Standard Competition Reports – UWR and Esper Control by Ru Macdonald
I have recently attended three Standard Tournaments at Spellbound Games. I have smooshed the three events into one report, as Standard is changing soon (and because I didn’t do too well at the first two!). The Saturday and Sunday had an M14 Chandra playmat as part of the prize. I do not have a playmat and figured that I need one to imbue fear in my opponents pre-game. When you roll out that soft, card friendly neoprene playmat and bust out a sick ass shuffle, your opponent scoops on the spot 50% of the time. At least that is what I’m hoping.
This reminds me of a joke my friend used to make about a deck consisting entirely of Forests. With every forest you add to the board, your opponent gets more perplexed and filled with fear and anticipation – until they simply pack up (not based on true events).
I moved flat recently and have been in the information blackout that is no internet. No reading or writing articles, watching Magic videos or editing decks on Tappedout. It’s been rough. I got back online yesterday and now that I have returned I feel like a game character that had all their items removed from them and has just got them back. So many games have done that. Maybe it is to give us a new found respect and appreciation of all the sweet loot we have been hoarding for the game so far? Possibly they just got bored and used a tried and tested game mechanic?
Let us not beat around the bush*, on with the decklist for the first event!
*where is this bush that is constantly surrounded by beat downs?
This list may look a little clunky, so allow me to defend myself.
I was walking into an unknown metagame along with the incorrect assumption that up to 10 proxies were allowed. I wanted to build a deck that would be effective against everything (obviously). I had visions of facing hordes of Voice of Resurgence and Jund decks . This was my main pull to UWR, as it allowed me to maindeck 3x Pillar of Flame and 3x Warleader’s Helix (for the two match ups respectively).
Why no Snapcaster Mage or Jace, Memory Adept? Don’t have them and can’t afford them! Additionally, I have a full set of Sphinx’s Revelation and recently picked up a few of Restoration Angels. I definitely consider myself a control player through and through. The idea of my opponent doing something that I have no say in gives me the shivers.
So many dual lands! Haven’t I heard of Burning Earth? Yes, but did not have a healthy fear and respect for the card at this point and assumed that I was just counter it if it came up.
Let the games begin, hey-ohhh!
Saturday – The Games
I stumbled game 1 and lost. He stumbled game 2 and lost. Game three was a grindy attrition based Rev battling Aetherling swinging mess. He won!
My red splash did nothing for me in this match apart from Assemble the Legion in the SB. It was sitting with 5 or so counters in it for the last game, how did I lose? I was wearing Curse of Death’s Hold, that is why!
VS IZZET BLITZ
Game one I Azorius Charm’d an angry looking unblockable Nivix Cyclops back on top his library for tempo. The following turn I cast Supreme Verdict sweeping away the recast Cylcops and a Young Pyromancer + buddies. My opponent then cast Guttersnipe.
I know this card is dangerous as I have tried to abuse him in various different Izzet decks. I was tempted to cast my second Verdict right there and then, but felt safe with my 11 life and tapped out digging for my land drop with Think Twice and it’s flashback. Next turn he does this:
Flashback Faithless Looting – 2 dmg
Flashback Artful Dodge on Guttersnipe – 2dmg
Cast Searing Spear at my face – 3+2dmg
Attack with Guttersnipe – 2 dmg
Damn! That’s what I get for underestimating Uttersnipe! (utter beating)
Game two and three: I protected my life total more conservatively and just outdrew him with a game swinging Sphinx’s Revelation each time.
Game one: Most obnoxious deck ever. That’s that out of the way! I had a slow start (no Azorius Charm for a targetable target or an Augur of Bolas for blocking).
On the play, my opponent goes:
Turn1 Avacyn’s Pilgim
Turn2 Ethereal Armor x2. Attack for 5.
Turn 3 Ethereal Armor. Attack for 10.
I then drew and cast Augur of Bolas, hoping to hit an Azorius charm or Supreme Verdict. I caught a charm and a small fire of hope sprung up inside me.
Turn 4 He attacks with his 10/10 First striker backed by Selesnya Charm for the +2/+2 trample. Beaten by an non-hexproof monster! I felt like a sad omelette.
Game two: My opponent flooded and I ran away with the game! Actually we both remained seated, but I managed to sweep away or counter threats and put the win out of his reach.
Game three: After taking a bit of a beating early I find myself in a sticky predicament. My opponent was beating me down with Witchstalker (with a +1/+1 counter) + Ethereal Armor + Spectral Flight, my board consists of a freshly cast Aetherling.
He then casts Geist of Saint Traft to help seal the deal and knocks me down to 5 life with the Witchstalker. He is sitting at 16 life.
