After attempting, and failing, to qualify at Southampton, Oxford and Milton Keynes, Chesham was my last chance to qualify for Nationals this year. I’d had an awful night of sleep and almost didn’t go, but I decided that I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t try. So after breakfast, coffee, and Rob graciously agreeing to drive even though it was my turn (thanks Rob!), we were off to Chesham.
It was a lovely sunny morning, and I certainly brightened up a lot during the journey there. The venue, Chesham Town Hall, was a lovely light and airy place, and there were lots of younger players there. I definitely felt chilled out and relaxed, which is often a prelude to me having a good day and doing well.
The deck I was playing was a pretty standard UW Caw-Blade deck which I’d been slowly customising over the last few weeks. My latest tweak was to add a 3rd Condemn to my sideboard because the day before, in Milton Keynes, I had been in desperate need of Condemn on more than 1 occasion, but didn’t draw the 2 I had. The one unusual feature of my sideboard is the 2 Hero of Bladeholds. There had been a lot of Caw-Blade and UB control decks around in both Oxford and Milton Keynes, and I decided she is an excellent threat all by herself in those match-ups, having struggled when facing one myself. If the opponent doesn’t immediately answer her then I will end up with random soldiers to carry equipment even if they find point removal later. Here is my decklist:
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Sun Titan
3 Mana Leak
3 Spell Pierce
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Gideon Jura
2 Day of Judgment
1 Into the Roil
2 Tumble Magnet
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of Body and Mind
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Tectonic Edge
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Marsh Flats
I didn’t make notes of things like mulligans, but hopefully I can remember what happened in each game. There were 36 players, so we had 4 Nationals slots to play for and 6 rounds. First Place will also win full accommodation for the duration of Nationals. On to the tournament!
Mick is a good player I’ve encountered many times before and we both lamented that we’d met in the first round instead of later on in the tournament. No easy round 1 for us!
We roll to see who starts, and I lose the roll so Mick starts.
Game 1 was a very unusual affair. We both mulliganed and I kept a hand featuring Celestial Colonnade, Tectonic Edge, Stoneforge Mystic, Spell Pierce and Mana Leak. I think I might have had a copy of Jace too, but it was quite irrelevant as I didn’t draw another land for the entire game! I fetched Sword of Feast and Famine with Stoneforge on turn 2, Spell Pierced a Harrow on turn 3, got my Sword on the table and equipped and bashing in on the following turns. Meanwhile Mick has ended up with a Joraga Treespeaker and 2 Oracle of Mul Daya on the table, but mostly more Harrows were revealed on top of his deck while I countered Primeval Titan and Green Sun’s Zeniths. If I’m not going to draw any land, apparently I just draw Mana Leaks. The sworded-up Mystic and a couple of Squadron Hawks take the game down.
Game 2 started off less well, as I had left my mana up for the Mana Leak and 2 Flashfreezes in my hand, when Mick makes Thrun, the Last Troll. I look at the Day of Judgment in my hand and wonder if he will tap-out so that I can kill Thrun. I take a couple of hits from Thrun, meanwhile Mick has been doing some ramping and also has a couple of Overgrown Battlements. Mick casts Avenger of Zendikar with 3 mana up. In my hand I’ve got Mana Leak, 2 Flashfreezes, Day of Judgment and I’ve also drawn Jace. I decide to go for the play that might persuade him to tap-out, as then I can Day of Judgment on my turn, and then if he has a follow-up Titan I can always bounce it with Jace and Flashfreeze it on the way back down. So, I Mana Leak the Avenger, and Mick pays, I wipe the board, and Mick indeed has a follow-up Primeval Titan, which I bounce with Jace and then Flashfreeze. Jace dies to a Lightning Bolt, and I counter the rest of his threats and eventually find a Kor Firewalker and a Sword to go on it to win the game with.
1 – 0
That was over relatively quickly, so I got to have a break for a change – Caw-Blade tends to go to near-time most rounds.
Round 2 – Bob playing Vampires.
Game 1 I lose the dice roll again, so Bob is on the play. I hazard a guess that he’s playing an aggressive deck as that’s what I’ve seen him play before, so I’m not sad to see Day of Judgment and Tumble Magnet in my opening hand. An opening of Swamp, Vampire Lacerator confirms my suspicions.
Bob gets me down to 4 life when I finally stabilise. I Spellpierce a Red Sun’s Zenith that’s pointing at my only creature, Stoneforge Mystic. I decide to Tectonic Edge his only non-basic land, Dragonskull Summit, which is also his only source of red mana. I have to be careful because there’s a Bloodghast in his graveyard that could come back at any moment, but Bob never finds another red source and my Sword of Feast and Famine stops him from keeping any cards in his hand.
