Hey folks, it’s been quite some time, hasn’t it? My bad. Life got in the way of Magic for about the last month, but I’m back and I ended up going on quite the tear. In the days leading up to EW, I tried out a handful of games with the stock D&T decklist I’ve been preaching since like August to the following results:
2-0 Grixis Delver
1-2 Tin Fins
2-0 Death’s Shadow Delver
0-2 Grixis Delver
The list still felt fine, but I had noticed two problems with the list since putting it together in August.
1. Czech Pile matches frequently came down to how many times my opponent got to cast Kolaghan’s Command or Snapcaster Mage. I could grind through or aggro them out, but many of the games were just out of my control. I don’t think the matchup is quite as abysmal as other prominent D&T players, but I wanted to do something to make it a bit better. Sword of Light and Shadow was a good start, but relying on something that eats it to Kolaghan’s Command doesn’t solve the problem. I tried Fiendslayer Paladin as both a maindeck and sideboard card, and that wasn’t quite doing what I hoped either. While it was really difficult to get off the table, it wasn’t actually winning games; it just kept me from losing.
2. I was losing the mirror far more than I expected given my proficiency with the deck. I was finding that my opponents (on average) were more prepared for the mirror than I was. I kept running into things like Manriki-Gusari, Seal of Cleansing, and Pithing Needle; my opponents often had multiple of these things in addition to the number of stock sideboard cards. I’m a little curious how my opponents kept finding room in their sideboards for these things, as I think sideboard space is precious at the moment. Most stock lists really only have about 5 or 6 maindeck cards that need to come out, so I wonder if some of my opponents are actually boarding out cards that are just fine and not using their sideboard space optimally.
In my mind, there were two choices at this point: adjust the build slightly to improve the Czech Pile and mirror, or play a splash build. When I reached out to the community, Iatee found time to ship me this list between his various posts on getting Rishadan Cutpurse banned.
I really liked this build, and I highly recommend it moving forward. Alessandro Yeneggi top 4’d an 187 person event with it overseas. Mike Derczo went 5-0 with a list one or two cards off from this one in a trial on Friday as well. I had three days of intensive testing prior to EW, so I wasn’t up for making this big of a jump. That lead me to this:
I decided that I wanted to win the Czech Pile matchup via virtual card advantage (i.e. not by out-grinding, but by invalidating opposing resources, effectively putting myself ahead). 4 copies of Crusader and 2 Recruiters to find them meant that I would very consistently be able to stick a very difficult to remove threat that didn’t get bogged down by Baleful Strix and other small chump blockers. While my opponent would likely have a couple of answers in the 75, I had a long-term gameplan. Previously, I had used SoLaS to push through Strix as well as recoup card advantage, but that was no longer needed. Which lead into change two…
Welcome back, SoWaP! As Derczo put it on Friday night, “Phil, you’ve got such a f*cking hardon for that card!” We all exploded in laughter, but nobody actually questioned it. I had wanted something that would improve my percentages in the mirror, and this was an obvious inclusion once I upped the numbers on Crusader. I attribute more of my wins this weekend to this card than any other sideboard card.
Here were the results leading up to the main event between MTGO and 2 trial events:
2-0 Turbo Depths
2-0 Red Prison
1-2 Grixis Delver
0-2 Back to Basics Stoneblade
2-1 Czech Pile
2-1 Sneak and Show (with Omni)
2-0 Czech Pile
2-0 vs Reanimator
2-0 vs Reanimator
0-2 Lands (with Smokestack!)
2-0 Mono Red Sneak
0-2 Sneak and Show
1-2 Aggro Loam
2-1 BUG Delver
That adds up to a record of 16-7, which is a win rate of about 70%. I was very happy with those small changes. Crusader seemed to be far outperforming Avenger in most of my matchups, and the SoWaP was really good at getting people dead. I felt very comfortable with the list, and it delivered in the main event:
2-1 D&T (Mike Derczo)
1-2 Czech Pile
2-0 Grixis Delver
2-1 Turbo Depths
2-0 4C Leovold (white for Lingering Souls)
2-0 Czech Pile
2-0 UW Stoneblade
Rather than talk about all of the sweet things I did, savage traps I lured my opponents into, or write a novel on the glory of SoWaP, today I’m going to highlight the mistakes I made and the things that I was unsure about. 9-2 is a great finish and that record was able to put one person into the top 8. Yet, despite the fact that I played like a demon, I want to show that I too have room for growth and I still make mistakes.
Round 1 vs Jund
I really don’t like playing this matchup. It’s always been difficult, but the printing of Grim Flayer meant that this deck had yet another must-answer two drop alongside Bob and Goyf. I bring up this matchup because I sideboarded very strangely for it and my opponent though I was a madman. I boarded out my Thalias and Revokers for 2 Council’s Judgment, 2 Rest in Peace, 2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and 2 Path to Exile. My opponent believed that Thalia was the key to keeping the Punishing Fire engine in check, while I believed that it was more important to be able to answer early threats while also being prepared to grind out a long game. Was I correct? I don’t know, but I liked my approach.
