Vincent Thibeault started this site with a bang and I would like to keep things going with a tournament report of my own.  Vincent and I actually played in the same PTQ.  This would be the second time that we would end up finishing in the top 8 together, the first time being a 1K T2 tournament in February that attracted 86 players.  We decided to collaborate shortly after this latest PTQ which explains why we did not play the same deck.  I was testing everything I could in the format, but I was not satisfied with any of them, so I pulled a last-minute audible and ran a deck Michael Flores supplied at the 11th hour of the night before the tourney.

If you vist TCGPlayer or the official Wizards website, you would most probably have come across my deck by now as Flores decided to write two articles on it.  In the one available on Wizards, he even quotes quite a few of my thoughts on the deck.  The purpose of this article will be to hopefully provide information that is not available anywhere else.  Before we begin, here is the decklist:

Raka Control

Maindeck:
Artifacts
4 Everflowing Chalice
Creatures
4 Wall Of Omens
Enchantments
2 Oblivion Ring
4 Spreading Seas
Instants
1 Cancel
4 Lightning Bolt
Planeswalkers
3 Ajani Vengeant
1 Elspeth, Knight-errant
3 Jace, The Mind Sculptor
Sorceries
3 Day Of Judgment
3 Martial Coup
3 Mind Spring
Basic Lands
5 Island
2 Mountain
4 Plains
Lands
3 Arid Mesa
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
3 Scalding Tarn
Sideboard:
2 Scepter Of Dominance
4 Baneslayer Angel
2 Oblivion Ring
3 Cancel
1 Ulamog, The Infinite Gyre
1 Ajani Vengeant
1 Elspeth, Knight-errant
1 Jace, The Mind Sculptor

One interesting note to mention is the fact that my first game with this deck was Game 1 of my first round.  It is often discouraged to sleeve up a deck at the last minute, but I really think this is a rule that can be broken at times.  If you know the format and you are familiar with the interactions of key cards, you will be fine.  In my previous top 8, I last-minute audibled to Boss Naya.  I decided that it was going to be my deck the moment Tom Ross unveiled it at Pro Tour San Diego.

Match 1: Nicholis Rahill (Jund)

I heard many people claim that this was the largest PTQ ever in Montreal, so I did not expect to face a teammate in Round 1.  I knew Rahill was playing Jund, so even though I had zero experience with Raka Control, I felt I had a good chance with full playsets of Wall of Omens and Spreading Seas in my maindeck.  Game 1 ended quite rapidly as I had turn 2 Spreading Seas followed by a turn 4 Ajani Vengeant.

Game 2 was uneventful as well due to a slow draw by Rahill that allowed me to once again use the dynamic duo power of Spreading Seas and Ajani Vengeant to lock him down.  In his own words, Rahill said that Ajani Vengeant was “brutal”.  Looking back, I am not sure I sided correctly on the draw as I kept my Ajani Vengeants in the deck.  I would imagine they are way too slow when you are going second.  The life gain is certainly relevant, but then it’s just an expensive Lightning Helix.

Match 2: Miguel D’auteuil (Devastating Red)

I always expect to face at least one mono-red deck, because since I played my first Regionals in 2004, I more often than not get paired against at least one at a tournament.  It is never something I enjoy playing against as I feel the matchup has a large luck component attached to it.  If they have a sick opening hand, there are times that you will lose regardless of what you have.  Game 1 of this round made me ask quite an intriguing question to myself.  With the 4 Baneslayers in the side, am I really somehow supposed to stall long enough in Game 1 for my Colonnades to beat him down to death?

