Hello!

This is the part 2 of my Paris report. Part 1 can be found here.

After 4-1ing Constructed, we had to move into the scary portion – Draft. Not that I’m afraid of drafting, but this time especially I didn’t really feel confident in it, since I had done only three or four drafts before the event. It is not only that, to be honest – I also have the feeling I just don’t get the SoM format. To me, every match looks like someone has mana problems, be it not being able to cast their colored spells or flooding enormously. I’ve tried to adapt to prevent mana flooding (such as not playing Myrs, playing big guys, always playing Trigon of Thought, not playing situational equipment) but it always ends up with someone being flooded out of the game (usually me, since I’m just the unluckiest), and I simply have no idea what to do to stop it.

My draft table was relatively unknown, with Yurchick being the other person I recognized.

I started my picks with the choice between Plague Myr and Brass Squire. I had been told Brass Squire was good by the people who had drafted, but I had never interacted with it in any way. Their point that it works well the new blocking rule was good, though (Basically you block a 2/2 with two 1/1s and an Accorder’s Shield and just move it to whoever they assign first). From the beginning, though, I knew I had a strong pull towards infect – if possible, I wanted to draft it, and Plague Myr is a good card in a lot of decks anyway, so that decision was easy.

Pick two I had a Blightwidow, then a Scourge Servant and some other mediocre infect guys like Phyrexian Digester. I followed that with Plague Stingers, and after that there weren’t many hard decisions – I just took the best infect card from each pack. At some point in pack two I even got a sixth pick Contagion Clasp with another uncommon still in the pack, which is just weird – MBS is a new set and people evaluating the cards wrong is normal and expected, but SOM has been around for a while and everyone should know Clasp is good.

That, plus a lot of other factors such as very late infectors made me think I was the only infect guy in the table, though my deck didn’t really reflect that – it was a good deck, but you wouldn’t look at it and say I was the only one drafting the archetype. I think some cards were just not opened, which might have accounted for other people not being infect. Here is what I had:

Again, a solid deck – had some good and some bad creatures, some removal, some card advantage, decent late game. Did not have much in the way of interacting with artifacts, though. I expected 2-1 or 3-0.

Round 6 I got paired against Yurchick, whom I was feeding. He was GW equipment, and both games were somewhat unexciting. Game one I overwhelmed him and he couldn’t do anything, while game 2 we just sat there looking at each other for many many turns, except I had Contagion Clasp and he had Heavy Arbalest. In the end, Clasp + Throne proliferated him from 2 to 10 way before he could Arbalest all my creatures (and me) out.

2×0
5-1

Game two I played against a German guy with UG infect, which made sense – the late infect guys I had gotten had all been black (in fact, I only had two green cards), and it was the match I played the worst by far in the entire tournament.

Game one I started with Sylvok Lifestaff, Bladed Pinions, and Ichor Rats, equipping on turn four and attacking as well on turn five to bring him to seven poison. I had a Phyrexian Rager, and he had a Cystbearer and something else. At this point, I had the option of equipping Lifestaff on my Rager to make it trade with Cystbearer or leaving Grasp of Darkness mana open. I thought I was ahead enough that I could afford not losing to a ridiculous combination of cards (such as Carrion Call + Untamed Might + Mirran’s Mettle), so I just kept BB open, which turned out to be very wrong when he played Corrupted Conscience on my Rat. Generally, I’m all in for playing against the worst possible scenario, but in this case there were many things he could have done that made my play a lot worse, and it is not like the only thing I lost to was this combination of cards. If he has Disperse or Quicksilver Geyser, for example, or even an artifact removal spell, then my play is just as bad.

After he stole the Rats, I played Blightwidow and moved the Lifestaff, passing with BB up for Grasp instead of moving the Pinions (again likely a mistake) and planning on killing him the following turn anyway. He untapped and played Contagion Engine, and suddenly I had to change my entire plan because I didn’t have lethal any longer. He attacked with my Rats and his Cystbearer, and after thinking long and hard I Grasped the Cystbearer and chump blocked the Rats with the Rager, staying at a somewhat healthy four poison if I recall, to give me more time to draw an out. I didn’t, and hit him to 9 with my Spider before playing another guy and passing. He untapped and played Quicksilver Gargantuan, but I drew Contagion Clasp and killed him.

