This will not be a tournament report…. This will not be a tournament report… This is not a tournament report.
I spent a wonderful weekend in Philadelphia, PA for Star City Games Philadelphia. If anyone says that line to you, they’re lying. SCG Philly was not in Philadelphia this time around but rather Oaks, a suburb of Philly, sure, but certainly not in the city. The format for the main event was Legacy, which means I was able to watch my friends battle with assorted human wizards, cat soldiers, elves, and Eldrazi. As a lover of Death & Taxes, a Legacy format full of Treasure Cruise, Terminus and Craterhoof Behemoth is not something I am interested in wading through.
Thankfully, SCG offers $5K Premier IQs for the two off-formats, meaning I had the choice of Standard or Modern. I decided my best chance of having a strong result was to play Standard. I am a dedicated Splinter Twin player in Modern and have not found a strong gameplan against UR Delver fueled by Treasure Cruise, which is easily the most popular deck in Modern. The event was bound to be 8 rounds and I think I could expect to face UR Delver at least twice. If I play against it twice in 8 rounds, I could optimistically find myself with at least a 6-2 record (1-1 vs UR, 5-1 vs the field), which is possibly good enough for a top 16 but not what I wanted. Instead I continued my work in Standard.
I have been playing Sidisi Whip for the better part of 6 weeks. I’d be lying if I said that Shahar Shenhar at the World Championships did not play a huge part in my decision to build the deck or that Brad Nelson’s deck construction at the SCG Player’s Championship didn’t inform me of my numerous avenues for the deck. And I won’t lie. The deck is absurdly powerful when it is clicking on all cylinders and not playing Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is a disservice to Whip of Erebos, which is arguably the most powerful card in Standard. My only contribution to the deck has been adjusting the manabase. In my opinion, any wedge-colored midrange or control deck in Standard has enough options for lands where there should be no need for Mana Confluence or Evolving Wilds. As such, I have tried my best to find that balance between tap lands, painlands, and fetchlands. So far I have been happy with my current configuration but will reevaluate the list after Fate Reforged becomes Standard legal.
Sidisi Whip by Billy Mitchell
I have promised myself that this will not be a tournament report but I do want to talk about some things from the event. I don’t have as much time as I did to play Magic. There was a point after I graduated college where I worked in a restaurant on weekdays and would jam as much Magic as I wanted on the weekends. Now with a 9-5 job, a beautiful girlfriend/ roommate, and the pursuit of a Master’s degree, time is not as much of a luxury. I try to soak up as much information as I can so the next tournament, match, game or turn will be better than the last. Over the course of this 8-round Premier IQ, I had three very interesting situations that arose that I think are worthy of discussion.
The Lossett Debacle
After beating UR Artifacts in Round 1, I was paired up against SCG grinder Joe Lossett. I have talked to Joe numerous times and even had dinner with him once. Since he won SCG Columbus the previous week with UW Heroic, I felt confident he was on the deck. I think the matchup is good for me in game 1 and better after sideboarding. While he brings in more protection spells, I can am able to land an early threat and begin beating down while the Heroic player needs to play around all of my removal. Joe is, without a doubt, one of the scariest players to play in the Open Series but I felt up to the challenge.
Game 1 ended after a flurry of removal spells made short work of his assault. I ended the game at 19 life and we moved on to game 2. Joe snap kept a 7-card hand while I mulliganed down to 6. My hand was fine on the draw (Sylvan Caryatid, Sultai Charm, and a Sidisi, Brood Tyrant). I was surprised when Joe played Favored Hoplite on turn 1 and 2 but failed to add a second land. My Caryatid was met by yet another Favored Hoplite and a tapped land. On my turn, I decided that it would be best to remove a creature with Sultai Charm and leave Caryatid available to block rather than play Sidisi. Joe attacked for 1 damage the next turn and passed the turn back. I played Sidisi and began reaching for my token.
This is when the phrase “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” comes into play. I announced the trigger and pulled a Zombie token out of my deck box and then, in my haste, revealed the top four cards of my library and put the token into play. For those of you who have never played the deck before, it is important to remember when to count to three and when to count to four. We count to four when Satyr Wayfinder comes into play. When Sidisi comes into play, we count to three. This is a very important difference which will allow you to avoid a Warning like I received.
Stupid. Lazy. Unfocused.
After the judge call, play resumed and I was able to capitalize on some bad luck from Joe. A Courser of Kruphix resolved and the game began to snowball out of control. Courser and Sidisi together means you rarely miss land drops or Zombie tokens. It does provide some dizzying draw sequences so be prepared to recreate the library if possible. In the penultimate turn, I drew a second Courser of Kruphix, played a Opulent Palace from the top of the deck, then milled three additional cards (including another Opulent Palace and a Doomwake Giant) when Sidisi attacked, and generated an another token.
