Good Games Montana’s $500 Series: Winner

I love me some UG Wave.  Love it, love it, love it.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve changed my sheets in the morning because of that deck.  Unfortunately, I thought it had gotten significantly worse with the release of Mirrodin Besieged.  When we were looking at the spoiler and beginning the build with the new set, my local team and I originally put [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card] into our UW decks, affecting the UW-UG Wave matchup significantly.  Before that inclusion, UG could sit back and take its time, and anytime that UW tapped out, UG could force something more powerful through.  With Zenith in the picture, UW was suddenly able to win without ever tapping out, changing the matchup from a cant-lose to a can’t-win.  As I expect UW to be a large part of the metagame in any local tournaments, that meant I had to find a new deck.

Fucking frown town.

Initially I was considering playing our UW brew as my post-Besieged deck of choice, but I didn’t have any tech for the mirror.  In my local area (Bozeman, Montana), there are only about ten players I ever expect to have a real chance of losing to, regardless of matchup.  Of those ten, at least four are playing UW at any given time, so I don’t want to be playing UW without tech for the mirror.  Even if I assume I can outplay them a decent percentage of the time, sometimes they just draw more [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]s than you, and you lose.  My inability to crack the UW mirror is what initially led me to testing and then adopting the UG Wave deck.  If I can’t get better than a coin-flip with almost fifty percent of my expected opponents worth mentioning, I want a new deck.

The [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card] was testing well in the mirror, but then Goblins was revealed, and it seemed a lot worse.  Having an X spell that cost at least four mana to do anything is less than stellar at fighting against aggressive decks that can goldfish turn three and four kills.

Back to the drawing board.

I had been collaborating with 60cards.com’s Smitty on a [card]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/card]-based brew that looked very similar to the one played by Patrick Chapin and Guillaume Matignon at PT Paris, but I wasn’t confident enough in it to take it to a large tournament, and my own UB brew was having problems with Goblins.

One of the local stores, Good Games Montana, recently announced a tournament series in Montana almost identical to the Star City Games series.  They are having a $500 standard tournament one Saturday a month, every month between now and the end of the year.  The last tournament of the year will be a $1000 championship, which players can earn byes to throughout the year.  Not a huge tournament by the standard of some of you lucky enough to live in real cities, but for folks used to driving eight hours to our closest PTQ and ten hours to our second closest, it is pretty sweet.  The first of these was on February 12th, which meant I was swiftly running out of time to find a good deck I could battle with.

Then, to the rescue, PT Paris.  Paris unveiled the new Caw-Blade and I knew I had a winner.  It was unveiled late enough that I doubted most had seen it or been able to get it together if they had, which meant I had an edge in the mirror.  With only a day or so to go between the deck tech and my tournament, I set to work tuning the list.

In case you haven’t seen it before, here is the list that Brad Nelson unveiled in his deck tech at PT Paris and many other American pros played:

[deck title=Caw-Blade]
[Lands]
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Island
1 Marsh Flats
4 Plains
1 Scalding Tarn
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Tectonic Edge
[/Lands]
[Creatures]
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Stoneforge Mystic
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4Day of Judgment
1 Deprive
3 Gideon Jura
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Mana Leak
4 Preordain
4 Spell Pierce
2 Stoic Rebuttal
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Deprive
2 Divine Offering
1 Elspeth Tirel
2 Flashfreeze
4 Oust
3 Ratchet Bomb
1 Sword of Body and Mind
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

This list plays much more like a [card]Aether Vial[/card] Fish or Next Level Bant deck than a traditional UW Control deck.  Like a Fish deck, you generally plan to play a guy or two and then hold the opponent off with your counterspells while they whittle away.  Like the old Next Level Bant deck, all your creatures suck, which puts your opponent in a pickle.  A [card]Day of Judgment[/card] or similar effect is quite unimpressive against you because all of your creatures are 1/1s or 1/2s that have already generated advantage by the time they enter play, which makes a board sweeper a depressing proposition at best.  On the other hand, with your [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card], you can deal a considerable amount of damage in a hurry, which makes not having access to removal equally bad for them.

