and I will see you next time.