Crucible of Words: My Nat’s Qualification by Cyrus Bales

Crucible of Words – How do you solve a problem like a Mindsculptor? By Cyrus Bales

This week, qualifiers for nationals began. Since last year I was unable to attend any of the qualifiers, I was eager to get to some events this year, so I took the opportunity to drive to Southampton this weekend just gone and play.

A while ago, I designed and posted a UB Tezzeret-Infect deck on this site, as well as a list on the Wizard’s forum, and whilst my testing showed the list to be very strong, it seemed to garner very little attention. Since then, Brian Kibler top 8’ed a Star City Games Open with a Tezzeret-Infect deck, however even though he did well, his build was rather unfocused and poorly conceived. His build tried running Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas with only six infect creatures he could make 5/5’s and his four Inkmoth Nexus, as well as not running Jace, The Mind Sculptor and squeezing in terrible cards for the deck like Contagion Clasp and Tumble Magnet(Which is good in normal Tezzeret builds, but the infect builds are much better off playing Jace, who removes blockers just as well, but does a whole lot more). Obvious things missing from his list like Ratchet Bomb and Sword of Feast and Famine really brought down the power of his list, as did the exclusion of Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon. So all things considered, if his list with it’s obvious errors could do well, I was confidant my list would qualify.

Here’s the list I played:

The Bales Tezz-Infect

4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
4 Jace, The Mind Sculptor

4 Necropede
4 Plague Myr
4 Phyrexian Crusader
2 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

3 Ratchet Bomb
1 Brittle Effigy
2 Sword of Feast and Famine

3 Doom Blade
4 Inquisition of Kozilek

4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Island
7 Swamp

1 Ratchet Bomb
1 Brittle Effigy
2 Duress
3 Memoricide
1 Corrupted Conscience
3 Disfigure
4 Spell Pierce

The original list and article discussing the deck can be found here.

Arriving at Southampton, we had 69 players, so eight spaces up for grabs, and the field seemed saturated with Caw-Blade, exactly what I wanted to see.

ROUND ONE – Eldrazi Green (2-0)

Game one; My opponent wins the die roll, and after a mulligan, opens with Birds of Paradise, so I’m a little uncertain of what he’s running. He follows up with Growth Spasm, whilst I’m dropping a Plague Myr. He continues to ramp for another turn, whilst I drop my Sword of Feast and Famine, at this point, I peg him for Eldrazi Green thanks to his forests and ramp spells. He casts a Summoning Trap and finds himself Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. I cast my Doom blade and continue to beat down with my Pro-Green Myr, the game ends quickly from there, I finish with twenty life.

Game two; Neither of us take a mulligan, and he gets busy with his ramping. I Inquisition of Kozilek away a ramp spell, and see him holding Primeval Titan, Acidic Slime and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. I have a Memoricide in hand and a Brittle Effigy on the board, so he decides to Slime away my Effigy first, this lets me take out his Primeval Titan proactively with Memoricide. He slowly ramps out, whilst I drop my Phyrexian Crusader, a few more Acidic Slimes later, I’m low on land count, but I have enough in hand to assure my next few turns. He casts his Ulamog, taking out my freshly played Jace, I untap and cast Corrupted Conscience, suffice to say everyone in the immediate area drew in their breath at the sight of me stealing myself a 10/10 indestructible infect creature. I whittle down his forces with Ulamog, but his board is very full, he tutors for Kozilek with his Eye of Ugin, whilst I drop a Skithiryx. He finds a Bird of Paradise to delay his death a turn, but that’s all it buys him, one turn. I wrap up the game the next turn.


ROUND TWO – Esper Caw-Blade (1-1-1)

Game one; Neither of us Mulligan and my opponent wins the die roll. We spend some time trading resources, but I keep edging in with some damage. My 5/5 Brittle Effigy gets in some damage, and at one stage I have him at 9 life, and 9 poison counters. I manage to build enough threats to force the damage through to get close, but his Gideon Jura does a fine job of keeping me down after he top decks a Jace, it’s a matter of waiting for the ultimate, which soon comes and wins him the first game.

Game two; We both mulligan to five. I get an early poison counter in, then play counterspell roulette and try for a Tezzeret, he doesn’t have the counter spell and I win very quickly on an empty board.

Game three; Again, neither of us mulligan, but shortly after he casts a Squadron Hawk, time on the round is called. I take the first extra turn, so winning is out of his grasp with only two combat steps at his disposal. He floods the board with guys to block, whilst my Phyrexian Crusader gets some damage in. I drop a Tezzeret to help things out, but can only put him to 9 poison on the fifth turn. We shake hands and enter the draw bracket for the next round.


ROUND THREE – UW Caw-Blade (2-0)

Game one; He wins the die roll, but neither of us take a mulligan. We spend a while trading resources, Jace’s, Gideon’s etc and he fields some Squadron Hawks. A rather irritating Sun Titan on his side of the board causes my manabase some trouble thanks to Tectonic Edge. After a while I manage to kill it and we both keep fighting each other, I press him to 7 poison counters, whilst he has dropped me to four life. He has a Celestial Colonnade and two Hawks when he untaps, as well as a few cards. I have two Phyrexian Crusaders, two Necropede and a Ratchet Bomb set at two. He animates his Colonnade, clearly with a counterspell in hand to stop any Doom Blades. I then tap my ratchet bomb, blow up my Necropedes and his Hawks, putting two -1/-1 counters on his Colonnade, thus making his attack only hit me for two to put me down to two life with the win on the board. That seals up the game.

