Hi everyone, this is my 1st article for the site so please bear with me.
I started testing for the standard season a couple of weeks ago once the spoiler for NPH was out officially starting off with U/W Caw Blade but having done some testing in my LGS (Chimera, Nottingham) I didn’t feel comfortable playing endless mirror matches and a deck fully tuned to the mirror was far colder to more aggressive decks that occasionally jumped up out of the woodwork like Elves! Or combo decks like Valakut. Thus I decided with the help of Matt Light and Tom Robinson to play a Splinter Twin deck as occasionally it would just get the nut draw and kill my opponent, especially if they weren’t prepared for it.
We decided that we didn’t want to rely solely on the combo so we looked for another shell to house it in when RUG was suggested. This seemed perfect as the numbers were easy- just dropping off the extra 4/5 drops likePrecursor Golem and Oracle of Mul Daya as well as shaving a couple of 4-ofs to 3-ofs. RUG had the added advantage of still being incredible powerful and was a deck I’d had a lot of practise with having run it during the National Qualifiers.
Now we had a deck that could kill out of nowhere with the combo but could just as easily just play Lotus Cobra into Titans and Sphinxes and win the old fashioned way.
Here’s the list we ended up with.
- 4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 4 Deceiver Exarch
- 3 Inferno Titan
- 2 Consecrated Sphinx
- 1 Frost Titan
- 3 Mana Leak
- 3 Explore
- 1 Lightning Bolt
- 2 Dismember
- 4 Preordain
- 3 Splinter Twin
- 4 Island
- 2 Forest
- 2 Mountain
- 4 Scalding Tarn
- 4 Misty Rainforest
- 3 Halimar Depths
- 4 Copperline Gorge
- 3 Raging Ravine
There are a couple of changes I’d make in hindsight which I’ll come to at the end, though they are fairly minor.
On to the event itself:
There were 52 players in the event meaning 6 rounds before top 8 with the potential for an X-2 to make it.
Awesome round 1 and I’m playing the 73 card mirror against one of my test partners :(
G2-> I kept a sketchy hand and was beaten down in quick fashion with the only damage Tom took coming from his singular fetch before Twinning his Deceiver Exarch and killing me on turn 6.
G3-> Tom again decided to mulligan on the draw but this time to 5. I landed a Jace quickly Spell Piercing his Mana Leak, he resolved a Cobra but is stuck on 4 lands. In hindsight I should have bounced the Cobra as it meant any basic allowed him to play Titan, thankfully this didn’t happen and he died to a magical Exarch after Leaking his Flash Freeze.
Results 2-1 win. Record X-0
Round 2 and in theory one of my worst match ups due to main deck removal, targeted discard and main deck combo hate in the form of Spellskite.
G1-> I get Inquisitioned a couple of times but lose nothing to important and then Dismembered his Stoneforge Mystic but not before he vialed in a Batterskull that he had drawn (he fetched Feast and Famine). At this point he only knew I was playing RUG unfortunately for him he soon learned otherwise as a Preordain revealed my true colours.
G3-> This game was incredibly fun we traded cards back and forth until I landed a Jace and brainstormed into my combo I hid them on top of my library and passed. He Duressed me revealing a Mana Leak and a Preordain, I proceeded to draw Exarch and again passed looking dejected. He tapped out to play and equip his Batterskull with Feast and Famine which proceeded to get tapped by the Exarch, Andrew slumped realising he’s dead as I drew the Twin off the top and enchanted my Deceiver Exarch.
Result 2-1. Record X-0
I’m feeling pretty good thus far having got past such a hard matchup, admittedly by the skin of my teeth. I was hoping not to have to play against any further Darkblade list as it really is a hard matchup if they get the disruptive draw especially on the play. T1 Duress into T2 Mystic is a real beating.