Game two started slower, and he had a Gargantuan copying my Blightwidow and then a Quicksilver Geyser on my two blockers to put me down to 8 poison with his Thrummingbird. I had a Clasp for the Bird, though, and a Melira’s Keepers I had sided in to stop the 7/7 infect guy. At some point I managed to Bladed Pinions + Grasp that away, and then my opponent drew only lands and I was able to win, despite forgetting to proliferate on his Wall and giving him an extra turn.

2×0
6-1

Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that something in game 1 doesn’t sound right – I chump blocked his Rats with my Phyrexian Rager. If I chump blocked, that meant his Rat didn’t die. If it didn’t die, that was because it had first strike, from Bladed Pinions. If it had first strike, then it also had flying, and I couldn’t have blocked it, except we both didn’t notice for some reason.

After the match, the coverage guy told my opponent about it (I assume he didn’t want to say it during the game because he thought he had missed something), who in turn told me about it. I remembered the situation, and it turns out he was right – I couldn’t have blocked. At this point, there isn’t much I can do other than apologizing, but I did feel bad for the whole situation, despite it not mattering at all for the outcome of the game.

Afterwards, I got to hear about how a couple people thought I had cheated him. Again, there is not much I can say to defend myself – I didn’t notice I couldn’t block, because he had just played the Contagion Engine which forced me to formulate an entire new plan and evaluate everything again, and I just missed it, though of course I cannot prove it was actually unintentional. What I can say, though, is that it would have been a very stupid reason to cheat, even if you are into those things, since all it accomplished was killing a 2/3 instead of a 2/1 (I could have simply chumped the Cystbearer and Grasped the Rats). And, in the end, it did not actually matter in any way.

“But, PV, you’re a professional player, how would you possibly miss that on accident?” – Well, sometimes you just miss things. My opponent was 5-1 in the Pro Tour as well, and he also missed it. For all the professional players that I know, there is none that doesn’t make stupid mistakes from time to time. Remember that I mentioned “I make too many stupid mistakes” as one of my weaknesses? Sure enough sometimes a person makes too many of them that are too convenient for you to question their intentions, and then they get banned, but when you’ve been playing on the Pro Tour for years it will inevitably get to the point where one of your stupid mistakes will end up benefiting you and then BAM, this is all it takes for other people who don’t even know you to start judging you based on ” previous stuff that they’ve heard”.

Let’s go back to my round 1, where I Mana Leaked a Thrun. The reason I did it was because I forgot something – the exact same scenario as with the Bladed Pinions. It is actually written on the card, just the same, and I had even played with it before, I just forgot about it. If I can honestly forget about Thrun, then why can’t I honestly forget about Bladed Pinions?

Now imagine that my opponent had simply not paid for the Leak and put his Thrun in his graveyard. I would not have said anything – after all, I Leaked it with the intention of countering it! How would that have looked to bystanders? Did I know it could not be countered? Was I cheating? You’d never be able to truly tell. We’d be in the same situation – both players make a stupid mistake and miss something obvious – except it looks like I cheated because it ended up benefiting me.

Anyway, I’m sorry to digress like this, I just wanted to clear things up for the people who were there, especially to my opponent.

For a moment in round 9 I thought my opponent was actually not going to show up, but he ended up getting there soon enough and didn’t get any penalty. Game one I had a good draw and he only played Plains and Mountains, and I killed him before the table next to ours was done resolving mulligans. If he had gotten a game loss for tardiness, it would probably have been the fastest match in the history of the Pro Tour.

