On 2nd January the Manaleak hosted its long awaited Christmas special tournament, and there was no way I could miss that. Unlike our usual fortnightly tournaments, which split the entry fees among the winners, this tournament had a number of dual lands up for grabs. Four for 1st place, and two for 2nd.
I ran my standard Solidarity list with a sideboard that had not been updated since the banning of Survival. My hope was that everyone had been as lazy as I was over the holidays and that the meta would not have changed too much.
The tournament ran 5 rounds, with a cut to top 8.
Game 1: I win the dice roll and keep my hand, while he mulls to five. I play Island-go, while he drops a Nomads en-Kor. I’ve never faced this type of deck before, but I knew at once it had to be some kind of combo deck. I drop another Island, and on his turn I Brainstorm in response to a turn 2 Meddling Mage, finding the Force I needed.
On turn 3 he plays the Cephalid Illusionist, so I Peer Through Depths and come up with an interesting choice. I have High Tide, Meditate and Island in hand, and I can choose between Reset and Force of Will from the Peer Through Depths. If I take the Force I eviscerate my hand, and have to rebuild. If I take the Reset, and survive the turn, then I am able to win next turn. And I still have no idea what his deck actually does.
In the end, I decide on the Reset, mostly because I’m really curious to see how his combo works. He responds by decking himself and getting 3 Narcomoeba to Dread Return a Sun Titan and Psychatog with Anger in the graveyard. A very cool deck and a well earned game for him – coming back from a mull to 5 is not easy.
Game 2: I remand a turn 2 Meddling Mage, but he decides to transmute for the Illusionist on turn 3. Personally, I think that was a mistake because it means that he tries to go off on turn 4, which is too late. If he had dropped the Meddling Mage again he would have forced me to go off on turn 3, which would have been very difficult (although not impossible).
Game 3: He leads with Meddling Mage on turn 2, but I have the Force. He then draws loads of nothing, and I am able to go off on turn 6 or so.
With Survival dead (how’s that for irony?), Merfolk is back on the rise. My opponent was a really excellent player, and he had a strong understanding of my deck – apparently he play tests against Solidarity regularly. Who does that?
Game 1: A very close game which I lose by getting too clever for myself. I want to kill him with his own Silvergill Adept activation, but that meant leaving a Meditate on the stack beneath the Silvergill trigger. Without the extra draw, I lose the counter war.
Game 2: A ridiculous game that I won through a very convoluted stack and 2 Curscatchers and a couple of Forces. The game winning card? A hard-cast Mindbreak Trap.
Our games took so long that we did not have a game 3 – the match was a tie.
Round 3 – Aaron Biddle – Aggro Loam.
I had never played against Aggro Loam before, but I have played against this pilot, and he favours savage aggro decks (such as StifleNought and Survival), so I know this will be rough.
Game 1: I win the roll and keep a risky hand. It has two lands but no land dig (2 PtD). It does have a Remand, though, and since I am on the play I bet I can stall him out long enough for me to see three more cards, one of which ought to be a land. Unfortunately, his turn 1 play was Land, Mox Diamond, Goyf, and there was no land in the top 4 cards of my deck.
Game 2: He has another fast start, but this time with Lotus Cobra. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that I lost.
I need to start winning again if I want a shot at those dual lands. D&T has been doing well this tournament; he has been paired down against me.
Game 1: Aethersworn Cannonist hits the table early, but Cunning Wish for Rebuild fixes the problem. I am surprised to be comboing off quite so early in the face of lethal damage, though – I had thought this deck was slow!
Game 2: My opponent drops a Leyline of Sanctity, and then brings in 2 Aethersworn Canonnist in the early turns. That’s alright, though, as I have Echoing Truth in hand. However, when I try and bounce the Cannonists in response to lethal, my opponent bounces the targeted Cannonist himself, leaving the second Cannonist in play. I lose.
Game 3: This time I don’t mess about, and I go straight for Rebuild. I have to bounce Leyline before I deck him, but that was not too much of an issue.
My first match against D&T, and I have to say that the deck had more depth than I had anticipated. It’s also a sign of how our meta is growing that I have played 3 decks that I have never faced before in the first 4 rounds of the tournament. This part of why Legacy is so awesome.
I’m 7th in standings right now, and I’m on 7 points. If I win this match I make top 8.
Game 2: As if to make up for the first game, he gets a savage Goblin Lackey start and wins before I can go off.
Game 3: My opponent is a very disciplined player, and he understands that only a fast start will get him into the top 8 (he was on 6 points, but his tiebreakers put him at the top of the 6 point bracket). He mulls for the Lackey, but at 5 cards he is forced to settle for a (surprisingly decent) Aether Vial hand. It’s not enough.
Quarter finals – Aaron Biddle – Aggro Loam.
Same player as before, but now we are playing for a shot at dual lands!
Game 1: I didn’t know it at the time, but his hand is a slow one. Remembering how fast he was last time I faced him, I went off on turn 4 with a Hunting Pack kill. You can watch the game below. You can watch this game here.
Game 2: An absolutely epic game. He drops a Chalice of the Void for 1. I wish for Rebuild, and I am ready to cast it on turn 4 to go off on his turn 5. He hits me for something like 13 with a Goyf and a Knight, however, and then gets me down to 1 life with Punishing Fire and a Grove of the Burn Willows.
I know that as soon as he untaps he will recur Punishing Fire to kill me, so I have no choice but to go off on my own turn. This is not something that I even practice doing. Somehow, I manage to deck him, but I can’t kill him before his draw step. For about 20 seconds I’m convinced that I’ve lost the game; at 1 life the FoW I drew while comboing is useless. Then, however, inspiration strikes, and I pass the turn. He recurs Punishing Fire in his upkeep, but in so doing brings me to 2 life. This brings FoW back online, and I counter his burn. He dies in his draw step.
Game 1: This game weighs heavily in my favour, because he has so many dead cards in game 1. I take advantage of this by going off early with a Hunting Pack kill, despite his attempt to Extirpate my High Tide.
Game 2: We both spend time sculpting our hands and dropping lands. He finally cycles Decree of Justice, putting pressure on the table. I go off, and he tries to stop me. The only thing I care about resolving either or both of the Brain Freezes in my hand, however, and the counter war gives me the Storm I need to make it lethal.
It is worth noting that while Flash of Insight in increasingly less popular these days, it is easily the most valuable card in the deck against control, giving me an effective hand size of 9 cards.
Finals – Prize Split!