Welcome back, avid readers, to the second part of my Great Big Vintage Adventure. In part one you can read about my experiences in a small, 7-man tournament in Bristol and my evaluations on my deck. I’ve got a lot to get through, so lets not beat about the bush and crack on with it.
The tournament was held at Manaleak on the 10th August at 1PM. We had 19 people turn up, a fantastic number for the UK, including people from as far away as Ireland. It was great to see people from all over the country coming together to play Vintage and the whole event had a party atmosphere.
1 Steel Sabotage
1 Yixlid Jailer
1 Mizzium Skin
2 Leyline of the Void
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Ravenous Trap
2 Ingot Chewer
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Rakdos Charm
1 Hurkyll’s Recall
Round one: Gaz Hirst (Aggro MUD)
I’m paired against Gaz, a regular at the Manaleak Legacy tournaments and a very skilled player. I drop an early Delver of Secrets, whilst Gaz makes some Thorn of Amesthyst effects and tries for a Kuldotha Forgemaster, which gets Force of Willed. I beat down for three repeatedly whilst blowing things up with Abrupt Decay.
A Phyrexian Metamorph copying my Insectile Abberation threatens to stall me for a while, but a top-decked Lightning Bolt kept me applying the beatdowns. Gaz falls to six, but in doing so manages to Metalworker into a Steel Hellkite which eats my fly and then me in quick succession.
My biggest disappointment in this match was my poor sideboarding choices. I brought in everything I would plan to against a deck like this, but I took out some of the wrong cards and ended up forgetting that Flusterstorm is a dead card against this deck and left it in. In my defence I knew that the first game had taken a while and was rushing through trying to keep as much time for playing as possible.
In game two I kept a double Force of Will hand with two other blue cards, but little other gas. I couldn’t get a threat down quickly and a topdeck war devolves into me being a little colour screwed, then Gaz dropping a Metalworker into a Blightsteel Colossus. My capacity for dealing with such a card is very low, and he proceeds to win on his next turn.
Round two: Steve Barton (Reanimator/Worldgorger Dragon Combo)
Having travelled up with Steve and helped make some additions to his deck (including hybridising it into the dragon combo) I knew pretty well what I was up against. My early game I spent developing my lands whilst playing around an Animate Dead with first an Abrupt Decay and then drawing into a Force of Will to make sure I was in good shape to start playing things.
When I decided to start springing into action I had both Mystical Tutor and Ancestral Recall in hand. I was tempted to cast the Ancestral Recall first to find out what card would be better to tutor for that I could then draw in my draw step, but decided to use the tutor instead to bait out a potential counterspell as the situation I was in meant that I had enough spells in hand to protect myself but was low on threats and the draw spell could dig me to threats.
I was right. He Mental Misstepped the tutor, and I cast my Ancestral Recall in response, hoping to draw into a Mental Misstep of my own. I didn’t manage to, but it sure felt nice that I’d played around the counter successfully. I did, however, draw into a Young Pyromancer, which, along with a Gush into a Time Walk and a few other spells, was enough to get me there for exactsies.
I brought in some graveyard hate for game two, and managed to stick an early Young Pyromancer. I don’t have a lot of gas, but I do have plenty of protection, as a Duress reveals my hand of 2 Force of Wills, Brainstorm, Ponder and a Surgical Extraction, which he takes. During Steve’s next few turns he plays a Bazaar of Baghdad, starts chewing through his deck and is helped by an Ancestral Recall. Still, he seems to be missing something and ends up discarding more Bazaars and even reanimation spells as he looks for, I can only assume, a fatty.
Eventually he finds and discards a Griselbrand, which he then tries to use Animate Dead on. He has two cards in hand to my many at this point. I Force of Will exiling Snapcaster Mage. He Forces back, exiling another Force of Will. I return the compliment a second time with Force of Will exiling Timetwister. Next turn I attack for the win.
Round three: Charles di Castiglione (Affinity)
Charles started out strongly, with two copies of Genesis Chamber into a Steel Overseer and a Phyrexian Revoker. However, he was suckered a little by my sideboard, which he’d seen a little of as I took my deck out of the box, as he named Skullclamp with the Phyrexian Revoker. Skullclamp is a card that I keep as a one-of in my sideboard as a nice little draw engine and sacrifice outlet against Oath of Druids decks, but Charles was worried that I’d be able to draw bundles of cards with my large numbers of creature tokens from both my Young Pyromancers and his Genesis Chambers.
I managed to pull off a draw of Young Pyromancer into Ancestral Recall into Snapcaster Mage, recasting the Ancestral Recall. This set me up nicely to keep comboing off, casting an eventual Yawgmoth’s Will to help generate enough storm for a lethal Tendrils of Agony.
