One’s first article generally begins with a brief introduction: Hi, I’m Jon, and I’ve been playing Magic since just before Shards of Alara was released. I’ve top 8’d a few ptqs over the last 12 months, and qualified for Nationals last year on rating after making Day 2 at GP Brussels. Nationals was a mixed bag; 6-1-1 in standard playing Naya Vengevine, but 2-4 in M11 draft. This is the story of my attempt to get back to GB Nationals…
After losing to Nathaniel James in the top 8 of a PTQ for Paris (Congrats on the top 100 finish there), I took a break from Magic, as I focused on getting some actual work done (I’m currently studying for a PhD in Applied Maths). I started playing again in March, mainly drafting, but with an eye on the upcoming Nationals season. I started playing some games of standard on Modo. I had a UW Caw-Blade deck (Kibler’s from Worlds) so it was a just a case of opening a Sword of Feast and Famine in my second draft (How lucky!), and very quickly I had Ben Starks PT Paris winning decklist ready to go. I hit up the tourney practice room, then some 2 mans. I worked through several iterations that had appeared thanks to the SCG open series – UWb, UWr, but couldn’t beat Valakut without the Tectonic Edges. Michael Hetrick published a UW list that he took down a 5k, and I used that as the base list for what I would run.
4 x Squadron Hawk
1 x Baneslayer Angel
1 x Sun Titan
2 x Gideon Jura
1 x Mortarpod
2 x Tumble Magnet
2 x Oust
2 x Day of Judgment
4 x Preordain
2 x Spell Pierce
3 x Mana Leak
1 x Stoic Rebuttal
5 x Island
4 x Plains
4 x Seachrome Coast
3 x Glacial Fortress
4 x Tectonic Edge
1 x Arid Mesa
1 x Mystifying Maze
2 x Kor Firewalker
1 x Baneslayer Angel
2 x Divine Offering
2 x Day of Judgment
4 x Flashfreeze
The Mystifying Maze took the place of a fetchland, and was really good for me all day, but I’m still not certain that it was correct to run it without going up to 27 lands. Mortarpod in the main deck is a slot that could be one of a number of cards – Sylvok Lifestaff, Sword of Body and Mind or even another Sword of Feast and Famine, although I wouldn’t change it; the shear versatility is excellent, from killing Plated Geopedes, Steppe Lynx, Spikeshot Elders, Squadron Hawks, Cunning Sparkmages or Lotus Cobras to being able to finish off Planeswalkers (e.g. Jace). All of these were accomplished during the day.
The main deck Tumble Magnets and Ousts were very good and I’d definitely recommend them if you haven’t already. The counters should probably be -1 Stoic Rebuttal, +1 Spell Pierce, but from testing I really liked having a hard counter (and it was even Counterspell once).
After a fairly uneventful journey down (alone, due to people moving away or already being qualified) to Southampton, lending a Koth to someone who forgot to bring their Jaces and audibled to RDW, and the obligatory 15 minute delay to the tournament, we were off.
69 players, meant 7 rounds of Swiss with top 8 qualifying.
I win the first (of many) die rolls, both keep 7 (Jace, Day, Squadron Hawk, Mana Leak, lands) and both lead with Celestial Colonnades. Obviously I put him on a Caw-Blade deck, make my Squadron Hawk turn 2, and then wonder if I’m wrong when he plays Halimar Depths as his second land. T3 I make a Squadron Hawk, T4 leave mana up to counter a possible Jace, but when he just runs out a Sea Gate Oracle, I let him have it, untap and play Jace. My Squadron Hawks protect Jace, whilst he finds me more gas in the form of a Stoneforge Mystic and Sun Titan. After leading with Stoneforge (get Sword), he wraths, I play Sun Titan, he plays Gideon, which gets killed, and from there I take the game down.
I’m still not sure what his deck is meant to be doing, but figure it must just be an older UW list or possibly the UW proliferate list (though I assume the former as I saw no Chalices, Contagion Clasps or Tumble Magnets) and sideboard: +1 Baneslayer, +1 Sword of Body and Mind, -1 mortar pod, -1 Oust.
Game 2 I get put on the play, and keep Baneslayer, Jace, Squadron Hawk + lands, whilst he goes to 6. Turn 2 Squadron Hawk, turn 3 Sword (naturally drawn), which he replies with Journey on Squadron Hawk. I take advantage and play Jace, and that was all she wrote… Or should have been. My next few turns were spent playing Hawk – equip, Hawk – equip, Baneslayer; each of which was followed by Day of Judgment. He then runs Venser into a Mana Leak, I play a Sun Titan which he then matches. Thankfully, my Jace is till sitting there, as he has since Turn 4, drawing me cards, and he unsummons twice to let me take the first round down, a few minutes before time was called.