I played this exact list at Friday Night Magic the night before the big tournament, where I went 3-1, only losing to a Goblins deck that had the nuts in two games.  While I felt the matchup was salvageable, it was worse than I would like.

After consulting with another local that had been playing the same list, I made a few changes.

Maindeck:

-1 [card]Gideon Jura[/card]

-1 [card]Stoic Rebuttal[/card]

+1 [card]Sun Titan[/card]

+1 [card]Mana Leak[/card]

Sideboard

-3 [card]Oust[/card]

-1 [card]Deprive[/card]

-2 [card]Flashfreeze[/card]

-1 [card Elspeth Tirel]Elspeth, Total Request Live[/card]

-1 [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card]

+1 [card]Sun Titan[/card]

+2 [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]

+2 [card]Celestial Purge[/card]

+3 [card]Condemn[/card]

In any control mirrors, [card]Gideon Jura[/card] is less than amazing.  Protecting your [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] is quite nice, obviously, but it rarely is what you really want out of a five mana, sorcery-speed card.  I expected Goblins to be the most played aggressive deck, and Gideon is close to dead against them because he comes down so late, so I felt okay about cutting one to make room for the [card]Sun Titan[/card].

If you haven’t played with Sun Titan in a control mirror, let me tell you, it is even better than you think.  You can return your fetchlands to gain a mana advantage, your [card]Tectonic Edge[/card]s to [card Iona, Shield of Emeria]Iona[/card] them, and you can bring your creatures back to fight again.  The Titan also fights well against the other guy’s [card]Gideon Jura[/card] and can block any ground-pounders with ease, regardless of any swords they’re carrying.

The switch from the second [card]Stoic Rebuttal[/card] to the third [card]Mana Leak[/card] was made because I liked having more early counters.  This is a very proactive deck and you want to use mana every turn you can.  When it is turn four and you rip your [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], you would much rather play the Mystic and have [card]Mana Leak[/card] open than wait another turn before being able to play the Mystic with counter-mana open.

The sideboard changes were mostly due to metagame predictions.  The pros that built and played this deck at PT Paris had to prepare for a completely different metagame than I expected.  First, because of the large amount of UW locally, no one plays Valakut.  For real.  Zero.  With no expected Valakut, the [card]Flashfreeze[/card]s went away, along with the [card]Deprive[/card].  With no Valakut to attack with [card]Oust[/card]s, [card]Condemn[/card] became the better targeted removal spell.  It can get rid of [card]Gideon Jura[/card] and [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] in the mirror, as well as any [card]Goblin Guide[/card]s or other hastey creatures before they get to deal damage.

I don’t like [card]Elspeth Tirel[/card] much.  She can certainly run away with the game in some situations, but when I expect most of my control opponents to be playing [card]Squadron Hawk[/card]s it seems like the probability of drawing her when they have multiple fliers in play is reasonably high, not to mention [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card].  Making three dorks and dying isn’t the worst deal ever, but it is not as powerful as I want a card to be to earn a slot in my sideboard.  If all their Hawks have died she could win the game by herself, but I prefer consistency to power.  I would rather have a card that is always a six or seven on a ten point awesomeness scale to one that is sometimes a three and sometimes a ten, so out she went.

Having changed the [card]Oust[/card]s to [card]Condemn[/card]s, I felt confident enough in the Goblins matchup to move the [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] to a second [card]Sun Titan[/card].  The BSA is clearly better against super aggressive strategies, particularly red ones, but I like the Titan more in a mirror.

I put in the [card]Celestial Purge[/card]s to deal with any resolved [card]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/card], as a stuck Tezz can otherwise be quite a problem.  The fact that the Purge has splash damage on Goblins and Vampires is just an added bonus.

The [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]s were a late addition.  After arriving on site I saw several people were playing BG poison, and I didn’t feel like losing to pretend decks.  After they were suggested by a teammate, I realized they also had applications in the mirror.  While I hadn’t discussed the mirror with my teammates, I expected them to come to the same conclusions I had about the effectiveness (or lack there-of) of [card]Day of Judgment[/card].  If they were boarding out their DoJs, I expected the matches to revolve around two things: creatures, and Jaces.  If one player drew [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] and the other didn’t, it would be hard for the have-not to attack in any significant way.  The same applied to [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card].  [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] could attack into Hawks in a meaningful way even if it was the only creature you drew, it could trade with a Sworded-Mystic if it needed to, and it could carry a [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] like it was going out of style.  They could also take out a Jace faster than any other creature.

