Friday, August 7, 2015. Tim’s laboratory (computer desk in the basement). Finalizing my Splinter Twin list for the PPTQ that following Sunday.
Tim’s Left Brain: “I feel confident about this weekend. We know the store, We’ve done well there before. I think we’ll do fine.”
Tim’s Right Brain: “Yeah, we can definitely top 8 for value.”
Tim’s Left Brain: “You know what though? We’ve never x-0’d an event. We’ve never been able to draw into a top 8 before. That’d be pretty cool to do.”
Tim’s Right Brain: “Yeah, that’s definitely a thing. Let’s do it!”
Yes, this exchange actually happened. Everyone has their pre-game rituals. Some have to do with superstitions, while others like to unwind before the big day. I like to have an internal discussion about how I think the event will go for me, how I think I’ll do, and I like to think this keeps my whole self on board with a plan, and doesn’t really allow me to second guess or doubt my success during an event.
Since I’ve started playing competitively at the beginning of the spring, and like actually driving to events and studying to do well, I’ve always lost round 3. I don’t know what it was, what format I was playing, at which location I was playing, I just could. Not. Win. Round 3.
Fast forward to last Sunday, August 10. I drive down to the shop in Boonton, New Jersey for a PPTQ playing the Modern format. I had the option to play in Kearny, New Jersey as well in a Standard format IQ to try and qualify for the invitational in New Jersey at the end of the month, but I am pretty far away on qualifying on points, and if I didn’t win, any points I did acquire wouldn’t benefit me next year for the invitation I’d want to qualify for, and I didn’t feel like going all in on the win plan, especially since I’m not happy with my position in the format. Also the drive was longer, and all my friends were going to Boonton, so we decided to sleeve up Blue Red Twin.
57 People meant 6 rounds of Swiss, and it was a high six rounds, so some 4-1-1’s probably wouldn’t even make top 8. This was going to be a rough tournament. I sit down for round 1 across from Alex.
Game 1, he starts off with the ol’ Scalding Tarn into tapped Steam Vents, and I think I’m playing the mirror until he Thought Scours himself, and sends a Creeping Tar Pit from the top of his library into his graveyard. Thanks to Peek, I’m able to sculpt my hand in such a way that I can cast Deceiver Exarch at the end of his turn, tapping his only black source, and win the fight over his Go For The Throat with Remand, then untap and jam the Splinter Twin.
Game 2, and this is why I love this deck so much. I do the typical transformative sideboard plan, but the great thing about Twin, is your opponent doesn’t know that. So he goes to play some spells on his turn, which we fight over. At the end of his turn, I’m able to cast a Deceiver Exarch, which he kills, but this leaves him tapped out, and gives me the green light to resolve a Keranos, God of Storms. He is unable to answer the inevitability, and I grab game 2.
Round 2 – Eric on GW…stuff?
Game 1, he’s on the play, and I am able to Lightning Bolt his Noble Hierarch, circa 1994 (BOLT THE BIRD!). He ends up playing a Gaddock Teeg, and I get him with a Snapcaster Mage on Lightning Bolt. I have the combo in hand, but have no need to go off, while my team of draft stars keeps pecking him for about 4 damage a turn. Eventually, I just strike his forehead with lightning, and take the game.
Game 2, he REALLY did not like Snapcaster Mage. I think it’s no secret in Modern which deck plays Pestermites and Deceiver Exarchs, even if he hadn’t seen the Splinter Twins. However, he casts a turn 2 Nevermore, which resolves, and he names Snapcaster Mage. I mean, he blanked the one in my hand, but I still had the combo. He then plays out a Relic of Progenitus, and he just doesn’t find any action while I am able to combo him with exactly 200 Deceiver Exarch tokens.
Ruh Roh Raggy, here comes…
Round 3 – Mike on…JUND!?
ARE YOU EVEN SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?
As a Twin player, I like to think of this matchup in the same way people think of wild animals: “They are just as afraid of you as you are of them.” Except it’s not true, I am MUCH more afraid of them.
Game 1, I’m on the play, and I’m able to handle his early spells with timely Lightning Bolts on his Dark Confidants. He stumbles on mana a bit, and on a turn where he attacks me with his Treetop Village, I’m able to make a Deceiver Exarch stick against his 2 mana thanks to my Dispel (All-star Team Starter), and combo him out on the following turn.
