Close but no Cigar

Written by Tim Bachmann on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Close but no Cigar

Tim Bachmann

Hailing from northeast Pennsylvania, Tim has been playing since Mirrodin, and has been playing competitively since Dragons of Tarkir. With aspirations of playing on the Pro Tour, Tim plays in as many PPTQs and GPs as he can.

This past Sunday was the first round of RPTQs feeding Pro Tour Amonkhet. I was fortunate enough to have qualified for this by winning a PPTQ in November. Since Aether Revolt dropped, 90% of my Magical focus has been on Standard, knowing full well that this single RPTQ would be the best shot I have had at least this far to qualify for the Pro Tour, the dream, as it were. I started this standard season by playing the Jeskai Saheeli deck. I knew this is where I wanted to be, as infinite damage, two card combos are usually pretty good when they are reasonably costed.

I did well in my first PPTQ of the season, winning it. I was elated, I had the best deck, I was convinced. Everyone was claiming that Green Black Constrictor was the number one in the format, but my Jeskai deck couldn’t be touched.

I felt so confident with my ability with the deck, that I took it to GP Pittsburgh. I finished a less than stellar 5-3-1 on day one. I was floored. Stunned. After so much preparation, I didn’t perform nearly as well as I would have hoped. I was off it. I was convinced to play either Green Black or Mardu for the rest of the season.

And then I saw the results from Pittsburgh. This four color deck looked pretty neat, however I knew that it was considered slightly worse than the Jeskai version of the combo deck. I figured I’d try it out.

I fell in love. Every creature in the deck was difficult to play around, and gave the deck more ways for Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai to interact, making them more individually valuable and powerful. One thing that I enjoyed about the Jeskai deck was the Torrential Gearhulk lines of play, generating big threats and a lot of value. I feel like the lines with Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai interacting with Rogue Refiner, Whirler Virtuoso, Oath of Nissa, Tamiyo, Field Researcher, and Oath of Chandra are all miniature Torrential Gearhulk lines.

Anyway, we went to work, and felt comfortable in every matchup after two weeks of testing except for the mirror, and the RUG Dynavolt Tower deck. Anything else I thought I could beat. Here is the list that I played at the RPTQ:

The list seems pretty stock, and I was very happy overall with it. First I’ll go over my matchups really quick. I ended up 5-2 at the event, finishing tenth place, and missing eighth place on tiebreakers. I beat Mardu twice in rounds 1 and 2, beat Blue Red Emerge in round three, the mirror in round 4, lost to the mirror in rounds 5 and 6, and beat Green Black Constrictor in round 7.

So in terms of matchups, I noticed too late in testing a few things. Tamiyo, Field Researcher is straight busted in this deck. I wanted to run a second one, but couldn’t get it in time for the event. I was never sad that I drew her except for a few mulligans where she was cluttered among one land and like two Elder Deep-Fiends, but when she comes down, she feels like more than a Time Walk. If you minus her when she comes down at a seemingly proper time in the match, she can gain you anywhere between six and fourteen life, between you tapping like a Heart of Kiran and Gideon for a turn, and them having to either deal with the Tamiyo, or face her either drawing you two card, or tapping their Heart of Kiran and Gideon again, essentially buying you two draw steps to get back into the game. Going forward I will have a second on in the 75.

Lifecrafter’s Bestiary never came up in the tournament, they were a hedge against the control decks. I wanted a card drawing engine, and Bestiary replaced Tracker in my testing. Tracker can’t realistically be played until you have four lands between your board and hand at least, and Bestiary can come down on actual turn three if you need it, and can also pull you ahead without needing lands, and can also draw you multiple cards per turn. It also doesn’t die to Dynavolt Tower the turn you play it. I also felt like the scrying was relevant, giving you some value even if you’re empty handed and draw it.

I liked the rest of my sideboard. I never drew a Kozilek’s Return, but sided them in against Vehicles. One thing I realized late in testing was that the mirror match was literal gambling, because you don’t too many real ways to interact with the combo, so going forward, especially with this deck becoming more popular, I’d find a way to fit at least two Authority of the Consul into the 75, and I’d hedge even toward three, at least that’s where my post RPTQ decklists will be starting their sideboard. I thought between Negate and Shock, I could cover the mirror, but Negate just felt bad every time I drew it in the mirror, and half of the sideboarded games, I only sided in the Shock and Oath of Chandra, leaving all eight combo pieces in, just because the matchup felt that degenerate. I do feel like having a better plan for the mirror would have helped me on the day, obviously, as those were my only match losses, and if I had three Authority of the Consuls in my 75, I’d probably be on the Pro Tour right now, but you can’t be 100% right 100% of the time.

Other than those suggestions, I wouldn’t change much for the future. I’m super excited to work with LegitMTG’s own Zach Cramer on the deck for GP New Jersey in two weeks, and I really think I can put together a solid finish there.

Overall, my first RPTQ experience was a very positive one. I went in thinking I’d be outperformed, due to the higher caliber of player at the event. I was shooting for a top 16 playmat, and would have been happy with one match win, but one thing I’ve taken away from this event, is either I’m actually good enough to compete with some of the big dogs in my area, or this deck is just superbly so far ahead of anything else in this format that it was able to put my dumb brain in the top 16 of this event, and even in a position to top eight.

Just an example of the latter case there, my opponent on Green Black in the last round went turn three Catacomb Sifter, into a turn 4 emerged Distended Mindbender into my hand of Baral’s Expertise, Baral’s Expertise, Oath of Chandra, Oath of Chandra, Servant of the Conduit. He got an Expertise, and the Servant. Two turns later, after I had double Oath’d his Mind bender to leave him with an empty board, he built back up to a Gonti and Gearhulk versus my two Servants of the Conduit. I Baral’s Expertise his board, cast my freshly drawn Tamiyo, plus her on my Servants, serve in for four, and draw both combo pieces against his empty board. He tapped out, and I won the next turn. This Standard format is great.

Again, the deck was great, and I wouldn’t make too many changes outside of what I’ve already outlined above going forward.

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