My hand consists of an Azorius Charm and a Detention Sphere and I am facing two evasive hexproof threats. Fortunately I have access to exactly 7 mana, so here is the sick line I took.
I put the Spectral Flight into detention, making the Witchstalker a more manageable 5/5 First Striker. Not that manageable I know!
My opponent attacks uneasily, unsure of how I could interact with the board to stay alive.
I block Geist of Saint Traft with Aetherling, switch his stats to a 6/3 and cast Azorius Charm for lifelink on him! I gain 6 life and lose 9, putting me to 2 life (my opponent missed the stalkers trigger, lest I’d have went to 1 life). At this point I was terrified he might have a Selesnya Charm, seeing as I had been forced to tap out my Aetherling was vulnerable for once! Fortune was with me, for he did not.
Next turn I slam in the Aetherling for 8, exile and return ready to block and win the following turn.
VS UW CONTROL
This was similar to the Esper match up, in the sense that I was going in relatively useless red cards in the main. I got out played and out gunned and lost both games.
Through tie breakers I got into the semi-final, playing against the Esper deck from before for a less impressive 0-2 loss.
It make look like I have a lot more to say about games that I win, and to that I reply:
1. These control matchup losses just don’t have that much to report on.
2. Bite me
Did you know Thoughtseize is back for Theros? Who knew!
Sunday – ESPER
The same competition was held the following day. Knowing what decks were there and how you should edit your deck accordingly can make your head spin. What if they change their deck to beat yours? What was strong, what was weak? If they change their deck, what will they use and what will be good against their changes? Ugh. My guess is that in the end, almost everyone ran the same 75 cards as the previous day.
I had been underwhelmed by red in my build, and had seen no Junk nor Jund on the previous day. Without time to test, I desleeved the 6 red cards and added 4x Sin Collector and 2x Unburial Rites. I adjusted the land accordingly, and changed the red SB cards to similar black ones.
I am a huge fan of this card. It’s amazing in the mirror (of which there seemed to be many) as it will either get countered or allow you to take their best instant/sorcery (which probably is a counter if you don’t hit a Revelation). It gives you information regardless of whether it hits, which it did 90% of the time. It can be bounced with Restoration Angel if you have to go back for more. Plus, it’s a 2 power guy to boot, allowing you to get a bit of damage in or make a decent trade. Against Junk, Jund and even Red Deck Wins this card does work!
Big mistake here. My logic was that it is a 2 for 1 that allows me to be more aggressive in casting Aetherling. What I forgot is that the most common counterspells just now are Dissipate and Syncopate. Yeahhhh. This should definetly have been the 2x Far / Away, with 2x more in board.
Allow me to be brief, for my time at this competition certainly was.
I was paired against UWR, which I won after a gruelling grinder of a game. I had won with only 10 minutes left on the clock for the whole match. I am new to competitive play, and wasn’t sure if I would have a win or a draw if round 2 did not get finished. I decided I wanted to try and win round 2 within 10mins. I played fast and aggressively and had lethal on the board only to be killed on the back swing by a supporting Thundermaw Hellkite. Hello draw, and an unpleasant lesson learnt.
A mirrorish match against UW control. Game 1 I was still on 2 land when my opponent played his 7th! My opponent was packing Moorland Haunt + Runechanter’s Pike as his win condition to which I had no answer for.
Game two swung my way. I actually cannot remember if it was behind Aetherling of Resto beats, so lets just assume it was both!
Game three was pretty interesting. We had a Jace-off, I ticked up for an Aetherling, while he used his -2 ability for card advantage. I ultimated Jace to fetch an Aetherling and one of his Restoration Angels (which bounced a Sin Collector I had in play). This new Restoration Angel was my only flying blocker, which spelled my doom. My opponents impressive play went like this:
Activate Moorland Haunt at end of my turn to make a spirit.
Equiped Runechanter’s Pike to this spirit, giving it +7 in power, making it an 8/1 Flying, First Stike. I was at 11 Life, so was currently safe, even if Resto decided he was a pacifist.
He casts Detention Sphere on Restoration Angel, Dissipate on Detention Sphere, Negate on Dissipate and Syncopate for 0 on Negate.
That removes my blocker and puts 3 more instants in the bin folks, good game and well played squire!
I did learn that Jace, Architect of Thought is completely sick in the mirror. Ticking up to fetch an Aetherling is some action I can get behind.