Charles got off to a very quick start to game two with some artifact ramp into a Skullclamp and a Thorn of Amesthyst. I cast a turn one Black Lotus after a double Mulligan and passed the turn. It was too conservative a play though as he managed to make a Phyrexian Revoker to shut down my Black Lotus. I eventually made a Young Pyromancer, to which his response was to cast a Tangle Wire. A few turns of draw/go from me later and Charles’ board has developed to an unbeatable state and I concede. On to the third game.
I had a very slow start, and draw into a little removal but Charles has a lot of targets for it. I manage to get the board state to a position where I have a Young Pyromancer and a token or two and Charles has a Genesis Chamber, Arcbound Ravager and Phyrexian Revoker with four or five myr tokens. I manage to slow him down and block for a few turns with some extra tokens until eventually he has enough to swing for the win as time is called. I, however, have other ideas.
An Ancient Grudge on his Arcbound Ravager forces his hand to go all in on something. He sacrifices sufficient artifacts to the Ravager to then sacrifice itself to put the counters on a Myr token. In response I then Lightning Bolt the targetted Myr token to kill it before it gets the counters, also gaining me another Elemental to block with. I have gained the upper hand in the game at this point, and start applying as much pressure as I dare to try and force the win, but neither of us can land the finishing blow.
Round four: James Griffin (Burning Oath)
Game one devolved swiftly into a topdeck war after an exchanging of early resources, Duresses, Mental Missteps, Ancestral Recalls and Force of Wills all got traded to leave us both depleted. James’ mana base was putting pressure on him by having two Mana Confluences out early, whilst I set about sculpting a defensive hand with no more than one creature out at a time in case of Oath of Druids (I made sure I had a Lightning Bolt in hand as well to get rid of it if the Oath ever did stick). Eventually I draw into Fastbond, Gush and a Yawgmoth’s Will to put the game to bed for the last few points of damage with a mini-Tendrils of Agony.
A rather foolish early creature from me in game two gave an early Oath of Druids a trigger and subsequently a Griselbrand, giving James a bazillion cards. Over very quickly with not a great deal I can do to stop it as James returns the compliment with a lethal Tendrils of Agony.
The third game was one of those epic games where we traded blows like heavyweight boxers until we were both punch drunk. I landed the first few hits with a power-fuelled hand, going Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Land, then playing another land and Young Pyromancer on my extra turn as I pass with a nice full grip and a well sculpted one at that. James moves in for the Duress, which gets hit by a Force of Will, exiling Timetwister. “You must really have something good in your hand to do that!” jokes James. “You haven’t seen the half of it yet,” comes my reply, as I untap, draw, lay my third land and cast Yawgmoth’s Will, allowing me a second crack at three of my pieces of power. “Wow,” exclaims James, “I literally hadn’t seen half of it!”
I end up taking four of the first five turns, and get James down to a fairly low life total before he manages to try and go for the win. A Tinker for Memory Jar seems a strong play, though I let it resolve, knowing that I’ll likely draw into counters myself with some blue mana open. We trade resources from those seven, the James decides that that’s not enough and that a Wheel of Fortune is in order. A Lightning Bolt from myself is enough to ensure that a Windfall doesn’t quite give full value, though it does manage to draw James into a Timetwister. I counter a pair of tutors and James realises that he’s fizzling, so goes on the defensive, casting a Duress off a Mana Conflulence. I want to keep the Force of Will in hand anyway, just in case, so I Mental Misstep the Duress. James decides to pass the turn.
“Memory Jar trigger?” I remind James.
“Your Memory Jar. You used that this turn.”
This left me in seventh place going into the final round of the swiss pairings. Time for a Top 8 win-and-in.
Round five: Robert Elkin (Grixis Dack Slaver)
Robert starts off by offering me the Intentional Draw. “No, sir,” comes the reply, as that would guarantee me being knocked out. It turns out that due to a quirk of the pairings I’d been paired down heavily, so I felt a little sorry for my opponent in that respect. Nevertheless, time to CRUSH HIM!
Except not. After a few turns of durdling around from the pair of us doing not a lot, Robert eventually tutors for one half of the Time Vault/Voltaic Key at the end of my turn, drops both in his next and goes on to win the game at some point in the future so I scoop.
Our second game is similarly one sided, only this time it’s in my favour. A turn one Black Lotus/Volcanic Island lets me drop two Young Pyromancers with Force of Will backup. A bunch of spells lets me make a whole bunch of tokens, protecting my Young Pyromancers with a Chain of Vapor and just putting too much pressure on Robert at once for him to be able to handle.
