So this past weekend, I went to an event in Nanuet, NY at Toywiz. After losing with the Dark Jeskai list over the past couple of months, I felt like no matter what I did, I was just losing. I felt like I was only making minor mistakes while playing, and was just getting unlucky in my games. I figured I would try out a new deck, and hope that my luck would change. In my last article, I mentioned I would play either the red deck or the four color rally deck. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get all of the cards for the really deck for this weekend, and in my testing, I did not like the red deck at all. I’m not really partial to all-in red strategies, and I enjoy red decks with more reach, so I didn’t feel comfortable with that deck. I ended up landing on the lowest common denominator, and sleeved up my old friend, Mr. Siege Rhino.
I built this on Magic Online as well, and my win rate went from about 50% to around 72% over four days of testing. I was really feeling the Abzan flow, and felt really good about the deck. I wanted to try the Snapping Gnarlids, because I saw people were moving away from Hangarback Walker, and in testing, Snapping Gnarlid did the most damage up front between him and Heir of the Wilds.
My friend sleeved up his old faithful, Bant Megamorph, and we were off to the races. There were 27 people, and that meant 5 rounds of Magic, splitting to top 8. Here we go!
Round 1 – Kaan on Esper Control
Kaan started game 1 off with a Fathom Feeder while I was able to curve out as Abzan is want to do. Turn 1 Warden, turn 2 level the Warden, turn 3 Abzan Charm for 2 cards, turn 4 Siege Rhino, into turn 5 raided Wingmate Roc. He isn’t really able to put up much of a defense, and he’s pushed out of the game.
Game 2, he had a Jace on turn 2, and missed his third land drop on turn three, while I stick a timely Mastery of the Unseen on my turn 2. Tasigur, Den Protector, and Mastery of the Unseen, along with a resolved Gideon are just too much for him to deal with, and while this game is a bit more grindy than the previous game, I don’t ever feel like I can lose.
1-0. Starting the day off the right way. I’m feeling positive, I just played a great match, and nothing can stop me now!
One thing I wanted to bring up to people who are new to competitive play, make sure you know exactly what your cards AND YOUR OPPONENT’S CARDS DO. Kaan was playing with mostly foreign cards, what I with my limited knowledge of eastern Asian languages could only discern to be Korean. Neither of us knew a lick of the language, and he went to block my Wingmate Roc with a Korean Fathom Feeder. Now it becomes awkward, because I’m pretty sure that Fathom Feeder doesn’t have flying, but now I’m second guessing myself. I do tell him confidently that Fathom Feeder doesn’t have flying, and he is reluctant to call a judge.
After the match, I did verify that I was correct, but still, once I told him it didn’t have flying, I’m kind of screwed if I’m wrong. My assumption that it didn’t have flying made me play in such a way that I was banking on my Wingmate Rocs for that game, which could have cost me the game because I thought I knew what Fathom Feeder did.
TL;DR, you can always call a judge whenever to get a translation of the card, no matter which side of the card you’re on.
Round 2 – Chas on Dark Jeskai.
Chas was another cool guy, but somewhat arrogant. He mentioned that he was there to only play against and beat his friend Ross (Merriam) in the finals of the event. I’m sure he was only being playful, since Ross was sitting next to me, and clearly within earshot, but I couldn’t be too sure.
Game one, he’s stuck on two land, and while he’s able to handle my Warden of the First Tree, he falls behind because of his lack of mana, and Anafenza and Siege Rhino quickly put him out.
Game two goes a bit better for him. He’s again got a burn spell on turn zero for my Warden of the First Tree, and he controls the game to a point where I am forced to start playing creatures into Ojutai’s Command. Has this been what I’ve been doing to people? It does not feel good, and I felt a little bad about myself after the game.
Game three. This is the epitome of why I’m no longer playing the Jeskai deck in standard. He again has the turn zero answer to my warden, but I’m able to play threats to force him off of Ojutai’s Command, such that I resolve an Anafenza the Foremost and Siege Rhino. So his removal spells cost so much mana, and the mana requirements on those spells is so strict, that he’s only limited to one spell a turn, despite having six mana sources on the field, while I’m comfortably jamming Rhinos and Den Protectors. Eventually, my Anafenza and Siege Rhino stick, and since the deck not only has to pay four mana to exile my Rhino with Utter End, it has no way to deal with enchantments other than one or two cards in either Felidar Cub or Erase in the sideboard, that my Silkwrap on his Soulfire Grand Master, and 2 +1/+1 counters on my Anafenza the Foremost from Abzan Charm are enough to seal the match.
2-0. I just need to win one more round, and I can pretty comfortably top 8. I’m feeling really positive, has my luck turned around finally? Did I just need to start casting our benevolent horned overlord again?
Round 3 – Ross on Abzan. Yup, that Ross.
So I’m really excited, Ross Merriam is the first high profile pro level player that I’ve ever played against. Of course I was a bit nervous, I’m playing against a guy who has his SCG Player’s Championship hoodie on!