After showing up at the tournament site the day of, I did a bit of trading until it was time to start.  My [card]Goblin Guide[/card] and [card]Elspeth Tirel[/card] for your three [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]s and a [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]?  I suppose, but you owe me one.

Round One

My opponent is still sleeving his deck when I sit down, letting me know he is playing the dreaded Goblins.

Game One

He wins the roll and makes three dorks off of a [card]Kuldotha Rebirth[/card] before I have even announced whether I am keeping or not, cementing my impression that this was a player not used to the tournament scene.  I mulligan to six looking for multiple lands.  He has a second turn [card]Signal Pest[/card] to go with his dorks, but no second land.  I make a second turn [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] and then block his pest, taking six from the pumped dorks down to eleven.  I make two more Hawks to fight with his three guys while I’m above ten life and he has only one land in play, which should be a situation good enough to win from, but he rips a second land and action while I draw four lands in a row and eventually lose.

I bring in the [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]s, [card]Condemn[/card]s, [card]Celestial Purge[/card]s, the [card]Oust[/card], and the [card Mirran Crusader]Crusaders[/card].  And the two [card]Divine Offering[/card]s.  Out goes all the counter-magic, along with the [card]Sun Titan[/card] and one [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card].

The counter-magic is just too slow to reliably stop the threats, and the Goblins deck is so fast you don’t have time to topdeck a counterspell when you need help with what’s already on board.  When they can goldfish a turn three kill you can’t afford a single wasted card.  A [card]Spell Pierce[/card] on the play against their [card]Kuldotha Rebirth[/card] makes you feel like a champion, but if they play a [card]Signal Pest[/card] or something else instead you’ll be wishing you had any other card instead.  The Jace comes out for much the same reason.  Drawing one is nice if you have already stabilized, but they don’t help enough to get you to that point.

Game Two

I set up a [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] on my second turn, fighting against his first turn [card]Goblin Guide[/card] and [card]Memnite[/card], followed by a second Guide and a [card]Teetering Peaks[/card].  I fall to eleven before I can Bomb away the Guides, then I [card]Celestial Purge[/card] his second main phase (?) [card]Goblin Chieftain[/card].  A few Hawks put up enough of a defense for me to assemble the old [card]Gideon Jura[/card]-[card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] tag team, and I win by using a [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] to destroy the [card]Chimeric Mass[/card] he had been planning on blocking with.

Game Three

After seeing his [card]Chimeric Mass[/card] get destroyed despite its five charge counters, he publicly declares that the card is awful and swaps two of them for [card]Mark of Mutiny[/card]s, setting his deck and sideboard face up while doing so to make sure I know.

I mull four lands, [card]Preordain[/card], [card]Squadron Hawk[/card], and [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card].  Against many decks that would be an easy keep, but it’s just too slow if I don’t see the perfect cards off of the [card]Preordain[/card].  I keep [card]Seachrome Coast[/card], [card]Arid Mesa[/card], [card]Condemn[/card], [card]Gideon Jura[/card], and two [card]Preordain[/card]s.  If I whiff on the Preordains I’m probably just dead, but I have great faith in them to pull me through (fun fact: I kept one-land-two-Preordain hands in the finals of States.  Got there, obv).  He gets me fairly low quickly while I’m busy looking for business, but I claw my way back into the game with two [card]Condemn[/card]s and a [card]Celestial Purge[/card].  I eventually stick a Gideon-Jace lock and win from there.

1-0 Matches

2-1 Games

Round Two

I am playing against Baby Derick, an employee of the store running the event, Good Games Montana.  I am quite happy to play him, as he told me he was playing a [card]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/card] brew before the tournament started.  I haven’t tested the Nelson-Matignon matchup much, but the few games I had played indicated I had a lead.  I am also sure that my sideboard plan against him is better than his is against me

Game One

I have a turn two [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] into [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card], while he makes a lot of air.  He has a lot of mana being spent every turn, but all he’s doing is making [card]Sphere of the Suns[/card] and cycling [card]Prophetic Prism[/card]s, without impacting the board.  I poke him a few times with my Mystic duel-wielding the Sword and Staff and [card]Spell Pierce[/card] a Tezz, and that’s that.

