Hey everyone! I decided to make the trip out to Baltimore for the GP, and while I didn’t come back with any tangible indication of success, I feel quite proud. The GP marks my first ever day two. That might not impress a lot of people, but for someone who’s been playing for as long as I have, it means something. I don’t get to make it to a lot of events (I’ve been to something like four GPs and eight PTQs since Planar Chaos), so I like to make the ones I do attend count, and crossing anything off my Magical bucket list is success in my book.
Today, I’m going to talk about my tournament experience at Baltimore. I won’t go into much detail about the games, but I’ll talk about the deck, the days, and the changes I’d make going forward.
The week before the event, I was miserable, and there wasn’t a single Standard deck I liked. I’d been playing Delver for a while, but once Finkel and crew debuted a new version of “Delver” at the Pro Tour that played Lingering Souls and Phantasmal Image, I immediately knew my U/W Delver would be the underdog. After all, my Midnight Hauntings and Geist of Saint Trafts would be trumped by their Lingering Souls and Images. Still, like the stubborn fool I am when I fall in love with a deck, I kept jamming games against Spirits with the old version of Delver, and I kept losing. Frustrated, I set out on a path to find a new deck. The week before the GP looked a little something like this:
Monday afternoon: Give up on U/W Delver, decide to play Ramp.
Monday evening: Play Ramp against U/B, cry myself to sleep.
Tuesday through Thursday: Talk about U/W Humans, convince myself I want to play Thalia against everything in this format, decide to play Humans.
Thursday night: Goldfish with Humans, cry myself to sleep, give up hope about Baltimore.
Friday afternoon: Test Humans vs. U/W Delver, lose; test the other option, U/W Delver, against R/G aggro, lose; life tilt.
Friday evening: Test Humans against R/G aggro, lose, life tilt, waver between U/W Humans and U/W Delver for infinite hours, then decide on U/W Delver.
My thought process for Baltimore was to play a deck I know rather than a deck that’s inherently strong and well positioned. This meant I was on an aggro control deck, as that’s my ideal deck for most formats. I just didn’t know what version of an aggro control deck would be best against the field. Going into the GP, we determined that Spirits, Delver and Ramp would be the decks to beat, which then meant that U/B would be a great choice for the event.
Furthermore, if you look at the PT results, one U/B player barely missed Top 8 at 9th place, which suggested that a good U/B list had the potential to get there. Thinking a lot of pros would realize the same thing (as it was also hinted in their articles from the week prior and blatantly alluded to in Brad Nelson’s article the day before the event), I wanted to play a deck that beat them—i.e., Humans. Coincidentally, Thalia is the nut in this format due to Delver, Ramp, and Control having hard times dealing with her (it’s not random luck that someone managed to Top 8 with four of them in his deck). Add in the fact that less people would expect Geist of Saint Traft and more people would pack Corrosive Gales, and it seemed correct to play Humans. So why didn’t I?
The problem with Humans is that it doesn’t have a great matchup against the most popular decks I expected: Spirits, Delver and Ramp. The Ramp matchup is pretty shaky if you don’t have Destiny or Hero, but those suck against Spirits and Delver. Since I expected the Humans decks to be edged out by those three decks (Thalia nonwithstanding), I didn’t want to play it. Plus, I was miserable playing the deck, so it felt like the wrong choice. Delver made me feel bad, but not miserable. I wanted to play the “best of both worlds deck” (i.e. 8x Wild Nacatl via Champion of the Parish and Delver), but I thought the mana was terrible, so I didn’t play that either. I ended up playing U/W Delver and sticking to what I knew best:
A U/W Delver, by ManaSHIFT
Two friends of mine played similar lists, but both died on the bubble rounds. We felt that all we wanted to do was jam down a Sword of War and Peace and go to town, or counter every relevant spell my opponent played while riding a Geist or flipped Delver to victory. While the latter plan was amazing for me, the Sword plan worked out about less than half the time. You can’t lean on Sword as hard as I intended, because the format isn’t only white creatures and control decks anymore. You need to play more equipment other than Sword of War and Peace, if you’re relying on equipment at all. Sword was great for me in the event, but there were times where I had it in hand and it did nothing, I had it in play and it did nothing, and I had connected with it and it did nothing. Overall, I’m going to give some consideration to what equipment I want the most.
If I had to play in a Standard event tomorrow, this is what I’d do:
Matt Costa has a great sideboard, even if I don’t like his Invisible Stalker and Runechanter’s Pike choices main deck. I don’t want to play with Curse of Pierced Heart (but it probably rocks against control, and I guess you can side it out where it sucks), and Pike has never impressed me (but it’s good when the game goes really long, such as against control).
On to the matches!
Round 2–Jund Ramp
My opponent had to deal with turn three Geist, turn four Image on Thrun + Leak on his turn, turn five Leak, turn six Snapcaster Leak in game one. Game two, he mulls to four and gets a turn six Grave Titan, which is countered by my Ponder into shuffle/topdecked Mana Leak. Geist takes it home again.
