Hello, my name is John Sava, and I attend many of the SCG events across the Midwest and East Coast. Many of you don’t know me, but if you do it’s probably because I play and helped develop a deck called Athens Blue. The following is about Athens Blue, why you should try it, and my first place finish at the Columbus SCG Legacy Invitational Qualifier with the deck.
Our story begins when I get a text a couple of days before the SCG Invitational Qualifier from my good friend Reuben Bresler asking if I was playing in the Legacy event on Sunday. I didn’t confirm or deny it, but I called up my friend and playtest partner Nick “thugg life” Norman and asked him if he wanted to make a trip to Columbus and play some legacy. As always, he was in.
Next, Nick and I locked ourselves up in a room all day on Saturday, playtesting with many different decks so that we would know the ins and outs of all of the different matchups. We were accompanied by our friend Will McGirl, who decided to join us in our playtesting endeavors and later our trip to Columbus for the tournament.
The deck I played is Athens Blue, a mono blue control deck, or MUC, that utilizes the Urza’s Saga rare Energy Field. This deck has been around for a while and on the radar in different forms. A good friend of mine and fellow Athens resident Chris Kronenburger started playing it around GP Columbus and then we met and worked on building it together and refining it. Ever since then I have played MUC. Here comes the current list that Chris, Eric Rill and I are playing and what I took first with at the SCG ICQ.
BAM! There it is, the list!
So why did this list do well? This deck revolves around Energy Field and Countertop combo. The game plan heavily relies on those three cards. You want to hit those cards in the first two turns, maybe three. Slowing down the game is what you want to do, and Echoing Truth, Back to Basics, the various counterspells and Vedalken Shackles all help do that, but the real show stopper (pun intended) is Energy Field. Many decks in the format (like Belcher, Elf combo and Merfolk) have little to nothing maindeck to stop you from winning after you resolve an Energy Field and stealing their creatures with Shackles and beat them to death with your pilfered goods or a Vendilion Clique.
Let’s talk about Counterbalance and Top teaming up with Energy Field. This is a mini three card combo. Previous builds of Athens Blue ran more counterspells and more creatures, and so more things would go to the graveyard. This was counterproductive to the game plan if we controlled an Energy Field. The Counter-Top lock with Energy Field allows us to counter (or try to counter) anything we want, whether our opponents are trying to clog up the board or dig for answers or whatever. Most importantly, it lets us resolve our spells, such as Vendilion Clique, Vedalken Shackles, Trinket Mage, and so on with lessened fear of them ending up in the graveyard. This turned out to be hugely important and allows us to actually just slam things on the table and not worry as much about a Spell Snare or Force of Will countering those spells and getting rid of the Field.
Now, I know everyone’s next question: So this is a mono blue control deck right? Where is your playset of Jace, the Mind Sculptors?
Here’s the deal with Jacey Baby. The card is clearly bonkers, but not right for this deck. Remember, we are running Energy Field. Smart players (and even most dumb players, too) know that you can attack into Jace with an Energy Field in play and kill it. If you kill Jace, you lose the Field too. Instead of running Jace we added a main deck Pithing Needle that would combat Jace and allows a maindeck answer to other problem cards like Qasali Pridemage. You know, anything that Pithing Needle hits to win you the game!
As you can see, the sideboard has a lot of Trinket Mage targets. These are important, and you want a lot of Mage targets. A good example being Pithing Needle, of which we have one main deck, two sideboard. It’s like having seven needles after board and is important when playing against decks such as MUD or Maverick.
On a side note, I would like to add that at least a quarter of my opponents scooped when I had the Counter-Top lock with Energy Field in play, especially when followed up by a Trinket Mage fetching up a Chimeric Mass with ten islands in play.
With that, onto the tournament!
Round 1 – Belcher
I sat across from my opponent and we have some chit chat. He won the die roll and opted to play (big shock,) and we both kept our openers. He cast a turn one Gitaxian Probe. I knew immediately it was either Storm, Belcher or Mesmeric Orb combo. He saw a hand of Island, Island, Island, Brainstorm, Pithing Needle, Spell Snare, and Sensei’s Divining Top. He proceeded to combo off and have exactly enough to play and activate Goblin Charbelcher after dropping rituals and Lion’s Eye Diamond. Rough beats for me, since I had the needle in my opening hand, and I wondered if it was going to be one of those days.
I started game two by landing an early Counterbalance and a Top. He stormed out with Empty the Warrens, but thankfully it didn’t matter because I dropped an Energy Field. Eventually, he scooped to a Clique on board and a Trinket Mage searching up Chimeric Mass.
Game three looked a lot like game two. I had Forces in hand, and assembled Counter-Top and rode a Clique to victory.
Round 2 – Belcher
Wow, round two against Belcher… again! He got a game loss in game one for not registering his deck correctly.
Game two looked good for him because he stormed out on turn one with fourteen goblin tokens. I drew my card, played a land and passed. I took fourteen and end of turn Brainstormed, finding Energy Field. Well would you look at that? I dropped the field in play he looked at it (Yep, we had a reader) and I said pass. He passed his turn, I played Top, and then Counterbalance on my next turn. Two turns later I find an Echoing Truth for his tokens and I rode a Clique to victory.
Round 3 – Combo Elves
We had a blast. Corey Henderson was absolutely hilarious!
