PT Austin In-Depth(s)
This report is tardy enough already, so as I did in Austin (minus the barbeque sauce), I’m just going to dive right into the meat. For reference, here’s the list I played:
The Dark Depths combo was certainly no secret going into the PT, and everyone probably thought they were prepared for Marit Lage, but the field didn’t really do enough to beat this deck. You can’t just pack some Meddling Mages and Pithing Needles, and certainly not just some Path to Exiles, and expect them to completely swing around your matchup like you can with hate cards against a deck like Hypergenesis. Unlike Hypergenesis, this deck is just packed full of good cards. It has tons of general purpose answers to problems, has very few blank draws, and attacks from different angles. It doesn’t really matter how ready you are for Marit Lage if you are just going to die to a parade of Dark Confidants, Vendilion Cliques, and Bitterblossoms.
The thing is, this isn’t really a combo deck. I’ve been calling it a Blue/Black Faeries deck, as it has far more resemblance to Fae than to any combo deck. It’s a highly disruptive deck that plays a good control game and has the ability to just snap and kill out of nowhere. Marit Lage is nothing but an improved Mistbind Clique.
The real proof that this is actually a Faeries deck in disguise: PV played it.
Round 1:Naya Zoo
My opponent opens with a Wild Nacatl, and on my turn I Thoughtseize, seeing Nacatl, Lightning Bolt, Umezawa’s Jitte, Wooly Thoctar, and Scalding Tarn. In hand I have a Repeal and Engineered Explosives, but not a quick combo, so I am pretty happy taking the Thoctar and planning on exploding his only threats on turn three. He plays the second Nacatl turn two, and on my turn I draw Chalice of the Void and slam it down set to one. Oops. That means I can’t Explosives for one the following turn, and instead have to Repeal a Nacatl (which I even fail to main phase in case of peeling Chrome Mox, which would have let me also cast a Dark Confidant that turn). I end up missing my fourth land drop, so I don’t even get to Explode his now one Nacatl turn four, and I end up losing to the infinite extra damage I allowed myself to take. If I had played correctly and just Repealed a Nacatl turn two, and Exploded the two Nacatl turn three, the game would have been a blowout in my favor.
Game two I get to take advantage of my 20/20 being indestructible, which is pretty sweet. My opponent Lightning Helixes up to 21 life, and I am dead to his counter-attack, but I get to just bash him down to one and Damnation away his team.
Round 2: Domain Zoo
I get game one with a faster goldfish. Game two he leads with Pithing Needle on Engineered Explosives (!) off of a fetched Hallowed Fountain (!). Cabal Therapy one time! I have nothing turn one, and turn two he plays the obligatory Meddling Mage naming Vampire Hexmage. I have a Chalice for one, which ends up locking out every other spell my opponent draws. With all the time in the world thanks to Chalice, I Wrath away the Meddling Mage and combo off.
Round 3: Thopter Combo
We both goldfish our combos in the first game, but his 1/1′s easily trump my 20/20.
For game two I have some sweet Threads of Disloyalty to board out, bringing in Pithing Needle and Tormod’s Crypt. I know Tormod’s Crypt does almost nothing against his combo, as he can simply sacrifice a random artifact land or whatever in response to a Crypt activation to get his Sword of the Meek back, but I figured I could try to mise a Sword pitched to Thirst with it, and I had nothing else I wanted to bring in. What I should have done is bring in all four Bitterblossoms, as both of our decks are so disruptive (he had Paths, counterspells, and presumably some Trinkets) that comboing each other is fairly difficult, and Bitterblossom could very realistically win the game by itself.
The game goes pretty long, with my first Vendilion Clique attacking my opponent down to five before he Paths it, and my second Vendilion really threatening to kill him. He is forced to burn two Condescends for zero digging for an answer, and succeeds in finding the Thopter Foundry to complete his combo. I had Tormod’s Crypt for the majority of the game, which of course did nothing to keep his Foundry plus Sword from killing me, but if it was a Bitterblossom, he would have been dead many, many turns earlier.
Round 4: Burn
Game two I Thoughtseize one Needle and Repeal a second on my way to a turn four 20/20. My opponent once again has a Nexus threatening a block, and would likely be able to burn me out given one more turn, as I am at six and he has a Goblin Guide in play and spells in hand. Instead of keeping up Nexus to block, though, he taps out for a Keldon Marauders, not realizing Marit Lage flies.
Round 5: Dredge
My opponent mulligans to four and my Thoughtseize leaves him with stone nothing. My twin Dark Confidants squeak out the race against themselves. In game two I have a quick combo with an unanswered Tormod’s Crypt keeping my opponent from doing anything relevant.
