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The Dark Side

Written by Tim Bachmann on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

The Dark Side

Tim Bachmann

Hailing from northeast Pennsylvania, Tim has been playing since Mirrodin, and has been playing competitively since Dragons of Tarkir. With aspirations of playing on the Pro Tour, Tim plays in as many PPTQs and GPs as he can.

This past weekend was a pretty exciting one for people in my area. Not only was the SCG Open event on the weekend a Legacy one, but it was Eternal Extravaganza in Coopersburg, PA. For those that don’t know, Legacy is a pretty popular format in my neck of the woods in the Atlantic Northeast region, spanning the Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston Megalopolis. You’ll notice that there are typically Legacy format Open events during the year with a focal point around New Jersey, and we also have Eternal Weekend featuring Legacy and Vintage Championships every year in Philadelphia. With Coopersburg being only 90 minutes from my home, I was super excited to play competitive magic, and watch some Legacy this weekend. I got my ANT list together, sleeved it up…and lent it to Craig Krempels.

You see, while I love Legacy, and Storm in particular, in my mind, I have no reason to play Legacy if I’m not qualified for an Invitational event in which I am going to be playing the format. I instead turned my attention to an IQ in Kearny, NJ. Also 90 minutes away from my house, I figured I would have pretty decent chances at making a run there, with Eternal Extravaganza most likely grabbing the attention of the higher level players ala Gerard Fabiano and Kevin Jones who play in this area, along with it being Battle for Zendikar Gameday, I expected a low turnout.

So I sleeved up some Dark Jeskai, the exact 75 played by Owen Turtenwald and Jon Finkel to top 8 finishes at the Pro Tour the weekend prior, and decided to jam some Standard action. The list for reference:

I wanted to play this deck since I’ve been playing the archetype for a couple of weeks, had the Jaces without too much effort, and I had been playing Jeskai since Magic Origins rotated into the format. With all the talk about how Dark Jeskai was the best deck in the format, I figured I’d try to run it, and who better to steal a decklist from than the greatest magic player to live.

I hopped in my car, drove the 90 minutes to Kearny, and signed up. I met a friend who I’ve not seen for a while at the local shop I play at and we got to talking. He was on the G/W Megamorph list, and he felt pretty good about it. He certainly sounded more confident in his list than I was in mine, but I thought that with my experience with Jeskai, I should be fine.

12:30 rolls around, and there are a staggering FIFTEEN people playing in this IQ. Boy howdy will this be exciting! Four rounds cut to top 8, here we goooooo!

Round 1 – Steve on Mono Red…business?

Steve was a nice guy. He traveled with someone who’s DCI number had 4 digits, a real OG. He was playing some strange, non-meta red deck featuring hits like Pia and Kiran Nalaar, some token makers, and Outpost Siege in the main.

Game 1, I’m on the play, and lead with Soulfire Grandmaster, followed by a Jace. He’s able to hang for a bit by removing my creatures with burn spells, but he never really gets off the ground. Ojutai’s Command lines up pretty well against the four drop mom and dad of Chandra, and Mantis Riders are able to strike from the sky.

Game 2 he’s in it a bit more. He’s able to resolve an Outpost Siege after discarding some of his token makers in Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst with my Duress and Kolaghan’s Command, but he bricks a bit, and I’m able to run away with Tasigurs and a Soulfire Grandmaster.

1-0. Just need another two wins and I’m locked for top 8. Weeeeee! Just a side note, the FNM I played in the night previous had five rounds, so I felt pretty relaxed for four rounds.

Round 2 – Rocco on Dark Jeskai

I saw him playing earlier before the event against some people, so I knew what he was playing already, and I was able to keep a hand with a Dispel and a Fiery Impulse on the draw in game 1. During Game 1, I was able to shoot a Jace, and beat down with Tasigur, while handling his Dragonmaster Outcast with Crackling Doom. On his last turn, he leaves four mana open, obviously telegraphing an Ojutai’s Command. Against his empty board and two cards in hand, and him at seven, I’m able to resolve a Sarkhan, plus, and attack for eight.

Game 2, I keep a really greedy hand. For some reason, I can’t remember why, I thought it was a really sweet idea to keep the ol’ Wild Slash six lander. His seven cards are actual cards, and while I get punished for keeping six lands by drawing…lands…he is able to just run away with it while I don’t really put up a fight.

