Modern Standard

Dragons of Tarkir Game Day

Went to SCG Modern States a couple weeks ago. I was all set to play Black-White Tokens, I had even printed up some new Warrior tokens to go along with Secure the Wastes.


But then I switched to Blue Tron at the last minute, with a fun-of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.

It was a bloodbath.

Setting aside whether the deck choice itself was a mistake, I can only think of one really egregious error I made, having to do with wasting counterspells in a game I had mostly locked up via Platinum Angel. Other than that, I just ran into multiple bad match-ups. I’m not abdicating responsibility, here – in retrospect I should have played BW Tokens in this tournament – but I got paired up against a bunch of fast aggro decks and even some Life from the Loam + Tectonic Edge + Smallpox thing.

I relate this not to whine about bad beats, but rather to set the stage for the triumph to come. Much like Sarkhan, whose striking visage adorns my new playmat, I was broken, very nearly driven insane by the trials and tribulations of having my Tron lands repeatedly Tec Edge’d.

Lo, behold a new future, a future where bees rule the earth and Tectonic Edge is not in the format.

I roll in to Game Day – I love Game Day – with this Hornet Nest + Chord of Calling deck. The odds are long, as an absolute murderers’ row of… wait, three? Three other people showed up for this? So there are four of us total? How does this even work?

So, um, cut to top 4 and play single elim for the mat? Alright, then…

Semi-finals versus White-Green Heroic: Game 1, on the play, I keep a one-lander with multiple Elvish Mystics. I miss land drops but still develop my mana via creatures. Eventually I go off and Chord of Calling for Dragonlord Atarka. Game 2, he hits me for 20 with a Fabled Hero. Not really anything I could have done in that game – he just “had it,” which these combo’ish decks will do once in a while. I have a fond memory of 20’ing a guy with a Fabled Hero back in a Theros draft, so now I know how that feels.

Game 3, he had a mid-game Abzan Falconer which was an interesting way to give evasion to his team. He got in one good smack with a large Favored Hoplite but then I had a strived Setessan Tactics to wipe his board. From there, I just attacked a couple times and got the match.

I sided in Rending Volley but that doesn’t even really do much, since they are most likely not going to tap out and expose an important creature to your conditional spot removal. The new rebound spells, like Center Soul, seem pretty good in the deck. I even sided in Scuttling Doom Engine in a desparate bid for an additional colorless blocker.

Finals versus Mono-Red: This was kind of a swarm-token aggro build with Foundry Street Denizen, Dragon Fodder, Hordeling Outburst, etc. Hornet Nest shined against him, as all his removal was damage-based. Game 1, on the play, I blocked early and often, developing my mana. Eventually I dropped Dragonlord Atarka, wiping his board of tokens.

Game 2 was weird, we both stumbled on mana early, and he had 3 Roasts for my 3 Courser of Kruphix. We got deep into the mid game and neither of us had done much at all. I couldn’t get off of 3 mana and had fallen to 11 from a few attacks. He eventually found a Lightning Strike and 2x Stoke the Flames over a couple turns to kill me.

Game 3, I stayed ahead on board and we both ran out of cards, me at 15 life. He fired a Twin Bolt at a facedown creature I had manifested from Whisperwood Elemental… and I flipped up the Hornet Nest. The ground was locked up and the top of my deck was generally more powerful than his. I found an Arbor Colossus (sided in because it didn’t die to Roast) and started bashing.

Hard-fought, lemme tellya.

The deck was sweet, I’ll probably stay on this for whatever Standard events I attend in the near future. Shout-outs to the other 3 dudes that showed up for Game Day!


Magic 2015 Game Day

Played in Magic 2015 Game Day over the weekend. I basically don’t want to do anything other than overload Mizzium Mortars repeatedly for the rest of my life so I played Mortars plus mana guys again. I have been unhappy when I’ve maindecked Xenagos, the Reveler in Jund Monsters in the past, so I ran him in the sideboard. The only new M15 card I played was a one-of Soul of Shandalar. I only cast it once all day and it immediately drew a removal spell, so I don’t have much of an impression on that guy yet. Small tourney, just four rounds with a cut to Top 8.

I love the Game Day full art cards and of course I always want to win the champ playmat, but this time around the prize pool also contained a big ‘ol Nerf Garruk axe. It was both very silly and very cool – I definitely wanted that axe!

