This is part 2 of my Madrid report!
I ended part one at round 7. Soo
Round 8: Bant Survival
I didn’t really know what my opponent was playing, as he didn’t play any characteristic card in game one. He tried a Tarmogoyf, and I blind Counterbalanced it. Then he tried another spell, and I blindly hit it again (ctrl q+e). He didn’t play anything else, so I thought he was playing some sort of Bant Counterbalance too, and boarded accordingly.
After this tournament, I realized my SBing strategy might be a bit off for the mirror. When we played in Chicago, we didn’t really have anything to fight for, so Force of Will was not really a very good card – after board, you had answers to everything so you didn’t have to two for one yourself for them. With this build, though, there is Natural Order, and it is worth fighting for, both ways – most of the time a resolved Natural Order will win the game, so it might be good to leave some number of Forces in there (though if you are fighting their Natural Order then Spell Pierce is just as good). I like the third Daze on the play, but it is not very good on the draw.
Game two he is again stuck on lands, but this time he gets an Aether Vial turn one. I EE it away, and he plays another. At some point I have a Hierarch and a Goyf in play, and a Natural Order in hand, and my opponent taps his two lands (he has a Vial on two counters) to play Survival of the Fittest. I Daze it, and he Forces. On my turn I make a pretty bad mistake – I know that I am playing Natural Order, but I think to myself that there is no reason to do it pre combat, because I will be adding a Sorcery to my grave but losing the Exalted from Hierarch, so I just attack first. I then realize that I will also be putting a creature in my grave, but then it’s too late. He takes the damage and I get my Progenitus in play.
On his next turn he adds a counter to his Vial and passes. I attack with both my guys, and he vials in War Monk and blocks the Goyf. He then Survivals for Squee and Llawan, and next turn bounces my Progenitus and chumps my Goyf. He uses Survival to get a Goyf, which I Sword, so I know he doesn’t have any other four casting cost creatures (or five), and then I have another Goyf and I draw a Krosan Grip. He finds a third land, but is too far behind, now at one life, which means I would have killed him one turn earlier had I played the Natural Order correctly.
He untaps (and I think he is very dead, because I have two Goyfs to his 3 Lands) and draws a card from his Sideboard, which was close to where his deck was (when he shuffled his deck at some point, it got to the other side, not the one he generally had it). I ask him about it and he says “oh, sorry, I’m dead either way” and shows me the Force of Will he drew from his sideboard. I believe that it was a mistake, because the card you want least when you are at 1 and have 3 Lands facing 2 Goyfs is [card]Force of Will[/card], so I just fill the slip without any trouble. After the match, he shows me a Sower in his board, and says “I should not have boarded this out”, which got me thinking that maybe he had no outs in his deck, so he tried 1/15 in his sideboard to draw his Sower, but I honestly don’t think that was the case – just something to keep in mind in case you ever misboard 😉
In any case, I don’t understand why he would not keep his Sower against me – seems like a card he would want multiples of if he had access to.
Round 9: Mirror
I don’t really remember game one of this match, I know that I won. I sided the same.
Game two he established control very early, with Top, Counterbalance and a Goyf to my Top only. At some point, I shuffled and Topped into Natural Order and a Fetch. I untapped, drew one, used Top to draw the other, and went all in on the Natural Order, which resolved.
He had a Jitte, though, so I needed three attacks to kill him. I played some spells during those turns, and I watched like a hawk his movement with the Top, so I always knew if he was drawing a card he had already revealed or not. Whenever you use Top and Counterbalance, make sure you shuffle fast so that they can’t follow it – my opponent was simply slowly moving the cards, and they were easy to spot.
We get to the turn where I kill him next attack, and he has three lands, one untapped (because he played Qasali Pridemage). At this point, the only thing that saves him is his own Natural Order. I know that the top card of his library is not a two casting cost card, from the way he moved them when I attempted a Goyf next turn, so I simply play another Goyf. This way, if he counters it he can’t top into a land to play Natural Order (or into the Natural Order if he has a land for some reason), since he only has one untapped land, so I am guaranteed that it will resolve (or he will die next turn regardless). He Tops, thinks for a while and counters it, and I know he is dead.