I bring out my playset of [card]Day of Judgment[/card]s and the [card]Sylvok Lifestaff[/card], bringing in both [card]Celestial Purge[/card]s, both [card]Divine Offering[/card]s, and something else.  I could see arguments being made for the [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]s, a [card]Condemn[/card] or an [card]Oust[/card], or even a [card]Sun Titan[/card] and I don’t remember which one I picked.

Game Two

We both play land-go for a while, then he attacks with a [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] on turn four.  My fourth land comes into play tapped, which makes my [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] and I fairly frowny.  I go to fourteen from a second swing of the Tar Pit, confirming my suspicions that his hand is full of nothing.  I make two [card]Squadron Hawk[/card]s to put up some blockers in case he drops a Tezzeret and clear the way for me to drop my Jace.  I have a [card]Celestial Purge[/card] in hand for a Tezzeret or the Tar Pit if need be, but I’d still prefer my Jace not die to any suddenly animated artifacts.  He [card]Slagstorm[/card]s away my two Hawks and a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], giving me another opportunity to stick my Jace.  He had set his hand down to the side when saying go but reached for it quickly while looking at his mana when I cast Jace, which would have told me pretty conclusively he was holding a counterspell of some kind even if he hadn’t accidentally flashed me a [card]Stoic Rebuttal[/card] when picking up the hand.  I am holding two [card]Spell Pierce[/card]s and a [card]Sun Titan[/card] so when he [card]Galvanic Blast[/card]s on his turn I Pierceit to tap him out but don’t do it again when I could to save the Jace, because he was land light.  I have a [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] in my graveyard and am planning on playing my [card]Sun Titan[/card] and rebuying it until he stops moving, which should only be one or two turns.  If I burn my only other counterspell to save Jace he could rip the nuts after and pull out, but if I can start eating his lands and have a counter in hand, he will be right out of the game.  I’m not sure this line of play was correct, but that was the plan.  I think I was far enough ahead I could have gone with either one and been fine, but it was one of the most interesting decision trees of the tournament so I thought it was worthy of mention.

2-0 Matches

4-1 Games

Round Three

I am playing against my buddy Ransom, who I know is playing old school UW, as he didn’t have access to [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]s.  I feel pretty good sitting down, because I have played several games with the Mystics and know just how much of an advantage they give to the UW deck playing with them against a build without them.  If you haven’t had a chance to play with the Mystic build against a Not Mystic build yet, let me illustrate it for you:

Here’s old school UW:

and here it is with Mystics:

It’s just not close.

Game One

I have a turn two [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] to fight with his turn two [card]Squadron Hawk[/card], and he swiftly is reduced to chump-blocking to stop me from double-turning him.  We trade counterspells on expensive spells later on, but I ride my Mystic-Sword to the win.

I bring out my playset of [card]Day of Judgment[/card]s, along with the [card]Sylvok Lifestaff[/card] and both [card]Gideon Jura[/card]s.  I thought the Hawks were his only creatures, which makes the DoJs horrendous, and I knew he was playing with [card]Condemn[/card] main, which made my Juras drop in value.  I brought in the [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card], the [card]Sun Titan[/card], both [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]s, and my three [card]Condemn[/card]s for his [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card]s.

Game Two

I start strong with two [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]s into as many Swords, but he holds me at bay with a [card]Journey to Nowhere[/card] and then a [card]Day of Judgment[/card].  He sticks a [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] after a brief counterwar, leaving me with lands in hand against his Jace and grip full of cards.  I have a [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] to off the Jace, but he has already brainstormed and shuffled so the damage is done.  I eventually succumb to two surprise [card]Frost Titan[/card]s, ripping land after land off the top.  I counted at the end of the game, and I had seen eight cards to fourteen lands.