Sideboarding: In: 3 Condemn, 1 Day of Judgment, 3 Kor Firewalker (may die to black removal, but is immune to red removal and if I can get Sword of Feast and Famine on it then it has protection from both his colours)
Out: 3 Mana Leak, 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, 1 Into the Roil, 1 Preordain, 1 Sword of Body and Mind (Wolf tokens are handy, but milling Bloodghasts into the graveyard is not). I keep Spell Pierce in because I’m worried about Dark Tutelage and removal spells as I attempt to equip guys.
Game 2 Bob starts off by Duressing me, taking my Gideon, and making Vampires. I buy some time by playing Tumble Magnet and tapping some guys. I’m not too happy to see Kalastria Highborn on the other side of the table as it can make playing Day of Judgment lethal. Unfortunately for Bob, he taps out to play some more Vampires, and my following Day of Judgment is devastating for him. I get a sword, equip it to a Kor Firewalker (with a Squadron Hawk on the table too so that Gatekeeper of Malakir cannot spoil my day) and take the game.
2 – 0
Once again it’s not the end of the round yet, so plenty of time to eat some sandwiches and chat with my friends. As I walk past James I see he’s stolen his young opponent’s Argentum Armor with Volition Reins and I jokingly scald him for being mean.
Round 3 – Ed playing Knights.
Ed introduces himself and tells me he’s sure his good fortune is about to run out because he’s not been playing for a while and this is a deck he just threw together. While eating my sandwich in the lobby area I’d heard about him as one of my friend’s had just lost to him, so I knew he had a knight deck. We roll the dice, and once again I lose, so Ed plays first.
Game 1 I take some hits from a levelled-up Student of Warfare with Honor of the Pure. I Mana Leak two Knight Exemplars, and play Day of Judgment after he plays a second Student of Warfare. I have no answer for his follow-up Hero of Bladehold and lose game 1.
In: 3 Condemn, 1 Day of Judgment, 1 Sun Titan, 1 Volition Reins
Out: 3 Mana Leak, 3 Spell Pierce
This is probably going to be a creature war, and maybe he’ll have something nice to steal with Volition Reins.
Game 2 The early game involved his Knight Exemplar being Condemned away and Tumble Magnetholding back a Mirran Crusader pumped up with Honor of the Pure. I find another Condemn for it and I make a Hawk and Stoneforge Mystic, getting Sword of Body and Mind. He makes Hero of Bladehold which I Tumble Magnet down for a turn, get in and mill him a bit. As he mills I see he’s boarded in Luminarch Ascension – he’s not been playing recently so he’s apparently sideboarded as though I’m a blue white control deck. The follow-up Baneslayer Angel prompts another Day of Judgment, then I make another Hawk to hold the Sword. He’s had Ajani Goldmane in play for a few turns, gaining some life, but I ignore him and mill and make wolves. When he ultimates Ajani and I end-step bounce his Avatar token with Into the Roil he mutters â€œBitch!â€ under his breath, but I decide it’s not worth getting upset about. It was a little mean after all… Birds and wolves for the win!
Game 3 I’m pretty sure he’s realised his sideboarding error as I shuffle and he re-sideboards. We trade guys with Day of Judgments for a while, but my Hawks have friends. I get both swords Revoke Existenced, but Gideon and Sun Titan (returning fallen hawks) make for a very fast clock and I win just before time on the round is called.
3 – 0
Round 4 – Max playing Boros.
I’m aware that there are only 4 of us on 9 points at this stage, and one of those people is â€œa guy in a checked shirt playing Borosâ€ who’d beaten one of my friends earlier. Turns out to be my next round opponent, Max, who’s very smiley! We roll the dice, and to avoid changing tradition I lose this dice roll too.
Game 2 I Condemned a Goblin Guide and he had no quick follow-up. I went to town with a Sword of Body and Mind on a Squadron Hawk and ended the game on 18 life. Through milling him I saw that he had Hero of Oxid Ridge to be concerned about, but no planeswalkers.
Game 3 He got me down to 6 so I think things looked hairy for a while, but some Condemnand Tumble Magnet action saved me from death. He had Sword of Body and Mind and Sword of Feast and Famine on the table so I would straight-up die if he ripped one of the 4 haste creatures still in his deck, but thankfully for me he didn’t and I got him.
4 – 0
Round 5 – Tom playing Boros.
Tom asks me if I know Matt Trindal – we have a mutual friend! He also tells me he’s not managed to eat all day as he says he keeps going to time. We roll the starting dice and in keeping with tradition I lose again, so Tom is on the play.
Game 1 Tom begins with a turn 1 Goblin Guide. I ask him how he keeps on going to time?! He gets a second Goblin Guide, but it turns out they’re my friends and keep on giving me lots of land. He keeps on laying fetch-lands so the Plated Geopede he makes looks quite scary, so I use Jace to bounce it, who is then taken out by a Goblin Guide while the other one hits me. He remakes the Geopede, I find a Day of Judgment on top of my deck and he doesn’t seem to draw anything but land so Gideon takes him down quite quickly while I have a hand of 3 Spell Pierces and hope he won’t manage to burn me out through them. He’s not been playing very quickly and taking quite a bit of time to think. At this point all I have seen is Mountains and lands that fetch Mountains, so I conclude that he’s mono red, sideboarding as such.