By the time Gaudenis finishes playing (and they had extra time and turns”¦), it is over midnight. They also tell us that Tiebreakers are being reset, which is pretty ridiculous (especially since I had like 80%) if you consider that all they needed to do was probably change a number in the middle of a code – i.e. they could have easily avoided it if they were a little more prepared. We go to a Kebab place that is miraculously open (though they didn’t have chicken!), and get the train back to our hotel, and I collapse in bed. Much too soon I have to wake up and go back to the event with Sam (Gau ended up drawing his last round to not make it). They were very strict about getting there in time (you know how they terrorize you as you are leaving “YOU MUST BE HERE AT 8 SHARP OR YOU WON’T GET TO PLAY”), so we hurry a little bit and manage to be there at 7:55, only to discover that the doors are not even open. 8:00, and the doors are still closed. I start looking for something that I can use as a weapon to kill the tournament organizer, but I manage to control myself until about 8:05, when the doors open. By 8:20 we start playing.
Round 10: T8 guy with Bant Natural Order
Game one he starts with turn two Sylvan Library, and four turns later I start wondering why I am not playing that card. He drew four extra cards of it, but I never came close to dealing the last four damage. I managed to sneak in a Progenitus, but he had his own, and then I couldn’t deal with his last cards.
Game two was a little better, because he didn’t have Sylvan Library, but he had simply more guys than me, and at some point plays a Rafiq of the Many (I know right!) and a multi-exalted guy just kills me, since I can’t find a Swords in two turns.
Round 11: Ad Nauseam
Game one I assemble Counterbalance Top soon enough with Forces backup and he never really does anything. It was pretty weird, though, because twice he played spells into my Top but had no follow up – i.e. he would play a Brainstorm at the end of the turn to make me flip Top, I would do that, and he would have no follow up, then two turns later he would do it again. I guess he thought maybe I would not do it? I guess sometimes you just have to keep your Top in there, but one is the best casting cost to have on top against him anyway, and if you have other defense (such as Fow) then you should pretty much always counter the draw spells. The Ad Nauseam player, on the other hand, should usually wait until he has plenty of them, so he can respond to the Top and force some through.
I boarded the same as round 4.
Game two I think he mulligans, and I have my Canonist in my opening hand again (see, I told you, one is a lot in this deck, you see so many cards!). I play the Canonist, and he plays a Xantid Swarm, which I Threads. He is a bit surprised, and asks me if I boarded it because it costs three. No, I boarded it to steal your Xantid Swarm!
I keep attacking with my exalted Canonist, and I have Top, Cbalance, the Canonist and Forces, so he is almost drawing dead. When he is at 5, I think for a while – either I want to attack with just the Canonist or with that and the Swarm. I end up attacking with just the Canonist, to put him at 2, but it was probably wrong – if I attack with both, I put him to three (because of Noble Hierarch), but I guarantee that I am passing the turn with a Canonist in play, and I will kill him next turn anyway. He ends up bouncing my Canonist EOT, but it doesn’t make any difference because I just have too much defense.
Round 12: Merfolk
Both games were really easy; Game one I have Top and Counterbalance, and he cannot do anything (and this might be getting somewhat tedious, but, hey, that’s why I play those two cards).
Game two he is on the offense, with two Mutavaults, but I play Natural Order and he doesn’t have anything, so he just dies to Progenitus.
Round 13: Sligh
This was a feature match, covered here
I think those games were really interesting, and I think I played very well. Game one he played Goblin Guide, and though I was very tempted to just play Top and “combo”, I decided to Swords it turn two. He played a Grim Lavamancer, and I used EE to kill that and my spare Top, while drawing a card (activating the draw ability, then killing all the 1s with that on the stack), which was a play I made in game two too. My opponent was making some sub-optimal plays, such as taking three from Tarmogoyf and then at the end of the turn shooting me with Lavamancer by removing the only Sorcery, and at some point he decided to Price of Progress me at the end of my turn, tapping out, so I just Dazed it, when he could have comfortably done that any other time (though I had stopped playing lands for some turns by then, despite having more in hand).
-3 Natural Order
-1 Trygon Predator
+2 Spell Pierce
+1 Tsabo’s Web
I had one slot for either Web or Relic, but in the end decided for Web, because it would randomly shut down heavy Barbarian Ring hands (as opposed to Relic who would just stop them from dealing me damage) and in this match the size of my Goyf is really important – if I remove all graveyards then I give him a lot more turns to draw burn to kill me. I took out the Natural Order package because I don’t really want to play many lands, because of Price of Progress, and I think tapping out with 4 lands in play is too dangerous.