That did not sound right because I do not play any counterspells (1 Cancel hardly counts).  If the game drags out too long, I would only allow him to draw more burn to kill me.  What am I supposed to do?  Kill him with Jace’s Ultimate ability?  That’s how exactly I would wind up winning Game 1.  I just had to get past his initial barrage, plop a Jace down and feed him nothing but Mountains and creature spells the rest of the way.  Game 2 is where he completely destroyed me with a turn 3 Devastating Summons.  Even with a Wall of Omens in play followed by a Day of Judgment, the damage came at me way too fast for me to be able to recover.  Game 3 is a little foggy.  I believe he mulliganed into a hand without much action and once Jace hit the board, he conceded shortly after knowing that the game was going to end in a similar fashion to Game 1.

Match 3: Jeffrey Casselman (Devastating Red)

A few of my teammates were happy that they started off 2-0.  As Team Captain, that just brings a smile to my face.  It was sort of sad when I discovered who I was facing in the 3rd round.  Yep, I had to face one of them jolly 2-0 teammates.  Game 1 was easy as his draw was so slow, it allowed me to kill him with Colonnade beats followed by 2 Lightning Bolts aimed at his head.  Game 2 was sort of funny because he actually used his tech card to kill me.  He had a Tuk-Tuk Explorer in play.  I pass the turn.  He would then Staggershot the Tuk-Tuk at the end of turn, giving him a 5/5 creature.  On his turn, he Rebounds me for 2, attacks me with the 5/5 and finishes me off with one-mana burn spells.

Game 3 is a demonstration of why playing an unknown deck can give you such an insane edge.  Jeff told me after the match that he was playing around Double Negatives that I did not have.  I had actually sided out my Cancels (which I believe in retrospect to be a mistake), so he was effectively playing into my hands by slowing the game down.  When he finally decided to Devastating Summons out of desperation, it was already too little too late, especially since he never drew the Bushwhacker to go with it.

Match 4: Stephen Mcnamara (Mythic Bant)

Game 1 was not very interesting.  I won the die roll.  I mulled a hand of 7 spells into a one-land hand that included 2 Wall of Omens.  I decided to keep this questionable hand and after peeling 3 non-land cards, I conceded quickly.  Games 2 and 3 played out exactly the same with early board wipes followed by Spreading Seas that hindered him from playing anything significant.  Spreading Seas also allowed me to put his man-lands out of business.  Raka Control does not play any Path to Exiles, so Spreading Seas are essential and they should certainly not be blindly used on just any land your opponent has.

Match 5: Bruno Pier Morin (Mythic Bant)

Round 5 was extremely similar to the previous round.  He mulled to 6 in Game 1 and kept a hand that simply did not have an early play.  With the help of Spreading Seas, my Jace was able to get close to 12 counters on it.  With nothing to stop the Ultimate ability, he conceded into Game 2.  In Game 2, he started off with a Noble Hierarch and a Rhox War Monk.  They were subsequently put into the graveyard via Day of Judgment.  A Baneslayer came on the table which met an Oblivion Ring.  With no more threats in hand, he helplessly watched as my Planeswalkers took over the game.

Match 6: Simon Aubut (UW Tap-out)

Simon is a strong player that I have faced quite a few times at DCI-sanctioned tournaments.  He does irk me a bit as he has a tendency to be insanely sarcastic at any sign of good or bad luck.  If you ever play him and top-deck a relevant spell, get ready to be called “talented”.  He’s a nice guy otherwise, so I do not mind it that much.  Game 1 was a piece of cake as I was able to use the differences of our lists to my advantage.  Winning the die-roll also helped as I was able to land an early Ajani.  He Oblivion Rings it, but a “talented” Oblivion Ring on my part made sure Ajani was there to stay as it rode me to victory by itself.

Game 2 shows why you SHOULD in fact play a deck that you know as I sideboarded terribly in this one.  I thought I had to side out every single mass removal card from my deck.  Simon, being the better sideboarding player in this match, intelligently kept Martial Coups in and this ended up being a major factor since I had nothing on my end to get rid of what came up to be a decent amount of tokens on Simon’s part of the board.  Definitely do not make the same mistake.

