The scales of power in Standard kept tipping towards control. Then all of a sudden, everybody was playing midrange or straight-up control decks. RB Aggro fleshed out its identity as a deck that could fight through Jace, Architect of Thought and Thragtusk and Control mirrors were no longer won by resolving a Jace into a few extra cards, but by huge Sphinx’s Revelations.
Fast forward to last week. I was in Cincinnati for the holidays and I found out that a number of my friends were going to the SCG Open in Columbus that weekend. I agreed to go, knowing only vaguely what the format was like but I was willing to get a crash course to learn.
A Little Help From My Friends
I happen to be exceedingly fortunate in life, including a good friendship with Adam Prosak, notable streamer and unreal Magic the Gathering player. Adam graciously co-hosted his personal stream the day before the Standard Open to brew up a deck. Since he was commentating, this was solely for my benefit. Did I mention I have sweet friends? Watch our little session here.
After quickly abandoning the “Bant Misthollow Griffin” plan in lieu of a deck that could actually win a game, we quickly brewed up a deck with one of our mutual favorite “lose conditions,” Door to Nothingness. Inspired by Travis Woo and piloted effectively by LSV and Ali Antrazi, we set out to build a similar deck that simply did not care how much life our opponent gained. After lamenting at the state of the game — where players were constantly gaining ludicrous amounts of life and making games go on and on — we decided to attack them on a different axis. We opted out of playing Omniscience, the namesake of the prior deck. While you get to do some cool and powerful things, it felt unnecessary and we would rather have more redundancy to keep the win condition consistent. After a number of playtested games and poring over the decklist during the car ride, I finally figured out what I wanted to play.
Door to Nothingness played by Jack Grannan, SCG Columbus
My final build was a slight variation of the deck, mostly in sideboard choices, that Adam and I played while streaming. I felt good about the position of the deck and the specific card choices.
Azorius Charm: Often the weakest card in the deck, it never does that much. Against very aggressive decks it can buy the time you need to wrath; when you don’t need it, at least it cycles so it isn’t a dead card. I thought about playing more wraths instead, but Azorius Charm seemed like decent hedge cards and were often easy to sideboard out.
Increasing Ambition: Adam disliked this card because it is very expensive when not playing Omniscience, but I decided to play one anyway because it effectively meant I played three Doors, two Bolases, and five Revelations. I was never that starved for mana and was very impressed with the card, even while hardcasting it every time. I would consider playing another copy.
Divination: Sometimes you just want to pay three mana to draw two cards. It seems underwhelming, but when you think about the amount of play Think Twice gets while costing a total of five mana, it doesn’t sound like such a bad proposition. When you want basically every card you draw — since each land is an extra card and life off each Sphinx’s Revelation — we went with this over Thoughtflare.
Cyclonic Rift: I wanted a good catch-all that could deal with problematic Oblivion Rings/Nevermores that prevent you from getting an active Door to Nothingness. It also doubles as a pseudo-removal spell early for the red deck; against the grindy decks, it can send their whole board packing.
Farseek, Chromatic Lantern, Ranger’s Path, Gilded Lotus: I’m not sure what the exact split should be other than that Farseek should be a four-of, no questions asked. It may seem like an excessive amount, but “flooding out” is only problematic when Sphinx’s Revelation isn’t in your hand. Thinking about each Ranger’s Path as an extra two cards per Revelation and Gilded Lotus as an extra three, I would rather err on the side of too much versus too little mana acceleration. While it’s possible to activate a Door off the lands, Chromatic Lantern helps.
Alchemist’s Refuge: This was originally one Desperate Lighthouse and one Alchemist’s Refuge, but we quickly realized this card is way more powerful than having the ability to loot. After playing, I felt like this was one of the best cards in the deck. Want to wrath on your opponent’s turn? There’s a Refuge for that. Want to play that Door but don’t want it to get hit by Detention Sphere? There’s a Refuge for that. Want a way to flash in that Thragtusk to eat that attacker? There’s a … you know, we got it. I cannot praise this card enough, and if you aren’t playing at least two you’re making a huge mistake. Mana isn’t an issue if you couldn’t guess, so what’s holding you back?
Curse of Echoes: You want some answers to counter magic postboard because of the low threat density, and an active Curse of Echoes means any counterspell barring Counterflux no longer works. For five mana, that’s a steal.
Witchbane Orb: I wanted to play two, but couldn’t justify cutting anything else. This card really helps with a lot of problematic postboard cards like Jace, Memory Adept’s 0 activation, Slaughter Games and even opposing Door to Nothingness activations! The “destroys all curses attached to you” clause is relevant against opposing Curse of Echoes.