Game one he ran out a mana dork and I knew that I needed to assemble a lock as quickly as possible. I survived until turn three (somehow) and played a Trinket Mage, searching for Pithing Needle. He played his turn out and puts a Qasali Pridemage on the table. I start my turn off by Needling Pridemage and jamming Energy Field. At that point he couldn’t win unless he had Viridian Shaman main or the Emrakul win, neither was true. I played a Clique and swung a few turns, and he scooped them up.
Game two was awful for me. I had to counter a Glimpse of Nature with a Force of Will, which allowed him to slam down a Choke while I was tapped out with a Counterbalance on board and an Island on top of my library. This game did not last long.
Game three was quite epic. I assembled a Counterbalance, Top, and the Energy Field lock (see this repeating process? Seems good, eh?) and Needle a Pridemage again. He landed a Choke, but I was able to land a Clique down despite being Choked out.
Round 4 – RUG Tempo
Game one was miserable for me. I stared with an early Top and Topped into land after land while I got beat down by duel Mongeese. Sigh.
Game two was a long and hard fought battle where I resolved an Energy Field with the Counterbalance lock, then later I was able to play a Shackles and take his flipped Delver. I returned the favor of beating him to death with a 3/2 flier as he did to me in game one.
The final game resolved around him putting down a threat and riding all his counter magic he had, which is exactly the game plan he wanted and ended up working out for him. I lost with three Islands and two fetchlands on board and my life total at six. I cast a Vedalken Shackles, which he Spell Pierced and I cracked a fetch and played Dispel, putting me to five. Unfortunately, his Goyf was a five power beat-my-face-in type of dude. My only loss of the day came to this deck, which in testing was a good match up. On a side note, my friend Nicholas Montaquila was piloting this deck as well as Mark Sun. Another note: Monty won the Modern ptq the day before.
Big congrats to him!
Round 5 – Robots
Nothing happened in this match except that Affinity/Artifact Aggro/Robots can’t deal with Energy Field and can’t get past a Back to Basics or Vedalken Shackles, which is exactly what happened both games. Unfortunately, I do not have much to report on this match except that it’s a good matchup for MUC.
I.D. into top 8.
During round six I hung out with the friends from my car and Reuben Bresler. If you know Reuben then you know he is a comedian and damn good at it (I’ve seen him perform many times.) Reuben, Will, Nick, and I spent the round eating some goodies that Nick and Will bought at a Kroger nearby when Reuben decides to play a little trick on me. Reuben was reading from a Pringles can and saw that they had a Spanish translation of ‘Potato Crisps’ on the side of the can. So then this happened:
“Who did you lose to?” Sava Asked. “Crujientes de Papa,” Reuben said. “Did he make top 8?”
And then Reuben burst into laughter because Sava thought some Buffalo Pringles made top eight. Yeah, ha ha. Reuben is hilarious, or so he thinks.
Okay, so now the top 8 came rolling around and I was paired against none other than Combo Elves in the first round.
Quarterfinals – Elves
I shuffled up, he cut me and I looked at my opening hand of Island, Island, Island, Pithing Needle, Energy Field, Brainstorm, and Vendilion Clique, which is pretty much the nut high in this matchup. I was on the play and cast a turn one Needle naming Pridemage. His turn one was a dude that produced mana. My turn two was Island, Energy Field, go. He stops and says, “I can’t actually beat that game one,” but proceeded to show me that he would have practically won the game the next turn because he puked a bunch of dudes on the table and grabbed a Mirror Entity with Chord of Calling that would have crapped all over me. Fortunately, I was running hot that day and showed him the Clique and we went to game two.
Game two was uneventful because he had out a bunch of dudes that cost one and I dropped an Explosives for one and cracked it when he had one card in hand. I assembled Countertop, stole a creature with Shackles, and won with Clique.
Semifinals – Burn
I won the die roll and lead with an Island. He played a Mountain and suspended a Rift Bolt. I drop a turn two Counterbalance and passed. Rift Bolt went off on his upkeep and counterbalance triggered revealing a Back to Basics. I just blind countered Rift Bolt? Talk about running hot! The game went downhill from there for him, because I just ate a Keldon Marauders, played Trinket Mage to assemble Countertop lock, and legitimately beat with Trinket Mage for ten turns for the nearly flawless victory.
Yes, I forgot to side out the second Back to Basics and drew it. I’m so bad at this game!
Fortunately for me it didn’t matter. I had so much counter magic in my opening hand that I could ride it for enough turns to get Top, Counterbalance, and Energy Field for the full lock. That’s what happened. He threw in the towel after I started beating him with his own Goblin Guide.
Finals – Maverick
Reuben Bresler and I are in the finals together. Reuben scooped the invite to me because he already has an invite to the Invitational and I split the cash and packs with him.
But we all know that MUC would have won!
That’s the tourney report. As of right now, I would not have changed anything in my main deck or sideboard for that particular tournament. I feel the main deck has a good spread of one, two and three drops to keep Countertop beating most opponents. This deck is one of the most fun control decks I have ever played and you should try it, too.
So go grab those Energy Fields while they are hot, hot, hot and cram them in your deck!
I’ll see everyone at GP Indianapolis and the SCG events. Come talk to me!
*ps, This is the end for me, but if you want to read about the IQ from a different perspective, you can go read Reuben Bresler’s weekend review here.
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