I felt pretty good about how the draft went. I ended up in Green/Black with a heavy landfall theme and a solid curve, highlighted by triple Grazing Gladehart, double Harrow, Vampire Nighthawk, some removal, and several boom booms to close out games. I liked my chances against aggressive decks, but knew I was cold to anything resembling a control deck.
Obviously, I lost to two burn decks and beat the Blue/Black control deck.
Round 6: Black/White
My opponent on the play curves out Vampire Lacerator, double Blood Seeker, Kor Hookmaster, but I have a turn three Nighthawk that trumps his entire team. Nighthawk keeps my life total afloat as I play out random bodies, and I am in great position right up until my opponent slams down Sorin Markov, picking off a Timbermaw Larva. Nighthawk and Sorin then essentially trade, with the board otherwise stable, but soon a Blood Tribute plus Sorin ping burn me out from five life.
After the match, I found LSV, who was pretty bummed about losing with his solid double Marsh Casualties Blue/Black control deck to a much worse Red/White deck with zero creatures with more than two toughness. I figured at least one of us could be consoled with some battling (though it certainly wasn’t going to be me). We played five or so games between rounds, and sure enough, I wasn’t even close to winning any of them.
Round 7: Mono-Red
My opponent starts with a Quest for Pure Flame into a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker on turn two. As the board develops, my opponent sticks a Bladetusk Boar while I have double Grazing Gladehart and am starting to poke through for damage. I even get to Harrow with both Gladeharts in play, going up to 25 life. Going into the penultimate turn, I am at 23 and have a tapped Oran-Rief Recluse, a tapped Grazing Gladehart, a freshly cast Territorial Baloth, six lands in play, and Heartstabber Mosquito in hand. My opponent has just the Bladetusk Boar and now active Quest, and is at 12 with two cards in hand.
Yep, lost this one.
My opponent plays Elemental Appeal and bashes. If I don’t block, he can pop the Quest and drop me to three, leaving me dead if I fail to draw a land or removal. So the Baloth has to jump in front of the Elemental, and I take six down to 17. On my turn I miss on land, attack for three, and play the irrelevant creature I drew. One popped Quest, Boar attack, and Spire Barrage off six Mountains later, I am at -1.
If I can’t beat the Mono-Red burn deck the game I Harrow with two Gladeharts in play…
The second game is much the same. I build up a dominant board, but for an unanswered Bladetusk Boar that is again on a Quest for Pure Flame. I have my opponent on approximately a two turn clock, with me at 12 and his Quest at three counters, when a big Elemental Appeal plus Goblin Bushwhacker turn gets me for exactsies. My opponent may not have had any cards in hand at the end of the game, but he still had all these Quest for Pure Flames (I certainly would have run it!).
Round 8: Blue/Black
Okay, so when I said I beat the Blue/Black control deck, what I actually meant was that I beat the triple Kraken Hatchling double Vampire Lacerator special. My opponent’s draft had gone horribly awry, and in both games I curve out with solid cards while he fails to curve out, with bad cards.
I’ve drafted a fair number of Green landfall heavy decks that I thought were awesome, only to lose match after match with them. The losses generally feel like bad beats, but by now I have accepted that I am not just getting unlucky with these decks, that there is actually something wrong with them.
Consistency is a huge problem for these decks. Much more so than with other decks, you need to draw all the right cards in just the right order. You need a healthy mix of mana and gas, which is obviously tougher when running off of 20+ mana sources. You have an actual curve, with likely a fair number of expensive spells, so you need to draw both cheap spells early and expensive spells later. You need to draw both landfall effects and enablers. It’s much harder for this to all come together than say a deck full of two drops that just wants to cast a bunch of two drops and attack. These issues don’t necessarily make landfall decks bad, since when everything does come together you can end up with something very special, but they do make an insane landfall deck much more likely to get unlucky with a bad draw than an insane Mono-Red deck. And these issues, if you fail to accurately account for them, can definitely make decks look better than they actually are.
Note that I haven’t given up on Green as a color, as others have done. In fact, I have been drafting Green more than any other color, as I find it very much underrated and underdrafted. I have just learned to rate Oran-Rief Survivalist and Timbermaw Larva and the like higher than cards like Harrow and Grazing Gladehart, as they have done much better for me. If you too have given up on landfall Green, you might be pleasantly surprised drafting aggressive Green decks packed full of cheap spells.
This draft went very well, and I ended up in a very aggressive Blue/Black deck with a low curve highlighted by triple Guul Draz Vampire and lots of flyers, topped off with a Living Tsunami and Marsh Casualties.
Round 9: BYE
Round 10: Black/White
I am “stuck” on three lands in the first game, but still casting a spell every turn, and the board mostly stalls out. Eventually I draw into my fifth land for a kicked Marsh Casualties, wiping out all six of my opponent’s creatures. My opponent responds immediately with a Day of Judgment for my team of five, so we continue playing some Magic. Coming out of the Wrath, my hand is Summoner’s Bane, Cancel, Gomazoa, Adventuring Gear to my opponent’s two cards (I believe they were Bloodseeker and land). From there we basically just trade one-for-one, and despite starting two counterspells ahead, I hit a pocket of lands to my opponent’s spells, and get attritioned out.
