Cook’s Kitchen – SCG Invitational: Atlanta
Well, neither Chipper Jones nor Ludacris were at the gate when Dan Walton, Nick Patnode and I arrived in Atlanta late Thursday night. I say late because it was ten minutes after the last rail-train had left the airport, our only option was a $90 taxi ride to our hotel. After giving the gentleman from the taxi service too much money, we settled in to our hotel.
After scouring the display case for cards that I may be interested in I sat down with the guys and filled out my deck registration. For Legacy I ran the E.P.I.C Storm and in Standard, Jund Aggro. I felt pretty great about both of my deck choices. As good as my choices felt, sometimes things don’t always go your way.
In the Legacy portion I lost a close round to RUG, he top decked a Brainstorm to give Mongoose Threshold as well as finding Lightning Bolt to deal me exact damage. Bummer, but that’s magic. Then in Standard, I was thrown around by Flash, it wasn’t even close after sideboarding and then in round eight I mulliganed to five on the play against Reanimator. He practically drew the best seven he could while I stumbled on lands. The first day did not exactly end with nearly as much promise as I hoped. A record of five and three was slightly disappointing, but I was still technically “alive”.
Throughout the course of the day in between rounds I would attempt to get into Steve Argyle’s ridiculously long line, I finished one round with forty-one minutes left on the clock. When the round was paired I was still five people away from getting cards signed, it was absolutely ridiculous. It would have to wait until tomorrow.
The guys and I went to a restaurant across the street from our hotel “Corina’s Country Italian”. If that makes absolutely any sense. Either way, the food was fantastic. Although, I will say this, when spending seven dollars on a rum and coke, I’d prefer slightly more than a single shot in my drink.
Round one of day two I was paired against Merfolk, I sat next to Josh during round four of Legacy the day before and knew he was bringing in Mindbreak Traps too. Game one I kept a hand of Underground Sea, Chrome Mox, Ponder, Brainstorm, Brainstorm, Infernal Tutor and Lion’s Eye Diamond. I began the round with Underground Sea, Ponder. Looked at zero lands or mana sources, shuffled, and drew Silence off of Ponder. Wasteland. Drew a Burning Wish next, Chrome Mox (Imprint: Brainstorm) and cast Brainstorm. Into three non-mana sources. I sat there while Josh attacked me.
In the second game, I kept a hand of three lands, Dark Rituals and Lion’s Eye Diamond. I quickly drew some protection while Josh laid the perimeter with fish. The unfortunate part was he killed me the turn before I would’ve drawn my tutor effect. Second time in the event and it knocked me out this time. At this point I thought to myself, “Is it worth staying in and attempting to win the next seven rounds in a row or do I enter the Standard open?” I ran the thought by Josh, he agreed that dropping presented more value.
I joined Dan Walton for the Standard Open. During the course of the event I tried three times to get my cards signed until it actually happened during round six, at the time I was 5-1 with four more rounds to play. While waiting in line I actually purchased a Japanese Foil Misty Rainforest to replace the Polluted Delta in T.E.S. off of eBay. I think this brought me some sort of bad karma – I’m unsure of which actually caused it, but one of them did. I think it was getting cards in my deck signed during the middle of the event. I lost that round to Naya Blitz, again. Both of my losses were to being a turn slower than Blitz on the play game three. Frustrating, I would then lose the following round to Jund Midrange before winning the next two to finish at 7-3 in 67th place. The match against Jund was very close, I just happened to hit a land pocket at the end of our game three.
In between the last few rounds I watched Nick Patnode in the Legacy Challenge play my storm deck to a perfect 4-0 finish despite the numerous amounts of mistakes he made. It’s fine though, he’s not exactly a storm pilot. During this time I met Greg Mitchell, a fellow T.E.S. player, nice guy. In fact, he would later trade me a foil Imperial Recruiter to complete my Kresh Commander deck.
