Another week, another Open Series. After a grueling 19 rounds of competitive play and a virtual chemical bath of new technology, my body was exhausted but my brain was rejuvenated. This article focuses on new cards from Mirrodin Besieged, with a section on Standard and a section on Legacy.
The 540-person Standard tournament started off well for me, as I crushed round after round of RUG, Vamps, Valakut, and the Kuldotha Red mirror before playing for Top 8 with the following build:
I smiled down at my hand, comforted by the Wardriver and Chieftain looking back at me. This Top 8 was in the bag.
The Top 8 wasn’t in the bag. In fact, I crashed and burned pretty hard after winning that first game, but I was still happy with my deck choice. Since Kuldotha had received so much press, I knew that people would be either running it or a deck they felt could beat it. I had tested all week and found this list to be ideal for consistency. I didn’t win on turn three as often as the Mox Opal, Ornithopter, and quad Contested War Zone lists; but I did win through more Kor Firewalkers, more Vampire Nighthawks, and more mirrors. Searing Blaze was almost always a blowout because like Drew Levin in the quote above, people knew it wasn’t part of the stock list and didn’t expect it. Meanwhile, Contested War Zones were weak in the aggro mirrors while Devastating Summons and burn were great. A side effect of the extra burn was that I was winning more games off of the top. In fact, in some control matchups I was winning a good 10 percent of the time by ripping the second burn spell. With all of these slight advantages adding up, I felt my list was favored against the field over the all-in version.
There were a couple of decisions that I made based on the testing of others. Zac Hill, currently a developer at Wizards of the Coast, has had the cards to use in their Future Future League for some time now (and oh how I envy him.) While Nick Spagnolo ended up with zero Goblin Wardrivers, and Gerry Thompson four, Zac was running a singleton. In my testing, the card was clunky to draw in multiples, so I guessed that he never wanted to draw more than one. My list started with four Chieftain and four Wardriver, but seeing Zac’s list helped me realize what was wrong with my test list and trim the chaff.
Gerry came up with the Jinxed Idol and Tuktuk the Explorer tech a few nights before the Invitational. Since my sideboard was relatively bare, I was more than eager to trust him. One of the trickier aspects of Magic is knowing when to listen to others and when to go by your own testing. Making decisions based on merit, as opposed to peer pressure on the one side or stubborn self-righteousness on the other, can be more difficult than it seems and is a skill that can only be improved through practice.
The field was about as expected, with my losses coming from Michael Bernat with UW (Elspeth is unbeatable), Drew Levin’s Valakut, and then Brian Grimm’s mono-red deck featuring maindeck Slagstorm and sideboard Seismic Shudders.
Overall I played my average game. I made a few mistakes, keeping two loose hands and playing at least one game less aggressively than was optimal; but my largest mistake was not taking Drew’s offer for a 50 percent split (instead offering 10 percent) closely followed by not talking Matt Landstrom into a higher split (instead offering 10 percent.) Apparently, I am a fish.
Over 10 rounds, I didn’t play a single incompetent opponent, which is absolutely absurd for a Standard Open and my resulting breakers were insane (not that they mattered, as I ended up 33rd).
Kuldotha Red has already gotten a lot of press, so I won’t go into sideboard plans or matchups. In fact, I wouldn’t even bother sharing if I wasn’t so confident in my version. Still, if anyone has any specific questions I would be more than happy to respond in the comments.
Near the end of helping people test for Indy and Paris, I brewed up the following list in my head. I think the additions are just as intuitive as the Kuldotha Red changes, but the deck hasn’t received nearly as much press as its red counterpart, perhaps for good reason. For better or for worse, here’s another deck that has been improved by Mirrodin Besieged:
Quest for Pest
What excites me the most about this deck is the possibility of winning with Squadron Hawks and battle cry dudes if the main plan of Quest doesn’t pan out. I used to like Ajani Goldmane in this type of deck, but the battle cry mechanic seems better in every way.
The ability to fetch up Signal Pest with a Trinket Mage is not to be underestimated, almost like a mini-Ranger of Eos. Another card with a lot of value here is Bonehoard, as Squadron Hawk is great at filling the graveyard with bodies and Stoneforge Mystic is great at cheating equipment into play. It’s safe to assume that the card is nuts in Boros, as well.
After testing the list against the gauntlet, I found that Accorder Paladin, while fine at racing Ramp, wasn’t very good against the other creature decks. Also, the card doesn’t help the post-board games where sweepers are prominent. Meanwhile Trusty Machete, though tutorable via both Stoneforge Mystic and Trinket Mage, was never searched for by either.
In the sideboard, the Elixir of Immortality, intended to re-buy Squadron Hawks, is the very definition of cute and I found the loss of tempo to be fatal. Meanwhile, the Luminarch Ascensions, while good on paper, were under performing as many control decks have been switching to Ratchet Bomb as an answer to Kuldotha Red. Also, the deck rarely gets above four mana, so the ability to spit out angels is less powerful than usual. The Mirran Crusaders, while powerful in theory, were always dead weight, and I never found myself wanting to board them in or cast them.