After seeing [card]Frost Titan[/card]s I bring back in the two [card]Gideon Jura[/card]s, bringing out two [card]Condemn[/card]s.

Game Three

I mulligan seven land into [card]Plains[/card], [card]Squadron Hawk[/card], two [card]Spell Pierce[/card]s, a [card]Mana Leak[/card] and a [card]Condemn[/card], and decide to mulligan that as well.  If I rip a blue source in my first two draws I like my chances to stall long enough to draw more lands, but if I don’t see a blue source of mana in my top two cards the game is just over.  At five cards I keep [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], [card]Island[/card], two [card]Plains[/card], and a [card]Seachrome Coast[/card].  On turn three he plays a [card]Spreading Seas[/card] on my [card]Seachrome Coast[/card].  He hasn’t played a land yet, so I hope he is digging for lands and [card]Spell Pierce[/card] it.  He obliges me by tapping out for it, allowing me to play my [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] on my turn and brainstorm.  He taps out on his turn for a Jace, and I Jace back again.  I begin rebuilding my hand and am ready to start the offensive when time is called.  I had a [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] in hand next to six counterspells as well as active Jace so I like my chances to win if we had more time, but a draw it was.

2-0-1 Matches

5-2-1 Games

Round Four

I know my opponent, and know he is playing UB Shape Anew before we sit down.

Game One

I mulligan, then lead with [card]Preordain[/card].  He responds with an [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] and nabs my [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card].  We play land go for a while when he taps out for [card]Shape Anew[/card] on his [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card].  I counter it, so he tries again on his next turn.  I counter again, but he has a third [card]Shape Anew[/card].  I don’t have a Jace to bounce it, so I lose.

I was fairly pissed about this loss as he tapped out three different times in a control mirror which should be grounds for a match loss by itself, but I couldn’t punish him.  He also saw three Shape Anews in his top twenty cards, which seems pretty good when its the only card in his deck I care about.

I bring out my four [card]Day of Judgment[/card]s and the [card]Sylvok Lifestaff[/card] for the [card]Condemn[/card]s and two [card]Divine Offering[/card]s for his Inkmoth Nexus in response to a [card]Shape Anew[/card].

Game Two

I have a turn two [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] on the play with a [card]Condemn[/card], [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card], and a [card]Mana Leak[/card] in hand.  At the end of his fourth turn I [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] his [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card], which was his only source of untapped blue mana.  That clears the way for my Jace to resolve on my turn five despite having no [card]Spell Pierce[/card] and I ride that plus the Hawks to victory.

Game Three

I keep four lands, [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], [card]Preordain[/card], [card]Condemn[/card].  It is weak to discard and I’ll be in trouble if he nabs my Preordain on his first turn, but I figure he’ll want to hold one discard spell for a Sword if I fetch it with my [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], and chances are he doesn’t have multiple discard spells in his opening hand.  I get through his first turn with my hand intact, but he eventually gets me with a [card]Grave Titan[/card].  I had considered the possibility that he would have a transformational board into Big Daddy Grave, or perhaps be playing one or two main so he wasn’t all in on Blightsteel, but I thought my counters and [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] would get me through the gauntlet unscathed.  In retrospect, I should probably have left in one or two of my [card]Day of Judgment[/card]s as additional protection, and I deserved the loss.

2-1-1 Matches

6-4-1 Games

Round Five

We had twenty-something people, which meant five rounds.  3-1-1 would make it in, 3-2 was sketchy but possible, and anything worse was out.  That meant I had to win the last round, against the worst possible opponent: my friend Chase.  Anyone that plays around us will tell you Chase always has it, and you never do.  Doesn’t matter what the decks on either side of the table are, he just always gets you.  He’ll tap out turn four for a [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] and not only will you not have a counter for him, you also won’t have your own Jace to Legend Rule him.  If you [card]Duress[/card] him and take his only non-land card, he’s going to topdeck a Jace and brainstorm into two [card]Duress[/card]es of his own, plus a [card]Mana Leak[/card], shuffle, then have running [card]Grave Titan[/card]s.

Today his was packing Chapin/Matignon’s Tezzeret deck.

