Ah, back to tournament magic. This past Sunday I had an IQ in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This tournament was supposed to kick off my summer grind schedule in order for me to try and get a qualification to the invitational in New Jersey at the end of August. I had 5 points going into the tournament, needing 10 more in order to qualify. I do have a summer long list of tournaments to attend, so I am a little crunched for time.
I decided to kind of get my bearings on my deck by playing in an FNM the Friday before the event, just to get more practice. I brought Abzan Control, of course, with minor changes.
I mostly wanted to try Dromoka’s Command out in the maindeck, as more recent lists of Abzan Control have been doing so. I imagined it was fine against the red decks, as well as grindier board positions that might present themselves against other midrange or creatures oriented decks.
Before I go on to the tournament report, let me give you a rundown of how my night at FNM went. I got the bye round one, and ended up at 3-1 looking at top 8. In the quarterfinals I get paired against a very good friend. He’s the red magic master of my circle of magical friends, and he knows that I’m playing Abzan control. Game 1 I put up a fight, but it’s a rough matchup for me, and he has just enough to get me. Then game 2 happens.
If you’ve been following my articles, you know that this Abzan deck doesn’t feed me lands. In game 2, I mulligan to 6 on the play, with a Sandsteppe Citadel, Forest, Fleecemane Lion, Arashin Cleric, Den Protector, Siege Rhino hand. I figure it has enough interaction in my hand off of just the non-Siege Rhino cards that if I miss a land drop or 2, I can still be fine.
Like a child on Santa’s naughty list, there was but one present under the tree. And it wasn’t land.
Without getting up, and without hesitation, I shake my friend’s hand, slam the Abzan 75 into my deckbox, and SHOOP-DA-WHOOP THREE POINTS RIGHT IN THE TRASH FROM DOWNTOWN! (I eventually went back and picked it out…)
The frustration had gotten to me. All of my playgroup saw it. They also knew that I had planned on going to this IQ in 2 days’ time. Saturday rolls around, and I don’t even want to go. Aside from the fact that this would be the only IQ I go to by myself, and it was one of the more farther away events I’d have to drive to, I was unhappy with my deck. I initially couldn’t get the list tuned to something I even liked, and that was now compounded by my ceaseless mana issues with the deck.
I had another friend of mine call me on Saturday morning:
Me: “Hey bud, which decks do you have sleeved up?”
Friend: “I have RG Dragons and Esper Dragons sleeved up. I can also build Atarka Red.”
Me: “Which do you think I should play?”
Friend: “Tim, you’ve been a fan of blue control since I’ve known you (ten+ years ago). I’m stopping by and dropping off Esper.”
I played three games with the deck going into Sunday. Shout out to my wonderful wife for forcing me out the front door for the IQ.
I had literally slapped the sideboard together before I went to sleep. I didn’t have any plan, but I wanted cards for the red matchup, and the megamorph matchup.
I drive to this neat little store in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with a deck I haven’t really played before. Decklist submitted, 35 people, which means 6 rounds cut to top 8 with a good chance one or two 4-2s make top 8. Here we go!
Round 1 – Steven on Abzan Aggro.
I don’t know what it is. The last IQ I went to was also in PA, and, being from PA myself, there is something I can’t explain about the magic players in the northeast region of the state. Compared the NJ natives I played against in Boonton a number of weeks back, the PA players just seem thuper therial and salty ALL. THE. TIME. No conversation between games, some real bad attitude during games. I take the game seriously, but I also like to talk to my opponent a little bit.
Salty Steven sat down, and I promptly dispatched him in game 1. I was able to draw Bile Blights and Ultimate Prices for his early threats, a timely Crux of Fate wipes out a lethal attack squad of Surrak, the Hunt Caller; Anafenza, the Foremost; and a Siege Rhino. Thanks to the back-breaking unfairness of Foul-Tongue Invocation and Dragonlord Ojutai, I’m able to cruise to victory at a very comfortable one life point.
I miss playing counterspells.
However, game two he just comes in like Daft Punk, all better, faster, stronger than game 1. I just remember him having more stuff early on, and I didn’t get so many invocations. This is also where my unfamiliarity with sideboarding with the deck comes in, and I board out too many cards that I think are bad in the matchup for what I think now were subpar cards to bring in.
Game three, I lose because I keep a bad hand. I was never really in it, and he just pounds me like cake.
Hey, Tim. You know, there’s this really sweet dude that writes for Legit MTG, ya know, this very website. He wrote an article a couple of weeks ago about when to mulligan. I think his name is Tim? Ugh.
After this match, I decide that since I am very unfamiliar with sideboarding, we’re only making obvious changes. I think that from here on out, I only ever sideboarded at most five cards at a time.