Round 3 vs D&T
I rarely make egregious errors. Like anyone, I make small misplays and occasionally take sub-optimal lines, but I really messed up here and it should have been a match-losing error. Here’s the approximate situation, I don’t remember all the details, as the board state was stupid complicated, but Derczo was attacking with a Gideon wielding a Jitte. I, in a moment of brilliance, decided that I was going to block with a Mirran Crusader and then use my Jitte counters to shrink his Gideon, killing it before it did combat damage. We got to first strike damage, and Derczo stops me when I try to assign two damage to Gideon, as it has a nice little clause there preventing damage being dealt to it. *string of expletives* I have to use my Jitte counters to kill my own Crusader to prevent him from getting Jitte counters, and I narrowly eek out the win on the back of SoWaP. I didn’t deserve that win. He played better this time. The better player doesn’t always win though. That’s Magic.
Round 8 vs Aluren
I knew my opponent this round, Mike Kochis. He had gotten the better of me in a grueling slog-fest that lasted about 2 hours in the top 8 of a Classic last year. He was on Shardless and I knew he had Shardless on MTGO as well from our conversations during that match. I keep a hand that was solid against Shardless, but weak against the field as a whole. He leads on two copies of Ancestral Vision, so I feel great about my hand. Then a couple of turns later, a Coiling Oracle hits the field. I still feel like this is Shardless, but this is some sort of adaptation to Czech Pile’s ability to grind. Sure enough, the Aluren hits the field the following turn. Yup, this was just Aluren with a set of Ancestrals. Whoops. Turns out Cartesian had been playing around with a build like this one and had top 16’d the Legacy Challenge the previous week. So there was some precedent for this build, I just didn’t know about it.
Round 9 vs 4 Color Leovold
Sometimes it’s really difficult to tell what deck your opponent is playing, especially if they’ve made some metagame-dependent alterations to their deck. In game one, I think I saw Brainstorm, Ponder, Swords to Plowshares, Force, Jace, Tundra, Scrubland, and Tropical Island. I then set a Sanctum Prelate to one and my opponent died shortly thereafter. So, what do I board for? I boarded for some sort of Deathblade deck, but it actually ending up being Four Color Leovold. I didn’t actually figure that out until I asked my opponent at the end of game two. My opponent’s build was a little non-traditional, opting to splash white over red for Lingering Souls as a trump card for the mirror. Luckily, my sideboarding choices largely overlapped with what my opponent was playing, though I did make a wrong call here.
So where do things stand now? My record with my current decklist is 25-9, a win rate of about 74%. Some people have been telling me that the sky is falling and traditional D&T can’t compete in the current metagame. I don’t think I agree. According to the metagame breakdown from this weekend, Czech Pile, Grixis Delver, Sneak and Show, Reanimator, D&T, and Lands were the decks that made up 6% or more of the field. I feel good about my decklist in that field. I am a little worried that Hans Goddik’s BUG Delver list will catch on. I don’t really want to play against a Delver deck that has two Liliana, the Last Hope in the main as well as two Massacre and two Toxic Deluge in the side.
I’ll likely play something pretty similar next weekend for the Legacy Open. I’ve been toying around with the idea of dropping a Revoker for something else, as it isn’t great against Delver and Czech Pile, but I haven’t convinced myself to pull the trigger yet. It’s too important for many of the fringe matchups, and it’s nice to have them in the deck when I’m staring down a Dread of Night. I was also considering playing some kooky enchantments to fight against Czech Pile, but I couldn’t quite justify running something like Angelic Destiny in a serious tournament. Enchantments are a real pain to get off the board for much of the format, and I think that’s a good direction to explore. I’ll muck around in The Gatherer later this week to see if anything catches my eye.
Overall, I really enjoyed myself at EW. 11 rounds did make for a bit of a grueling day though, I’m not going to lie. I talked to many players who simply were not physically prepared to play that much Magic in a day, especially after doing the Vintage and/or 93/94 events on previous days. This weekend was a marathon. We’ve all gotten used to the Open/GP system that cuts to a day 2 of the event, so having a couple days in a row of getting up at 7am and leaving the convention center at 11pm was rough. I was definitely banking on the fact that the round would go over by 20 minutes when I ran to go get lunch, and I might not have had time to eat dinner if not for my friends who fetched food for me. I heard stories of people ID’ing in the last round because they were just too tired to play at anything resembling peak levels. I guess that’s what happens when your convention center actually doesn’t have water fountains… C’est la vie. The attendance was much better this year than last year though, so that’s a big plus. I also think that it’s a bit weird that an event of this scale and prominence pays out in store credit, but I got a Moat after pooling my credit with one of my roommates, so I’m not complaining. It was wonderful getting a chance to chat with many of you last weekend, and I’ll see you in DC in a few days!