I woke up Saturday morning being asked the question that every magic player in a relationship has to hear repeatedly, “Are you really going to ditch me to play magic all day again?” As I stared into my girlfriend of four year’s eyes I was put to an immediate decision: do I spend the little time I have off with the love of my life or do I head down to Alternate Universe in Blue Bell for a local $25 Legacy Event? It was time to grow up and make the adult decision.
That being said I jammed my 75 together and flew out the door to meet up with my friend, driving partner, and magic confidant Justin. The list I played resembled that of Gerard Fabiano’s old Team Italia build. To call it “Junk” would insult actual, thought out Junk deck everywhere (mine looked more like a random pile of cards you would find being sold together at a flea market)
I found myself sitting across from a middle aged man who said he hadn’t played much magic. I pegged him for a deck such as burn, merfolk, or elves.
He won the die roll and we both looked at seven cards that were acceptable. He opened with Mountain, Chain Lightning to the face. I was a little worried as I had no sideboard for him and Burn is sometimes hard to stop. After playing land-go, he failed to play his second Mountain but succeeded in once again shooting three to my head in the form of Lightning Bolt. Turn two the waiter came out from the kitchen and presented me with my bread and butter: Hymn to Tourach. An overall strong card but particularly good in this match up because I can get a two for one against a deck that has no real late game. Turn three and once again no land from the disgruntled Burn player and he passed the turn. Turn three I Vindicated his one Mountain, watched him play another, and promptly Vindicated that one the following turn. With no land in play on his side and a Stone Forge fetching Batterskull on my side, he had one turn to find a Mountain and kill the SFM. Swing and a miss; we were off to game two.
With no real sideboard I shuffled up and presented nearly the same 60. A Spark Elemental started the game off as I played land-go. He made his second land drop and played Keldon Marauders; looks like we had a real game this time. My turn two: I shoved out SFM knowing I had a second one in my hand, and passed the turn. His turn 3: he crashed with Keldon Marauders, and Bolted the SFM. My second SFM survived both my end step and his next turn, so with a Batterskull online the game had been decided.
Sitting across from my opponent we had some friendly banter as we shuffled and waited for the round to begin. Due to his short sentences, deliberate shuffling tactics, and rampant use of the word “awkward” I could tell he was a solid player.
Once again I lost the die roll but not my faith in the match up as he opened with Taiga and Kird Ape. I expected to play Tempo RUG all day and felt my deck was adequately prepared for it. I fetched a Swamp and Thoughtseized, revealing Volcanic Island, Volcanic Island, Brainstorm, Dismember, Kird Ape. I took the Brainstorm and awaited the Kird Ape’s brother to hit the table the following turn. All is right in the world as Turn two his Volc hit the board and out came Ape #2.
On my turn I shoved out SFM as Dismember/Bolt bait knowing I had SFM and Dark Confidant for the next two turns. Sure enough; he Dismembered and took the turn back. He played his second Volc and the Apes came crashing in, chucking feces the whole way, and doing four damage to my face. I knew his deck was land light and was worried since he didn’t play another threat. I played Wasteland before casting Dark Confidant just in case he drew Daze. A thumbs up meant it was simply going to be Bolted.
Like the leader of Hexxus from the movie FernGully I destroyed his only Forest via my Wasteland. No land drop on his turn meant that the Apes were a mere 1/1 each and the hands on my clock started to tick slower. He passed the turn and I played a land and dropped SFM. She landed uninterrupted and I fetched up a Batterskull. My nerves tensed as I passed the turn and waited to see if she would survive the pivotal two turns. He proceeded to draw a card, take his turn, and held the Apes back in their cage as he couldn’t make them 2/3 and/or kill my SFM. On my turn I wasted no time activating SFM and shoving out Batterskull to see if he had Stifle. He did not, as he must have been stuck on Goyfs, Forces (with no blue spells to pitch), etc. A Bitterblossom and some Batterskull beats later and we were off to game 2.
He opened with Tropical Island and Delver of Secrets. His turns were dwarfed as with the help of my shiny Chrome Mox I proceeded to go: Turn 1 SFM (no FOW/Daze), Turn 2 Confidant, Turn 3 Bitterblossom+SFM. While the lack of counter magic meant that his hand was chock full of creatures and removal, he didn’t have an answer to the second SFM. This meant Batterskull hit the table and gave me enough life to eventually play/equip Sword of Fire and Ice on Faerie tokens and win the long game.