Unfortunately, my notes for this match at pretty sketchy, by which I of course mean non-existent.  He gets me game one by drawing three [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jaces[/card] to my one and I pick up game two when he misplays and forgets to blink his [card]Argent Sphinx[/card] before saying go.  Game three is going long when time is called, and we get to an awkward situation.  I am at two life to his one, and I have a [card]Gideon Jura[/card], [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] and [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] in play, along with my [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card].  He has an [card]Argent Sphinx[/card] with only two artifacts in play, and four mana.  I am holding a [card]Mana Leak[/card] and just put his top card to the bottom with Jace, so his only possible draw to win is [card]Galvanic Blast[/card].  Any other card in his deck would not only not kill me or prevent me from killing him, it would also be counterable by my [card Mana Leak]Leak[/card].  Unfortunately, I am turn number five, so we don’t get to see his top card.  I point out his only out is Blast, a two-of, and ask for a concession, as we believe a double-draw would put us both out of top eight.  Chase may be a lucksack, but he’s a good guy and gives it to me.

After we report and see final standings, it appears he could have gotten into the top eight with a draw, which is super awkward.  You know you’re playing in a big tournament when you can 2-0-3 into top eight.

3-1-1 Matches

8-5-1 Games

Quarterfinals

I am playing another old school UW, this one old school enough it doesn’t even have [card]Squadron Hawk[/card]s.

Game One

He has a second turn [card]Luminarch Ascension[/card], and I feel just embarrassed for him when I have a second turn [card]Squadron Hawk[/card].  My [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] resolves several turns later, and he is never really in the game.

I bring out the playset of DOJ and the Lifestaff, bringing in my second [card]Sun Titan[/card], the [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card], both [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]s, and a [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card].  I’m not terribly worried about him getting the [card Luminarch Ascension]Luminarch[/card] active, but another answer can’t hurt.

Game Two

He has clearly decided he is going to lose as we’re shuffling, so I try to act extra confident to give him a reason to concede before the game is really over.  I guess it worked, because he mulligans once and keeps a six card hand with one [card]Island[/card] and no other lands, and no [card]Preordain[/card].  GG, bro.

4-1-1 Matches

10-5-1 Games

Semifinals

In the top four I am matched against my buddy, who I know is playing Nelson’s list to a card, while the other matchup is two out-of-towners.  Clearly we should have played in the finals, but fate dealt us a dagger.  After agreeing to a small prize split, we begin.

Game One

He has an early [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] and [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] and I’m never really in it.  I try for a [card]Day of Judgment[/card] or two, but he has the counters and I don’t do much before I die.  This is one of the biggest weaknesses of the deck-its frequently to fold to a turn two [card Stoneforge Mystic]Mystic[/card] on the other side of the table.

I bring out my playset of [card Day of Judgment]Days[/card], the [card Sylvok Lifestaff]Lifestaff[/card], and both of my hard counters, along with the [card Gideon Jura]Gideons[/card].  The Days aren’t very impressive against the 1/1s and 1/2s, even if they are equipped.  I expected he would be bringing in the [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] from the sideboard because it trumps any other creature in the deck, equipped or not, but it didn’t seem amazing to leave in any [card Day of Judgment]DoJs[/card] when his singleton BSA was the only thing I could be happy about hitting.  The [card]Sylvok Lifestaff[/card] came out because I didn’t expect the life to matter.  I would be surprised to see any games come down to the wire given the power of the cards involved.  I suspect any games are going to start with an advantage one way or the other and snowball into a blowout by the time the game is over, and three life isn’t going to change that.  The extra one power could be nice when attacking into [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] with Hawks, but it isn’t enough of an effect to be worth a card.  The [card]Gideon Jura[/card]s were out because he doesn’t do anything terribly well in the mirror besides fog for Jace.  When they have an army of [card]Squadron Hawk[/card]s he can’t attack particularly effectively, even if the other guy isn’t packing [card]Condemn[/card].  Forcing the [card Sword of Feast and Famine]Sworded[/card] dorks to attack him instead of you to deprive the opponent of any benefits from connecting with you is clearly nice, but I just didn’t feel it would happen enough to be worth playing at five mana, sorcery speed only.