Game two I draw my Tsabo’s Web, and he has one Barbarian Ring, though it is untapped. I play a Goyf and deal him some damage, and when I attempt a Counterbalance he Pyroblasts it. I have a Force, but decide not to use it because he has a lot of cards in hand, and I think it is likely that he has another Blast because he hasn’t been doing anything, and since he is short on lands I will probably be able to force something through his Pyroblast at some point.
Two turns before he is dead I am still with two lands in play (though many more in hand, saving because of Price). At the end of my turn, he Magma Jets me, leaving Ring untapped, and I figure that I’d rather just Daze it, bouncing a land – this has the same effect as dazing anything else later, since I lock the land anyway, but has the bonus of making it so that he cannot sac the Ring to deal me damage.
I attack with my Goyf, and on his last turn he plays Ball Lightning with R up, and I am at 8 or so. I Force it, he Pyroblasts it, and I Force again, and he is dead.
Round 14: Dredge
I mulligan my first hand and end up keeping two Counterbalance, Daze (I think), Natural Order and lands, while he mulligans to 5. I have no idea what he is playing, but I think it might be Reanimator, since I know he is German and the one German I had seen was playing Reanimator. It turned out he was playing Dredge, and his first play was Unmask on himself for Troll after playing a land.
He dredges for a bit with a Cephalid Coliseum and I play Counterbalance. We get to a point where I have three lands and a Swords to his Ichorid and Narcomoeba, with two Therapies and a Bridge in his graveyard. He attacks and I consider Swording the Ichorid, but that will put him at 23, which means a whole extra turn. I figure my only chance to win this game is to hit a 1 with Counterbalance to counter his Therapy and then race him with Progenitus, so I just take the damage. He plays Therapy and I reveal not a 1 but a 10, which means I can’t even Natural Order for it so I am basically drawing dead, but he names Natural Order anyway.
-3 Natural Order
-1 Trygon Predator
-1 Swords to Plowshares
+2 Spell Pierce
+1 Tsabo’s Web
I boarded in the Web to maybe lock Coliseum, but mainly because there are some cards I really want to draw, so I am willing to play a 2-cc cycler, but perhaps the Sword would have been just better.
Game two my opening hand is Hierarch, Top, Wheel of Sun and Moon, some lands and irrelevant spells (at least one fetch). I think for a long time in my turn one, and I decide that, if my Wheel of Sun and Moon resolves it doesn’t matter what I do (and he has to have Unmask on me, because he is never naming that with Therapy), and if it doesn’t then I’ll just want to dig for another hate piece with my Top, and for that I want to start digging as soon as possible, so I just play Top turn one over Hierarch. Of course that play failed to take into account that I could always flip the Top if I found a hate piece (since the mana from casting it is provided by the Hierarch), so it is basically strictly worse than playing the mana guy. He cannot deal with my Wheel, though, and it simply wins the game by itself.
Game three he has a Tireless Tribe early on, and I cannot deal with it. I have a Relic, but have to use it very soon because of his Coliseum, and he manages to keep a Troll going. I eventually find the Crypt, but have to use it aggressively because of his Ichorid, so he just keeps Dredging. I am probably going to die to his tokens and Narcomoebas, but he finds Dread Return for Iona and that just seals it. I didn’t have white mana this game, and though I highly doubt it would have mattered, it’s interesting because it was the only game in the tournament that I recall having color trouble.
At this point, I’m like 80% not to top 8 even with all wins, which is pretty depressing for a 17 round tournament. I still have a shot though, so I can’t give up!
Round 15: Merfolk
Game one I don’t know what he is playing, and my opening hand has Noble Hierarch, Savannah, Force of Will and the rest is Blue cards. I generally don’t like keeping one-landers, but I am playing 19 land only so I can’t really mulligan all those. This is especially bad because it has a Noble Hierarch as the only Blue source, but it has a Force of Will. If it didn’t have Force of Will, I would not have kept, but the FOW allows me to protect my Hierarch for one turn. The main point in keeping this hand is that FOW is such an important card in some matches to the point where the rest of my hand hardly matters, so by keeping I am giving myself the odds of a) my opponent’s deck being one of those decks against which FOW is by far the most important card; b) I draw a land in my first two turns, and in both those cases the hand is fine.