Game two; Once again we both keep our starting seven, any yet again we trade resources, but the protection from white on the Crusader proves invaluable. A final Skithiryx from me wins the game as soon as it comes down.


ROUND FOUR – GW Quest (2-1)

Game one; He wins the die roll, he mulligan down to five, however I have to go to four cards. He opens with a turn two Fauna Shaman. I then Inqiusition him, to see two more Fauna Shaman in his hand along with a Vengevine. His turn three play of another Fauna Shaman, and discarding a Vengevine to find another Vengevine. I don’t have the removal spell, and die in the very near future.

Game two; He goes down to five cards again, I only go down to six this time. His hand is rather bad, and my Inquisition makes it worse. I play turn two Plague Myr, kill his Kor Skyfisher, then drop a Tezzeret. His Linvala, Keeper of Silence eats a double Disfigure as I activate my Inkmoth Nexus and swing for 10 poison on turn five.

Game three; I only mull to six, and he keeps his seven, a real and sensible game of magic then ensues. I have my Sword of Feast and Famine and a Crusader, he has Vengevines. We spend some time trading and hitting each other. I dig with Tezzeret, then I find myself on three life, whilst he is on five poison counters. The next turn, I use Tezzeret’s ultimate to put me up to 7 life, allowing me to swing with my Crusader and put him to 9 poison. He drops a Vengevine and attacks, I block as best I can, one damage gets through, as my board chump blocks including my Creeping Tar Pit, but I untap and win the Crusader. A very close game, the life drain with Tezzeret stopped his potential bringing back double Vengevine plan from being fatal.


ROUND FIVE – BUG Control (2-1)

Game one; I win the die roll for once, and keep a reasonable six card hand. Neither of us makes much of a board position to begin with, we have a small Jace fight but both of us run out of them and leave the board empty. I cast a Skithiryx and I manage to stall his Grave Titan by Jace bouncing it later on, whilst I build up a Ratchet Bomb to kill it, he recasts it but I have a Ratchet Bomb at 0 and one at 6, so it’s a moot point. Next he drops a Frost Titan. I have the removal next turn for the Titan, and his hand doesn’t have the goods, he scoops and goes to game two.

Game two; We both keep a seven card hand, I get in a little damage with a Crusader, and put him to 4 poison. However his Acidic Slimes cause me plenty of problems, as they chew up my manabase and Brittle Effigy. I Memoricide his Grave Titan, however next turn he drops a Frost Titan, which manages to go all the way along with a Creeping Tar Pit.

Game three; We both keep a seven. However his seven involves two Inquisition of Kozilek, which is how he starts the game. However, he did not have a third land. A couple of Lotus Cobra later, he is still without a land, and his Explore finds him none, allowing me to have a free run of the board and quickly win.


ROUND SIX – BR Vampires (2-1)

Game one; I win the die roll, and we both keep seven. He comes out fast off the back of two Vampire Lacerator. I go for the Plague Myr. He attacks me down hard, but I swing back with a 5/5 Myr, courtesy of Tezzeret. I Inquisition him and know what he has. I drop a Jace to make sure I can win next turn, and after he kills my Tezzeret, I drop another one and Inkmoth seals the deal.

Game two; Again we both keep seven, I have a decent enough hand. He comes out quick again with the double Lacerator, and follows it with a Gatekeeper to remove my blocker. As the next few turns go on and I cast my spells, I seem to have nothing but lands in hand. I make an effort to poison him, but having drawn one non-land in the game, I am out of resources and his burn finishes me off.

Game three; I keep a better hand, I kill of his early drops and equip a Plague Myr with Sword of Feast and Famine, this assures victory combined with 2-for-1 trades off of Necropedes and my Disfigures. Skithiryx provides a nice guarentee and possibly a little overkill.



So the final round, we ID so we are both guaranteed to top the standings on 17 points, and we both keep our undefeated records for the tournament.


There we have it, the tournament finished and my place at nationals secured. But during the last round I had even more good news, I had convinced James Foster to also play my build, and he was playing his final round, whilst standing at 4-1-1. He was playing against the Kibler Infect deck, and seemed to make pretty light work of it from where I was watching, finishing on a 5-1-1 record which qualified him for nationals as well. So aside from it getting my friend into nationals, and giving the deck an overall 10-1-2 record, in a most poetic way it beat an inferior Tezz-Infect deck at the last hurdle, showing the better way to build the deck.

Overall, I was very happy with the deck, most of the time, especially since I played a lot of more obscure decks. I know the deck beats up on Boros and Caw-Blade (the UW build in particular), but it was rewarding to see it doing so well against other archetypes too. However, as James and I discussed, the RDW match up is rather poor. Because they have so much burn, you only get to keep your Crusaders and Skithyrx on the board against them, whilst they can burn you out. To address this, I think Dragon’s Claw may be edging it’s way into the sideboard in future.

Thanks for reading and look forward to seeing your at the Nationals,



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