Game 1, he mulls to five, and I’m able to quickly punish him and take the game. My swift Warden of the First Tree start straight trumps his turn 1 Shambling Vent on the draw, and he just gets run over.
Game 2, the opposite happens. I mulligan to six and keep an acceptable hand, but his hand is so much better than mine, I just can’t keep up. I feel like my luck is turning for the worse now.
Game 3, I keep a very iffy, slow, six card hand. In retrospect, I should probably have mulliganed. My hand was something like Shambling Vent, Shambling Vent, Flooded Strand, Warden of the First Tree, Self-Inflicted Wound, Abzan Charm, with an Anafenza the Foremost as my scry. I kept this hand because I’m on the play, and even though I’ll be off curve, I still think I can get there.
I thought wrong. He very fast again, he has a turn 1 Warden of the First Tree, into pump, into Heir of the Wilds, all the way up to Wingmate Roc. We get through one combat, I’m put to eight life, and he has more creatures than I have lands in play. There’s no way I can win at this point.
2-1. Ok, I lost to Ross Merriam. No shame in that, my friend who was watching me even said I played really well. Nothing I can be disappointed with. Maybe I am just in an unlucky slump right now?
Round 4, Matt on 5 color Bring to Light.
So now my dreams are being killed even more swiftly. I get the pair down, which I’m in 4th place on breakers to start this round, top of the 2-1s, so not sure how in the world I get paired down, but again, maybe it’s just an unlucky slump I’m in.
I’m not so confident in this matchup. I know this deck, I’ve played it before. I feel like it’s just bad for the Abzan deck. I’m able to pressure him in game 1 down to 4 life, but then run out of steam. He’s able to stabilize, and Siege Rhino me out of the game through his Bring to Lights, and flashing them back with Jace, Telepath Unbound.
Game 2, I keep a very bad hand, but it seemed fine at the time. A six card hand with Llanowar Wastes, Warden of the First Tree, Duress, Abzan Charm, Anafenza, the Foremost, and Den Protector. My scry was to bottom Tasigur, the Golden Fang.
The game ended a few turns later, I had two lands in play. I was not the victor.
2-2. Hope of top 8 dwindling. However, a lot of the people at the top of the standings played instead of drawing, so that leaves the window open for one or two people with 3-2 records to top 8. Come onnnnnn, luck breakers!
Round 5, Joe on Bant Megamorph.
Yep, that Joe. The Joe that I’ve been playing Magic with for more than ten years. The Joe that drove me here!
At this point I’m feeling a bit dejected, but want to put up a good fight, because there is the possibility for one of us to make top 8 at 3-2.
Game 1, I come out fast again, but he’s able to handle it with some timely Dromoka’s Commands. Of course, he’s luckier than me, so he draws more Gideons, and a couple of Wingmate Rocs to my Den Protectors, that just stare at Abzan Charms all day.
Game 2, I start blazingly fast, and the game ends on turn five when I’m attacking with three Wardens of the First Tree and a Den Protector into his four mana and Deathmist Raptor. He doesn’t have the tools to beat me this game.
Game 3, again, I feel like, and Joe agrees, that I play really well. But his draws are just more timely than mine. For instance, drawing a Valorous Stance off of a Nissa, Sage Animist the turn before I draw a Wingmate Roc that I’m unable to raid.
I ended up going 2-3, and Joe ended up in tenth place unfortunately. It was a long, sad, salty drive back home. Joe and I bouncing ideas off of each other the whole ride. We came to the conclusion that we just don’t really enjoy Standard right now. Which is unfortunate, because we both really like or even love cards that are played, but the decks they are in are just not our taste.
I do feel like playing Abzan gave me better chances at winning than the Jeskai deck did. I didn’t feel crunched for time during the rounds, I didn’t have to look into my crystal ball to see which lands I fetch for now would be the reason I lose the game in 4 turns.
Also, my friend Joe and others that saw me play at the event said that I played really well, along with me feeling like I played very well. This makes me think I just am in a slump right now, and have to play through it. Maybe changing decks every week isn’t the answer, and I just need my luck to turn around. Maybe I just stay with Abzan, and shelve my little buddy Jace for now. For the foreseeable future, Abzan seems to be the deck I’ll play.
For next time though, I want to make a few changes to the deck. I think in the maindeck, I want to cut the fourth Den Protector for a Sorin, Solemn Visitor. I was dropping Den Protectors on 2 a lot more than I was able to flip them for value, and I think Sorin would be a more versatile threat in more matchups than a cute little 2/1 with weird evasion.
I also would swap the Gnarlids for Heir of the Wilds. My thought on Gnarlid was that he could fight most things just as well as Heir of the Wilds, and still do more damage. But, Heir of the Wilds is a slightly better draw lategame even though you give up a bit of damage up front. Late game, Gnarlid will most likely just be a 2/2, where Heir has no trouble trading with another creature.
I would also want to change the sideboard just a touch. I think cutting Duress three for Infinite Obliteration would be good, especially if people are going to head down the path of Esper Dragons and 4C rally.
That’s it for this week. Next week, I’ll be writing about getting into Modern while on a budget!
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