Fact not Fiction: Qualifying for Nationals – a Steel Sabotage by Michael Maxwell

Fact not Fiction – The Winners and Losers from Pro Tour Paris by Michael Maxwell

I had 3 main objectives heading to Sheffield last Saturday:

1: Win the event and get the £100 store credit.

2: Qualify for Nationals.

3: Keep my rating over 1900 so if I didn’t qualify I would still get in on rating.

9 of us made the trip over from Preston, and although the car I was in made it in plenty of time the others barely made it due to a situation involving a sheep, the M60 ring road, traffic police, and 5 bullets. It was nearly a waste of time for all involved anyway as, despite there being no mention of it on the Facebook event page or the Patriot Games website, there was apparently pre-registration which meant they were already full to their capacity of 64 players and 88 had turned up. Credit to the TOs though, thanks to a lot of running around and a helpful sandwich shop down the road letting us use their shop there was room for us all to play.

88 players meant 11 slots and 7 rounds which I would be battling through with the aid of this 75:


4 Seachrome Coast

4 Celestial Colonnade

4 Glacial Fortress

4 Tectonic Edge

1 Scalding Tarn

1 Arid Mesa

4 Plains

4 Island

4 Preordain

4 Squadron Hawk

4 Stoneforge Mystic

4 Mana Leak

2 Journey to Nowhere

1 Spell Pierce

2 Tumble Magnet

1 Sword of Feast and Famine

1 Sword of Body and Mind

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

3 Day of Judgement

2 Gideon Jura

2 Baneslayer Angel


1 Day of Judgement

1 Sword of Feast and Famine

2 Flashfreeze

2 Divine Offering

4 Spreading Seas

1 Baneslayer Angel

1 Dispel

3 Kor Firewalker

I knew I’d be playing some flavour of Cawblade weeks in advance as I have a fair amount of experience with the deck from playing it in Extended and at FNMs, though I was undecided on whether to splash red, black, or neither. I felt that the black splash is more powerful than the red but puts a bigger strain on your manabase. Losing Tectonic Edge in both cases is also a major loss. In the end I didn’t feel like I had played enough games with either splash to be comfortable playing that instead of the straight U/W version, especially considering Nats qualifiers are only swiss rounds so I didn’t have to worry about winning the event, just getting the 5 wins, making the more reliable deck a safer choice.

The maindeck Baneslayers were insane all day. I dont recall one ever dying and most of my wins were taken home byher. A lot of decks in the format really struggle to deal with her right now and I would be very hesitant to drop them. The only downside is having to go down to 2 Gideons for curve reasons. Tumble Magnet was also extremely good. There are so many things you can do with that card, though stopping sworded guys is obviously the main reason it’s in there. One Spell Pierce felt fine, as most people play around it now so drawing 2 can be quite bad.

As for the sideboard, I figured Spreading Seas would be really good as it’s not only awesome against Valakut but now that a lot of Cawblade decks are 3 colours it can cut them off either their splash or double white quite easily. The 1 of Dispel was pretty sweet and I certainly caught some people out with it.

A note on swords – having the third one in the board was insane. There were two main reasons it was really good, despite the obvious fact that swords get blown up a lot so having back-ups is good, which seem like they contradict each other but are both powerful enough that I don’t think it matters too much. Firstly, it makes drawing a third Stoneforge Mystic pretty good instead of a dead draw, and secondly it makes you more likely to naturally draw a sword. Most people don’t play around sword if they haven’t seen you tutor for it, so getting to 5 mana and gearing up a hawk is very powerful. Having 3 swords does mean there are no equipment for the aggro matches though, and I wouldn’t fault you for maindecking a second Feast and Famines instead of the Body and Mind. Basically no-one expects a third sword so it usually gets them.


On to the matches!

Round 1: Tom Davies with U/W Cawblade.

Well this was slightly awkward. Tom is the owner of the store in Preston where we have out FNMs, and we had travelled down together. After moaning about getting paired together and him regaling me with the sheep story we got down to business in what was probably around a 70 card mirror.