Game two I mulliganed into a hand of 3 lands, Corpse Cur, Sylvok Lifestaff, and Morbid Plunder, which seemed good since he didn’t seem to be playing anything particularly fast and it had a lot of grinding power. I never drew another spell, and I was forced to play my Corpse Cur to block on turn four, but even for that he had Arrest, and just as quickly we were moving up to game three. I think our neighbors were still both at 20.

For the third game, I sided something out for a Tangle Hulk.

Game three started fine, but when he Arrested my Contagious Nim I was suddenly left with some equipment and some removal and not enough creatures to do anything. He also had a slow start, and I played a Tangle Hulk which I equipped with Lifestaff. I attacked him once and felt pretty good until he played Thopter Assembly. I had never played with or against that card before, but looking at it and knowing I had one draw step to kill it (Grasp would do it, since I had Clasp in hand) made me feel very desperate. I then drew Flesh Allergy, which I didn’t even remember was in my deck at that point, which was great because it not only killed his bomb while saving me the Clasp (I even sacced the Arrested Nim for it) but it also dealt him two damage, shortening his clock by one whole turn when I put him to 6 by attacking once again.

He had a bunch of chump blockers, but I had some blockers myself and he would eventually run out of them. He played Tumble Magnet, which bought him three turns, and then another Magnet when his first one ended, but at some point he decided to attack with everything. I then blocked his 2/4 vigillance with my 2 power poison guy, and then on my turn finally played the Clasp I had been holding since the beginning of the game to finish the 2/4 off and kill him with the Golem.

2×1
7-1

At this point, I was in ecstasy. It seems I had underrated myself, and there was no reason to fear draft after all. I felt unstoppable – I was just going to crush all the opposition to the ground, I was the king of the universe!

Rounds 9, 10 and 11: 0-2, 0-2, 0-2
7-4

Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

After round 1, we went to eat in an Italian restaurant (for the 156th time that weekend), though I didn’t have anything because I had gone to McDonald’s the round before and I was very full (I generally don’t eat much during tournaments). I did get dessert, because there is always room for dessert, and it was really really good. Dinner was very enjoyable, and we got to brag about our awesome Draft record (something like 24-4 combined) while making fun of Martin for going 0-3.

For draft two, I recognized most of my table, and I was passing to Luis. My first pick offered me the choice of Thopter Assembly and Kuldotha Flamefiend, with a Burn the Impure still in the pack. My only experience with Thopter Assembly had been the feeling of despair when my opponent played it last game, but that seemed good enough – I wanted my opponents to feel that. I took it.

After that I took a Cryptoplasm, which is pretty good and underrated, and then a Treasure Mage, which went kinda well with my first pick. I then took two Steel Sabotages (which are much worse than I expected) and a Blisterstick Shaman came next. I knew that I had passed a lot of red and likely put the two players next to me in red, but that didn’t matter much to me. It was clear to me that red was being passed, and I was fine with getting good red cards in pack three only – for pack two, I’d be happy with all the blue (since I had not passed any blue). I actually like this style of drafting a lot – you cut one color hard pack one and notice which one you’ve been feeding the most, and then if you get a good card in that color you move on it and reap the rewards in pack three – this is something you can do a lot in this set, because you don’t need many good cards in a color due to all the artifacts. Plus, it had the added benefit of making Luis’s deck a lot worse (kidding, kidding). By the end of pack 1, my deck looked insane.

For pack two I opened Arc Trail and then, well, didn’t get anything. Pack 3 was equally dry, despite me being in a good position (the guy passing to me was GB and the two guys I was passing to were RW), though I did get a Galvanic Blast (SEE, IT WORKS), though to be honest that might have been in pack two, I don’t recall. In the end my deck looked like this:

(and at this point I had to go back and edit everything, because I realized I had written “Thopter Foundry” instead of “Thopter Assembly” every time)

[deck]1 Thopter Assembly
1 Treasure Mage
1 Cryptoplasm
2 Steel Sabotage
1 Blisterstick Shaman
1 Kuldotha Ringleader
1 Arc Trail
1 Galvanic Blast
2 Panic Spellbomb
1 Flight Spellbomb
1 Gust Skimmer
1 Sky-Eel School
1 Scrapdiver Serpent
1 Lumengrid Drake
1 Wall of Tanglecord
1 Rust Tick
1 Stoic Rebuttal
1 Blade-Tribe Berserkers
1 Neurok Replica
1 Iron Myr
1 Saberclaw Golem[/deck]

I felt like my deck was good – it had some removal, some fliers, a bomb and a way to search for it. I expected to go 2-1.