Round 1 vs Esper Control: I win game one by trying to measuredly dole out individual threats to avoid overextending into a board wipe. He does have strong spot removal such as Hero’s Downfall, so even Stormbreath Dragon is easy enough to answer. A 4/4 Scavenging Ooze eventually kills him when he runs out of removal.

Game two, I believe I had the tools I needed to win but I made a mistake in not aggressively trying to kill/contain an early Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. He eventually used the Ashiok to play an exiled Courser of Kruphix that provided a hardy blocker and let him play lands off the top. I needed to recognize that you cannot just leave a planeswalker around to activate turn after turn but I missed my window. The game went very long and eventually he ultimated Elspeth, Sun’s Champion with several soldier tokens in play. We moved to game three with only a few minutes on the clock and we timed out to draw the match. (Record: 0-0-1)

Round 2 vs Bant Tokens: This was kind of a random assortment of cards, but maybe it did something sweet if you let it. It appeared to be token generators (Raise the Alarm, Heliod, God of the Sun, Hornet Nest) plus Jalira, Master Polymorphist. Hornet Nest seems like a pretty good card, but Stormbreath Dragon don’t care. (Record: 1-0-1)

Round 3 vs UW Control: Game one, I get an early Domri Rade all the way up to ultimate and snap off the emblem. I did have to trade a Mutavault for one of his Mutavaults that tried to knock Domri off of ultimate, but I happily threw the manland under the bus in that situation. With the emblem out, my creatures were all pretty nuts and I took game one. Game two, opponent missed his third land drop for multiple turns, even after cycling an Azorius Charm. It was a bit absurd, I assume his deck had 26+ lands but that’s how it goes sometimes. Meanwhile, I actually got to cast a few spells. (Record: 2-0-1)

Round 4 vs Junk Midrange: ID into Top 8. (Record 2-0-2)

Quarterfinals vs Black Devotion w/Green: Game one, I have two Stormbreath Dragon in my hand so I’m formulating an aggressive gameplan. However, I make a fatal mistake. I played a Stormbreath Dragon and attacked him down to 16. He had a follow-up Hero’s Downfall for the dragon. On my turn, his board is a single Pack Rat but not enough open mana to activate it. I can either cast my second dragon or I can sorcery-speed a Putrefy to kill his Pack Rat. I chose to cast the Stormbreath Dragon and he moved in on Pack Rat, overwhelming me.

Always kill the stupid Pack Rat if you can.

Game two, he’s got some Pack Rats in play and I can either overload Mizzium Mortars or cast a Sire of Insanity (he has 3 or maybe even 4 cards in hand). I debated this for probably too long. On his next turn, he could make the Pack Rats into 4/4s. I think if Sire of Insanity had 5 toughness instead of 4 I might have disastrously chosen to cast the Sire thinking, “Well, I can block a 4/4 with this…” which is just stupid but that’s what I was thinking. Thankfully I made the right choice and overloaded Mizzium Mortars to kill all his rats. He doesn’t have anything next turn, but gets in with a Mutavault. My next draw is another Mizzium Mortars. I cast the Sire of Insanity and we both lose our hands. He finds a Desecration Demon but I’m able to feed it some creatures while my Sire and a couple elves attack.

Game three, he has turn one Thoughtseize and sees that I’ve kept a hand light on threats but dense with removal. He kind of groans and takes one of the two Putrefys I was holding. I’m able to kill everything he plays, Putrefy this, Dreadbore that, etc. I have the dorkiest of dorky creatures attacking, like an Elvish Mystic chipping in turn after turn. I’m ticking up a Domri Rade but not finding any of my monsters. Instead, I find additional Elvish Mystics and attack in with these silly 1/1’s. He starts blocking with Mutavaults, which gives me an opening to kill the lands with sorcery-speed removal post-combat. After several turns of this, I’ve pulled too far ahead and I get the win.

Semifinals vs Junk Midrange: This deck was sweet. He had powerhouse cards like Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Archangel of Thune, and also some sweet tricks like Chord of Calling for Hornet Nest. Game one, he has two Underworld Connections going and just buries me, not particularly close. Games two and three both hinge on me resolving Rakdos’s Return for his whole hand and him never recovering.

Rakdos’s Return is the truth.

My pal Chris had won his semifinal round on the other side of the bracket and came over to observe games two and three of my match. And by “observe” I mean “savagely critique my embarassingly bad decisions.” I mean, I fully deserved all of the abuse; I was making some pretty loose plays. Multiple turns, I’d have one or two good options available and I’d somehow fish around for a third, worse option and make that play instead. Fortunately, my deck forgave me while my opponent’s deck failed him and I took the match.