Maybe the metagame isn’t right for Quest. Still, the following list should have a high enough power-level to tear up an FNM, if you have the urge:
Quest for Pest version 2.0
This list, while not fully tuned by any means, tested much better. The sideboard has more answers to sweepers, the main deck has less chaff, and the Firewalkers combined with piles of creatures offer serious resilience to Kuldotha Red.
If any readers decide to try it out, they should let me know how it goes! I can be messaged on Facebook or reached at CalebDurward@hotmail.com.
I ran my Painter list that I Top 16d with in Kansas City and Nick Spagnolo Top 16d with in San Jose. You can find my primer on it here: http://www.channelfireball.com/home/legacy-weapon-painting-the-world-blue/
The Legacy Open was a bit more relaxed, and while I picked up a couple of early losses to end up a disappointing 17th, I had a lot of chill opponents who were clearly working hard at innovating and eager to talk about their decks.
Somewhere during the middle of the day I faced Drew Slavic with Rock. I took game one, he crushed me game two, and I started game three with a hand of:
I was pretty sure the combo would be disrupted, but having access to Sensei’s Divining Top through Trinket Mage, as well as potentially fighting through a Wasteland or two, helped me justify keeping this weaker hand.
I opened with Grindstone, he Thoughtseized away Trinket Mage, I played one of the Painter’s Servants and then won. He showed me a stocked hand full of Enlightened Tutor, Extirpate, and large green creatures- a godly hand against me in combination with the Thoughtseize.
In fact, if my hand had been typically good, full of Force of Wills, Goblin Welders, and Sensei’s Divining Tops, then I wouldn’t have had a chance. If I’d had a turn-two kill with one of the Painter’s Servants being a Lion’s Eye Diamond, then I would’ve instantly lost to his Thoughtseize plus Extirpate. It was only because my hand was crap that I won, and easily.
Legacy is strange.
When talking tech after the match, I noticed a Green Sun’s Zenith in his list. This was counter-intuitive from how I typically try and break new cards. Usually, my mind jumps to the most broken thing possible, like slamming it into Elf Combo and calling it a day. Others might see it as a toolbox enabler, like how they use Living Wish now. Here, the Zenith was neither of these things, but simply acted as another Knight of the Reliquary or a Tarmogoyf.
The following is not exactly Drew’s. I’m going from memory so it’s several cards off. Also, the sideboard is most definitely changed, though the Enlightened Tutor package was his idea.
The Junk deck has always had a lot of exciting plays. Turn one Top-spin, Hymn to Tourach, or Dark Confidant. Drew decided to add turn-one Lotus Cobra to the mix, and, rather than using the extra mana to go bigger (say with Sun Titans to fetch back Pernicious Deeds or Tsabo’s Decree), he chose to do the same stuff faster. The deck already had plenty of mana sinks, but now it can utilize them fully. Think of all the Topping one might do with both a Lotus Cobra and a Knight of the Reliquary in play!
While Thrun can’t attack through a lot of Legacy’s larger creatures, he still gets through a CounterTop lock in a jiffy and makes permission-heavy hands look silly. I like the idea of one in the board, and could see raising the maindeck curve to squeeze in two.
Another deck that excited me was the Imperial Painter list that I found Joe Marucci running in the last round. Blood Moons, Magus of the Moon, standard mono-red stuff, but with a single Phyrexian Revoker in the board to be tutored for via the Imperial Recruiters.
When I first saw Revoker in the spoilers list, my immediate impression was that it’d be a great card for Faerie Stompy. It can be dropped on the first turn, evades a Chalice of the Void at one, and shuts off opposing Aether Vials that might otherwise get around the Chalice lock. However, due to the deck’s dependence on Chrome Mox and Force of Will, I could only fit two into the maindeck. It might be best served as a sideboard card for that particular archetype despite the insane things it was doing in testing. In one game, my opponent revealed double Gempalm Incinerator off of a Goblin Ringleader, and thanks to the Revoker he was forced to cast them as three-mana 2/1s.
Like Faerie Stompy, Imperial Red runs lots of fast mana, making the extra mana for Phyrexian Revoker in contrast to Pithing Needle somewhat negligible. Also, one Phyrexian Revoker in the maindeck functions as five due to the Imperial Recruiters. The card solves a lot of problems for the deck, most importantly shutting off opposing artifact mana that would otherwise get around Blood Moon. If I were to play it in an Open tomorrow (which I wouldn’t, as the deck has neither Sensei’s Divining Top nor Force of Will), I would run the following list:
The deck has a surprise factor to it, as it can look like Dragon Stompy early on. It has a slew of fast mana, early disruption, and an “I Win” factor. With the addition of Phyrexian Revoker, I think the deck has all the tools it needs to do well in the right tournament, though I imagine the price tag on Imperial Recruiters will hinder most people.
The last sweet Mirrodin Besieged card that I saw being played on the Legacy tables was Signal Pest in an Affinity deck. I didn’t get the player’s name, or even much of his list, but the idea of a one-mana artifact lord sounds very good. If my brewing goes according to plan, I should have a list for you folks next week.
That’s all I have for now. Two decks for Standard, two for Legacy, and as much Mirrodin Besieged technology as I could drum up.
See you all next week,