Round 9 was a feature match against Luis, covered here.

Game one basically came down to two judgment calls, and if I get either of the two correctly, I probably win. The first time I had just played Thopter Assembly, and he attacked with his 6/6 guy when I was at 9. I thought for a while and chumped with a 3/3 instead of with my [card]Wall of Tanglecord[/card]. My reason for that was that he had a [card]Rusted Relic[/card], a Rusted Slasher, and a [card]Strider Harness[/card], and without the Wall he would be able to attack with both guys, but with the Wall there I’d be able to stop one every time. I could also have taken the damage, but I didn’t want to randomly lose to a burn spell of any sort – if my Thopter lived the turn, that was about the only way I could lose. Even if he killed my Assembly (which I knew he didn’t have many ways of doing, one [card]Turn to Slag[/card] and one [card spine of ish sah]Spine of Tsfas Zhsgf[/card] if I recall), I was still in the game, and I’d likely have to chump at one point or another.

Then he post combat Turn to Slagged it, and I drew [card]Panic Spellbomb[/card], which would have killed him if I had not blocked with the 3/3. Then, next turn, I had the opportunity to draw another Spellbomb, or a [card]Steel Sabotage[/card] or a burn spell, but didn’t, and then he attacked with a 6/6 again. This time, I deliberated and took it, and then he played [card]Necrogen Censer[/card]. I then drew [card]Steel Sabotage[/card], which would have put me in a very good spot had I blocked with my Wall instead of taken that damage, but as it was I was one turn short of killing him and the Censer finished me off. Frown. In hindsight, I think blocking the first time was correct, but not blocking the second time was wrong.

Game two looked close from my perspective, since I had [card]Treasure Mage[/card] for Assembly again, but I had to tap out to play it since I was under pressure due to missing land drops and he had the Turn to Slag all along (as well as a Flamefiend that he didn’t even need) and I was never really in the game.

0x2
7-2

Round 10 was against Tom Martell, who did not play a single good card but easily beat me both games. I don’t really know what happened, I just never did, well, anything, and died to a bunch of 3/4 Battlecriers and [card]Rally the Forces[/card]. I think he actually had a bunch of removal spells in his hand both games, but never needed to use them since I never played a good card.

0-2
7-3

Round 11 was against Erik, a guy who had played some Constructed with us before the tournament. Game one looked close – I was stuck on lands but I had a bunch of good cards to play when I got to them, and he wasn’t doing much. Then an [card]Engulfing Slagwurm[/card] happened, and none of my cards were good enough to deal with it or fast enough to kill him since I took so long to play them.

Game two I put him on the play, and he played turn four [card skithiryx, the blight dragon]Skithiryx[/card] and I died.

0-2
7-4

So, I had 0-3ed my pod. Out of contention and completely devastated (it really does suck to play when you’re out of contention, even if you know you’re playing for a lot of money still), all that was left for me was hugging Calcano, who had also 0-3ed our pod (we didn’t get to play each other because some people had a different record and we both got paired up).

At least I was back to familiar environment – Constructed. If you look at my play history, my win percentage in Limited is actually higher, but that is because it counts all the local tournaments in which people didn’t know how to play Limited – once you get to Pro Tours, I’m much more comfortable with Constructed, partially because I always feel that I have the best deck. This time I knew we had the best deck, so I was confident I could top 16.