I did get to see that his deck had Glimmerpoint Stags and Vensers and was meant to flicker the Wall of Omens, Sea Gates and Sun Titans, but overall I was much happier to face this than a standard Caw-blade deck.
Round 2 vs. Karl (UW Caw-blade – Mirror).
I win the die roll (again), and my opponent mulligan’s to 6 whilst I keep 7, and lead with T1 Preordain, T2 Stoneforge, whilst he goes T2 Squadron Hawk. I make my own Squadron Hawk on T3, and on T4 drop the Sword into play, equip to Hawk and attack. A Condemn slows me down, but I soon resolve a Jace whilst his Hawks are reduced to chump blocking duty to avoid him getting hit by Sword every turn. I play a Gideon, and the concession is not long in coming.
I sideboard in Divine Offerings, Baneslayer, and the second Sword taking out Mortarpod (which I shouldn’t have).
In game 2, I again get to keep 7 whilst my opponent mulligans, and he leads with T2 Squadron Hawk, but only fetches 2 others. We both run out Hawks and Stoneforges, and the game gets to a point where he has 1 card in hand, which should be the 4th hawk, so I run out Jace (with only 1 other card in hand), at which point the plays Deprive. Oops. He untaps, rips Jace and things start to get very awkward (Hawk–ward?). He keeps Jace alive, until he finds him a Gideon. I have a Divine Offering for his Sword, my guys keep Gideon in check until I can activate Colonnade to take it down. I follow that up with Baneslayer, and once equipped with a Sword, the game ends swiftly.
I’m starting to think that it will be a long day, and am slightly envious of the guys playing red decks who have been birding games for the last 30 minutes. Then I remember they have to play red decks, and I feel much better…
I also catch the end of mtgUK writer Cyrus Bales match vs. SCG talent search runner up Dan Barrett, and am quite happy that they finish as a draw, as the UB infect deck that always seems to cast T3 Phyrexian crusader seems like it could be rough (after testing on Modo, the matchup isn’t as bad as I thought). You can find Cyrus’s report here.
Round 3 vs. Robin (Mono White Quest).
I win the die roll (obv), and my opponent mulligan’s (obv obv), and I lead with Preordain into T2 Stoneforge. His T1 of Memnite, Glint Hawk, bounce Memnite, go, suggests a Quest deck with no Quest, and I’m forced to take a couple of hits from Glint Hawk until I can play out Squadron Hawk and hook them up with a sword. At one point he empties his hand, I play Gideon, wrath, and Colonnade takes it home.
I sideboard in all of my removal, divine offerings and Baneslayer.
Game 2, my opponent mulligans, leads with Ornithopter, Glint Hawk, go, followed by a T2 Mystic which fetchs him up a Sword of Feast and Famine. This threatens to make life complicated, given my keep was Sea Chrome Coast, Journey, Squadron Hawk, Preordain, Preordain, Day of Judgment, Divine Offering. This might have been a bit loose, but I have everything I need to stop him winning, and a way to get lands. Obviously, T1 Preordain finds Island, Celestial Colonnade on top, and from there I look to have the game locked up, with my life only going as low as 15. However, I hit a glut of lands, and even after wrathing he starts to get back into the game, with a Squadron Hawk and then a Stoneforge (fetching another Sword FaF) off the top, his army was quickly reassembled. Unfortunately, Gideon kept them busy until I drew a Baneslayer, which took the game in short order.
Its worth mentioning now, that all of my opponents, and in fact everyone I spoke to, were so friendly. I don’t know if this is because it was not a PTQ, or whether because I was winning I was just in a better mood but it was a very enjoyable day of Magic.
Onto round 4, and I’m at the heady heights of table 2:
Round 4 vs. Owen (RUG)
I win the die roll, and my opponent mulligan’s (see a pattern?). He quickly reveals himself to be with RUG, which is a really rough matchup, and I Spell Pierce his T2 Explore, and proceed to Mana Leak his Jace, then wrath after he runs out a Precursor Golem. Baneslayer suits up with sword, and the concession swiftly follows (my life pad reads: Me 27, Him 13, 12, dead).
I sideboard in the Days, as they are better at dealing with Avengers and Precursors, as well as 2 Flash Freezes and a Divine Offering.
Game 2 is my first loss of the tournament, as I can do nothing to stop T3 Jace, and even though I wrath away his first 2 sets of threats, I struggle on lands and succumb to an Inferno Titan.