Checking the pairings I noticed that I was looking for a “Starcher? Justin, Starcher?” We found our table, and after a few laughs about the irony and we were ready to get under way. Knowing he was playing Painter/Stone (something his first round opponent didn’t know since he had scouted him playtesting Dredge and took the draw after winning the die roll!) I knew I had to see a lot of my removal pieces if I was going to stop the combo. My opening seven consisted of two Dark Confidants, one Swords, one Vindicate, and three lands. SEEMS good. A swords-your-servant here, a Vindicate-your-Grindstone there, and insane card draw due to two Dark Confidants and the game was all wrapped up.
A sleep deprived yet impressive 2-0 Starcher was ready to keep his win streak alive and kept his opening seven. I checked out my seven and call me a squirrel eating supper because in my hand I had the nuts: two fetches, Dark Confidant, Swords to Plowshares, Snuff out, Vindicate, and SFM. On the play Starcher opened with a Goblin Welder. My turn was a swift fetch for a Plains (no Blood Moon for you!) and a Swords on his Welder. The following turn he played a land and passed. Snuff Out in hand meant that I could fetch a Swamp, run out Dark Confidant, and still instant speed kill a Painter’s Servant while tapped out. This is exactly what happened and the smile from the Red One’s face over the Snuff Out quickly dissipated as he saw Confidant reveal another Swords to Plowshares. With no other choice, and potentially trying to bait out the Swords he saw, he ran out a Goblin Welder. Knowing I had a Diabolic Edict for a new servant I Swords away the Welder and took the turn back. The game proceeded as follows: I continued to beat his face with Confidant and be civil as possible to avoid getting my REAL face beat as I drew all four of my Swords To Plowshares, two Vindicates, one Edict, and one Pyroblast: more than enough to stop every servant from milling me out.
Being 3-0 meant I could safely Draw/Draw to make the top 8. After some massive slices of pizza from a local restaurant I was ready for my first round of top 8.
Quarterfinals Top 8
We both knew each other’s decks: him playing Tempo Thresh and me playing a pile of random garbage that each person I beat complained to their friends about losing to. He won the roll and opened with Volcanic Island and pass. Knowing he ran Stifle I had to be careful as my hand was Scrubland, two Fetches, Thoughtseize, SFM, Dark Confidant, Cabal Therapy. I drew a Wasteland and since he didn’t play a Delver or Kird Ape I knew he was threat light. I played Cabal Therapy and he let it resolve. I had to think and since he had no clock on me, even if he had Stifles, I assumed I could play “Land-Go” with him and eventually have a spot to crack fetches and win the drawn out game. I named Goyf since I knew he had no one drop threats and the only other threats in his deck were Goyfs. He revealed a hand of Brainstorm, three Land, two Stifle. Whiff. I kicked myself for not naming Stifle but thought I still could be good to go since he had no clock. I did however forget that he was the Pennsylvania Powerball Winner and topdecked a Kird Ape to start putting me on a clock while holding mana open to Stifle my fetches. I didn’t draw enough relevant lands and ended up losing the game to the ape and another timely drawn Goyf.
I kept an opener of Grim Lavamancer, two Stoneforge Mystics, Batterskull, three lands. I lead out with my Lavamancer and he gave me the thumbs up. He played a Taiga and Kird Ape which didn’t threaten me. With two SFM I figured at least one would resolve and the 2/3 wouldn’t be able to race a Batterskull. Turn two I played SFM and he Stifled the equipment searching trigger. Uh oh, someone didn’t read Michael Caffrey’s article on Stifling for Value (which can be found here. Sign up for SCG Premium today and get 2 months free!). The following turn he played out a baby Goyf with only Lands and Instants in the graveyard and swung with the Ape. The following turn I showed him the bad news (and a link to Michael’s Fantastic Article) and played out a Batterskull whose living weapon trigger hit the board Stifle free. Upset, and apparently with a bad hand, he scooped his cards up and we went to game three.
In Caffrey’s 43spells.deck article he states that the beauty of only having 17 lands is that you draw more spells than your opponent in the late game. The contrarian view however is that if you only have 17 lands it is rare you will draw more of them. Problem being? Wasteland.
On the play he did the all too familiar Volc, Kird Ape, Go. With a hand of Wasteland, Badlands, Scrubland, Grim Lavamancer, SFM, Bitterblossom, Sword of Fire and Ice, Swords, I elected to play Badlands, Lavamancer, and pass. When his turn two came in the form of Brainstorm, No land for turn, attack and pass, I gladly took the two points of damage and salivated at the idea of Wastelanding his only mana source. No Stifle meant that this game was all but over. His next three draws blanked on lands while I drew into a Vindicate just in case he wanted to play a land drop and make a game out of it. I felt like a trucker because I was off to my Semi.