This was against Red Deck Wins, in which I sideboarded badly. I lost the first round to a mix of Mutavault, Chandra’s Pheonix and Chandra, Pyromaster. This caused me to rate Supreme Verdict poorly in this match up and I sided them out. Game two saw me getting smashed in by a Madcap Skills wielding Mindsparker with 4x Think Twice’s in my hand. Yeesh.
Then I got a bye. So I actually said ‘bye’ and went home to cry into my pillow and eat cookie dough.
Win-a-Box of Modern Masters Tournament
This was the most recent event, though there far less to report. I got a lend of 4x Snapcaster Mage and a Jace, Memory Adept from a friend, so they happily made their way into my new and improved Esper deck.
3x Azorius Charm
4x Think Twice*
3x Sphinx’s Revelation
3x Supreme Verdict
4x Augur of Bolas*
3x Restoration Angel*
4x Snapcaster Mage*
3x Sin Collector
1x Jace, Architect of Thought
I do not think this deck offers any ‘dead draws’ for any match ups. It has poor ones, but no straight misses.
Thoughts? I wish both Jace’s in the board were Memory Adept, he is such a powerful win condition in the mirror. Blind Obedience was poor but was a last minute thing, because my friend was really unkeen on Planar Cleansing which had been in that spot. Maybe this is because he was running a deck with a lot of creatures, oblivion rings and planeswalkers…
Adding 4x Snaps allowed me to remove a Dissipate, Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict and Azorius Charm. This change felt amazing, and validated why Snapcaster Mage is my favourite creature, though I own none!
Burning Earth is still a concern, but I am playing 6 basic lands okay? So leave me alone! With Detention Sphere in the SB and access to a lot of counters I do not think it should be a problem. I am yet to test this theory though.
I would like to squeeze in another 1 or 2 far / away into this list, as if you have read any of my EDH based articles you would know that I get savagely aroused by versatile cards that are relevant for the early and late game. The removal of Blind Obedience makes room for one, but the 4th may have to be without.
*These cards all rotate out soon. This deck will change drastically, or become obsolete completely. Snapcaster Mage is a grave loss but not crucial, and makes losing Restoration Angel not as painful. Dissipate can be replaced by Render Silent, and with so many Scavenging Oozes keeping graveyard strategies at bay, we probably won’t miss the exile clause that Dissipate brings. However, Augur of Bolas and Think Twice form the engine behind every UWx control deck as we currently know them. The longevity of this kind of deck rides completely on what Theros brings us. May the Gods be kind.
I have a bit of an anti-climax for you here. There is very little to say about this tournament. I drew well and mulligan’d only three times in 7 matches.
Match 1: BG Disciple of Bolas Deck 2-1
Match 2: UW Control 2-0
Match 3: UW Control 2-0
Match 4: Jund 1-2
Match 5: Bant Hexproof 0-2
Swiss portion record: 3-2
This got me into top 8 as 6th seed. Interesting to note here is that seed 1-4th all lost to their underdog counterpart. Strange how that happens sometimes!
Luck favoured me in the Quarter final when my Jund rematch opponent had to mulligan down to 4 game 1, and to 5 or 6 game 2. These games were still painfully close due to his tight play and the inherent power level of Jund cards in a vacuum. Missing my Aetherling triggers did not help my cause. I lucked a 2-0 and continued on to the semi’s.
I was also fortunate not to be paired against a UW mirror that was packing Cavern of Souls. There is literally nothing I could have done about that card pushing through an Aetherling. Similarly, I would have struggled against the Nephalia Drownyard Esper deck. Would have served me right for not playing Encroaching Wastes.
The semi-final saw me pitted against my friend ‘Pitt’. He was playing Junk midrange, which although had a lot of Verdict resistant creatures, still suffered enough to the spell to get me a 2-0 win.
The final was a walkover, with me getting a turn 2 kill with a 20/22 Augur of Bolas! Wait, what!? (We called it a draw and split the prize pot, but he gave me the win and said I could say anything I want here).
Overall Record: 6-2
I got home and ferociously opened up my Modern Masters boosters like a kid at Christmas. All the while praying that the other finalist was not opening a slew of Shiny Tarmogoyf‘s at the same time. I opened a Cryptic Command (completing my playset) and an Aether Vial among other goodies.
This got me thinking about how one could build a super-budget version of the Eternal Command deck by using Familiar’s Ruse and Archaeomancer instead of Cryptic Command and Eternal Witness. Aether Vial has less place in the budget version as 4cmc charge requirement is a lot higher than 3, and there would be no Vendilion Clique to use with it.
Also ya know, it’s not cheap. The budget-version has a counter lock once you hit 6 mana though, and is something to think about if you don’t want to spend money but do want to annoy your friends!
Till next time nerds!