I start out with turn 2 mystic, and he responds with Squadron Hawks and a Tumble Magnet to stop me getting sword hits in. I draw my own hawks and pressure him enough to the point that he has to tap out allowing me to stick Jace. He manages to kill Jace but the first one found me a second which he can only deal with by legend-ruling it, by which point I have a third and that’s enough to take game 1.

For game 2 I bring in the Divine Offerings, Dispel, Baneslayer, and the extra sword for Days and Journeys. He destroys my own sword but I find a second and destroy his Tumble Magnet. Jace comes down for me followed by Baneslayer and that’s all she wrote. Beating a friend round one sucks but I was glad to get off to a good start.


Round 2: Patrick Bateman with Valakut.

I mulligan to 5 in game one and it quickly gets to a point where I have to tap out and hope for the best which ends as expected when he casts 2 Primeval Titans in the same turn to kill me in one shot.

I bring in the Spreading Seas, the extra sword, Flashfreezes, and the Dispel for the hawks, one Day, Gideons, and SoBaM.

Game 2 he starts out by searching for a Treespeaker. I use Tumble Magnet to keep it tapped in his upkeep which lets me tap out for Jace without fear of a titan. I use Jace to bounce his mana creatures whilst Baneslayer picks up a sword and kills him in fairly short order.

Game 3 is much of the same, as Spreading Seas and Jace keep him off the right mana whilst Baneslayer does her thing. Both games he ends up discarding Gaea’s Revenge to sword, which is fairly outdated technology nowadays.


Round 3: Joe Fletcher with Boros.

I win the die roll and start out with turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic. He has turns 1 and 2 Goblin Guide s which feed me an endless stream of 5 drops rather than the land I need to do anything relevant. He runs me over pretty quickly with his own mystic for Adventuring Gear and a string of fetchlands.

I board in the Firewalkers, Day of Judgement, Divine Offerings, and Baneslayer for Mana Leaks, Spell Pierce, and a couple of Jaces.

Game 2 I mull to 6 and keep 2 lands, Mystic, 2 Hawks and Firewalker. I then proceed not to draw land for the rest of the game and get crushed when my Firewalker sits there looking foolish against his Steppe Lynx into Mystic draw.

This kind of loss is always frustrating, I would keep both the hands I kept in those games every time, but sometimes it just doesn’t go your way and you lose. At least I lost quickly so I could go get some food.


Round 4: Nick Dunk with RUG.

He leads with Halimar Depths, which means he’s either playing a random pile or RUG. Unfortunately it’s the latter. He accelerates out an Inferno Titan which takes out my board of Hawks, then Tumble Magnet keeps it locked down for a while. He misses a couple of land drops which means if I play Jace, use Tectonic Edge on his land and he doesn’t draw a land he cant replay it and I can Mana Leak it on the way back down, but I decide it’s too risky. He then untaps, plays a Jace and bounces his own titan to kill me.

I bring in Flashfreezes and Dispel for Gideons and one Day.

Game 2 he again uses his acceleration to power out a big threat, this time an Avenger of Zendikar. I think I have a chance when he plays a land and forgets his landfall triggers, but then he drops Titan and I’m dead when I don’t have the Day of Judgement.

RUG wasn’t a matchup I was very prepared for or had tested against, and I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes in this match. It’s a very underplayed deck given how powerful it is. Now sitting at 2-2, I assumed I was out of contention. Since my friends were still battling I thought I might as well play out the last rounds to at least try and claw back some rating points.


Round 5: Mark Riley with Valakut.

I have the turn 2 Mystic, counter some of his early ramp and kill him with Sword plus Baneslayer. If that sounds simple it’s because it often is – Sword of Feast and Famine really has made this matchup so much better than it used to be.

I sideboard the same as round 2.

He has quite a slow draw, and I’m able to use Jace to bounce his Overgrown Battlement and then Spreading Seas his only green source. It takes me ages to find a creature to actually kill him with but its largely academic by this point as I have a grip full of counters.


