First things first, congratulations to Richard Parker for his excellent GP win!
As for myself, my performance was considerably less impressive, today I’ll talk about my deck and what went right and what went wrong with it.
In my last article I spoke about wanting to play a red-centric deck using the power of aggressive burn decks, but with bigger creatures to power through the midgame and outclass other aggro decks. I was expecting a lot of UB control decks, and this was reinforced by looking around at tables leading up to the event.
Here’s the list I went with:
4 [card]Shrine of Burning Rage[/card]
4 [card]Galvanic Blast[/card]
2 [card]Volt Charge[/card]
2 [card]Brimstone Volley[/card]
2 [card]Arc Trail[/card]
1 [card]Ancient Grudge[/card]
4 [card]Faithless Looting[/card]
2 [card]Traitorous Blood[/card]
1 [card]Ancient Grudge[/card]
1 [card]Sever the Bloodline[/card]
4 [card]Surgical Extraction[/card]
1 [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card]
So, what is this deck trying to accomplish?
Being able to play the aggressive early game is key against UB control, and cards like [card]Shrine of Burning Rage[/card] can singlehandedly beat that deck. However to avoid scooping to other aggro decks that can generate more board presence than RDW, I have the ability to play game winning creatures that can take over a game all by themselves to outclass their creatures. Obviously having reach in the form of burn is very useful as well.
[card]Ancient Grudge[/card] is very relevant and worthy of main deck inclusion at the moment, and the [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] can clone Swords or scary six drop creatures if they show up. [card]Faithless Looting[/card] is clearly nuts in this deck, but requires careful consideration whenever you cast it, knowing when to cast it and what to pitch is very important, often a turn one Looting is a mistake. The card lets you dig for sideboard cards or burn to finish the opponent, and if you get the opportunity to discard a Looting, always do so, since once it’s in the graveyard it’s just a case of having the ability to hand sculpt later on without the card disadvantage. Sure, you do get the occasional “pitch two [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card]” play, which makes it a one mana divination with flashback, but generally even when it’s not being crazy good, it does a lot of work.
The manabase is surprisingly fine, I was able to cut a couple of dual lands from the original list and make the deck flow better, and Looting allows you to find the mana you need or pitch dead spells if you have to. The sideboard is pretty obvious, some tools for hitting big guys, some graveyard and undying hate, artifact hate and the [card]Manabarbs[/card] for control and ramp.
I saw a lot of UW humans and UB control, along with ramp floating around, these were the sorts of decks I was happy to face, and of course in an event this large there were plenty of other decks. I had two byes so I had a little time to scout before the third round begun.
ROUND THREE – UBW Control (2-1)
I was not expecting to see any Solar Flare or Esper control since they seem poorly positioned at the moment.
Game one: I mulliganned then dropped a [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card] who got in for five, then a second who got in for two, all the while my shrine was building up to hit his face for ten. He managed to stop some of my spells but the Shrine got there.
Game two: I got a Shrine down and build it up a bit, however an [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] ruined my plan since I had to tap out to accelerate my clock against his double Snapcaster beatdown. This ruined the race, I [card]Naturalize[/card]d my Shrine back, but I didn’t get it high enough in time.
Game three: Stromkirk Noble got some damage in before he died and some face melting burn spells did the rest of the work. I drew a lot of burn spells so I just pointed them face-wards and kept forcing him to deal with the phoenix.
ROUND FOUR – ESPER SPIRITS (1-2)
Game one: I mulliganned to a mediocre hand, but it was better than most fives. I managed to get some damage in with Stromkirk, but an endless supply of 1/1 spirit tokens halted my creatures and I couldn’t resolve a Huntmaster or Olivia. I lost when he cast the third [card]Lingering Souls[/card].
Game two: Double Stromkirk beat down got a lot of damage in and Shrine helped finish off whilst I kept mana open to kill his captain if he dropped it. He tried racing with [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] but was never going to win.
Game three: We got off to the races, my Stromkirk starting things but he dropped a [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]. Whilst I removed his [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card], I couldn’t find the kill spell for Geist despite drawing six cards off of [card]Faithless Looting[/card]s to fine one of my four answers.
This was exactly what I wanted to see.
Game one: When my opponent made a turn one [card]Darkslick Shores[/card] and no one drop, I felt pretty happy knowing it was likely to be a UB control deck, since a good player wouldn’t keep an Esper Delver or Zombies hand without a one drop most of the time. I stuck a Shrine on turn two and slowly pumped burn spells and Phoenixes into his face whilst he drew cards and failed to stop me.
Game two: Game two was very similar, my opponent had mulliganned to hit an answer for Shrine, but I had the Ancient Grudge and a strong hand, I Extracted his [card]Mana Leak[/card] and saw he had nothing and took him out with just a couple of Shrines since he kept killing my Phoenix.
Zombies hasn’t been a great match up in testing, it’s even at best as long as they don’t have too many [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card]s.
Game one: I was on the back foot from the off, he made two power on turn one, another two on turn two then kept piling on the [card]Geralf’s Messenger[/card]s and I never got into the match after mulliganing to six.
