I played in a standard IQ this past Saturday in Stroudsburg, PA. Straight off of my second place finish in Boonton the week prior, I decided to play something I was familiar with, and updated my Abzan control list:
So let’s go over the changes and the reasons for them.
So I played these cards last week to mainly beat the Esper dragons decks. I feel like a lot of people dismiss the Abzan control matchup with that deck as an autowin for Esper dragons. I feel actually that the matchup is really only bad for the Abzan control deck in game 1.
My sideboard plan for the matchup is really strong, and I felt that I was never happy to draw these cards against the dragons decks (except for maybe the Read the Bones).
So if I’m not worried about the Esper dragons matchup, what was I worried about? These crazy Deathmist Raptor decks. They play a lot of the same cards as me (depending on if they splash a third color, and which color they choose to splash), but have the potential to have a better long game. You can see this in my sideboard as well, that I focused a lot on beating this matchup.
Deathmist Raptors are already weak to our mindeck Abzan Charms, and also a third Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. I was more worried about looping Den Protectors, which can hop over soldier tokens and threaten our superstar planeswalker in the matchup.
So this report will be short, because, let’s just say, I did really poorly. 53ish people, six rounds cut to top 8. Let’s do this!
Round 1 Rudy on Jeskai Tokens. Rudy was a quiet guy, and seemed really nice. He just got really unlucky. Game 1, I don’t think he missed a land drop until turn 5, never drew blue mana, and I curved into turn 3 Courser, turn 4 Rhino, turn 5 Rhino. He just didn’t draw any playable action.
Game 2, he mulligans and (reluctantly) keeps on six. However, he drew whatever he needed, as this game went pretty late, and had me with a Rhino, Tasigur, Arashin Cleric, and Elspeth to his million billion tokens. He ended up drawing three ascendancies throughout the game, but Utter End is an all star, and while playing around Stoke the Flames, I’m able to grind him out.
1-0, the pack is back.
Round 2 Peter on Esper Dragons. So this deck. I understand that it’s a different angle on the old control decks, and I understand that it’s a very powerful deck, however, I don’t think the deck is actually very good.
Peter, on the other hand, was a really sweet dude, with all the foils in the world.
Game 1, I draw my dead cards in the matchup, and just lose the way the Esper Dragons deck draws it up.
Game 2, I win just like the Abzan control deck draws it up. Early threats, and discard spells. He misses his land drops past turn 4, and I just blow him out.
Game 3, I keep a hand of Temple of Malady, Llanowar Wastes, Courser, Courser, Rhino, Thoughtseize, Fleecemane Lion. I’ll bring this hand up later on. I get really unlucky with my land drops. I hit my third (forest) on time for courser, and end up grinding him down to 2 life while he is casting Dig Through Time on his mainstep to look for answers. This is while I’m on 3 land. I never see a fourth land, let alone a white source for the many lions and rhinos I have, and he is able to barely pull it out.
“Holy crap, that was really well played for being stuck on three mana.” “Just like we drew it up!”
Round 3 RJ on Esper Dragons. Not sure if you folks have ever played pinball, but this is the matchup where I started playing it. My opponent did so many things that irked me this round, I was tilted into oblivion. I won’t go into detail, but like the finals of last week, I feel like I lost this game mentally before I was ever even in it.
Game 1, again, I draw my dead cards in the matchup, and lose just like the chalkboard in the Esper Dragons locker room shows I should.
Game 2, again, I play really small threats early on, hit him with Duress and Thoughtseize, and end up out playing his Dragonlord Silumgar on my Nissa, Worldwaker with a Duress and Utter End, get her back, and win by attacking with plains.
I think I should have instead made creatures out of the forests and Llanowar Wastes I had, because the white mana just didn’t show up again in game 3, and he blows me out this game. Not even anywhere near to as close in the game 3 in the last round. Again on 3 land.
1-2. Courser! You have one job! Find me lands!
I can still top 8 with lucky breakers if I win out. Let’s roll the dice, folks…
Round 4 Ryan on Esper Dragons. Okay, seriously, where are all of the Deathmist Raptor decks? Even looking at the tables I was playing at, at least half of the players were on these stupid dragons!
Not really any details here, as Ryan was unfortunate and had my Round 2 and Round 3 game 3’s wrapped up in our games 1 and 2. Game 1 he gets stuck on 2 land, and I curve out perfectly. Game 2, he gets stuck on 3 land, 2 black sources, so he has some interaction with downfalls and Ultimate Prices and Thoughtseize, but can’t counter anything off of his lone backwater, or find his fourth land.
2-2. Back in it, baby! We can do this!
Round 5 Ronald on Esper Midrange. We can’t do this!
So this deck, I had seen it before, but had never played against it, and it wasn’t even close to being on my radar. It’s the deck that Josh Utter-Leyton played in the first week of the Standard Super League. It has Soulfire Grand Master, Monastery Mentor, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Thoughtseize, Negate, Disdainful Stroke, Treasure Cruise.
So game 1, before I even know what’s going on, I’m way behind. I don’t really have a plan for this strategy in game 1, but I see a lot of tokens and Treasure Cruise, so think it’s just some evolved token strategy.
Game 2, I keep a hand where I can cast Bile Blight and Thoughtseize off of 2 scry lands, and need a green for my courser. He gets the turn 1 Thoughtseize on me, takes my Thoughtseize, and from there it’s all downhill, as this game, he plays around Bile Blight, and gets to Elspeth after having gone for a couple of cruises. He just outvalues me with card advantage, and I feel powerless.
2-3. Drop. Go get a cheesesteak. Tell the person at the cheesesteak shop “you can call me Jambles.” Hear them yell “Jambles” across the restaurant when my order is complete. I’m the real winner here.
So a few takeaways here. I don’t think I made any actual play mistakes during my games. I had a plan that I executed quite well in the matchups for which I had plans. Now obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but I should have mulliganed the landlight hands I had in rounds 2 and 3. One thing that mulligan decisions do, is offer you sweet sweet lies.
Let me take you back in time a few months, back to when Red/White aggro was a very popular deck, and Fate Reforged was the cool new thing all the kids were playing with. My friend whom I hold in a very high regard, poses this question:
Playing Red/White Aggro, against Abzan Aggro, game 3, on the play, you have 24 lands in your deck, do you keep this hand:
Keep this Hand?
He kept this hand. I argued he should have mulliganed. I still feel pretty strongly that the above is a mulligan hand.
Fast forward to now, and I’m talking to him about the games in which I lost at this IQ. And he argued the same thing to me now, that I had argued to him when he asked this question:
“You once told me you would mulligan any hand that didn’t have the lands in it to cast some of your (in hand) spells.”
The sweet, sweet lies of double courser, double green source, but no third land caused me to lose my second round. I blamed it on luck in the report, but if I mulligan, do I still get lucked out of the tournament?
I lost with the loose hands that I kept on Saturday. My friend lost on his keep with the red white aggro deck.
Mulliganing seems to be the last piece of the puzzle on which I need to work in order to level up.
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