So it boiled down to Match Five: Game Three. I managed to land a turn one Delver of Secrets, flip it on my next upkeep and protect it for the next four turns, pressing Robert’s life total perilously low. However, I didn’t have the protection for a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, who bounced my Insectile Abberation, leaving me in a perilous situation. I felt that I would need to start dropping threats as much as possible.
I had four lands available and was worried about him assembling Vault/Key again, so I tanked long and hard about tapping low and casting both a Young Pyromancer and Delver of Secrets. I decided to lead with the Young Pyromancer, which resolved, leaving the threat of a spell to add a token to take down Jace if the Young Pyromancer got bounced too. I made up my mind to go for it with the Delver of Secrets too, to try to push through the last few points of damage. However, it got Mental Misstepped and I had no reply, leaving me tapped below Abrupt Decay mana. This gave Robert all the time he needed (i.e. a turn) to reassemble the Vault/Key combo and take all of the rest of the turns forever.
It should be noted that by the time we had finished our match, there was just one other match left going, that between James Griffin and Stephen Barton. As I noted in my match against James, we went to turns. James had also gone to turns in, I believe, two of his other three matches that day, and was certainly starting to feel the pressure of becoming the feature match at the end of every round.
As the two players traded blows James went into turn 3 knowing that he was facing down a lethal Terastodon, Elephant tokens, Spirit tokens and a Pithing Needle naming Lion’s Eye Diamond. James cast spell after spell after spell in digging for a Time Walk so that his Griselbrand could get through for lethal. Timetwisters, Memory Jars, Wheel of Fortunes were all cast in a vain attempt to find the elusive sorcery. Storm count reached thirty. Every play James made was greeted with a sharp intake of breath from the crowd, whether it were the right play or not.
Still Stephen was alive, the Tendrils of Agony in James’ sideboard would prove fruitless as, he believed, he was shut off black mana from his Lion’s Eye Diamond by the Pithing Needle*, he was so focussed on the Time Walk that he hadn’t realised something else. He had an Empty the Warrens in his hand, which, were he to cast it, would put in excess of 60 goblin tokens into play, more than enough to block all of the big gribblies on the other side of the board and attack for the win the turn after. James is far too fixated on the Time Walk plan, however, and misses this line of play completely. He ends up casting a bunch more draw sevens and fizzles and scoops, much to everybody’s dismay and ridicule.
Despite the fact that I ended up in 11th position this time I actually think that my play was a lot tighter and I was starting to recognise lines of play better and work out what the right cards in the right situations were allowing me to use my tutors more effectively. I felt that my deck was a lot more streamlined too, though I wasn’t happy with the Delver of Secrets. At best it was “just” a 3/2 flyer, which often wasn’t good enough. I would definitely prefer more copies of Snapcaster Mage and some more filtering to help shore up my bad draws.
That’s enough about me though, the Top 8 lined up like this:
Seed 1, Joe Fletcher (Dredge) vs. Seed 8, Sam Morgan (Dredge), Sam wins 2-1
Seed 2, Robert Elkin (Grixis Dack Slaver) vs. Seed 7, Chris Cooper** (Shops), Robert wins 2-1
Seed 3, Toby Harris (White Trash) vs. Seed 6, Gaz Hirst (Aggro MUD), Gaz wins 2-0
Seed 4, Stuart Pullin (BUG Gush) vs. Seed 5, Jim Brophy (Shops), Jim wins 2-1
The Top 4 all decided to split, taking home a rather nice prize fund of £45 each.
The day was fantastically successful, with so many people turning up for a Vintage event. The 19 player turnout was a larger turnout than the Vintage side event at the recent Grand Prix, and is about as large as most of the Manaleak monthly Legacy tournaments, so that’s a pretty good precedent to be setting for a first time event.
Kudos definitely go to Paul McGleish and Manaleak for organising the whole thing, and to Nicola Stevens for her usual exemplary running of the event. Thanks guys!
Metagame Breakdown: 18 decks (19 players but 1 deck lost)
Mishra’s Workshop-based decks (Affinity Shops, Aggro MUD, Stax variants etc.)- 4
Dredge – 3
Gush-based decks – 3
Burning Oath – 1
Grixis Dack Slaver – 1
BUG Fish – 1
Doomsday – 1
Cloudpost – 1
White Trash – 1
Reanimator/Worldgorger Dragon Combo – 1
*This is not the case, Lion’s Eye Diamond’s ability is still a mana ability even though it uses the stack slightly differently than other mana abilities. This is confusing. Ask a judge.
**This was not me, as I mentioned before I didn’t make Top 8. There are actually two Christopher Coopers in the UK Magic scene.
Thanks for reading,