Psychic Spiral: We wanted another win condition postboard when cards like Slaughter Games and Nevermore encouraged threat diversity. It’s easy enough to go through the entire deck off of large Revelations, so it seemed like a good enough win condition. But I’m sure we could do better.
Let the games begin
I pore over the numbers in the sideboard for hours and hours, not fully content even at the completion of my written decklist. At the player meeting we learn this SCG Open is the largest ever (more than 800 players), meaning I need to play 10 arduous rounds before the day’s end. No problem. I mean, it’s not like I had to deal 50 points of damage each game. All I need is 10 mana and a dream.
Round 1 vs. Monored
With my head held high, I do my best tough guy impersonation and quickly drop the façade when my opponent leads off with a joke. As much as I want to win this thing, it’s best to remember we’re all here for fun.
I lose the die roll and keep a reasonable albeit slow hand including a Chromatic Lantern, Sphinx’s Revelation, Terminus and some smattering of lands. He leads with a Mountain into Stromkirk Noble and I immediately deflate. Did I have the wrong read on the meta for this tournament? A small sample size via quick scan of the decks around me confirmed that Three-Color Midrange was in full force this weekend, and I pulled the short straw for my first round.
Game 2 went about as well as I could expect, ramping Farseek into Ranger’s Path into Terminus into a large [cardSphinx’s Revelation[/card] putting me far enough ahead to make it nigh impossible to lose. I played my Door to Nothingness with the mana to activate it available next turn and he scooped. “I wanted to play that deck today, but my friends wouldn’t let me.”
I keep a good hand — Farseek, Supreme Verdict, Gilded Lotus and four lands — in Game 3 and am forced to wrath his aggressive start. Divination finds me Fog and a land, meaning I was living on borrowed time and needed to find a Sphinx’s Revelation. A few blank draws later, and I was dead to his Thundermaw Hellkite.
Overall: 0-1 (1-2)
There’s no worse feeling than starting off 0-1, especially when you’re playing at the largest SCG Open ever with nine grueling rounds left in front of you. I need to win out to Top 8 and it is not the most forgiving tournament I’ve been in. Even still, I console myself with the fact it was one of my worse matchups and could slog through a sea of midrange decks.
Round 2 vs. Small Child B/R Vampires
I sit down and barely see my opponent. He comes up maybe 10 inches taller than the table after sitting down. While I don’t condone bullying, a wave of relief washes over me as my brain shortcuts child gamer as not competitive, thus easy to defeat. Even with a notch to my win record in mind, I keep the game light-hearted and joke around at every turn. His deck is packed with some of the usual suspects like Stromkirk Noble and Falkenrath Aristocrat, but also includes some mediocre cards like Stromkirk Captain and Bloodline Keeper.
A few wraths and Revelations later I find a Door. I play it upside down, expecting him to need to read it.
“I know what it does. I guess that’s how you win, huh?”
I wrath him twice in Game 2, eventually playing Nicol Bolas to steal his lone Bloodline Keeper. Fast forward three turns and I had stolen another vampire, flipped my Bloodline Keeper, swung for lethal, stolen his lunch money, and given him a swirly in the bathroom. The last two didn’t really happen, but it sure felt like it.
Overall: 1-1 (3-2)
As easy as it would be to say I feel awful getting paired against the kid just trying to have a good time with his slew of Vampires, it feels nice to get a win under my belt one way or another. Yeah, I’m a sick bastard.
Round 3 vs. G/W Aggro
My opponent is playing a deck a bit off the beaten path as far as G/W decks go, but the idea is the same. Game 1 is uneventful as he mulls to six and keeps a hand with zero Forests and two Arbor Elves played sheepishly off Sunpetal Grove. A wrath sends him back to the stone age and buys me plenty of time to find Door to Nothingness.
I am in decent shape in Game 2 after wrathing on Turn 4, but down comes Garruk, Primal Hunter. Suddenly my hand of wraths and ramp isn’t looking too strong. Planeswalkers normally aren’t a huge issue for the deck, but without a Sphinx’s Revelation anywhere to be seen, I fall to incremental card advantage.
Maybe it is results-oriented thinking, but I figured I would have had the game locked up pretty handily as long as he didn’t land a planeswalker AND I couldn’t find a Revelation early. He also showed me Call of the Conclave and Selesnya Charm, so it certainly had its other applications.
There isn’t anything too exciting about this game. I draw a healthy mix of wraths, ramp, and a Sphinx’s Revelation for seven to begin the end of my opponent. After I flashing in a Door at the end of his turn with the help of Alchemist’s Refuge, he rather sadly shows me an Oblivion Ring and extends the hand.
Overall: 2-1 (5-3)
My analysis revealed that as long as I didn’t die within the first five turns and actually drew a Revelation in the first 20 cards, I could usually finagle a win against these styles of decks. This makes me want to keep in Divination just to smooth out the consistency despite it feeling kind of bad on the draw.