As it turns out he was playing Merfolk, and he quickly demolished me game one even if he couldn’t kill my Noble. I remember that at some point during one game, I think the first, he forced something removing Spellstutter Sprite. I made a mental note that he had Sprite in his deck, but then some turns later I just played Top into it – I guess I hadn’t really processed in my mind the fact that he was Merfolk with Spellstutter, even after I saw it.
Game two was very complicated. I have a very good hand, but he Forces like three of my key spells, and we get to the scenario where he had a Silvergill Adept and a Lord of Atlantis in play, as well as two Riptide Labs and two Islands, and a Cursecatcher that was locking down my quadruple-exalted Rhox War Monk (with the help of the Riptide Lab). My board was Tropical Island, Forest, War Monk and four Hierarchs.
On his turn, I am at 6 and he attacks me with his two guys (the Cursecatcher is in his hand). This is the scenario I described in the Chump Blocking article, where maybe I should have blocked but didn’t, going to one. At this point, I need to draw a Swords to win. Then my opponent plays his Cursecatcher, and plays his remaining, just-drawn card – a Wasteland, and wastes no time using it on my Tropical Island (which is my only Island for Islandwalk). I get surprised such by this play that I untap, draw and simply pass the turn. I guess there aren’t really any excuses for forgetting to attack with a Noble Hierarch there, but I was just so happy that my opponent had done what he did and that I had a chance again that I completely forgot everything else. If I had attacked, he would just have bounced his Cursecatcher with the Lab, so I would have done no damage, and the only way this matters is if he draws another Cursecatcher (since then he would only have two mana left), which is exactly what happens. We play draw-go for a while, but eventually I draw a Sower to break through.
Game three he mulligans and leads with Vial. My hand is Noble, War Monk and EE. I think about playing the EE, but I figure this is so bad if he just plays a two drop on turn two and a three drop on turn three, as I have to spend my first two turns doing nothing, so I just play the Hierarch. My War Monk is forced, but I manage to sneak Explosives for two and for three in play. He has a Vial with three counters and a Silvergill Adept, but I really have no need to use the EE to kill that. In the end I just overwhelm him.
Round 16: mirror
Game one he has Counterbalance and Top, and I draw about 10 lands in a row and die. He has maindeck Grips.
Game two is close to the same thing – I flood out horribly and he counters my first attempt at Natural Order. He has Counterbalance and Top in play, and I have a Natural Order in hand but nothing to sacrifice, since my Dryad Arbor was already gone. A lot of turns later, he draws and plays Goyf. I have a Sower in my hand, but he has way too many cards and I know he has Pyroblasts in his deck, so I need for him to either not have anything (highly unlikely) or to make a mistake. I play my Sower, and he says ok. Then I tap four mana and play the Natural Order, sacrificing his Goyf. He makes a very weird face, so I know he had something in his hand – likely Plow or Blast – and could have prevented this play by killing the Sower in response to the trigger, but didn’t. In the end, the Progenitus beats him.
Game three he starts with Fetch, Top and then Forest, Goyf, which is just a very awkward play – it has almost 0 chances of being better than Forest, Top, then upkeep Top, Fetch. This not only meant he lost not one but two Top activations but it also played his Goyf right into my Plowshares on turn one, when I wouldn’t have used the mana for anything. I play my own Goyf, which is bigger, and he Plows it too. He misses a third land drop (guess you should have topped on turn two huh!) and I Krosan Grip his Top, but he is able to deal with all my guys with his two lands for some time. He draws out of his mana problems, and my Natural Order gets Forced. I have a Trygon Predator hitting him, but he plays a Jace and bounces it, and then does that again and plays a Shackles. We are running out of time, and I begin mentally constructing my response to his request for a concession because I cannot possibly beat his board, which was something like “no” plus pointing out the fact that he could have won game two. He finds a Goyf and time is called on the very beginning of my turn, though, which gives him just enough time to kill me if I don’t draw anything. At the last possible turn, I draw a Threads, and I have to hope that he forgets he can Shackle his guy back. I play it, he Forces it, I Force it and he REBs it, and I die.
This match was the only one in the tournament that was really frustrating to lose – once you are at the spot where the opponent’s got the better draws in the mirror twice, you can’t help but think that no, he cannot get the better draws three times in a row, because that would be too unfair, so third game should be yours. I know this doesn’t make any sense, but at least that’s how I feel when I am in that spot. Of course it could be argued that I could have sideboarded better
At this point I was already ridiculously tired, and since I was definitely out of contention, I didn’t pay much attention to anything. Of course I was still playing for something, so I still had to concentrate, but it was really hard.