These games were quick but close so I won’t go into too much detail. Both games revolved around him getting an early board presence. This presence was then wiped away by an Inferno Titan and Pyroclasm respectively, and then finished up with an beat down. However in both games I was very close to death as he missed a Kalastria Highborn trigger which would have put me to 3 with him a Bolt in hand and in game 2 he forgot to play a land before targeting Frost Titan with Act of Treason meaning the Titan’s ability countered it.
Result 2-0. Record X-0
G1-> Levi admitted afterwards that he was teched out for the mirror with main deck Divine Offering which obviously didn’t help in this match and he got combed before he really knew what was happening.
G2-> He got stuck on double plains for a few turns and when I Spell Pierce his Journey to Nowhere on my Cobra he had no outs in hand before my Inferno Titan got enchanted and his doppelgangers started to hit the red zone.
Result 2-0. Record X-0
I can I.D. in now providing my opponents are willing. As there were some draws earlier in the Swiss I wasn’t positive and didn’t want to I.D. into 9th I kept getting Matt to reassure me in his normal loving manner of calling me an idiot and that I’m definitely in top8, which leads to a pedants’ argument between Neil Rigby and Matt Light as is often the case between them.
Final standings say I’m 3rd in the Swiss meaning I’m in my 1st PTQ top 8.
The end the top 8 was comprised of:
- RUG Twin (me)
- Tempered Steel
- 5 CawBlade (Inc. my round 4 opponent)
QUARTER FINALS U/W Caw Blade piloted by Neil Rigby
Another 1st round another friend to play against– grreat…
G2-> I get beaten down in short after he killed my Deceiver Exarch with a Dismember and Spell Pierce for my Mana Leak. I defended this play as he had to have exactly those to cards or I’d have gotten him and I couldn’t afford to play around more as I was having my skull battered.
G3-> Neil mulliganed and he couldn’t answer my Twinned-Titan after countering his counterspell.
Had to promise Neil I’d win after beating him and a felt confident in that having taken down the strongest player in the room.
Having finished my semi-final so quickly I got to watch virtually all of the semi-final in the other bracket which was between Levi Mochan and Matthew Johnson which went long and back and forth before Levi picked up his 3rd warning and subsequent game loss in g3 meaning he was eliminated which was a real shame as the match was incredibly interesting.
FINAL U/W Caw Blade piloted by Matthew Johnson
G1-> He got a fairly proactive draw with Mystic and Hawks dropping me to 10 life, unfortunately for him this meant he was tapped out a lot and I landed the combo with Spell Pierce and Mana Leak in hand ready.
G2-> I got stuck on 3 lands and double Cobra for 6 turns, I was still in the game however as he wasn’t doing too much; just beating down with a Celestial Colonnade. I stayed in the game as he didn’t double Tectonic Edge me to 2 lands. Then I punted by reaching 6 lands with a Consecrated Sphinx in hand, I Preordained seeing a Titan and 2 lands and put the Titan on top not seeing the Tec-edge in play which meant I couldn’t play either so I died.
G3-> I had the nuts: turn 4 combo with Spell Pierce back up. He mulled to 5 and led with Tec-edge for 4 turns. I refused to get greedy and waited for the Pierce back up and when he had nothing victory was mine.
Thoughts on the decks and changes I’d make:
The deck is sweet; RUG is still a good deck with some insane draws whilst the combo fits in nicely without having to cut anything too important. Going forward and having talked it over with Matt Light I’d put the Spell Pierces main deck over the Mana Leaks as you really don’t care about any creatures and fits your curve better –Cobra into Jace and Deceiver into Twin. Something we also talked about is dropping the main deck removal and replacing it with the Nature’s Claims. This seems fine if the field stays all CawBlade and Splinter variants and especially so if Spellskite becomes more prevalent. Finally I’d swap the Frost Titan for another Consecrated Sphinx since the card’s awesome in the CawBlade match as it draws cards and can block a sworded-up Hawk all day long.
Thanks for reading and I hope you all found it helpful/informative and not too boring. If anyone wants any more info I’d be happy to oblige just look me up on Facebook.
Cheers and hopefully see some of you in Philadelphia,