I draw many, many more lands than spells in game two, and am quickly dismantled.
Round 11: Blue/White
All three games in this match were pretty tight races. I had one-drops and Welkin Terns and Umara Raptors to my opponent’s Cliff Threaders and Windrider Eels (and in game one, a Lorthos, the Tidemaker that was stranded in hand and subsequently boarded out); basically, neither of us did a very good job blocking, and my curve was a little bit lower, giving me what felt like a significant edge in the matchup.
The first game was largely won on the back of Summoners Bane countering Shepherd of the Lost from an otherwise pretty even board. Not only was the Shepherd going to be a game-winner, but the free 2/2 provided a big enough tempo swing to turn what was a close game into a pretty big rout. The turn I passed with Summoners Bane up, I also had Into the Roil in hand, so it’s not like my opponent could have played around the counterspell effectively. If he didn’t play a relevant creature, the Into the Roil was going to put me far enough ahead on the board that the Summoners Bane was going to get him regardless.
Round 12: Hypergenesis
I mulligan to six on the play, keeping a one-land Dark Confidant hand. My opponent mulligans to five, and fails to play a land on his first turn. I hit my second land for Dark Confidant soon after his second land, but he still hits land number four to Ingot Chewer a Chalice and Cascade for the win before I find two Blue sources for Muddle. My opponent did a good job being patient on his Ingot Chewer, since if he didn’t wait until he could Cascade the same turn he cast the Ingot Chewer, I could have had a second Chalice (in this case, by Repealing the first one).
In game two I curve out Thoughtseize, Dark Confidant, Vendilion Clique. Thoughtseize takes the one Cascade spell I see, and Vendilion bottoms his techy Night of Souls Betrayal. Bob and Clique beat him down, and I have a Muddle for his desperation Hypergenesis.
Game three is a repeat of game two. I throw a ton of disruption at my opponent, including a Ghost Quarter keeping him off of three mana for some time, and kill him with a Confidant and Vendilion while sitting on Muddles.
Round 13: Blue/Black Faeries
I manage to combo game one, but am still losing to my opponent’s turn two Bitterblossom, and I have nothing left in the tank to my opponent’s three cards in hand. I go for Marit Lage to block an incoming token, and he has a Threads. I die to my unloyal Marit Lage (and the Bitterblossom that was going to kill me anyway).
I have a nutty draw for game two, sticking a Bob, Thoughtseizing my opponent down to nothing, and finishing with a 20/20.
Game three was the interesting one, and I definitely threw it away. I open with a turn one Dark Confidant that isn’t Snared. On my second turn, I decide to attack into my opponent’s two open mana, fully prepared to trade Bob for Spellstutter Sprite if my opponent has it. I have Thoughtseize and Bitterblossom in hand, and I want to cast Thoughtseize this turn for sure in case my opponent has Threads. Trading Dark Confidant for Sprite seems better than letting Thoughtseize get countered by it, and then having a Dark Confidant that can’t attack and a Bitterblossom in play. My opponent has the Sprite to trade, and my Thoughtseize reveals double Mana Leak, double Vendilion Clique, and Threads of Disloyalty. I take a Vendilion and play Bitterblossom. My opponent misses his third land drop for a couple turns, but I have no other action, with just a Threads in hand. On my turn after he finds land number three, I am at 13 and have three Bitterblossom tokens in play. Without thinking it through, I attack with my two non-sick tokens, taking my opponent to 17. Of course, I know from Thoughtseize my opponent has Vendilion and Threads, and he plays exactly those, cycling a Mana Leak away with the Clique. He Threads my one untapped token, and gets a hit in with Vendilion. Several turns later, with my opponent on the brink of dying to Bitterblossom tokens, he is able to Cryptic my team and get in with his Vendilion and a Mutavault, killing me. Had I kept an extra token back to block Vendilion, and avoided taking the unnecessary three damage, my opponent would have needed a second Cryptic to win the game.