Here is my list again, for reference:

[deck]4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
5 Island
1 Misty Rainforest
4 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Tectonic Edge
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Day of Judgment
1 Deprive
3 Gideon Jura
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Mana Leak
4 Preordain
4 Spell Pierce
1 Stoic Rebuttal
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
Sideboard
2 Baneslayer Angel
1 Deprive
2 Divine Offering
2 Flashfreeze
4 Oust
3 Ratchet Bomb
1 Sword of Body and Mind[/deck]

Round 12: Carlos playing UW

Carlos was playing the same deck we were, which was the deck I wanted to play against the least. I guess I could call it Caw-Go, to avoid some confusion (my mother, for example, told me that she didn’t understand, after looking at the coverage, how I had played UW on day 1 and Caw-Go on day 2 when she thought I had to play the same Standard deck), but oh well, I’d rather just call it UW and specify when it’s not the Hawk deck.

Game one I was on the play for the second time in Constructed (and the last of the day). I did choose a good match to win the die roll, though, since this matchup is very lopsided for whoever is on the play. Game one I had Mystic on turn two and he had Hawk, but I got to kill some of his Hawks with my 3/4 until he found a Mystic of his own. Then, when he finally did, I equipped Lifestaff and swung past it anyway. At some point I found my Hawks, and then he was dead.

Sideboarding in this mirror is very complicated, and I have no idea what is correct. The Lifestaff was decent, so I left it in, which was probably (100%) a mistake. I did:

IN:
[draft]2 Divine Offering
1 Sword of Body and Mind
1 Deprive
1 Baneslayer Angel
[/draft]

OUT:
[draft]1 Stoic Rebuttal
4 Day of Judgment[/draft]

It could be correct to side in another Baneslayer over the Staff, or even keep in a DoJ or two – I honestly have no idea. [card]Stoic Rebuttal[/card] is not very good, because the most important action helps in the early and middle game. Early game it’s all about Hawks and Mystics, and middle game is all about Jace and Gideon, and though Stoic might seem good against the latter the fact that it costs three means you cannot use it to force through a Planeswalker of your own, and also that you are much more vulnerable to [card]Spell Pierce[/card]s and [card]Mana Leak[/card]s.

Game two he started with a Mystic and then jokingly asked me which Sword was better, because he had not tested the match. He ended up getting the [card sword of feast and famine]BG one[/card]. I think that, everything else equal, the UG sword is a little bit better, because it protects you from Jace and a hit from it matters more than a hit from the other one, which they can actually afford to take, though it obviously depends on both player’s hands.

I played a Hawk, and then two turns later he attacked and I took the damage, discarding Deprive, even though I could have blocked. The day before, Owen and Luis had played some mirror matches while I was watching, and we found out that sometimes you just had to take the damage. Whenever people are faced with the prospect of being hit by a [card hypnotic specter]Specter[/card] or [card]Ophidian[/card], they always tend to block, but in this case you’ll be throwing a card away anyway (the Hawk), and sometimes it’s worth taking three to keep it instead of a bad land or a [card]Counterspell[/card]. The untap effect is often less relevant than you would imagine, because they cannot afford to tap out pre combat in the mirror. If they do, you just counter their threat and then block and they are tapped out. In the end, most of the time they have to attack with all their mana open anyway, making it much more affordable for you to take a hit.

He attacked another turn, and another turn I discarded until I finally had all four Squadron Hawks in play, and then he couldn’t attack because I could quadruple block his guy. If his Sword was the UG one, I’d probably have lost. If I had blocked the first hit (or the second), I’d probably have lost, because I really needed all four Hawks there, and I just had to hope he wouldn’t have a way to deal with them – blocking would just delay the inevitable.

We stayed there looking at each other for a while until I found a Mystic. He [card]Divine Offering[/card]ed a Sword, but I found another, and that killed him. I’m really proud of how I played that game – probably the only one in the tournament I actually played really well – and I think a lot of people would have lost in my spot.

2×0
8-4

Round 13: Valakut

My opponent started with 2x Cobra, and I had Squadron Hawk. Then, just like that, he played [card]Gaea’s Revenge[/card].

WHO PLAYS MAINDECK GAEA’S REVENGE????