One thing that is interesting about playing with Courser of Kruphix is that if a relevant card is revealed on top of your deck – as an example, I had a Mizzium Mortars revealed at one point in this match – it can singularly hook an opponent’s attention and they might quit thinking much about the other cards in your hand. If you happen to have a second copy of a revealed card already in your hand, that’s another twist. They’ll have to play something into that first copy, after all.

Finals vs Black-White Aggro?: Chris and I meet in the finals; I’m not even sure what his deck was. I know he had Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Ajani, Caller of the Pride and black lands. We decided to just chop up the pot and go home. My previous opponent had accidentally left the store with one of my Courser of Kruphix (probably under a Banishing Light) so I had a 59-card deck at this point anyway, haha. I was able to score the Nerf Garruk axe, because I am a very serious individual who unironically desires Nerf axes. Axen?

Now I just need to build a fireplace, above which I can mount the axe.

You better axe somebody.


Born of the Gods Game Day

I did well with Jund Monsters at Born of the Gods Game Day this past weekend. Indeed, I think about 70% of my success on the day can be attributed to my deck selection, 20% to a case of the run-goods and 10% to sound play. First, though, let me go on a quick tangent about the deck I almost played: Red Devotion splashing black for 4x Rakdos’s Return.

Douche Card For DouchesThe goal is to do the devotion thing with Burning-Tree Emissary, Boros Reckoner, etc and then destroy their hand with Rakdos’s Return as early as possible. I played just a small handful of games with it, for funsies, against a Bant Control/Planeswalkers list. In that particular matchup, the Rakdos’s Return deck was great. In addition to the big X spell, Fanatic of Mogis and Stormbreath Dragon are also strong against planeswalkers – not to mention Dreadbore. Losing to control sucks, and this list seemed specifically well-equipped to handle control. A deck that stomps a boot down on the throat of Sphinx’s Revelation is one of the good guys, in my book.

The deck feels sweet when it goes off; I will try playing it at FNM some time but for Game Day I decided that I didn’t want to spend the afternoon drawing the wrong number of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or topdecking 2/2’s for 2 in tight spots. Green-Red Monsters was appealing, especially the combination of Domri Rade, Courser of Kruphix and scry lands. You get to be aggressive with big creatures that demand answers but you also have some avenues to keep the gas coming after the first few turns. Adding black for premium removal puts the whole thing over the top and breaks the mirror in particular.

What you gain by adding black: Removal, first and foremost. In the maindeck, I played 2x Dreadbore and 2x Putrefy. I actually had to look up Putrefy to make sure it was still in Standard; I feel like I haven’t seen that card around in a long time. Good thing I have some baller status full art copies. Hero’s Downfall is an option but the double-black mana cost might be pushing it. I never had trouble setting up Putrefy or Dreadbore mana. In the sideboard, you can jam whatever additional black removal you want: Ultimate Price, Doom Blade, Abrupt Decay, the list goes on and on.

On the creature side, black gets you Reaper of the Wilds. I’ve never thought Reaper looked very flashy on her face (it’s a chick, right? all these gorgons are chicks, I think) but she actually does a lot of work once she hits the table. She can’t be Mizzium Mortars’d, the scry ability synergizes with Domri Rade, and deathtouch makes her great in a fight – and Domri is a helluva fight promoter.

I've got ten bucks says Reaper wins.

I don’t feel like I “lose” anything by going 3-color but there are, of course, some green and red cards that have to be dumped to make room, such as:

Ghor-Clan Rampager is a strong, multifaceted card but it’s an easy cut. The creature half of Rampager is replaced by Reaper of the Wilds and the combat trick side is replaced by the black removal spells. I realize I just said I needed to play multiple cards to replace the functionality of just one but c’mon, you see what I’m saying, don’t be an asshole.

Scavenging Ooze often appears as a two-of but I played zero. I didn’t see what it was going to be doing, unless it came down in the late game and became a 7/7 or something, and there aren’t too many graveyard decks around. The ooze might tag back in, though.