Rounds 4 and 5 vs. Naya Midrange
There isn’t too much to say about these rounds. I feel pretty much ahead every step of the way and have very reasonable to above average draws in both matches. I don’t drop a game, showing both opponents the Door to their very padded life totals. It feels like we are playing a much different game, and they are clearly not expecting to be attacked in this manner. I wish I don’t have to bother marking my opponent’s lifegain off every Thragtusk, [cards]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] and Restoration Angel trigger since it literally never matters. But apparently “maintaining the game state” is a rule and such so I sucked it up.
Win 2-0, Win 2-0
Overall: 4-1 (9-3)
At this point I’ve regained a lot of confidence in my deck choice. Midrange seems to be in full force, and I don’t think I could have a better matchup than that.
Round 6 vs. U/W Flash
I sit down and recognize my opponent from a number of events across the Midwest over the years. He isn’t well known, but I know he is competent and could play a mean game of Magic.
He wins the roll and leads with Hallowed Fountain into Thought Scour, milling Snapcaster Mage and Dissipate. After a small cardiac arrest, I buckle up and realize I need to play tight if I’m going to take this one down. I play Turn 2 Farseek, he plays Restoration Angel at my Turn 4 end step and we proceed to play a game of draw-go. He is stuck on five lands but is bashing away for three a turn, still committed to not playing anything until I make a move.
I admire his patience. I’m sitting with a Sphinx’s Revelation, Gilded Lotus, Cyclonic Rift and a wrath in hand. I would love to resolve this Revelation, so I make the play I figure will help that best. I wait till my eighth land drop, the mighty Alchemist’s Refuge, and pass. He attacks me down to 11 and passes. I activate Alchemist’s Refuge and play Gilded Lotus end of turn. He thinks about it and lets it resolve.
I figure my opponent would never play into a Supreme Verdict by playing a lot of creatures, so I fire off my Cyclonic Rift on his Angel with the Lotus mana. He briefly debates replaying it, but opts not to. I untap and pass, figuring he will replay his Restoration Angel at the end of my turn, allowing me to Revelation for seven. He does just that because he can’t afford to not have any threats out. I had to discard a few cards but feel pretty good about the situation.
I certainly am not out of the water yet because it is fairly clear my opponent has at least one counter in his hand and isn’t afraid to skirt on having pressure on board in favor of holding up countermagic. While he doesn’t know my decklist, I knew that if both of my Doors were countered (which they assuredly would be) I would be left with a sole Nicol Bolas to take it down.
I continue developing my mana by playing Farseeks, Ranger’s Paths and Gilded Lotuses at the end of his turn until I have 19 mana available. I need to make my move sooner rather than later because he has access to more counterspells than I have threats, so I jam a Revelation for seven at the end of his turn. He counters it, and I respond with another Revelation for six. This resolves, and I untap into a huge turn of Nicol Bolas destroying an untapped Hallowed Fountain followed by Door to Nothingness. I could have flashed in the Door on his turn, but I wanted to get in under countermagic and I don’t expect the flash deck to have main deck Detention Spheres. His turn is tapping out to overload Cyclonic Rift and pass. I replay a Lotus, Bolas and Door on my turn and he promptly scoops.
I keep a pretty decent hand full of sideboard cards in Game 2. Unfortunately for me he lands a Geist of Saint Traft on Turn 3 while I stare at a hand with no answers. I die promptly.
I lead Game 3 with a Duress revealing four lands, Geist of Saint Traft, Snapcaster Mage and Sphinx’s Revelation. After binning the Revelation and looking at the Supreme Verdict in hand, I feel pretty good. After passing judgement on his Geist on Turn 3, he bounces back with another the next turn. I make an audible sigh and stare at a hand of useless cards. After not drawing a wrath or Revelation in a few short turns, I am dead.
Overall: 4-2 (10-5)
Going into this match, I knew it wouldn’t be pretty. But I didn’t expect to go down like this. I have to work so hard for the Game 1 win, while the next games I get steamrolled by a single card and die with a muckle of Negates and Curse of Echoes. Even if I have the answer to Geist of Saint Traft, there’s not a great guarantee I’ll fight through the large suite of countermagic. I took the risk of playing my deck knowing full well the matchup was bad, so I had it coming.
Round 7 vs. G/W Aggro
Another match, another G/W deck. While the aggressive decks are a little tougher to deal with than the midrange variants, the amount of wraths generally leave me more than enough time to fire off a big Sphinx’s Revelation for the game. Postboard planeswalkers can sometimes be an issue, but typically you go over the top fast enough for them to be relatively inconsequential.
Overall: 5-2 (12-5)
Round 8 vs. B/R … Control?