Round 14: Dredge
My opponent mulligans to five, and his turn two Glimpse the Unthinkable whiffs on dredgers. It does let him Dread Return (hardcast) a Magus of the Bazaar on turn four, though. I make Marit Lage on my fourth turn (technically, on my opponent’s turn five draw step, so as to snag any Bridges and avoid any Ghost Quarters), so it’s my 20/20 versus his 0/1 and we both have no relevant spells in hand. If he had any dredgers, I would be in pretty big trouble from this position, but he has none in hand or graveyard. His upkeep Magus activation succeeds in finding a Stinkweed Imp, though, which hits another Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Grave-Troll on his draw step. He plays the Imp to block, and on my turn I draw a good one: Beseech the Queen. After playing my land for the turn, I have five lands plus a Chrome Mox, one mana short of tutoring for a lethal Repeal, so instead I Threads his Magus and pass the turn after attacking. My opponent dredges into a Narcomoeba, Iona, and Bridge, and has a second hardcast Dread Return on Iona, leaving me in a pretty rough spot. Not knowing my list, though, my opponent named Black with Iona, which was much much better for me than naming Blue. Had he named Blue, I have only Chalice as a way to get through his recurring Imp, but access to Blue gave me Repeal as well.
My opponent’s Magus serves me very well, letting me essentially just draw three cards a turn as I dump excess lands and Black spells. My first turn (and three new cards) nets me a Vendilion, which cycles away a blank and chumps Iona (removing Bridge), after my 20/20 turns his Narcomoeba into a zombie. My opponent fails to hit a Narcomoeba on his turn, simply dredging and playing an Imp. I get there with a Repeal off of the Magus activation.
Game two we both mulligan, and I keep a hand with Tormod’s Crypt, Darkblast, Engineered Explosives, and lands. My Crypt goes unanswered, giving me tons of time, but I fail to capitalize on it, as I have drawn nothing to pressure my opponent. My opponent eventually forces me to pop the Crypt by hardcasting a large Grave-Troll, but by that time I’m ready with a tutor for the second Crypt. Several turns later Grave-Troll forces that Crypt as well, but by that point I have removed most of my opponent’s library from the game. He had under twenty cards, with something like one Narcomoeba, no Bloodghasts, and one Bridge left. I made a 20/20 quickly after that, and the entirety of his depleted library couldn’t hope to beat it.
Round 15: Scapeshift
Game two my opponent plays a quick Meloku, and I am completely cold.
In come the Sowers, Doom Blade, and Slaughter Pact for game three. I have a ton of dead cards main (Chalice, Explosives, Threads), and pretty limited sideboard options, so it’s not like I lose much being overly prepared for Meloku.
I have a turn two Dark Confidant, followed two turns later by a Vendilion Clique that strips a Scapeshift. I attack him down to 11, and the next turn my opponent has a Wood Elves that keeps my Bob at bay. Two turns of Vendilion attacks (and a fetchland) leave my opponent at 4, with ten lands and Wood Elves in play, to my Bob and Vendilion. By this point, I know from a Peer Through Depths that he has a Scapeshift in hand, and he knows from Bob that I have a Muddle.
On his turn he Peers into a Harrow, then Ponders and doesn’t shuffle. He passes the turn with tons of Green and Red mana open, plus a Misty Rainforest, and three cards in hand: Scapeshift, Harrow, and the card drawn from Ponder. My Bob and draw step yield blanks, leaving me with essentially just Muddle in hand and seven mana in play. I can transmute Muddle for Doom Blade to kill the Wood Elves and attack for lethal, but if my opponent has something to survive, that leaves me dead to his Scapeshift.
So what could that unknown from Ponder be? Since he didn’t shuffle with Ponder, there’s a pretty small number of cards he might have between the unknown in his hand and the top card of his deck. If he hit a Meloku or a second Scapeshift, he would have just cast it, so I rule those out. Remand is pretty likely, as that is lethal next turn (I can recast Muddle, but he will have enough mana to Remand Scapeshift and replay it). If he didn’t hit Scapeshift, Meloku, or Remand, the only reason not to shuffle would be something that digs: Peer, Ponder, or Repeal. Transmuting for Doom Blade only loses to Repeal, whereas passing with Muddle up loses to Remand or a dig spell that finds one of the game-winners.
I transmute, and my opponent has nothing.
As it turns out (at the time, I missed this possibility), he only had one basic Island in his deck, and it was already in play tapped, so even if he had a Repeal in hand it would not have been able to save him, since he could only cast it by fetching out an untapped shock land.
Round 16: ID into top 50!
I wonder how high Josh has to finish before he writes a conclusion? – LSV
Austin went pretty well overall, with myself Top 50ing, Web finishing 21st, PV making Top 8, and LSV grinding the Vintage Side Event (+1 Mox Ruby!). Good meat was had, luckily all on Web’s dime, and the site hotel let people draft in the lobby until early Monday morning. As for the Depths deck, it seems like it will be a legitimate deck come Worlds, although accounting for Ghost Quarter might be necessary. There was a last-minute run on GQs at the site, since it really is the best piece of hate available. Now that it is a known quantity however, Depths certainly can prepare for it, although it does weaken the deck overall.
See you next week, where I extol the virtues of the best common in Zendikar, [card Umara Raptor]Umara Wrapter[/card].