My Second Place Finish: A Tournament Report Efka Bladukas
First I should probably introduce myself. I’m Efka. Most of my M:tG related activity revolves around being the TO for the St. Albans community at Chaos City Comics. I barely get to play Magic as I find being a TO is stressful enough as it is. When I do get to play, I prefer Standard. Our community is relatively new but friendships are being formed and sometime in the last couple of weeks a bunch of our players have decided to work as a team. And as a team we were looking for our first tournament. We had two options for that weekend, the first being the Sheffield PTQ, which was too far and possibly slightly too challenging for our fairly inexperienced little group of players, and the Leighton Buzzard Win a Box tournament organized by Axion Comics and Cards LB. We were familiar with the LB crowd as they’ve come to a few of our organized events and we thought it would be nice to reciprocate and form a tighter relationship between the two groups. So there I was, in a church hall, with two of my friends, amidst a sea of Leighton Buzzard players, with a deck I’ve built only twelve hours ago. During our testing I was running a BUG control brew I had designed, and I was intent on bringing that, but it just proved to be too weak. Remembering a Conley Woods article I’ve read a year or so ago I chose to play a tried-and-true Tier 1 deck rather than something that needed much more work to… well, work. Here is the list I ended up playing:
Have I played the deck before? I would be lying if I said no, because strictly speaking I have played it… twice. Once in a pub against some Jund Midrange, and once with team mate Amiy just before the tournament. Nevertheless, I felt the deck was strong and had a good matchup against the meta that I expected to see. Big thanks to my other two team mates George and Asher who made me play Fettergeist and Planar Cleansing – those two cards did a lot of work that day. In the end, I made a lot of misplays, like casting Azorius Charm on my own non attacking/defending Snapcaster Mage, thinking that it works just like Unsummon. But somehow I have miraculously pushed through the opposition and scored a second place finish, playing against 28 other players in five rounds of Swiss followed by a Top 8
My opponent Alex started off by saying that he had just built the deck and had zero practice with it. Sounds familiar? I smiled and wished him good luck, not wanting to admit I was in exactly the same position. Turned out he was playing a Grixis tempo brew with Delver of Secrets and Duskmantle Seers. But with so much spot and mass removal in my deck he found it hard to keep his guys alive. First game I took him to Milltown with some Drownyards and the second game Jace did all the hard work.
This time I was paired up against a Junk Humanimator list that had Cartel Aristocrats and apparently won by creating infinite tokens or infinite life. It was not a deck I was familiar with at all, and the only reason I knew how it won was because my opponent had to explain it to me when I asked him if there was a possibility with his current graveyard state to go off into a combo. Technically Humanimator is a bad matchup for me, but this list was more aggressive and I must have been lucky as I got to ultimate Tamiyo in both of my games, and he had to mull to five in the second game. Another 2-0 win for me. I looked around for my friends to see how they were doing. A round one bye followed by a loss, and a round one loss followed by a bye. Not the best start but they still had a chance to Top 8 and if I kept on winning I wouldn’t have to play them, which was a good thing.
This was the organizer vs organizer showdown. The opposition – Mike Garner, a crowd favorite with much more M:tG experience. On the other side – me. The guy who mostly watches other people play and gives advice from time to time. First game Mike played some Bant colored lands whilst I thought twice once, and then on turn three he delivered a Geist of Saint Traft. All I could do on my turn three was think some more (or flashback Think Twice as it were), and not find that Supreme Verdict or Devour Flesh I needed. Turn four he played Rancor and I had to flash in a Snapcaster Mage targeting nothing to block the Geist and kill it. Another Geist came down and two turns later I was on negative life. The second game was much better – Fettergeist caught Mike off-guard. My opponent did take me down to one life but I quickly stabilized and started milling with three Drownyards. After the second game someone came up and said we had 13 minutes on the clock. Mike said that we’re just gonna draw now but let’s play it out anyway. I agreed. But luck apparently was still on my side. Mike’s hand ran dry after a few verdicts and I presented him with an Augur of Bolas and a Fettergeist – a five turn clock. He kept drawing cards but nothing relevant must have come up. On his last turn he decorated my two guys with Rancors and Ethereal Armors and extended his hand.