Game 2, I mulligan to 2, and he is much faster this game, he shreds my hand with Inquisition of Kozilek followed by Thoughtseize, and eventually busts his Liliana. Of note here, I did board in Blood Moon here, and played it, even against his Forest and Swamp, just so he saw it and would continue to play around it in Game 3. Jund’s mana isn’t the best, and they have a lot of color requirements on their spells, so I wanted to let him know I may be keeping him honest in Game 3.
Game 3, I side the Blood Moons out, because typically, once they see the Blood Moon, they play around the Blood Moon. My hand is Serum Visions, Negate, Lightning Bolt, Lands. I keep, and Serum Visions into Tectonic Edge and Keranos, God of Storms. However, I’m a real life Muppet, and I think I showed him a glance of Keranos, God of Storms when I placed it on top underneath the Tectonic Edge. This was relevant because I would be drawing Keranos two turns before I’d be able to play it, so if he saw it, he knew to Thoughtseize me that turn I drew it so that I couldn’t play it the following turns.
He does exactly this, and I Negate his Thoughtseize. I untap, get a Remand, and the turn after, I am able to jam Keranos, God of Storms. This guy goes the distance (some sort of pun involving “Go the Distance” from Disney’s Hercules, Zeus is Hercules dad, hey I have two kids, let me be), and I’m able to chuck bolts of lightning upstairs for a good set of games.
We won round 3! wooooooooooooo. Looking around the top tables, I’m not really afraid of any of the decks I see. There’s one other Twin player, a couple of Affinity players, a Scapeshift, Zoo, and some other nonsense, but I feel good about the next round.
Round 4 – Jun on GW Zoo
Game 1 was pretty interesting. One of those games where you punt a turn away, but they fumble the return, so you pick it up and run it in for a touchdown. His deck gets out in front early, I don’t have the Lightning Bolts for his Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise. He ends up resolving a Restoration Angel at the end of one of my turns, then a Loxodon Smiter on his own turn. This is where I punt, I believe. I cast Deceiver Exarch on end step, and I think I had a Remand, but wasn’t dead next turn, and was on 4 mana, so I could have played the exarch the next turn with Remand backup, but I didn’t, and he made my Deceiver Exarch walk the Path to Exile.
His next turn, he plays Wilt-Leaf Liege, and I’m staring down lethal on the board. I time walk him with Cryptic Command tapping his team and drawing a Deceiver Exarch. I pass the turn with seven mana, looking at lethal. He untaps and attacks. I flash in Deceiver Exarch, tapping his biggest guy (6/6 Smiter I believe, thanks to Wilt-Leaf Liege), and also flash in 2 Snapcaster Mages for chump duty. I don’t die from combat damage, he doesn’t have a Path to Exile, and I’m able to combo on the next turn.
Game 2, I thought I was going the way of the Dodo. I mulligan to 5. Gross. Hopefully my opponent doesn’t play around things like this Anger of the Gods (pretty sure it was Keranos who was Angry here), double red source, Island, Desolate Lighthouse five card hand I keep.
Sure enough, he unloads his grip in the first 3 turns of Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, Kitchen Finks, and Voice of Resurgence. I take him straight to value town with my 4-for-1 Anger of the Gods (again, sponsored by Keranos), and he is left with just Forests and a hand full of white cards, while I’m able to sculpt up my hand thanks to the Desolate Lighthouse. I end up finding the combo the turn after he finds his white source, and I get the win.
I just did what my brain said I should do. I just x-0’d, and was safe to double draw into top 8 as long as I didn’t get paired down. Sure enough, I am in first place going into round 5.
Round 5, Yuanji. I believe he was the Scapeshift player, but the ID seals the deal. I get to relax and watch my friends play.
Round 6, standings go up, and I’m still in first place. I get paired against Dan, the other Twin player, and we agree to ID. Locked for top 8. I spent the match watching a couple of win and ins, as only the top 4 were safe to draw into top 8.
I was 4-0-2 after swiss. Man that felt good. At this point, I can leave happy. I got my money back, I’m up a few packs, and I played well really all day. What I should have done but didn’t was buy a coffee because I’m an idiot. Oh well, too late for that now, off we go to the…
Quarterfinals, Mike on Jund.