Round 6: Rick Parker with U/B Tezzeret.

Game 1 is a fairly epic back and forth with us getting into a few counter wars which ends up with him landing Tezzeret and me having Jace, each with enough protection to sit there and do their thing. Jace is pulling me ahead as all he can find is Wurmcoil Engines that he cant cast into my open mana when disaster strikes – I find a Stoneforge Mystic, cast it, and go looking for my Sword of Feast and Famine… which I cant find anywhere. A quick look in my deck box confirms the worst, I had de-sideboarded incorrectly and had managed to leave both my Sword of Feast and Famine in the sideboard, leaving the 3rd Baneslayer in the maindeck. I call a judge and collect my game loss. By this point we are over half an hour into the round.

I bring in the extra sword, Baneslayer, Divine Offerings, and Dispel for Journeys and Days. I would have taken out Gideon too but had nothing worth bringing in. Spreading Seas gets his manlands but he has Prophetic Prism s to stop me colour screwing him so it doesn’t seem worth it.

Game 2 I have the turn 2 Mystic (for a sword that is in my deck this time), and he starts with Blackcleave Cliffs then Tectonic Edge and Duress. He sees that I have naturally drawn my second Sword of Feast and Famine, looks at his hand and board with 1 coloured mana source, and then scoops them up for game 3.

Game 3 I mull to 5 and keep 3 lands, Divine Offering and Jace. He Duresses my Jace but I rip a Mystic and go fetch SoFaF. He inquisitions my Sword but I rip another Mystic to fetch the other one. He has a Tumble Magnet to stop me hitting him but I rip my third Sword (yes, it is nice) and claw my way back into the game. He has a Jace but I have to ignore it as time on the round is called. I knock him to 7 life then on my penultimate turn I hit him to 1 He draws and scoops. Phew.

A very tense game, and fair play to Rick for not slowing down in game 3 when the best he could really hope for was a draw, and for not getting annoyed at my pretty sick series of rips after mulling to 5 and getting duressed twice.

The standings go up after this round, and to my surprise I’m in 12th, second out of the 12 pointers. Given that I lost in rounds 3 and 4 I didn’t really expect this, but if I win my last round and my tiebreaks hold up I should make the top 11 and qualify.


Round 7: Matt Trindall with U/B/r Tezzeret.

Game 1 is fairly straightforward for him as I get a bit stuck on mana and cant stop him resolving Tezzeret. He digs for a few cards, beats me twice with a 5/5 Everflowing Chalice then domes me out with Tezz’s ultimate.

I sideboard the same as in the previous round.

Game 2 is pretty much a mirror of game 1, as he gets a bit stuck on mana. His Tumble Magnet s stop me getting sword hits in for a while but I’m getting some jabs in with Hawks. He still hasn’t got much going on by the time he runs out of Magnet counters and we’re on to game 3.

In the third game I amass an army of Hawks while he again tries to hold me off with Magnets. I find a pair of Swords which start to run him out of counters fairly quickly, and a Baneslayer and a Gideon (5 mana 6/6s for the win) that I’ve had to leave in come down to keep the beats coming. Time on the round is called, but I rip a Jace to keep him off anything useful (by which I mean I nearly punt the game away by letting him keep a Preordain). Games 2 and 3 of this round remind me why I don’t think Tezzeret is a great deck right now – without having a Planeswalker in play the deck really doesn’t do anything.


I ended up in 10th place, enough for qualification and a less than satisfying 2 boosters. Still, mission accomplished. I wouldn’t really change anything about the deck, although I can see the benefits of splashing for red or black and couldn’t fault you for doing so. An anti-aggro equipment such as Mortarpod or Sylvok Lifestaff would also be quite useful. Also, maindeck Baneslayers were awesome all day.

Next time I will wrap up my Standard primer, covering some of the fringe strategies such as RUG, Vampires, Tezzeret, Quest, and mono-red.

Thanks for reading!

Michael Maxwell


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