Both games were really easy, and I never really saw many of my opponent’s cards, rather having to infer what he had in his deck from the other cards he played. Game one I thought he was playing some card of UB Counterbalance, because that was what he played, so I just boarded the same – thankfully the sideboard for the mirror is very versatile.
Game two I mulliganed to five and went Top, Force his Force, Plow his Bob, Counterbalance. He mutters something like “nice mulligans” but I am too tired to pay any attention so I just nod and say “heh” (though that would probably have been my reaction if I was not tired). He played a Painter’s Servant, and things became a little bit clearer, but I still didn’t know what exactly to expect. His painter died to his Explosives, and he played Trinket Mage for Meekstone to lock down the Goyf I played. We played draw-go for a while, I found two more Goyfs and then Krosan Gripped his Meekstone, and he died.
13-4 was good for 25th place, which I liked, considering it is almost the top 1%. My losses finished Top 8, Top 8, 10th and 26th, which made me feel a little better too. I also think this was the best tournament I played in a long time – I really felt like I was playing most of my matches at a very high level, especially since I had gotten so little sleep (of course I made a lot of punctual mistakes, but hey, no one is perfect). It feels kind of different than how I played in Oakland for example – in Oakland I was just playing my cards, and in Madrid it was so much more – every turn I had a reason to do what I did, every land I played was played because I specifically selected it over another land for a good reason, every fetch was cracked in the turn I specifically wanted to crack it, every Brainstorm put the two cards I wanted back, every counterspell countered exactly what I had to counter. It feels like new horizons open themselves before your eyes when you are playing, and you can see a very complicated net of decisions that both you and your opponent are making. I think when I Top 8ed the last 2 Pro Tours I was also playing like that, and it was good to restore my confidence in myself, which was a bit shaken, though I cannot really tell you why this happens in some tournaments and not in others – I thought maybe it was because I playtested a lot with those decks, but I didn’t really do that with this deck.
After the tournament ended, I was in doubt between staying and going back to the bunch of people that I almost never see and really like, as well as maybe playing some drafts, but at the same time I just wanted to go sleep. Martin looked at me and said I looked like a Zombie, and since I also felt like a Zombie, I decided to call it a day and just go back to the hotel.
As for the deck, I liked it, and I honestly cannot see myself playing anything different, at least the core of 4 Top, Cbalance, Force, Brainstorm. The big question seems to be Natural Order or not. Natural Order was really good for me in some games, winning when no other card would, but it is hard to simulate in my head how the games would have gone if Natural Orders and Progenitus were other cards from the beginning, and if Dryad Arbor was something else. At the same time, I sided them out a lot, and it is a lot of slots. If I were to play right now, I would probably play without them.
By cutting that package, I get a lot of room. I think it is good to cut the Hierarchs for at least a couple of Ponders – during the tournament, I really missed the shuffle effect that they give. Most of the games you lose involve you topping into three bad cards, and Ponder is much better than Brainstorm in this situation, as well as growing Goyf earlier, when you need it the most to survive the three damage spells. I also think, after playing the tournament, that Firespout is worth it over EE – sometimes EE is going to be better, of course, but Firespout is much better against Zoo, especially if they run Gaddock, which everyone seems to be.
Another card that seems very good, and that you can include if you don’t run Natural Order, is Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which also doubles as a kill condition through Moat, so you don’t need the Trygon anymore. I would try for something like this:
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Force of Will
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Rhox War Monk
1 Krosan Grip/ Shackles/Wall of Roots
(or an assortment of Monks/Vendilions/Knights).
(probably like 8 Fetches, 4 tropical, 3 tundra, 2 Island, 1 Forest, 2 Volcanic – you might not even need a forest and just play 9 Fetches)
I can also see myself removing a land for a Wall of Roots, since you already have the Ponders to help with the mana. I like Counterspell here, because it is a two, which is by far the most important cost (and makes me want to add cards like Wall, Predict and Tsabo’s Web), and just a generally useful card. I left two Dazes, mainly because they cost two, but they could well be something else, like Spell Snares – they are not very good when you are not very proactive, I don’t think. Then again, I have never played a game with this list – this is all from the top of my head, just what I would try first if I had an important Legacy tournament tomorrow.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and see you next week!