I’m writing this article with a wicked case of the flu, so I apologize for any errors that remain.
I can’t overstate how excited I was for the Open in Baltimore. I knew I wanted one of my roommates and testing partners, Harley Cox, for the Modern portion of my team. Harley has been playing Affinity since it was Standard legal, so it’s no surprise that he opted to play that for the weekend. We did some testing with Bant Eldrazi and Grixis Delver, but decided his experience with Affinity would outweigh any deck selection advantage he could get by switching decks. It was difficult finding a Standard player, as my playgroup almost exclusively plays Legacy and Vintage. Mike Kerby, one of the managers of the SCG storefront, came to the rescue a couple of weeks before the event. Though he doesn’t really travel much for events these days, Kerby has snagged just about every Game Day Champion playmat in Roanoke for the last few years. I was thrilled to have him as our Standard pilot, and he settled on U/R Emerge for Standard. That left me on D&T to round on the team, and I decided on this list:
This is very similar to the list I ran in Louisville. I swapped out the Banisher Priest for a third Mirran Crusader, anticipating the rise of BUG decks and the decline of Eldrazi. I also opted to run Sword of War and Peace over Batterskull in the maindeck. *record screech* Yup, I cut one of the sacred, unquestioned cards from the maindeck. I’ve found that I don’t usually fetch Batterskull except against BUG, Burn, and Eldrazi. Batterskull frequently gets stranded in my hand, and I frequently have better things to do with my mana. Given that I was running three Mirran Crusaders and two Recruiters, I was fine with sacrificing a few percentage points against BUG decks in game one to drastically improve my Miracles, D&T, and combo matchups.
Thursday night before my weekly Legacy event, my decklist had a second Containment Priest and a Sword of Body and Mind in the sideboard over the two Surgical Extractions. In talking with Nick Miller right before that event, he reminded me that Baltimore had an unhealthy amount of good Lands players, so I reverted back to my two Surgicals to hedge against them. SoBaM proved to be incredible against the BUG decks, but very lackluster (or actively bad) elsewhere. If I had a 16th sideboard card, it would be SoBaM, and I would be 100% willing to play it moving forward when the time is right.
My personal record for the Open was 7-2, though my team’s record was 6-3. We narrowly missed day 2, but I’m still very happy with how our team did. With the exception of a couple of tough mulligan decisions, we largely all just piloted our own decks with little assistance from our teammates, as we all knew them very well. I took losses to two incredibly difficult matchups, Elves and Oops, All Spells, but I took down every reasonable matchup otherwise. Here’s the breakdown as well as some notable things about the event:
0-2 vs Elves
2-0 vs Aggro Loam
2-1 vs Infect
2-0 vs Miracles
0-2 vs Oops, All Spells
2-0 vs BUG Delver
2-0 vs D&T
2-0 vs D&T
2-1 vs UW Spirits
I was on the play for both games. I had a turn three Prelate on four both games. It still wasn’t enough. Whomp whomp.
Vs Aggro Loam
My opponent fell for my trap in game two. He had a Wasteland on board, and could have Wasted my Rishadan Port during my end step. He does not. This allows me to Port his Thespian’s Stage during his upkeep. He responds by producing a Marit Lage, and I get to play a Karakas and bounce it on my turn.
SoWaP is nuts against Miracles in game one, where many decks have few or no real answers to it. At one point one his teammates looks over at our match and says to his other teammate, “It’s Counterbalance vs Aether Vial over there, and it looks pretty bad. We’d better win our matches.” SoWaP was brutal and got there with ease.
Both of my D&T opponents sideboarded poorly for the mirror, keeping their Thalias in the deck. That cost both of them pretty dearly. One of my opponents played a Manriki-Gusari, which I believe is far inferior to SoWaP as a sideboard card.
Vs UW Stoneblade
I recognize the name Andrew Calderon from somewhere, and then remember that he placed at the GP with D&T. I smile and know that once again, my maindeck SoWaP is going to shine. “Mausoleum Wanderer, go.” Oh…that was unexpected. He was playing a UW Stoneblade deck that focused on creature-based disruptive threats. He actually ended up top 8’ing the Legacy Classic the next day, so he’s definitely on to something there. Paul Lynch shipped me a similar list a few months back, but this feels a bit more refined than what we had been trying. The sideboard in particular is a thing of beauty. Here’s the list. I suspect the deck might be a little land light, especially given the sideboard options, but it seems to be working for him.
Our team did fine for the day, and I was very happy with my personal record. I had plans to hang out with a friend on Sunday, but those fell through, so I ran the same 75 back for the Legacy Classic.
2-0 vs Sneak and Show
2-1 vs Jund
2-0 vs Shardless BUG
2-0 vs WB Rip/Helm Combo
2-0 vs Shardless BUG
2-1 vs Burn
ID vs BUG
ID vs BUG
Top 8- 1-2 vs Shardless BUG
Vs Sneak and Show
My opponent makes a joke about how he should probably just concede this round and get some food or something. Once I fetch my SoWaP, my opponent reads it, looks at his seven card hand with disdain, and scoops.
I mulliganed to five in game one, and my opponent had a double Thoughtseize opener that shredded my chances of recovery. My opponent only showed me basic Forests and Swamps, so I thought he was just going to be a GB Rock style deck. The Sudden Shock and Punishing Fire were quite the surprise in game 2. My opponent knew he had the win easily, so he wisely concealed information about his deck.