I knew he was playing Bant Fair Stuff so either way we were going to have an interactive, fun game. While we were both nice guys neither of us had come this far for a fun game: this was about money. On the play I had to mulligan and knowing he had countermagic kept a shaky six of two Land, Thoughtseize, Hymn, Batterskull, Jitte. I Thoughtseized and saw: Daze, Tundra, Savannah, Mother of Runes, Knight OTR, Green Sun’s Zenith, Force. Due to my weak hand I felt my only chance was to have a fortunate Turn two Hymn. This meant that I had to take his Daze away and hope he didn’t draw a blue spell to pitch to Force. I took the Daze, and on his turn he opted to play Tundra and Mom in order to protect his next turn Knight or Green Sun for Dryad Arbor. I proceeded to Gymn and hit his Tundra and one of his Knights. He failed to draw another mana source for the next three turns while I drew into a Dark Confidant and took the game over.
One mistake I made was that I boarded out my three Grim Lavamancers on the draw since I thought Knights and Goyfs were my main problem. I didn’t realize the power of turn one Mother of Runes which was what he opened up with. He played SFM turn two and fetched up Jitte. Feeling I had the late game advantage due to Bitterblossom I also fetched up Jitte turn two with my SFM just to negate his. He played Knight Turn three and passed. My turn 3: I played Bitterblossom and passed. His turn 4: he swung with Knight and passed the turn. My turn 4: I played out Confidant and left two mana up to SFM in Jitte when he went to drop it and equip to Knight. He pulled a Criss Angel and Mind Freaked me when end of turn he SFM in Sword of Feast and Famine which he had in his hand. He equipped to Knight, swung, and I was forced to chump with SFM and put in Jitte. He did the same and both Jittes died, passing the turn right back. I got hit with his Pro Black Knight the following turn and he passed back. I played a SFM for Batterskull but the following turn he just gave his knight Pro white (with the sword still on it), fetched, Wasteland his nonbasic, and swung for lethal.
I opened with a Thoughtseize and immediately took the Sword of Feast and Famine I saw. This enabled him to play Mother of Runes Turn one but I had boarded back in my Grim Lavamancers to deal with his Moms. I mainly wanted to keep him off equipment and big ol Knights. Late in the game, with 0 cards in hand, he had a Mom, Knight, Noble, Sylvan Library, and Dryad Arbor on board. I had Bitterblossom, SFM, and a Basilisk Collar. Since he had no cards I decided to waste two Swords to Plowshares and kill his Knight. I had a Pyroblast in hand which was also a fake removal spell so he didn’t want to tap Mother just to get in a little bit of damage. I was in great shape because I could swing with two Faeries, gain one life from Collar, and leave the new Faerie back to block equipped with Collar. On his very next turn he ripped a Pride Mage and shot my Collar. I was low on life but still thought the Faeries would win the race. I drew a blank, swung, and passed. The very next turn he drew a Green Sun’s Zenith and turned it into a massive knight. The following turn he found a Swords, shot my SFM, gave the Knight Pro Black, and was again swinging for lethal.
I will be the first to admit that while I love the game of Magic, I do not play enough of it and there were many other players at the tournament stronger than I was. One of the reasons that I love this game so much is that you do not have to be the best player (or be running the best deck) to win. Running good with a wacky pile of cards that you enjoy playing sometimes can be enough.
While B/W is my favorite archetype, and this deck can perform well for you, I must attest that I have fallen to the dark side and have added (cover your ears Dead Guy Ale fans) Blue to it. It’s like that old saying: Once you go Black you never go back, but once you go Blue…well I don’t know how that goes but Brainstorm and Force of Will are awesome. I continue to try builds with Bitterblossom as opposed to Lingering Souls because they both grant you infinite bodies to carry swords however Blossom is a lot less mana intensive, allows you to run Dread of Night in the Board (great against Lingering StoneBlade as well as Maverick), and pairs well with Spellstutter Sprite (a card good in grindy matches as well as against 1-2 drop heavy decks like Burn and RUG).
For now I will continue to brew, continue to be jealous of the amount of Magic my friends play, and continue to trek on leading the life of a mediocre magic player seeking his next big finish.
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