That night Dan, Nick, and myself went to Arena Tavern to watch Syracuse play Michigan. As we sat down our server walked over, a big, tall, black man with a huge beard and he said, “WELCOME TO ATLANTA BOYS, what can I get ya?” Dan and I ordered a couple of drinks while Nick’s age denied him. To be perfectly honest, he probably could’ve drank whatever he wanted, our server didn’t seem to care. I don’t know what was worse, watching Braves fans go nuts over a walk-off homerun or listening to everyone in the bar rooting for Syracuse to lose. In the end, the crowd got what they wanted.
Sunday was pretty uneventful, our group couldn’t play in the Legacy open because of our flight time. I decided to play in a couple of Commander pods until they stopped filling up. Easy money! At the same time, the invitational was coming to a close and we had our top 8 decks:
1st Place – Gerry Thompson
I’m not surprised to see this name or this deck do well in the event. Shardless Bug is incredibly effective at grinding out incremental advantages throughout the course of a match. Initially a reaction to Jund, it is now an effective answer to all of the “blade” decks in the format. The discard spells to hit their equipment as well as the ability to continually accumulate card advantage is really difficult for the Esperblade decks to deal with. When played by a more than competent pilot, the deck can be incredible.
A couple of interesting inclusions from Gerry in his list:
- Creeping Tar Pit
- Main deck Force of Will
- Baleful Strix
Creeping Tar Pit is an interesting inclusion as an unblockable way to kill Jace, the Mind Sculptor in control mirrors. Its inclusion most likely has something to do with the lack of Wasteland in the format for the time being. If the control decks aren’t respecting non-basic lands there’s little reason not to run this “man-land” that also fixes your mana.
As I just mentioned, Wasteland, it hasn’t been seeing much play. Gerry included a pair into his BUG shell, however, two isn’t exactly a common number for Wasteland. Usually we see some more of these. In Shardless BUG there’s a lot of different color requirements. Some lists don’t even include them, due to the rising amount of storm combo, in my opinion a few of them found their way in because of Post.
Force of Will main deck, once again, combo has been on the rise! As a result Force of Will is back. For a while during the rise of Jund, the Shardless BUG decks weren’t playing countermagic in the main deck. Instead they just ran the maximum number of discard spells, I think this was pretty wise of Gerry.
Baleful Strix, another card advantage engine. Shuts down opposing Tarmogoyfs cold as well as plenty of other creatures while replacing itself. It’s interesting because I haven’t seen too many of these in Shardless lists. Appears to be a great fit in a deck with incremental gains.
2nd Place – Shaheen Soorani
This is a fairly stock list with two minor unique features. While it’s not unheard of for the singleton Intuition in Esperblade decks, it’s certainly fallen out of favor over the last six months. The problem with Intuition is it’s only available for one game in a majority of the match-ups due to cards like Surgical Extraction. The benefit of Intuition is that there are some circumstances that it reads as a Demonic Tutor for three cards! Intuition was originally included to retrieve three copies of Lingering Souls and overwhelm the opponent fairly easily. However, it can also be quite effective when paired with Snapcaster Mage, for example:
Your opponent has a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and you have Snapcaster Mage in hand. Intuition for Force of Will, Inquisition and Vindicate. Likely the opponent will give you non-Vindicate. Play Snapcaster Mage targeting Vindicate!
While it’s not included in this list, Academy Ruins is also a fan of Intuition. Other than the blue instant, the other different choice was the sideboard Phantasmal Image. I’m a little unsure if this is actually better than Sower of Temptation or Gilded Drake, the reason being that you can’t put it into play off of Show and Tell and kill the Griselbrand or Emrakul that’s going to do some damage. Meaning, the Sneak & Show player will likely get some sort of value out of the situation. The upside to Image is that it’s easier to cast than Sower and can copy cards like Stoneforge Mystic or Snapcaster Mage in a pinch, I’m just concerned that it’s not effective enough in the match-up where you want it.
3rd Place – Brian Braun-Duin
Javier’s creation from SCG: Washington is back!