Match 7: Stephen Phung (Mythic Bant)

At this point, I was glad to be against Stephen, another one of my many teammates. Stephen was 6-0 and if he chose to concede to me, he would guarantee that both of us would top 8.  However, we were both unsure of whether a voluntary concession was legal, so we decided to play it out.  I was absolutely fine with this, because I had just crushed two Mythic Bant players and felt that the matchup had to heavily favour my deck.  I wish I could bring up some interesting details, but the round played out like my two previous Mythic Bant matches.  He plays a few threats.  I wipe the board and then he is too far behind to recover.  The Lightning Bolts in the Flores version insured that Dauntless Escort was not going to be a problem.

Match 8: Eric Gaudreault (Mythic Bant)

Nothing to discuss, just an intentional draw, but this guy was beyond hyper.  I do not mind calling him out on this, because as far as I know, he would be proud to be called hyper.  He also liked to slap himself during games.  My guess is that he is trying to copy Saitou or something.

Top 8: Sebastien Paquin (Jund)

My opponent and I were tired as the top 8 began.  In Game 1, I believe he passed the turn without playing a land, while during a later stage of the game, I decided to Helix a Dragon using Ajani with the intention of finishing it off with a Bolt.  As I cracked my Scalding Tarn to look for a Mountain, I forgot that all my Mountains were already in plan.  Oops!  I somehow manage to win the game off a top-decked Martial Coup though.  Games 2 and 3 were simply demonstrations of what makes Jund such a powerful deck.  Early Putrid Leeches followed by Goblin Ruinblasters when my hand was cluttered with comes-into-play-tapped lands did me in.  I had a chance to win the last game because I had two Baneslayers in hand, but with board presence and two Maelstrom Pulses to answer the Angels, I got eliminated from the top 8.  I left immediately to get to a friend’s house party, but was later happy to find out that Vincent had taken the whole thing down.  Congrats again, Vincent!

Final Thoughts

Obviously, the main question that everyone wants answered is if I would change anything from the original configuration.  I believe Master Flores loves Cancel, but I think Negate might be more efficient in this particular metagame.  Negate is better against Devastating Red as having to leave one less mana up to counter a Devastating Summons is relevant.  If the Polymorph deck becomes big, which I think it might, then once again, I would much rather have Negate as the main spells I want to counter in that deck include Awakening Zones, Jaces and Polymorphs.

Master Flores asked me what I thought about Ulamog.  As I was quoted in the Wizards article, why would I not want Banefire instead?  I only side in Ulamog against control decks and facing that particular type of deck, Banefire seems more effective.  It is relevant in the early stages of a game as it allows you to kill Planeswalkers even if they have counter-magic and in the late game, when I have 15 mana out, sure I can top-deck an Ulamog or I can top-deck a Banefire and flame my opponent for 14 points of damage.  I prefer the latter option.

Would I be willing to play this deck this weekend?  Most certainly.  It is a powerful deck and the Chalices give the deck slightly more speed than the Laskin version that won the SCG 5K.  If you decide to play this, good luck and enjoy!

Props:

Team Chex – For being the greatest team I could be a part of.

Michael Flores – For letting me in on a deck at the very last minute.  It was and still is a great deck.  It is better than Grixis.  I stand by that opinion.

Vincent Thibeauit – For becoming such a good friend of mine in such a short period of time.  We are taking down Nationals, Vincent.

Alexander Hayne – For being an early loyal follower of Mana Deprived and always being available as the human calculator for tie-breakers when everyone is squandering before the last round wondering if they should intentionally draw or not.

Ivan Wong – The heart and soul of Team Chex.  Some people find you downright annoying at times, but without your moral support, there’s no way I would have killed 2010 like I have.  Thanks again, Ivan.

Slops:

MTG players – Take a shower or buy a deodorant stick.  Teammate Adrian Davidian mentioned that dealers should sell Axe products.  Good idea, but then again, any money these players have, they spend on cards, so I am not sure that is the optimal solution.

Showers and deodorants,

KYT