Xenagos, the Reveler: I’m not sure I believe this guy is that great. Is he ramping? Ramping to what? Your five-drop that you were going to play on-curve anyway? Multiple times, my GR opponents would cast a Xenagos, the Reveler and make a 2/2 that they’d have to leave on defense to chump a bigger threat. Like any planeswalker, he can go bananas if left unchecked for a couple of turns but I think making a 2/2 for 4 is not really in line with the maindeck’s plan. I played one in the sideboard but never drew it. Too bad, I had even made some custom satyr tokens.

sweet 2/2 for 4 brah

Xenagos, God of Revels has been a one or two-of in a lot of lists. The card is obviously very good when it’s doing its thing but I generally wasn’t very afraid of it. The god has the potential to be a literal blank in many board states. That said, I am open-minded about XenaGod, we are still early in the life of this card.

The tournament:

Round 1 vs Green-Red Monsters: This one went according to plan – We both played out Polukranos, World Eaters and Stormbreath Dragons but I cast some black removal spells and ran him over. Opponent cast Xenagos, the Reveler a couple of times and it did almost nothing. (Record: 1-0)

Basic sideboard plan versus Green-Red Monsters: -4 Courser of Kruphix, +2 Dreadbore, +2 Ultimate Price. The spot removal is the whole point and Courser, while good, isn’t directly accelerating like Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid.

Round 2 vs Golgari Scavenge Aggro: Looking back across the entire day, this was the one match where I felt most imperiled. Opponent’s deck was faster at beating down than mine, with Lotleth Trolls, Dreg Manglers and removal to clear the way. He was also resilient against my own removal since he had multiple regenerators (Lotleth Troll, Varolz, the Scar-Striped, maindeck Golgari Charm). The creatures that I did kill, he could scavenge onto the next guy. Should have played Scavenging Ooze after all!

Game 1 was a bizarre affair, opponent ran wild with a Varolz, the Scar-Striped getting up to around 20 power via scavenge counters, with a Whip of Erebos in play granting lifelink. I drew plenty of running chump blockers as my Domri Rade ticked ever upward. While I was not dying, opponent climbed as high as 160 life. I created a Domri emblem and had a double-striking deathtouch Reaper of the Wilds to shut down his offense and I start swinging in for huge chunks with absurd emblem-powered monsters. I am well over halfway through my deck and both of my Putrefys are still in there, eventually one is revealed on the top (I had Courser of Kruphix) and opponent concedes game 1 since Putrefy can finally break through Varolz’s regeneration.

We only have about 10 minutes for games 2 & 3 so we’re both shuffling up pretty fast. I don’t recall what I sideboarded; it may have been -4 Elvish Mystic, +2 Dreadbore, +2 Golgari Charm. He has a good curve of attackers and removal to get game 2 in just a few turns. Game 3, we don’t get too deep before time is called and the match is a draw. If opponent had any sort of evasion, maybe Herald of Torment or even something like a Rogue’s Passage, he could have gotten me in that first game. (Record: 1-0-1)

Round 3 vs Blue-White Control: Game 1 is close, things go back-and-forth a bit and opponent lands an Aetherling, shifting into “kill you” mode. I manage to fog one Aetherling attack by forcing a blink in response to a Putrefy. I then resolve a Stormbreath Dragon and the race becomes pretty tight. Opponent gets into a difficult position with the number of cards in his hand (with Stormbreath Dragon’s monstrous ability looming) and the number of Aetherling activations he chooses to sink mana into. Ultimately he needs to cast a Supreme Verdict without being able to first blink out the Aetherling and I just barely get him.

I sideboard fully 10 cards: -4 Polukranos, World Eater, -4 Mizzium Mortars, -2 Putrefy, +2 Sire of Insanity, +1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, +1 Rakdos’s Return, +2 Dreadbore, +2 Golgari Charm, +1 Xenagos, the Reveler, +1 Chandra, Pyromaster.

Game 2, I have a Sire of Insanity in my opening hand; I then reveal the second copy to some effect, a Courser of Kruphix, I think. So opponent knows I have one Sire of Insanity at that point, but he doesn’t know I have two. I feel incentivized to cast the first one into any amount of open mana/cards so I do, and it gets Dissolved. On my next turn I get to resolve the other Sire of Insanity. Even though my opponent does topdeck a Detention Sphere in short order to remove the Sire, I’ve gotten far enough ahead to close it out. (Record: 2-0-1)

Round 4 vs Green-Red Monsters: Opponent is 3-0 and is a little bummed that we can’t just draw but he’s a cool dude and isn’t a turd about it or anything. As in my round 1 match against Green-Red Monsters, I cast some black removal, sided in even more black removal for game 2 and took it without much fuss. (Record: 3-0-1)