In their place, I brought in the [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card] as an additional way to deal significant damage, even if I hadn’t drawn any [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]s, three [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]s as a way to clear the board of either opposing creatures (they all cost two, if you hadn’t noticed) or Swords if need be.  Clearing the board with a [card Ratchet Bomb]Bomb[/card] is much more appealing to me than with a [card]Day of Judgment[/card] because it is much more likely to resolve, as it comes down earlier, and it can also come back if I land a [card]Sun Titan[/card].  The Bomb can also go off at the end of the other player’s turn, clearing the way for your attackers.  Both [card]Divine Offering[/card]s came in to destroy any Swords or Bombs that came in on the other side, as well as two [card]Condemn[/card]s.  I like the Condemns because they could hit a Gideon or [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] while a [card]Day of Judgment[/card] could not, as well as any creature that was carrying a Sword.  If I could stop him from having an untap he was expecting to get, I could have my way with him on my turn, which seemed pretty good.  They also let me avoid being stone cold to the [card Baneslayer Angel]BSA[/card] if she showed up.  The last card to come in was the second [card]Sun Titan[/card], as he seemed fairly bonkers if resolved. Besides the usual fetchland/[card]Tectonic Edge[/card] shenanigans, the Titan could bring back any swords that fell to opposing [card]Divine Offering[/card]s or any used [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]s, which could be useful if he resolved [card]Elspeth Tirel[/card].

Game Two

I keep [card]Plains[/card], [card]Glacial Fortress[/card], [card]Condemn[/card], [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card], [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], and two [card]Spell Pierce[/card]s on the play, while he mulligans down to six.  I miss my third turn land, but I am attacking with an [card Sword of Feast and Famine]equipped[/card] [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] on turn four, which counts for a lot.  He eventually sticks an [card]Elspeth Tirel[/card] and starts making tokens to stem the bleeding, but he can’t mount much of an offense by netting one token every other turn.  I get stuck with three [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jaces[/card] in hand with another in play, so we durdle around for a while while he makes soldiers and then throws them in front of my Sworded Mystic and I desperately brainstorm, looking for a shuffle effect so I can stop putting the same two Jaces on top every turn.  I considered fatesealing him instead when I put the two Jaces on top the first time, but I figured the worst thing he could topdeck would be a Jace, and I had replacements available.  He eventually rips the singleton [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card], but I brainstorm into a [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] just in time and shuffle away some dead weight, then bounce the Angel with Jace.  Next turn I bounce the Angel again, then stick the Sword to the Hawk and make him discard it.  The Hawks then take care of Elspeth (pro tip: she doesn’t fight fliers very well), which lets my Jace advantage run away with the game.

Game Three

I keep a risky hand of [card]Island[/card], [card]Plains[/card], [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card], [card]Spell Pierce[/card], [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card], and two [card]Mana Leak[/card]s after he chooses to mulligan.  It is weak to any turn two creature, but if he doesn’t have an early beater I should be fine.

He has a second turn [card]Preordain[/card], which I [card]Spell Pierce[/card].  I normally wouldn’t bother countering a [card]Preordain[/card], but in the early game it seemed worth it in case he was digging for lands, especially since I had backup counters and he had mulliganed.

I rip a [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] and begin giving the business while he is stuck at two lands, but I can’t do much to press my advantage because I am stuck at three lands.  Wanting to hold up [card]Mana Leak[/card] for any of his possible [card Stoneforge Mystic]Mystics[/card], I join him in Discardsville rather than deploy any reinforcements for my single [card Squadron Hawk]Hawk[/card].  I draw lands before he does and it is never much of a real game.  I put the final nail in the coffin when I double [card Tectonic Edge]Tec Edge[/card] him down to two lands and myself down to three, allowing my Hawks to continue their business without interruption.

5-1-1 Matches

12-6-1 Games

Finals

Valakut.