Brian clearly was not worried about the upcoming storm that weekend, with a lack of Force of Will, his combo match-up is slightly weaker. The bright side of this is that almost all of his midrange match-ups have improved. Deathblade was designed to grind out those match-ups, I just thought that this past weekend after the back-to-back victories by Storm decks there would be more respect for them. I was expecting more or less what Gerry did with Shardless BUG’s adaption of moving the Force of Will’s main deck.
Brian, like Gerry, opted to include a pair of Wasteland. I find this a little suspect as the deck is already three and a half colors.
To Brian’s credit, he did incredibly well in the event.
4th Place – Ross Merriam
Attack for a lot on turn two, that’s what the Elves decks do in Legacy now-a-days. Quite different from the elf deck I played for years in the 0-3 bracket. One vital change that Ross made from the common Elves decks is the lack of Regal Force, where is it? Well, for the most part, it’s just not needed anymore. By the time the deck can cast Natural Order, there’s usually enough untapped creatures to create some serious damage. Regal Force while not bad, just wasn’t as optimal as the other option. I don’t blame Ross for not playing it.
At the end of the swiss for the Invitational Ross approached me asking questions about storm. I was oblivious to the fact that he had top 8’d, when he mentioned he needed to prepare for his match against Prozak tomorrow. Well, somehow Ross and his team of Forest dwellers survived the storm and made the top 4. I’m a bit shocked considering how little sideboard cards he has, four copies of Cabal Therapy as well as a Gaddock Teeg and a singleton Mindbreak Trap. It’s not exactly a terrifying sideboard, but he pulled it off!
5th Place – Phillip Lorren
Sneak & Show
Phillip Lorren bringing back main deck Misdirection!
Not a bad choice in a metagame full of discard. Between Misdirection and Leyline of Sanctity, Phillip nullified one of the scariest played cards of the moment against Sneak & Show – Hymn to Tourach. An effective plan for sure, he’s earned a hat tip. Other than that the deck list looks fairly stock.
6th Place – Adam Prosak
The stock version of Prosak’s ANT, everything is pretty expected. I have a couple of qualms against the list, the basics that it runs should likely be reversed in my opinion. With sixteen cantrips in the deck it’s important to be able to cast them on turn one. Basic Swamp doesn’t do this too frequently and isn’t needed until the combo turn unless the player is casting discard spells.
The other issues I have are currently resting in the sideboard. The first being Massacre, it doesn’t kill Gaddock Teeg. This is a huge issue, it’s the primary Green Sun Zenith target against Storm decks.
Ignorant Bliss, it’s too cute. The card doesn’t do anything worthwhile, he would be better off playing a card with a better effect.
7th Place – Ben Lundquist
I actually don’t have much to say about the deck itself. It’s fairly standard, I think the deck was a good metagame choice for the invitational. However, outside of the invitational, I think it’s a very poor choice.
The reason being that most highly-skilled players opt to run some sort of island based deck in Legacy, Merfolk happens to simply crush these decks. Outside of the confines of the invitational Merfolk players would run into a number of Jund decks as well as other tribal decks such as Elves or Goblins and get run over.
8th Place – Michael Hetrick
Mishra’s Factory is pretty interesting, I haven’t seen it in too many control lists since decks began to move away from Standstill. I wonder how it’s been working out for Michael. One card that would make Factory slightly better would be Sword of Feast and Famine, which is nowhere to be found.
Other than Factory the only surprising card is Preordain over Ponder. The argument between the two cards is card quality over being able to see additional cards. I personally prefer the option of being able to see additional cards since most decks play enough shuffle effects where if there are cards you don’t want off of Ponder you can simply shuffle them away.
Dan, Nick and I left the convention center around four and began our way back to Syracuse, the way home breezed by, we were back before we knew it. Most likely because we didn’t have a lay-over with Bojangles in Charlotte, NC again. That food destroyed me all weekend, never again. I got home, was greeted by my dog, unpacked and watched the top 4 of the event on my computer. From on site, to home and the event still was going!
I just want to congratulate Greg Mitchell for his first big top 8 and more importantly, it was with my deck! Also, Gerry Thompson, back-to-back wins, that’s impressive.