Round 2 – Arthur on Mardu Dragons.
Arthur is a sweet dude. He’s from Jersey (oh look, a sweet dude not from NEPA, what a surprise…), and is wearing a matching New Jersey Devils hat. Since we’re playing at the bottom table, we discuss how bad our favorite hockey team was the previous season, and get on with our match.
Game 1, I just play the typical control game. I’m able to kill his things, and the things I can’t kill, I counter until I drop an unkillable dragon. We fight a couple of times over Dragonlord Ojutai while they’re attacking, he gets one, but killing an Ojutai puts decks so far behind that it’s real easy to find a second dragon and cruise to a win.
Game 2, I am unable to counter his sideboard cards, among them are Mastery of the Unseen (which I’m not sure is even good against the dragons deck), and Outpost Siege (again, not really sure how good this is).
Game 3 goes much like game 1, where I draw the counterspells and the things to kill his things, and the marvelous Ojutai takes to the skies.
1-1. Better than the 0-3 drop I thought I was going to do.
Round 3 – Rich on Bant Heroic.
Game 1 – He mulligans to 6 on the draw. I draw multiple kill spells, and tag his guys while he’s tapped down. Also, this game, I draw my Dragonlord Silumgar, which I use to target his only creature (who is huge). He Dromoka’s Commands, choosing to plus his man, and use him to fight my Silumgar. Deathtouch is sweet. Dragonlord Ojutai doesn’t care about the ground though, and so I’m able to anticipate into answers for anything after I grind his hand to dust.
Game 2 – He mulligans to 5 on the play, keeping a one lander with a Favored Hoplite and bunch of 2 cost spells. He’s never really in it, as he scoops after Ashiok is able to eat half of his library.
2-1. What is happening. I can still make top 8 halfway through this event? I was ready to be driving home by now.
Round 4 – Sean on RG Dragons.
Of course I’m lucky enough to get paired up here. Ugh.
Game 1 – I just get blown out. I make a mistake of downfalling his courser on curve because I think I’m still playing Abzan control. While I’m tapped out, he’s able to resolve a Xenagos, and from there on out, I’m just playing on the back foot, and can never get back into it.
Game 2 – Much the same as game 1, but I keep another unacceptable seven. My brain just doesn’t want me to get blisters from shuffling I guess. Not even close, he brings in Mistcutter Hydras, and I go on to lose.
2-2. Yup. To have any shot now I have to win out. I’m getting nervous, as I’ve been all day, because I’ve seen a couple of Esper Dragons decks to my left and right for the past few rounds, and with little practice, I don’t want to play the mirror.
Round 5 – Sean on Mardu Control.
Game 1 – While this isn’t a mirror, this is still a grindy card advantage based control mirror. I am able to kill his Ojutai’s Exemplars because I have Crux of Fate and the disgustingly unfair Foul-Tongue Invocation. Also I’m playing the correct Ojutai card.
Game 2 – He plays a lot more planeswalkers. As in greater than zero. I wasn’t really prepared for his Sorin or Elspeth, since I hadn’t seen them game 1, but I guess I should have known they’d show up. After I get hit with a few Thoughtseize and Duress, I draw Dragonlord’s Prerogative. My only other card in hand is a Silumgar the Drifting Death. I draw four cards, and reveal the dragon to rub in the salt. Someone bathe me, I feel filthy. The untouchable dragon remains uncontested, and wins the game.
3-2. Ok, still in it kind of. Breakers need to go my way, but we have a shot. One more round.
Round 6 – Mike on Mardu Dragons.
A lot of Mardu today.
Game 1 – I don’t really remember this game too much other than him just jamming dragons for a while, and I had answers for all of them. I’m able to eventually jam an Ojutai with counters to protect him from the sacrifice spells.
Game 2 – Tasigur, king of bananas is the lord of value. Mike is able to get a turn 2 Mastery of the Unseen, but doesn’t find mana past the fifth land, so he’s unable to make anything happen, and is restricted to pretty much one spell or mastery per turn, and Tasigur is just able to out value him the whole game.
Ok. My job is done. I did what I had to do. I went 4-2. Standings go up…
Ninth. Place. The heartbreakers.
Ah well. At least I feel like after this IQ I am able to compete.at the same level that I did in Boonton, and that that result wasn’t a fluke.
Overall, I went from feeling that the Esper Dragons deck was just not a good deck, to actually liking it a lot. It’s not the same kind of draw-go control that I’m used to playing back in the day, but it fills that blue deck void that I’ve missed in standard for the past few months. Casting Dig Through time is still one of my favorite things to do, and Foul-Tongue Invocation is an unfair magic card.
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