Game One

Finals begin on an ominous note as I roll Snake Eyes against my opponent’s double sixes, but I fight back with a second turn [card]Squadron Hawk[/card].  I am in trouble when a turn five [card]Inferno Titan[/card] wipes my board when it attacks, but I rip my fifth land off the top (obv) for my [card]Gideon Jura[/card] to kill it.  A [card]Summoning Trap[/card] at the end of my turn is Bad News Bears, but he obviously bricks because it was my day to win.  I eventually get him down to three with a [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] and a [card]Gideon Jura[/card], while [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] is fatesealing him away from business.  The Jace has been doing its thing for several turns and is at seven-ish while the Gideon is still at four after killing off the [card Inferno Titan]Balrog[/card] when he rips a [card]Mountain[/card] and gets two triggers from [card Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle]Valakut[/card].  I know he isn’t very used to Jedi Mind Tricks, so I go for level one and be as obvious as I can about playing with my [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card].  Someone more experienced with mind games would have seen my overplay for what it was and immediately realized I was up to something, then killed off my Gideon, but he goes into the think tank for a while.  When he comes out of the think tank he says that as long as he’s going to die next turn anyway he may as well deal me some damage, marks my life down six, and says go instead of killing off the [card Gideon Jura]Gideon[/card] and buying himself at least one more turn.

Magic is hard.

I bring in my [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card] and the [card]Oust[/card], bringing out my [card]Sun Titan[/card] and the [card]Sylvok Lifestaff[/card].  The Titan could put the game away by returning [card]Tectonic Edge[/card]s for [card Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle]Valakuts[/card], but it comes down well after I could already be dead and doesn’t do anything worth mentioning without [card]Tectonic Edge[/card]s, so it didn’t seem worth the slot.  As in the mirror matches, I expect matches between Caw-Blade and Valakut to look like blowouts at the end, not long grind-em-outs, so the three life or one extra damage from the Lifestaff seems irrelevant.  The Sword can mill Valakut right past its critical [card]Mountain[/card]s, as well as providing a quick clock even if only a single creature is attacking, and the [card]Oust[/card] is the best answer to an early [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] we have.

Game Two

I obviously lost my notes to the last two games, because I’m a boss.

He resolves a [card]Primeval Titan[/card] and I can’t [card Day of Judgment]Wrath[/card] it away before it attacks.

Game Three

I have a turn two [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] which fetches a [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card] and begins the business while I keep countermagic up for [card Time Walk]Time Walking[/card].  This is an excellent matchup for Caw-Blade and Valakut has to have all the cards fall their way to win.  That didn’t happen a second time, and I got there.

6-1-1 Matches

14-6-1 Games

$200 richer and the new point leader in the Good Games Montana Championship Series, I made my way to the only possible next stop with the crew in tow: the hotel bar.

Props:

Good Games Montana, for starting an excellent tournament series in Montana that has significant prizes.  One big tournament a month was the best thing that happened to gaming in Montana even before they added points at every event for free entry to side events and byes at the end of year Championship.

The Sultan, for lending me my [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]s.  I managed to trade for some on site before the tournament began, but it was still nice not to be scrambling.

The Drews for testing with me at completely unreasonable hours of the night/morning.

Chase, for starting to drink as soon as round one finished, thus letting me win a game I should have lost.  Also, for letting me talk him into conceding when it turns out a draw would have put him into the top eight was pretty nice too.  I tried to pay him back at least his winnings if he’d made it to the quarterfinals, but dude’s a good guy and took responsibility for his own snafu.

All my opponents, for being good sports across the board.

Slops:

Sean, for ripping his third [card]Shape Anew[/card] off the top after already tapping out for two after seeing barely twenty cards of the deck.  That’s my job, not his!

Chase, for almost giving me a heart attack by slow-rolling me when I asked for a concession with win on board.

Our waitress for cutting Chase off when we went to the bar.  He had already fallen out of his chair and was slurring so bad he could barely be understood, so he definitely deserved it, but it could have been significantly more interesting.

Thanks for reading,

Brook Gardner-Durbin

@BGardnerDurbin

magicthebloggering.com

3 thoughts on “Good Games Montana’s $500 Series: Winner”

  1. Whore,next time we’ll meet in the finals instead of the semis! Damn mana screw… I wish at least one of our games woulod of been real magic…

    Reply
  2. I thought game two was real. I had the early sword but after you got some lands and an elspeth we had to actually play magic for a while.

    Reply

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