I was fine, though – I had four Hawks and a Lifestaff to stall a bit until I maybe drew a Wrath. The problem with that was that I had to keep tapping out, which meant dying if he had anything. At some point he had one card in hand, and if I untapped I was going to follow up with Jace + Hawk. It was a [card]Summoning Trap[/card].

Ah, the tension. One card. Two cards. Three cards and he started smiling. Yeah, yeah, must be nice. At least have the dignity to pretend it was the last card and you got very lucky, dude!

OUT:
[draft]-4 Squadron Hawk
-1 Sylvok Lifestaff
-1 Gideon Jura[/draft]

IN:
[draft]1 Sword of Body and Mind
2 Flashfreeze
1 Deprive
2 Oust
[/draft]

Game two I mulliganed to 5 and can’t say I put up much of a fight.

0-2
8-5

Now out of t16 contention, I was really frustrated and mad and angry and all those adjectives, though at no one in particular.

Round 14: Valakut

This time I drew perfectly both games, curving Mystic into Sword into Counter into Counter, and he couldn’t do anything. We got deckchecked mid round, and I started chatting with my two neighbors who had also been deckchecked and happened to be two of my favorite people in the pro tour, Eirik Aune and Stuart Wright (though, if you’re reading this, don’t get very full of yourself Eirik; I have about 200 favorite people on the Pro Tour). We chatted for a while during deckcheck, and the conversation somehow went to Emma Wattson, whom Eirik seems to like a lot more than me. Now don’t get me wrong, she is a cute girl, but I think that if she did not play Hermione she would hardly turn any heads on the street. Plus, her new haircut sucks. Or that might just be the fact that she no longer plays Hermione, I do love Hermione very much.

Round 15: Kuldotha Red

Game one my opponent mulliganed to 5 and had the impressive start of [card]Contested War Zone[/card], [card]Signal Pest[/card], and the even more impressive follow up of “go.” Turn two I played a Mystic and on turn three I attacked and he took one. I pointed out the War Zone and he just gave it to me without tapping, and then I played Jace and bounced his Signal Pest, leaving him with zero permanents in play.

At this point, I fully and honestly expected him to rage concede the game. I mean, he mulliganed to five, got stuck on one land that was colorless, messed up so that I could play a Jace while he had no permanents in play, it was outrageous that he kept playing. Then he drew, played Mountain and killed my Jace with [card]Goblin Guide[/card]. Oops.

The game went on for a little while – much longer than it should ever have because I drew a lot of lands after that – but in the end he couldn’t really make up for his bad start and I won, though if I had drawn some more lands in a row I could definitely have lost.

Let this game be a lesson to me (and hopefully to you too) – you can never loosen up. Not even when your opponent has no permanents. When I played Jace, I thought it didn’t matter much what I did, I had already won. I bounced his guy because I wanted to rub my opponent’s mistake in his face. I wanted to leave him with zero permanents, utter domination. That was really bad.

In this situation, the best play by miles is clearly to just fateseal him. The guy has no lands in play!!! By fatesealing him, I prevent him from drawing land and, even if he hits two Mountains in a row, there is nothing he can do to stop me from untapping with my Jace and then winning from there should be academic. By making the other play, I gave him the chance to win the game he had absolutely no business winning, and he almost did. In any case, major props to my opponent for not scooping there (I certainly know a lot of people who would *cough* Brad *cough*) – in fact, he didn’t even complain one little bit, he just kept playing as if nothing had happened.

I sided:

OUT:
[draft]1 Deprive
3 Mana Leak
1 Stoic Rebuttal
4 Spell Pierce
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/draft]

IN:
[draft]3 Ratchet Bomb
2 Baneslayer Angel
2 Diving Offering
4 Oust
[/draft]

Game two he was again stuck on one land for a while (notice how much that happened to my opponents this tournament?), though that was the product of me again stealing his [card]Contested War Zone[/card]. At some point he played [card]Jinxed Idol[/card] when I was holding [card]Divine Offering[/card], and rather than killing it, I just killed his only creature (a [card]Signal Pest[/card]) in response. That left him with an Idol and no creatures, and me at 19 with a Mystic with a Staff and a [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] (and a War Zone!), and two turns later he was dead.