Same gent as before.
Game 1 doesn’t go so well for me this time, as he’s able to grind through my hand with relative ease, Remand isn’t so good against them when it’s in your graveyard, and sitting next to your Snapcaster Mages. He goes ahead and does the Jundy thing, and is able to grind me into the dirt.
Game 2. Since we’ve played before, and discussed what I did during sideboarding, I didn’t bring the Blood Moons for game 2. This way, he plays around them while I am trying to play the control game. He mulligans to 4, which is typically a good sign for any opponent. However, I felt the sleep coming over me, and I made a few errors this game, which almost cost me. I was able to find the second Lightning Bolt the turn before he would have killed me with a 6/7 Tarmogoyf with Scavenging Ooze also threatening to go huge. That was wayyyyy too close.
Game 3, I board the Blood Moons in, thinking that he won’t play around them this game. I keep a real loose one at 6. Grim Lavamancer, Stomping Ground, blue cards. The thought being that if I draw a blue source, and I have plenty of them, especially being on the draw, my hand is way live. I have Serum Visions, Spell Pierce, Remand, just good stuff. I also don’t want to mulligan too far in this matchup, just because the more I mulligan against Jund, the worse I am in the matchup.
So of course, he gets the juicy turn 1 Thoughtseize on my only play, the Grim Lavamancer. I draw Blood Moon on my turn, play the tapped Stomping Ground and pass. He doesn’t really do anything, and I draw my beautiful baby Scalding Tarn. Drop it, and pass with Remand up. Sure enough, I Remand his Liliana of the Veil, draw a land off of Remand, untap, and drop the Blood Moon. I lock him off green and double black for the rest of the game, and win off the back of the king of the gods, Keranos.
No gamble, no future.
Semifinals – Josh on Grishoalbrand.
Josh made this a lot of fun. Apparently, this was his first event with the deck, which was fine because this was my first time playing against it. Not much really happened though in these games other than some playful banter.
Game 1 – He just casts a bunch of Faithless Lootings while I go off on turn 4.
Game 2 – The ships pass by one another again, he lands a turn 2 Boseiju, which is really good against my hand of Dispel, Remand, and Negate. I Remand an uncounterable Faithless Looting to draw a card, and am able to combo on turn 5 after he failed to find any creatures to cheat in.
Josh: “Would you like to concede to me?”
Me: “I will not answer your question, because I will mess it up.”
Chuckles, handshakes, and off to the finals.
Finals – Dan on Tarmotwin.
Dan was the opponent I drew with in round 6. This is where the event caught up to me. I think that the only weak part of my game in general is playing mirror matches. It doesn’t really matter which deck it is, I always feel like I’m behind in any mirror match.
Game 1 – Dan mulliganed to 5, and was just stuck on 2 lands for way too long in order to really put up a fight, as my Lightning Bolts shot him out of the sky.
Game 2 – Dan was really a lot better than me at actually playing the matchup when he was actually able to play it, mana permitting. We exchanged some counter wards, we each stabilized the board, a few times, but in the end, me having Negate really hurt me, as that card is weak to both Dispel and Spell Snare, both of which he had in order to win the fight over the combo.
Game 3 – This one played out very similarly to the previous game, where I just didn’t know where and when and what to fight. Ultimately, I can for sure say my inexperience in the matchup caught up, where I should have sideboarded out my Cryptic Commands, because they are just inefficient in the matchup, and I probably could have done better if I had sided in Blood Moon.
Oh well, ended up making it 1 game win away from qualifying for the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier, went x-0 in the swiss rounds, and only lost 4 games all day, including the 2 in the finals. The deck was really sweet with me all day, and there were only a few times I made play errors. This is another benefit to going to these events with friends, they are able to point out errors that you don’t see at the time so that you may improve on them next time.
Hopefully, I can practice the mirror some more, and then win the next Modern event I participate in, because I really do think that Splinter Twin is the best deck in the format.
Shoutouts to Tamo for driving and falling asleep during my finals game 2, Craig for not splitting so I took home a healthy sum of money, and Kyle for keeping my misplays in check.
Trackback from your site.