Round 3–4cc Unburial Rites Control
My opponent was playing a U/W/R/b control deck that featured Sun Titan, Elesh Norn, Unburial Rites, Desperate Ravings, etc. I lost game one, came back game two setting up a strategic Geist attack to deal the final four, and won game three with a ton of Delver/Vapor Snag pressure.
Round 4–Solar Flare
These games were intense, and I don’t remember all the details. I lost game one to double Lingering Souls, won game two with a flurry of countermagic, then took game three after dealing with a ton of resistance via a turn two Gut Shot + Snapcaster Mage to take out half of a Lingering Souls and some well placed countermagic.
Round 5–Hippo Blade
Amazing deck, basically R/W Swords + Titans and some midrangey creatures like Solemn. If you want more details on it, there was a deck tech with Caleb Durward in the Pro Tour coverage. Game one, my opponent goes for a turn four Sword of Feast and Famine hit off an Inkmoth Nexus just to be blown out by Vapor Snag, and my flipped Delver gets him. Game two, I counter all his spells and bash with Delvers.
Round 6–U/B Control (Pat Cox)
I find out I’m paired against Pat Cox, crap myself, and settle in for a long game against (what I expect) is U/B Control. Turns out I was correct as I Probe his hand to see infinite removal spells, two Swamps, and no blue sources. Pat bricks on blue lands for six or so turns while my creatures trade with his removal. I stick a Geist, bash for a while, and eventually defeat his mana screw.
Game two, I Probe on turn three to see infinite targeted removal, Snapcasters, and a dearth of countermagic, so I slam a Geist and ride it to victory. Pat seemed a little salty afterwards, which was to be expected. I got somewhat lucky, and those Probes were quite invasive.
10-2, 6-0, defeated my first pro player.
Round 7–U/W Humans
I smash my opponent game one with a Sword of War and Peace. While we’re shuffling, he says he’s never played against Delver and doesn’t know if he has a good matchup or not. He finds out game two when he gets crushed again with Vapor Snags and Dungeon Geists against his three and four drops.
11-2, 7-0, first day two locked up.
Feeling elated, I take a moment to calm my nerves, though I still feel the fire to succeed. It’s my first day two, but all that means is I’ve entered a new tournament.
Round 8–U/W/b Delver
He plays Porcelain Legionnaire and Lingering Souls game one, which handily defeats me. Game two, I Mutagenic Growth his Phantasmal Bear (the only thing it did all day), then we stare at each other and our mutually reactive hands. Thankfully he doesn’t see any Lingering Souls, and I grind him out. Game three, I mull to five and die to two blind Delver flips and three
separate copies of Lingering Souls.
12-4, 7-1, slightly salty.
The first loss always stings, but not as much as the last.
Round 9–U/W Delver (Jesse Hampton)
I’m not sure if it was a true mirror, though the card numbers were quite close. Jesse draws Moorland Haunt and Geist to my nothing game one, and game two he sideboards better and sees more Geists, Snapcasters and Images than I do. I get crushed.
12-6, more salty, but not out of it. Day one ends, and we move to day two.
Round 10–Esper Tezz
My opponent bricks on lands game one while I smash him. In game two, I counter every spell he plays and ride a Geist to victory.
Round 11–R/G Aggro
I win a close game three because my opponent punts. I have an Image out copying his Strangleroot Geist. He plays Hellrider, Galvanic Blasts my Image, my Image returns copying his Hellrider, and he attacks with both his guys. I block his Hellrider with my Image, my Image lives, and then I kill him later on with the Image and a Geist of my own. If he Blasted my Image before playing Hellrider, I probably would have lost.
Round 12–U/W Delver
My opponent draws better than I do (more Geists/Snaps/Ponders), and I lose games one and two.
I’m probably missing something here and need to test this match up a lot more. Any of you have thoughts on the mirror?
16-9, 9-3 and playing for Top 16-32.
Round 13–U/B Zombies
I get crushed both games. Not much to say here, really, though game two was at least closeish.
This deck seems real, and I look forward to testing against it.
16-11, 9-4 and playing for Top 64.
Round 14–G/W Tempered Steel (Chris Mascioli)
Not what I expected to see on day two, but Tempered Steel was a decent choice for the event. I was a bit bummed at this point, but at least I got Chris Mascioli to smile. That was more unexpected than facing Tempered Steel, honestly. Unfortunately, I blow most of my luck in the match on game one with triple Delver flipped on turn three to his mulligan to five, then get crushed in game two and lose an interactive (yet lopsided) game three to 3x Tempered Steel and 2x Etched Champion (though I did handle two of the Tempered Steels just fine).
17-13, 9-5, not worth it to me to play for the PWPs.
So it was a crappy way to end a great run, but hey, what can I expect? I didn’t even like any of the decks going into the event. I’m certainly not complaining about my performance. It’s another thing off the bucket list, and now we’re on to the next one: top 64 at a GP. Or top 8 at a PTQ, I could still use one of those, though I wish Wizards of the Coast would bring back pins, since they cost nothing to make. Maybe we could get playmats? Who doesn’t love those?
Anyway, I’m taking my success one step at a time friends. Until the next step, just keep swimming.
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