I’m on the play and keep a relatively slow hand that has some ramp and a Sphinx’s Revelation, which and I’m finding hard to justify mulliganing. He leads with a Turn 1 Blood Crypt and I begin to worry my hand won’t get me there. He doesn’t play anything on Turn 1 or 2 … or Turns 3 through 5. His first play is a Rakdos’s Return for four, which I respond to with a Revelation for five, making it no more than an expensive loot. A few turns later he meets the fate of the Door.
I’m relatively confused about the contents of his deck because the only card I saw Game 1 was Rakdos’s Return. I figure he must be on some sort of strange B/R Control brew, because it would be unusual to keep a grip of seven without any plays until Turn 6. I figure he was sitting on a bunch of removal and was stuck with a whole lot of blanks.
He leads with a Stromkirk Noble, which I suspect may have been part of his sideboard plan, but didn’t really compensate by leaving in my wraths. Oops! On Turn 4 he casts Slaughter Games, tanks for a bit, and says “Door to Nothingness.” I breathe a sigh of relief while showing him my hand of two Sphinx’s Revelations. I’m not in great shape, but with a few big Revelations I can find a way to win. I eventually slam a Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, steal his now 7/7 Stromkirk Noble and pass. Guess this is my new win condition. Another creature theft and a few attacks later and he is signing the slip.
Overall: 6-2 (14-5)
It is nice to know I still have things under control with my main win condition stripped from my deck in Game 2. The correct choice should be to name Sphinx’s Revelation because that’s really what sets the deck so far ahead. Most other Door decks have a bigger list of alternative wins including Griselbrand and Worldfire, yet I didn’t have much of a problem closing the game out with the ‘ol 1-2 Bolas punch.
Round 9 vs. Junk Tokens/Reanimator
My opponent starts with a Turn 2 Mulch on the play, finding some lands and binning nothing of importance. I have plenty of wraths to buy me time for Revelations, but I need to find a Door fast before his born-again Thragtusks and Spirits take me down. A quick Fog into Door a turn later and he is sent packing.
He resolves an early Garruk Relentless in Game 2, supplying an endless army of wolves ready to multiply. I Supreme Verdict, but a timely Grisly Salvage at my end step into a reanimated Craterhoof Behemoth hits me dead.
I don’t like the idea of Negating an Unburial Rites on the principle of being 2-for-1’d, but I GUESS it’s a better proposition than dying. Negate also doubles as an answer to Garruk, which it serves as this game. I never see a Revelation, but don’t need it. I have 10 mana on board with a Door played out (no Refuge this time) and Fog in hand. He tanks pretty hard on his turn, knowing it is either kill or be killed. He finds the line where he gets to mill an Unburial Rites, pitch his Craterhoof to Liliana of the Veil and try to get me. I flash him the Fog and the light from his eyes slowly goes out.
Overall: 7-2 (16-6)
I felt bad “slow rolling” the Fog on my opponent’s last turn, but I had no guarantee he wouldn’t have an answer for the Door and I wouldn’t Fog unless I was in danger of lethal damage that turn. He understood, and wishes me luck in the final round.
Round 10 vs. G/W Tokens
I am petrified of losing this round and walking away with absolutely nothing, but when my opponent leads with a number of G/W lands I feel a wave of relief. His first big play is a Geist-Honored Monk, which is neither fast enough nor disruptive enough to stop me from getting bonkers amounts of mana and drawing more cards than should be legally allowed. I find a Door and that’s all she wrote.
This game he gets a slightly faster start, resolving a Garruk, Primal Hunter around Turn 4. I am too worried about it because I started developing a good amount of mana. He tries to draw three cards off his Garruk’s -3 ability, but I flash in Supreme Verdict in response so it is an actual blank. (Man is Alchemist’s Refuge good.) Despite the wrath, he still has a stream of threats coming and I needed to refuel. I use Increasing Ambition to find a Sphinx’s Revelation, allowing me to stay afloat. An instant-speed flashback on Increasing Ambition finds a Door and Fog, setting up a sureproof kill barring any sort of Naturalize effects. He is down to a couple cards at that point, so I am not too worried about it. With the writing on the wall, he picks up the slip and signs it.
Overall: 8-2 (18-6)
My record was good for 25th place in what could be considered a small Grand Prix. Not bad at all. I felt like I was 80-plus percent to win against pretty much all the decks containing Temple Garden, which happened to be a lot this weekend. Most importantly, I had a great time playing this deck. Playing with what were once strictly casual cards (good luck trying to play Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker in Conflux Standard) in a competitive environment and flourishing shows just how diverse this metagame is. While it’s certainly a byproduct of Thragtusk being introduced, I am taking advantage of it by simply showing people the Door.
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