Game 3 we both struggle on lands, and I get to resolve an early Stoneforge, which drops a Sword into play. Hemakes what turns out to be a crucial mistake, countering my Squadron Hawk. He has two Lotus Cobras out and they threaten to kill me on there own, and we get to a situation where he has 1 card in hand, an untapped Misty Rainforest, with his other lands tapped which include a Raging Ravine but no other red source, the 2 Cobras tapped, and I have 6 lands (including 2 Tec Edges), am at 6 life, and have Sun Titan, Jace, Day in hand. I decide to Tec Edge the Misty in my first main phase, forcing him to sack it, and then I move to second main phase and Wrath his Cobras. He untaps, draws and plays a Copperline Gorge tapped, and I draw an Arid Mesa. After tanking, I decide to cast Jace, figuring that if he counters it I can still play the Arid Mesa and Tec Edge his Raging Ravine, and if he doesn’t counter, hopefully by Tec Edging that will keep him off a possible Inferno Titan or Avenger of Zendikar. He doesn’t counter Jace, I fate seal him, play Arid Mesa, Tec Edge the Ravine, and Hawks equipped with a Sword take it down from there whilst Jace draws me answers to any of his threats.
Turns out, he was holding a land, but we agreed that I had to play that way. He also felt that countering the Squadron Hawk was bad, and cost him the game, although I don’t know if that’s true or not – maybe if he can counter the Jace, then he has a chance?
After the round it seems that there are 4 of us with 4-0 records, a RUG deck, 2 Mono-Red decks and UW. I’m pretty sure I don’t want a piece of any of them, and somewhat ironically get paired with Paul, who I lent the Koth to at the start of the day
Round 5 vs. Paul (Mono red – Sullivan build).
Game 1 he wins the die roll, doesn’t mulligan and leads with T1 Goblin Guide, and I’m pretty sure I’m not winning this. I try and play some chump blockers, that get burnt to a crisp, and I can concede on 3 life, facing down Emeber Hauler, Spikeshot Elder, Goblin Guide whilst on 3 life, having not played a 4th land.
I bring in most of my sideboard taking out all the blue cards except Preordain and 1 Jace.
Game 2 I mulligan a hand of Island,Tec Edge, 5 white spells, into 2 land, Preordain, Stoneforge, Oust, Hawk. Preordain finds me land, I play T2 Stonforge, Oust his T2 Ember Hauler, Oust his T3 Ember Hauler, find my singleton Jace, and look to take it down with my Colonnade equipped with a Sword of Feast and Famine. Whilst I’m doing this, he has drawn some action and my life total. He gets me to 7, with 2 cards in hand, and I attack with my equipped Colonnade, before damage he double bolts, targeting me, dropping me to 1, and takes 6 dropping him to 16. On his turn he bricks (land or Ratchet Bomb), I fate seal and knock him to 9 after he cracks a fetch to shuffle his library, and he draws a Koth which is no good, with my Squadron Hawk, Mortarpod and Stoneforge waiting to help finish off his life total.
Game 3 I look at pretty much the best hand possible, which involves my first turns going T1 Preordain, T2 Kor Firewalker, T3 Kor Firewalker, T4 Stoneforge for mortpod, T5 Gideon. His T1 Spikeshot Elder, T2 Plated Geopede, is stopped in its tracks, Mortarpod takes down Spikeshot Elder, and even though he kills Gideon, it takes Staggershock and a kicked Burst Lightning, and me gaining 6 life to do so. I commence the beat down, and he draws a Ratchet Bomb, that threatens to destroy my board of 2 drops. I again manage to draw my 1 of Jace at some point, which fate seals the top of his library, and by the time he cracks the Ratchet Bomb, I’ve dropped him to 4 life, have a Celestial Colonnade in play and know that he is drawing a Mountain next turn.
And just like that, barring any craziness (which didn’t happen) I am Q’d for Nats again. I ID with Jason Savage, who has crushed with his Mono-Red deck, then again in the final round with James Allingham, to finish undefeated and having dropped only 2 games all day.
The top 8 qualifying decks were 3 UW, 1 Mono-Red, 1 Mono-White Quest, 1 RUG, 2 UB infect (please correct if that’s wrong), which hopefully at least supports the idea that the metagame, at least for nats qualifiers in GB, is wide open at the minute.
Thanks for reading, and see you at Nationals,
Everyone (especially my opponents) for being so friendly.
Richard Bland for calling that I’d crush.
UW Cawblade for being awesome.
Krispy Kreme donuts (purchased on the return journey from a random service station near Oxford).
Chris Harrold for comin up with the article title.
Missing the rugby (or maybe England for losing at rugby?)