Game 3 plays much like game 1. He misses one land drop while I hit mine to six. We spend a few turns fighting over my Dragonmaster Outcast. He’s able to kill it before my upkeep, and Dispel my Ojutai’s Command to get it back. The next turn I Kolaghan’s Command the Dragonmaster Outcast back to my hand and resolve it. He’s spent a ton of resources fighting over it earlier, and is unable to kill it before I start generating Dragons on my upkeep. He eventually resolves a Dragonlord Ojutai, but by this point, my army of 5/5 flyers thanks to Dragonmaster Outcast is way outclassing his Mantis Rider and Dragonlord. I eventually just overwhelm him.

2-0. Pretty sure I just locked top 8, so I’m feeling pretty good today!

Round 3 – Pat on GR Landfall.

For those who read my reports, Pat was the guy I lost to at my first second place finish in a PPTQ. He just got back Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, where he didn’t do very well, aside from a draft pod where he 3-0’d I believe he said. Good on him though, and it makes my loss to him feel even sweeter knowing that he went on from there to get on the Pro Tour.

Game 1, I keep a hand with a Wild Slash, a Dispel, and a possible turn 3 Tasigur. His turn one Zurgo gets Wild Slashed. I flood out while he builds up a board of Abbot of Keral Keep and Scythe Leopard. I Dispel a Temur Battle Rage on his 3/3 Scythe Leopard to preserve my life total, but my Tasigur on the next turn is not enough to stave off his Become Immense and second Temur Battle Rage for the win.

Game 2, I mulligan to five, and keep on a hand that is very similar to my game 1 hand. I end up landing my turn 3 Tasigur, the Golden Fang, but he just start flooding the board with such hits as Hooting Mandrills, Flamewake Phoenix, multiple Abbots of Keral Keep, and a Zurgo. He’s eventually able to just alpha strike for lethal after nicking me down with his Flamewake Phoenix for a few turns and takes the match.

2-1. So after this round I check the pairings sheet, and if everyone that can draw next round does draw, top 8 is locked.

Round 4 – Ryan.

Ryan is the friend I saw here whom I met playing at my local store. The both of us are 2-1, and decide to draw into top 8. I spend the time off getting a coffee and a snack to keep the good move flowing, but felt pretty good going into top 8.

Quarterfinals – Andrew on Jeskai.

Andrew looked like he was playing the Jeskai list that was piloted to a second place finish at the Pro Tour by Ryoichi Tamada. Game 1 I have the play or draw choice as third seed in top 8 and obviously take the play. He’s able to handle my threats while I flood a bit, and ends up burning me from 8 with double Jeskai Charm.

Game 2, I realize the main reason I lost game 1 about halfway through game 2, where I am doing the same thing. I am killing his Hangarback Walkers. My deck is built to ignore them, and I really should have just done that instead of trying to be cute with my Kolaghan’s Command. He is able to block my Sarkhan and Mantis Riders with his tokens while he’s able to just draw gas, and eventually he gets the double Jeskai Charm again, but this time the second is flashed back with Jace.

So I felt pretty happy with my top 8 finish, but on the other hand, I ended up doing pretty mediocre, going 2-2 on the day. I realized that I’m either just very poor at playing the Jeskai Black deck, or I just don’t like. In either case, I think I won’t be playing the deck going forward. I think in the future, I’ll either be playing one of the red aggressive decks, because they’re pretty difficult to play against, and you can just get people with your combo, or one of the Gideon decks with Hangarback Walkers, because I think those grindy type of board matchups are more my play style than the tempo control style that I am having a difficult time trying to understand.

Also, if I were to play the Dark Jeskai list going forward, I would make a few changes. I would cut at least one Tasigur, the Golden Fang, because often I had multiples in my hand, and his activation isn’t really very good in this deck. Opponents were able to give me dead cards almost always, and I never felt like I got ahead by activating him.

I would probably add another Dig Through Time. I think I saw it twice all day, and was only able to cast it once. I feel like this card is backbreaking if it resolves.

Also, I have noticed that Ojutai’s Command is really easy to play around. Needing four mana for it not only is an obvious telegraph if that mana is open, but also leaves you negative on tempo if your opponent just does nothing.

I would also cut some number of Kolaghan’s Command. While it is fine, the modes on it really aren’t too amazing if you draw it late. I understand you can cast it in your opponent’s draw step to make them discard, and getting your creatures back is really sweet, but the other modes are kind of dead in a lot of matchups, and I never really felt like I was making a huge impact when casting the card.

That’s it for this week, and I’m looking forward to playing a new deck this Friday when I try my hand at another IQ!

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