“Where did the Courser go?” Joe asked. I revealed the Courser from my hand. “Didn’t you mill that last turn?” I looked at my hand and see if I had missed anything but I had my Temple of Mystery which I had been waiting to utilize. Joe evaluated the board and my graveyard for a couple minutes more and responded, “Fine.” As someone who reflects as much as I do, I may have read too much into that one simple word. I would like to hope that he believes me, that somewhere the back of his mind he knows he was frustrated by his poor draw in that game and that his missed seeing my draw stew. Joe Lossett is someone I consider a man of high moral character and him considering me a cheater or a liar is not something I want. Although I barely know him, his opinion means a lot to me and I would not like to be considered less than honest in his eyes.
The game ended shortly after. We shook hands and parted ways.
I entered Round 4 at 3-0. My matches had been fairly safe. I hadn’t dropped a game up this point and was feeling very confident about my deck. I was paired up against Randy Ball. After two turns, I determined he was playing Abzan Whip. This matchup is apparently in favor of Sidisi Whip but it can easily go either way. I was able to play Satyr Wayfinder, mill a Sidisi, cast Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, resolve Whip of Erebos, whip back Sidisi, and mill a second Sidisi in consecutive turns. After a few turns, I had a huge board advantage and wanted to give Randy a chance to play a second game.
After drawing my card for my turn, I asked Randy “Do you want to concede and move on to the second game? We’re already 25 minutes into the round and I want to give you a chance to win two games.” Ashiok had already been activated 5+ times and two See the Unwrittens from Randy meant his library was 20 cards tall at best. He responded that he’d concede when he felt he was out of it. I shrugged, attacked for 3 with a Satyr Wayfinder and a Courser of Kruphix, and passed. I had passed the turn without activating Whip or Ashiok or playing a land. I had done basically nothing.
Stupid. Lazy. Unfocused.
The game was spiraling out of control for him so it couldn’t matter that much. He draws a card and immediately straightens up in his chair. That is a “Pocket A’s” move. He slams Whip of Erebos, whips back a Siege Rhino and suddenly we’re racing and he’s way ahead. 20 minutes later I concede now with 5 minutes left in our match due to Randy accidentally revealing an extra card from his library. Fortunately, I am able to cast a turn 3 Sidisi and win game two in less than 3 minutes. With every bit of my being, I know I had that match in the palm of my hands and I let it slip away. For the rest of the day, I committed to S.W.A.P., to consider my spell, ‘walkers, and attackers before passing. I think this is important for every player to consider and especially so in decks with that utilize as many zones as Sidisi Whip. Playing Courser of Kruphix, Sidisi, Whip of Erebos, Murderous Cut and Ashiok means every zone needs to evaluated before making any action, including which lands you play and how you sequence your spells and abilities. It’s amazing how even one difference can drastically affect the outcome of a match.
Chicken Counting Redux
In Round 7, I managed to find myself at 3-1-2. While it wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, I felt like I was getting better throughout the day and wanted to finish off strong. I sat down against Stephen Novia, who was on Jeskai Tokens. If you really want to beat Jeskai Tokens, just play Sidisi Whip. They play cards, you play cards. They play 2 1/1’s for 2, then 3 1/1’s for 3. You play a 4/6 that eats all of the their guys. The game normally ends after that. After sideboard, you get access to Drown in Sorrow, which is normally In Garruk’s Wake. There are times where they go crazy with Treasure Cruise and Jeskai Ascendancy but after sideboarding that rarely happens. After a brutal game one featuring two Cruises and two Dig Through Times for Stephen, and a rather sound thrashing from Doomwake Giant and Hornet Queen in game two, I settled in for game three with an unplayable 7-card hand. And 6-card hand. And 5-card hand. Stephen said “I’m sorry.” I replied that variance works both ways. I kept a passable 4-card hand with two lands, Whip of Erebos, and Doomwake Giant. My first draw yielded a Hornet Queen. “Is this really how it ends?” I thought.
Well, variance works both ways. I was first on the board with a top decked Sylvan Caryatid followed by a Courser which yielded me land number three from my library. A series of lands and removal spells overcame Stephen’s anemic draw and I won the game easily. “Wow, I can’t believe I lost that game.”
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
A no show in round 8 left me in the Top 32 and a cash finish. Although I wasn’t pleased with my results, I learned a lot and am looking forward to SCG Washington, DC in a few weeks. Hopefully I can put into practice my own advice and put up a strong result. Only time will tell.
Thanks for reading,
@badluckbandit on Twitter
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