Round 5 vs Red-White Midrange: Opponent was undefeated after 3 and had ID’d last round, so we’re now both 3-0-1 and ID into Top 8. He wants to play for funsies and I’m happy to do so. I came to game, after all! His deck was full of big, powerful cards such as Aurelia, the Warleader and Aurelia’s Fury as well as a selection of unorthodox one and two-ofs that would catch anybody by surprise. For example, while you’re trying to figure out what to do about his Assemble the Legion, he might jam Spark Trooper + Boros Charm for double strike and kill you out of nowhere. We each won a couple games and then waited around for Top 8 pairings. (Record: 3-0-2)

Quarterfinals vs Red-White Midrange (R5 Opponent): Nice that we got a chance to playtest the matchup a little, haha. Game 1, my variety of 4+ toughness creatures were good against his Anger of the Gods, and Stormbreath Dragon is good against the white half of his deck. I did give up a Courser of Kruphix to block a Spark Trooper once, basically giving that creature away to absorb 4 damage – that’s an example of me just not knowing what I should be doing against this roguish deck. It seems kind of bad to give up my 2/4 with sweet abilities but against a burn deck it might be correct?

Sideboard plan: -4 Elvish Mystic, +2 Golgari Charm, +1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, +1 Dreadbore (I think?)

Game 2 he stumbled a bit, with no Mountain for his Chained to the Rocks so he had to spend multiple burn spells on individual creatures. I had a Ruric Thar, the Unbowed that he had to pay 6 life to remove, and a Stormbreath Dragon fought his Aurelia, the Warleader via Domri Rade to sew it up.

Semifinals vs Green-Red Monsters (R4 Opponent): For the third time in a row, the Green-Red matchup was a bit of a breeze. My hand always felt stocked with removal and nothing that he cast seemed scary. I think this was the first time I saw Xenagos, God of Revels all day, but it did nothing. It was a creature for a brief moment, but a removal spell turned off devotion and left XenaGod just sitting there.

Finals vs Mono Blue Devotion: These were strange games. For example, across 3 games I saw zero of the following cards from opponent’s deck: Cloudfin Raptor, Judge’s Familiar, Tidebinder Mage. I was lucky to dodge Tidebinder and fast fliers. Opponent also had to mull in at least 2 of the games, might have been all 3.

Game 1, I overloaded multiple Mizzium Mortars and had a Putrefy for a Master of Waves. Sideboard plan was: -4 Courser of Kruphix, -2 Dreadbore, +2 Gruul Charm, +2 Golgari Charm, +2 Ultimate Price. The Courser of Kruphix is a juicy Domestication target for the Mono-Blue deck, so I think it’s good to just cut them.

Game 2, my hand was weird and threat-light, but I was enticed by the presence of multiple sideboard cards so I kept it. It was something like Gruul Charm, Gruul Charm, Golgari Charm, plus lands and a mana guy. I even started to write it down because I was thinking, “I’m going to want to look back on this keep later and think about it.” but then I thought, “Don’t be a donk and write down your opening hand right here in the middle of a match just because you want to talk about it on your shitty website.” so I may be misremembering some of the specifics of the hand. It was a bad keep, is the point. I know I whiffed on several Domri Rade +1’s in the game before finally dying to some unblockable attackers courtesy of Thassa, God of the Sea.

Game 3, I got on board with a monster early but opponent had some tempo plays – bounce this, counter that – to keep me off of a game-ending threat for a while. I eventually found a Stormbreath Dragon and got there.

Got there!

you can see his moobsI was pretty stoked to win the playmat, even though we all sort of agreed that the art was not the coolest: a bunch of angry minotaurs, rawr! The full-art Pain Seer looks dope, though. I arbitrarily jam every full-art Game Day card I get into my cube, regardless of whether the card is any good or not. For example, I have Cryptborn Horror in my cube, solely because I think the full-art version looks rad.

Going forward, I don’t want to change much about the deck. The Ultimate Prices would have been better as Doom Blades in this particular tournament but it’s probably just dumb luck that I didn’t encounter any Desecration Demons on the day. Speaking of Desecration Demon, I could try playing that instead of Reaper of the Wilds, or maybe a 2-2 split. I am also a stupid idiot so I would like to try Underworld Cerberus in there or maybe even a maindeck Sire of Insanity.