Vs WB RiP/Helm Combo
In game one, I see the following card from my opponent: Plains, Swamp, Scrubland, Dark Ritual, Hymn to Tourach, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Thoughtseize. I’m not really sure what my opponent is trying to do. My initial guesses were some sort of Pox or Deadguy Ale deck, but the Ancient Tomb wouldn’t fit into either of those shells. It turns out that my opponent was on Rest in Peace and Helm of Obedience as a primary win condition, with recurring Eternal Scourge as the secondary win con. He was 3-0 before running into me, so there might be something there.
My opponent has me dead on turn four on the play in game one, and I don’t really have any say in the matter. In games two and three, I’m able to connect once with a Batterskull to seal the deal and buy enough time to win. I had to Flickerwisp a Sulfuric Vortex to gain some life and win the race in game three.
Top 8 vs Shardless BUG
I wasn’t keeping an eye on the time, but this match probably lasted somewhere between an hour and a half and two hours. By the end of the match, Abe Corson was practically breathing down the neck of my opponent, encouraging him to play more quickly. I wasn’t thrilled about that fact, but I understand where he was coming from as a judge. Game one was a slog-fest where we both run out of spells. The game was decided by a fight over lands. I was keeping his Creeping Tar Pit in check with a Rishadan Port, but he eventually finds a Wasteland to get in the last three attacks. This was the only game over the course of the two events where I missed Batterskull in a game one scenario, and it was only because the game went abnormally long, with both players just drawing an absurd number of bricks.
By the time we get half way through game two, my friend Harley has had enough, and he decides to walk around the convention center for a little while. He returns, and it is still game 2. I probably end up bouncing Batterskull five or so times over the course of this game, which allowed me to recover from my initial mulligan to five.
In game 3, it’s my opponent’s turn for a mulligan to five. Luckily for him, he has an Ancestral Vision to help balance things out. The game evolves quickly to a very strange board state. My opponent has no lands, and only two Deathrite Shaman as sources of mana. I have a Rishadan Port or two, so any time my opponent does play a land, he will effectively only get one real use out of it. My opponent has to very carefully control his mana use, as there are a very finite number of lands in the graveyard, and if he gets too aggressive with advancing his board, he may leave himself unable to cast spells in the future. My deck fails to present me with a real threat, so he has enough time to tick down an Ancestral Vision. Given my poor position, I tried to get cute.
At my end step, I flickered out his only land, leaving him with just the two Deathrites as sources of mana. I have a Thalia in play. I was hoping my opponent would go to resolve his Ancestral Vision without activating his Deathrite, and since Deathrite isn’t a mana ability, he would then be unable to cast the card. Unfortunately, my opponent played on MTGO regularly, so he was familiar with the interaction. Once my opponent starts hitting land drops, I am quickly overwhelmed.
My record for the weekend (excluding the intentional draws) was 13-3. Of those, two losses were to very difficult matchups, Elves and Oops, All Spells. In matchups I could expect to win, I was 12-1. I’m very happy with that result, and I think my deckbuilding choices really paid off. SoWaP in the main made short work of the mirror, Miracles, and Sneak and Show matchups, and would have been very relevant in a few others if the games had gone longer. The three Mirran Crusaders felt correct; I played against BUG decks four times, but I would have played against it twice more if I didn’t have the opportunity to intentionally draw in. I tested with a fourth Mirran Crusader in the main, but the deck started to feel too top-heavy with it. In sixteen rounds, I only missed Batterskull in the maindeck in a single round; that’s enough to affirm my choice to move it to the side. It’s a bit unfortunate that I wanted it in the top 8 match, but I’m not going to let that discourage me from a choice that seems correct.
I’d like to take a minute here at the end to talk about something that I feel slightly bad about. In round 8, I intentionally drew with Cody Setree, who was on the BUG True-Name deck. I offered the draw, and he accepted. We sign the slip, and then table one starts doing some math and it becomes clear that it may not be 100% safe for Stephen Mann’s opponent to draw. Cody was the best X-1, and my math showed that an X-1-1 would be making top 8, so I legitimately thought he was locked. It looks like table 1 is going to play out their round. I asked my opponent if he was still fine with the draw, and he says he is. Stephen Mann ends up playing his match out and loses, causing him to become the X-1-1 with better breakers. Cody ends up getting 9th on breakers. I could have afforded to play this round out and still made top 8 in all likelihood, so it feels bad that my decision to draw ended up putting my opponent out of top 8 based on breakers. I don’t know how much of my opponent’s decision was based on thinking he was safe vs how much of it was based on not wanting to play against D&T, but I felt like I wouldn’t be giving a full tournament report without bringing that up.
On a more positive note, I really enjoyed the Team Constructed format, and I hope SCG continues to run this format in the future. Given that the event hit the attendance cap a few days before the event, I expect we will see more of these in the future. Sometimes playing at competitive REL can feel stressful, but everyone seemed to be in a legitimately good mood over the weekend, since they always had their friends around. I met some wonderful people over the weekend, and as always, it was a blast discussing D&T with those of you I saw at the event. Thanks for your donations and advice, and I’ll look forward to seeing you all at future events!