Game two: I dropped a Shrine, and then played the control in the match up. Taking out his creatures and keeping myself alive. I boarded out my Stromkirks and just aimed to win off the Shrine or four drops and Phoenixes, it worked well and I Shrined him for sixteen.
Game three: I did the same again, however this was tighter, I had a Huntmaster to block and gain life with, but he [card]Phantasmal Image[/card]d it. I saw his hand of double Obliterator and Sword when I extracted his Messenger. I did have double shrines and artifact hate to stop the sword. I killed him by Shrining him for 22 with me left on four life.
White based control decks do have tools to beat my deck, since they have [card]Celestial Purge[/card] and [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] etc.
Game one: I see very little of his deck, just some [card]Lingering Souls[/card], a [card]Mana Leak[/card], a [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] and a [card]Doom Blade[/card]. It looked like Esper spirits and I managed to crush him with burn spells and shrine and forcing blocks on my Phoenix who kept returning.
Game two: It turned out he wasn’t Spirits so I had boarded all wrong. He spent the game stopping my threats then dropping [card]Gideon Jura[/card] which caused me a lot of trouble. My hand was pretty bad since I had a useless [card]Slagstorm[/card] I’d boarded for his guys and a [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card[ that was there for his [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]. I lost pretty hard then hit the sideboard again.
Game three: This game was the reason I didn’t want to see and White based control. After my Mull to five I was not looking healthy. He [card]Celestial Purge[/card]d my Stromkirk Noble and flashed it back with Snapcaster to kill my [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card]. I felt it was now safe for my Phoenix, however this was not the case, he had another Purge. The next turn I drew a Surgical Extraction, a little late. I took out his Mana Leak, seeing a grip of [card]Flashfreeze[/card]s, [card]Negate[/card], [card]Revoke Existence[/card], [card]Dissipate[/card] and a [card]Day of Judgment[/card]. I was in bad shape. My [card]Manabarbs[/card] was never going to resolve or stick around and I got beaten down by Snappies.
I was into the bubble of needing to win my last two rounds as was my opponent. He was one of the Irish players and a thoroughly nice bloke who I had a good chat with whilst shuffling up. He won the die roll and we both kept seven.
Game One: Chandra’s Phoenix picked him away to twelve whilst Delver took me down to fourteen. We exchanged blows and I blew him out with my main deck [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] taking out his [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card], that tempo boost gave me the game.
Game two: I had a really odd hand. It was one lander, but a good one; 2 Stromkirk Noble, 2 Grim Lavamancer, 1 Ancient Grudge and 1 Shrine of Burning Rage along with my land. It may not have been an ideal keeper, but a land or Looting off the top would have been fine. However I didn’t find another land all game and he made turn three Geist. In Hindsight I should have mulliganned, but the hand had a lot of game and could have gotten there. I had 25 cards in my library that could have helped me on my way a lot if I drew them in the first few turns.
Game Three: He came out early with double Delver, I managed to kill them both after taking only one damage. He made a Geist; I had the Phyrexian Metamorph to answer him. I was looking on top, until he dropped another Geist the next turn and my face dropped. I had a Shrine that let me build up whilst digging for an answer, but I had no [card]Slagstorm[/card] or a second Metamorph to take it out. He dropped a Sword on it, we joked that I’d now draw the Slagstorm since it had gotten pro-red, but my deck decided it had mocked me enough already and I drew a different useless card. Buying another turn by Shrining his angel token didn’t find me the Metamorph and I was sunk.
So, there we have it, a pretty poor GP performance, in fact my worst to date. But as with any experience, there is something here to be learned. The format I was expecting was quite different to what was actually there, it seemed the world had moved on quickly from the UB control plan already and were metagaming ahead of it. Esper Spirits was supposedly a weaker deck since [card]Corrosive Gale[/card] was in lots of sideboards lately, but obviously players decided it was worth second guessing the players who might be taking out their Gales. Also from looking around, it seemed that RG aggro and Zombies were massive parts of the field, showing the greater love of aggro that I’ve come to expect from Europe. The white based control decks were still a bit of a shock though since I saw quite a few kicking around the tournament.
What about the deck?
Well, obviously the metagame was very different to what I expected which hurt my prospects, and I really shouldn’t have risked my hand in the last round. The deck I think; needs to change to reflect that, playing the semi-control route against the UB Zombie deck felt a pretty good way to approach the match up and improved things a lot from previous testing.
Changing up the deck, I’d probably drop the Stromkirks, and play more in the realm of controlling the first few turns and winning with four drops, Phoenixes and Shrines. Metamorph was excellent and could be increased in number, as well as adding a land to play six-seven four drops instead, maxing out on Huntmasters as well as some Slagstorm main deck. Faithless Looting, whilst not getting much mention in my report, did a lot of the work and fixed my draws and gave me some strong plays. Further hatred toward Geist would help the deck a great deal, and [card]Wrack of Madness[/card] might head into my sideboard too.
There we have it, I hope you enjoyed the article and I’ll be talking about Modern for the next few weeks with the upcoming PTQ’s and GP.