2×0
10-5

My opponent in round 16 got to the table and instantly asked “Do you wanna draw or split?” I declined both – a draw because I had the best tiebreakers, which would make it as bad as a loss for me, and the split because I didn’t really know him and it would make collecting or paying very complicated. Besides, I figured I had a better than 50% chance of winning.

It turned out he was playing Valakut, and though I had Mystic into Sword he had [card]Oracle of Mul Daya[/card] into [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] to kill my Mystic when I put Sword into play. Some people are tempted to kill Mystic in response to the equipping, but that is dangerous – doing so might mean you lose to [card]Mana Leak[/card] or [card]Deprive[/card] or [card]Flashfreeze[/card] or double [card]Spell Pierce[/card]. My opponent correctly didn’t wait, and just killed it on my end step (though if you aren’t using the mana you should just Bolt it on the spot most of the time). Without any action, his Oracle won him the game.

After game one, he again offered draw or split – I think he needed to top 50 to qualify for the next PT. I no longer felt like I was a favorite to win, but both the other problems still remained, so I again declined it.

Game two I mulliganed and didn’t have much, while he had [card thrun, the last troll]Thrun[/card]. I took some hits and after [card]Oust[/card]ing his Cobra I finally drew a business spell (a Mystic), which found a [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card]. I was at six life, and I had the choice between equipping my Mystic or passing with two mana up to play Spell Pierce.

He had one card in hand, and his next draw was Lotus Cobra, which I knew from Oust. However, he kept counting his mana a lot, and it really looked like he had something – a [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] was what came to my mind. I decided to not equip and pass, and took a hit down to 2. If his card was a Lightning Bolt it wouldn’t matter much, because he would just Bolt the Mystic in response to me equipping, though that would give me one extra turn.

It turned out his 7 mana card was not Zenith but [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card], and after drawing another blank I was dead. My play, however, was really bad – I knew he was going to draw a Cobra! By taking four damage down to two, I put myself in a position to have to draw something again next turn (because I would have Mystic with Sword facing Troll and Cobra, and any of them is lethal). I should just have equipped my Mystic and passed, staying at 6 life. If he has Zenith, then that’s too bad, I lose – I got too scared of just losing on the spot to the card I thought he had to realize that, by playing the way I played, I would probably not even beat what I already knew he had.

0x2
10-6

I ended up in the top 64, which is a decent result but was somewhat disappointing, because it seemed like everyone who played this deck had an awesome result (as you probably know by now, near exact copies of the deck got 1st, t8, t16, 16, t16, t16). Still, I cannot say I have anyone to blame but myself – I definitely ran better than expected in this tournament as far as luck was concerned. Multiple times my opponents got stuck on lands and multiple times I had excellent hands with turn two Mystic, including topdecking what I needed to win more than once in the limited portion. My losses in Standard were to Vampires, which I can’t say is a good matchup, and then two of the six Valakut decks I played – Valakut is not a bad matchup, but it is certainly not good enough that I’d expect to 6-0 it. As far as playing goes, I felt like I messed up in multiple occasions, and, if I did play very well in some games, most of my tournament I played average, so I got an average result. The only part where I feel I really got unlucky was die rolls (did I mention I won 2 out of 10?!).

As for the deck, I really liked it, and so did everyone who played it – I have little doubts that this was the best deck in the tournament, and I would not have played anything else if I went back. That said, I don’t think I would play this deck again. For that tournament, people didn’t really know what to do to beat it, but nowadays they will gun for it, they will playtest against it and will not play a deck that has a very bad match versus it.