I must have been blessed because my worst matchups seemed to have went 3-1 and now all that stood between me and a guaranteed Top 8 was Junk Tokens. Boy was I lucky. First game my opponent, realising that he’s playing against a deck with board wipes, loaded up on planeswalkers and Intangible Virtues. I had five mana in play, two white sources and a Planar Cleansing in my hand. Untap, Upkeep, Draw – Glacial Fortress. From then on we were just going through the motions. Post sideboard the matchup was even better for me and I was looking at a guaranteed Top 8. How the hell did that happen?
I wanted to ID. I was getting tired since playing Esper Control means you get no breaks between matches. A good rest meant that I was more prepared for Top 8. But someone in the crowd said I should play to learn his deck as it was really good. I expected some sort of clever brew that I haven’t heard of before. What I found was Naya Humans. First game I had to mull to five, which wasn’t ideal. My opponent had a quick hand and I was dead before I knew it. I boarded in all the spot removal but I just wanted to end it quickly so I could at least have ten minutes off. After a Boros Charm to the face I was finally defeated and much to my dismay found that everyone else finished their games as well.
But luck was back with me as I was facing Mike Garner again. First game was hard as my spot removal was useless. But after sideboarding I was able to hold him back just fine. Third game he kept a hand with three Geists of St. Traft. I kept a hand with three Supreme Verdicts. We each drew a fourth. Unfortunately for him that meant that I had enough answers for all his threats.
Guess what. Junk tokens. Again. And again, my spot removal was clumping up my hand. Trading a Devour flesh for a single spirit token when my opponent plays two Lingering Souls is just not going to cut it. But post-sideboard I had total control. Before I knew it, I was in the final.
This was it. My worst matchup. I was playing Tom Law who was running Human Reanimator. Since my win condition is milling the opponent, I am dead in the water against this list because Human Reanimator wants to be milled. After a rocky start for both of us, game one was a joke and I got thrashed like dusty sheets on cleaning day. This was where I started tilting. But I got some of my luck back again on game two. Tom had a pretty good boardstate but I had a Supreme Verdict and Tormod’s Crypt in my hand. Sensing I had a boardwiper Tom decided to clean his board by milling himself with Undercity Informer. He was ready to go off next turn. I got my chance right there, slammed the Crypt and from then on held a tight control on the game. I had enough Snapcasters and things in my yard to keep him from playing anything, even Mulches and Grisly Salvages. Eventually I drew into my second Crypt and the game was mine. However, my brain had stopped functioning by then, and the lack of experience really got to me. What I should have done was boarded out Dissipates and boarded in Fettergeists. I couldn’t counter his Angel of Glory’s Rise anyway since he had more than one Cavern of Souls named Angel so my only real way of winning was to hopefully beat him down somehow. He played some Restoration Angels and Deathrite Shamans and did some hurt, but then I slammed down a Verdict. His graveyard was pretty full but the combo wasn’t there. I had a Tormod’s Crypt in my hand but decided to wait a turn in hopes he would fill it up more. That was a mistake. He just reanimated his Angel and proceeded with the beats. I stabilized again with Planar Cleansing, but he got me down to one life. Tom drew creatures and I kept drawing land. I played another Cleansning, and then followed it up with two Snapcaster Mages targeting the boardwipers again, but the mana was tight and I never had any left to Dissipate his dudes. Eventually he just overpowered me and the game was done.
I learned a lot from that game, and the next time I play the deck I am sure I’ll have better control. But overall I had a lot of fun and would like to thank the organizers for a great tournament, all my opponents who were awesome without exception and of course my team mates for being there for me. And if you are a Magic player in Herts, Beds or Bucks then you should find the Herts, Beds and Bucks group on Facebook and join up. All the events in the area are advertised there and it’s a great way to familiarize yourself with all the other players you might not have met yet. Thanks for reading my first tournament report and if you want to play Esper Mill (which you definitely should), I hope this article is useful to you. Efka