Game 2 I am in for a surprise in game 2 when he starts the game by cracking an Arid Mesa and fetching a Plains and casting a Steppe Lynx. At the end of the game I comment on his cunning at not showing me what his deck really was, but luckily for me the sideboarding I’ve done isn’t that far off – although I’m immediately worried about Gideon ending up on his side of the table. We have a truly epic game which went to time, involving lots of creatures, equipment and planeswalkers on both sides. In turn 2 of 5 extra turns, I mill him with a Sword of Body and Mind equipped Celestial Colonnade down to around 15 cards left in his library, thankfully seeing I’ve milled a Gideon away. In turn 3 I have run out of Tumble Magnet counters and he has to send his 21/22 lifelinking, pro green and blue Steppe Lynx (Bonehoard, Sword of Body and Mind and Basilisk Collar if you’re wondering) and 3 / 4 Adventuring Geared- up Stoneforge Mystic at … unsurprisingly Gideon dies (despite how loyal he has been). In turn 4 I know I have some outs I can draw – another Gideon, obviously, or Into the Roil will let me bounce his Sword of Body and Mind and chump-block with a wolf token and I had one more Condemn in my deck. I drew my card and saw the Condemn staring back at me. Phew. I retain my poker face and mill him down to a small stack of 5 cards. Turn 5 – He wonders out loud if I have a Condemn, and when he attacks I show it to him. What a crazy game. I wish him best of luck for his last round.
5 – 0
After round 5 I am the only player on 15 points. I’ve already played the number 2 and 3 seeds (Max and Tom) so although I only need a draw to guarantee 1st place, my next round opponent is unlikely to have good enough tie-breakers to ID and will need to play me. Time to be the end boss.
Round 6 – Adam playing BantBlade.
Adam indeed needs to play, and although I’m now guaranteed to be in the top 4 no matter what happens, I don’t want to lose as then I might not get the 1st prize award of fully paid-for hotel room for Nationals.
Game 1 We roll to start – and I win! I joke that maybe I should choose to draw as that’s all I’d done all day so far. Adam starts with a Razorverge Thicket, so I guess perhaps he’s a green-white aggro deck or possibly GW Quest. I make Stoneforge Mystic on turn 2 and fetch Sword of Feast and Famine. Next turn for him is Seachrome Coast and Fauna Shaman – now I know I’m facing Mike Flore’s BantBlade deck which had knocked me out of contention for a slot yesterday. Many Vengevines happened and I died quite rapidly, and probably should have conceeded a few turns earlier than I did.
Now this is going to be interesting as I have not got a pre-made plan, and whatever I did yesterday was incorrect. I decide to keep in Mana Leak as I’ll be on the play and therefore can stop some of his wonder 2 drops. I decide to board into aggressive mode as he most likely has no actual creature removal, but I can bring in my point removal rather than sweepers and race him.
Game 2 I Mana Leak his Fauna Shaman and his follow-up Stoneforge Mystic. I make a Squadron Hawk, find it’s friends and as I’m holding lots of land in hand I decide to Tectonic Edge his Razorverge Thicket so that he only has 1 green mana and can’t hard-cast a Vengevine. I resolve a Jace and fateseal him, putting the land on top onto the bottom. He finds a Misty Rainforest and fetches a Forest and legend-rules my Jace. Then I spend a couple of turns hitting him with Celestial Colonnade and a pair of Hawks, drawing two more Tectonic Edge and blow up the rest of his dual lands, leaving him with 2 Forests and an Island, at which point he conceeds.
Now that I’m on the draw, Mana Leak is less likely to be helpful, but Spell Pierce might stop one of his Jaces for a more convenient mana cost (I’m pretty sure he will have Jace Beleren as well as Jace, the Mind Sculptor):
In: 3 Spell Pierce
Out: 3 Mana Leak
Game 3 We don’t have that much time for this final game, so I mulligan into a defensive hand, as all I really need is a draw. I Condemn a Sword of Feast and Famine equipped Stoneforge Mystic from him, then make a Tumble Magnet and start making Hawks, Mortar Pod and a Sword of my own. He summons a Fauna Shaman and starts setting up, but I have a Hero of Bladehold. In two attacks, (including attacking germ token!) I have him dead as his army of 2 Vengevines, Fauna Shaman and Stoneforge Mystic is not enough.
6 – 0 !
Well, I’d jokingly claimed after round 2 to the TO Francois that I was going to win the hotel room, but I didn’t really expect to do so! Overall a fantastic day, my opponents were all friendly, which was the atmosphere all day – a very well run tournament. Thanks to Francois and the judges there – I will definitely be going back to Chesham again.
Wish me luck at Nationals!