When we tested for the tournament, we never really played against Bolt Valakut, for example, because we didn’t think anyone would play it, but we knew it would be somewhat problematic. Nowadays, I expect most Valakuts would have Bolt. Our opponents also didn’t have [card]Nature’s Claim[/card], a card I expect will see a lot of play because it’s good against both Tezz and UW. 3 different UB players [card inquisition of kozilek]Inquisitioned[/card] Tom Martell when he had Sword or Mystic in hand six different times, and not a single times was any of those cards taken. Other UW players had no Divine Offerings, and were playing 2 to 3 Mystics only. Boros players didn’t play Hero of Oxid Ridge, and when they did they only played two. People didn’t play their spells because they feared counters that we didn’t have in our deck anymore. Etc, etc. Nowadays, this is all changing – people already know what is good.

If you do want to play this deck, though (and it is certainly a good deck – I would just try to look for something different myself), here are some things I think you should do:

1) Play a [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card] maindeck. It is only one slot, and it is incredibly helpful in the mirror, which should be very popular. As for what you remove, I don’t really know, but I want to say a counterspell – that will make you weaker against Valakut, but much better against the mirror and likely better against Boros (at least much better than removing a Lifestaff would).

2) Play a number of [card]Condemn[/card]s in the board. [card]Hero of Oxid Ridge[/card] is a problem, and Oust doesn’t deal with him very well. Condemn kills it despite not being able to stop the trigger, and it is also much better versus [card]Plated Geopede[/card]s and [card]Steppe Lynxe[/card]s. You could remove, for example, one Oust and one Bomb for two Condemns – that would make you a little worse against Kuldotha Red and Elves, but better against Boros.

3) Playtest the mirror match. Again, it will be a very popular match, and you can actually have an edge in playing, unlike with say Valakut. Be especially aware that you don’t have to block a Sworded guy.

4) Mulligan more. Especially in the mirror. This deck mulligans well most of the time, and having Hawk or Mystic is really important in some matches, easily worth more than the one card you are giving up ([card]Bitterblossom[/card], etc). To give you an idea, we had a discussion whether one should mulligan a hand of 4 good lands, Spell Pierce, Mana Leak, Jace when on the play in the mirror. Most people said they would keep, Ben said he wouldn’t, but any way I think it is close. I think I would keep this specific hand on the play, because it has a lot of potential to beat hands that they will likely keep, but I understand why he wants to mulligan, and the fact that this hand is even debatable in what is supposedly a control mirror (though not really!) should give you an idea of how important certain cards are.

Against Valakut, you cannot keep Squadron Hawk hands; you will not win. Either keep a Mystic hand or a Jace hand (i.e. a hand with some disruption and a Jace that will let you play the Jace before they can untap with six mana), or a hand with some value and Preordain. You can keep a lot more hands on the play than on the draw, since a card like [card]Day of Judgment[/card] will kill their accelerants before they can Titan on the play but will probably get you dead if you play it on turn four on the draw, so evaluate your hand accordingly.

If you don’t feel like playing the deck, I’d suggest you either break Tezzeret (and then you e-mail me and keep the list hidden until my Nationals), or you just play Valakut, but with the UW match in mind. I suspect most people will not target Valakut now, since it did not do well at the PT, and it really is a deck that just gets them if they’re not prepared. Even if they’re prepared, sometimes there is just not much they can do, and you naturally have a good match against the Tezzeret decks (both Chapin’s and Juza’s), which should be overplayed now if anything because they’re different.

No, I don’t have a list!

To finish it all, I’d like to congratulate Ben for winning the whole thing and being on a sick run – he really helped us a lot in all the previous tournaments, and I’m glad we could repay with a good deck this time. And also thanks for dinner!

I’d also like to congratulate Brad for winning Player of the Year – if I couldn’t, I’m happy you did. Also, he is going to pay me dinner too, but I assure you this has no influence in who I am congratulating (though it might have on the order they are being congratulated). And then there are Paul, Chapin and Tom, who did an awesome job top 8ing, and the four guys playing our deck that finished in the top 16! I have to say that as a group we did extremely well, and I’m really glad to be part of this team that includes some of the best players in the world, and Owen!

😉

Aaaand, this is it. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!
PV