The “States” branding is kind of all over the place lately, with multiple organizations each running their own series of States events. While the name has perhaps become a bit diluted, I am happy to have additional opportunities for more competitive events at the local level. We recently had TCGPlayer Limited Spring States, which was a sealed format event. Kind of cool, as every other flavor of States I’ve been to in the past has been Standard Constructed. I love me some sealed. As an early Father’s Day present, my daughter, Genny, colored a picture on a blank playmat for me. I knew it would bring me good luck in the tourney.
That’s Chewbacca, on the left. Genny asked me if Chewbacca had a tail and I told her I didn’t think so but she could give him one if she wanted.
I was passed a pool that I feel was most correctly built as black-red. I wasn’t thrilled with the deck, I would have liked another piece or two of hard removal such as an Asphyxiate or a Sip of Hemlock. I was also light on evasion, so I needed to just curve out and try to beat down.
Theros Block Sealed (TCGPlayer Spring States 2014-05-31)
I never drew the Aspect of Gorgon and sided it out after nearly every game one. I think I thought I had a couple of prime targets in the regenerating Servant of Tymaret and the first-striking Spearpoint Oread and that it would allow any given creature to keep attacking in – but, yeah, never drew it. I sided in the Starfall a couple of times, that would probably have been a better maindeck choice than the Aspect of Gorgon.
The Gluttonous Cyclops is pretty vanilla, but I wanted to have one “big” thing to do with late-game mana and that’s about the best I could come up with. Colossus of Akros is probably not really a thing. Also? The art on Gluttonous Cyclops is sweet. It kind of reminds me of these old Topps Dinosaurs Attack trading cards I had when I was a little kid.
Game 1, he had some guys that were tough for my largely ground-based offense to punch through, like Keepsake Gorgon and Black Oak of Odunos. Eventually I built up enough of a swarm to attack profitably, with Flurry of Horns being a key play. He made some blocks and cast a Pharika’s Cure but it wasn’t quite enough.
Game 2, I sided in Fleetfeather Sandals and had it in my opening hand. He led with a Font of Ire, which loomed over the game. I played out a Kragma Butcher that strapped on the sandals and went to work. I did not draw many creatures so I was all-in on the Kragma Butcher. At one point I used a Titan’s Strength defensively to pump his toughness to 4 to save him from a Lightning Strike, missing the scry trigger because I was feeling tense. He played a Pharagax Giant and I chose to give him a 5/5 instead of taking the 5 damage, worried about that Font of Ire that was still hanging around. I spent 2 cards, a Bolt of Keranos and a Lightning Strike, to kill the 5/5. It felt kind of wrong as I did it but I wasn’t sure how else I’d handle a 5/5.
Round 2 vs Black-Green: He had Nyx Weaver and a Font of Return, which presented a variety of options on his side. He also had some big guys, including a Nessian Wilds Ravager. In the last turns of Game 2, I had a Starfall in response to a Savage Surge on a Nessian Courser that was going to block and eat one of my guys. This gave me an opening to win on my next attack, when I was able to use Rise to the Challenge on an unblocked guy for lethal. (record: 2-0)
Round 3 vs White-Red: He was a low-curve aggro deck with a Spear of Heliod and an Akroan Conscriptor on the top end. Game 1 he doesn’t mount a big enough offense and I get there while still sitting at 18 life. I do immediately kill his Akroan Conscriptor when he taps out for it because I just do not want to ever deal with the variety of things that guy can do.
Game 2 is probably my worst-played game of the day. He comes out of the gates fast and I fall to 4 life pretty early on. I manage to build up a line of dorks that he can’t quite punch through without trading guys, even with Spear of Heliod online. He also, I think, held back on playing out a spell or two because he wanted to keep up mana to activate the Spear. There was a key turn where he could have alpha’d into my board, losing some of his guys to trades, but also hitting me for at least a little damage. Instead, he passed without attacking and I feel like I turned the corner at that point.
Here, the game gets weird as we both brick off for several turns in a row. We’re both going “land, go” over and over but I do make some guys with Flurry of Horns and I find a Servant of Tymaret which makes me feel a lot better. I tense up when he draws and plays a Wingsteed Rider, a 3/3 due to Spear of Heliod. He attacks once, dropping me to 1 as I have no flying blocker. On my next turn, I peel Lightning Strike and immediately snap it off at sorcery speed on the Wingsteed Rider. We both continue to flood out, but I am sandbagging a Nyxborn Eidolon and a Feast of Dreams so that I can enchant and destroy any killer threat that he might manage to find. I start to finally chip in with various vanilla guys and opponent concedes. (record: 3-0)
Where I screwed up: Granted, I won, so my line worked out but I absolutely should have started attacking with my Servant of Tymaret shortly after deploying it. I drew an Erebos’s Emissary that I could have put on the Servant to make it a bigger attacker than most of his blockers. He did have a 1/5 Lagonna-Band Trailblazer but I could have pumped power to kill that if I wanted to. The Servant could regenerate whether killed by blockers or by Spear of Heliod. The Inspired ability to drain 1/gain 1 would have clawed me back from the precarious 1 life up to 8+ life considering how long this went on. I guess there may have been a one-turn window where, the first time I attacked with Servant, on his turn he could draw Akroan Conscriptor and target it with something, stealing the Servant and killing me from 1 with the Inspired ability but that’s pretty specific.
The tournament was only 5 rounds before Top 8, so at 3-0 I could comfortably start drawing, and my opponents were happy to do so as well. I was first place going into the Top 8 and would get to take advantage of the new play/draw rule.
In the draft, I first-picked a Pheres-Band Warchief from the Journey into Nyx pack. I really wish I remembered more of pack one. I second-picked a Deicide which I now believe was super wrong. On the third pick, I considered taking a Lagonna-Band Trailblazer, as it was a Centaur for my Warchief and I had taken the white Deicide but I think I came to my senses about what Deicide really is (that is, nothing special) and took a decent green two-drop instead, in Satyr Grovedancer.
Early in pack one, it might have been the Deicide pack, I could have taken a Bladetusk Boar but didn’t. This was a terrible choice and I regretted it immediately. I did pick up one Bladetusk Boar in the mid-pack, and two copies of Pheres-Band Thunderhoof which work well with the Warchief.
In pack two, I was hoping that the red would be flowing, as Born of the Gods has some great red cards and I had not really passed any decent red stuff in pack one – aside from that regretful Bladetusk Boar, of course. I didn’t see any of my dream red cards: no Bolt of Keranos, no Fall of the Hammer. I did get a Kragma Butcher, a Fanatic of Xenagos and a Forgestoker Dragon, though, so I think red was in fact somewhat open. At the end of the pack I got 3x Rise to the Challenge almost literally in a row.
Pack three, I think I first-picked the Boon Satyr? I don’t remember if I opened that or was passed it. I took an Ordeal of Purphoros over, I think, a Lightning Strike. That was a tough choice. I picked up one Nessian Courser and a Nylea’s Emissary. I would have loved a Time to Feed but no such luck. Here is the deck I registered:
Theros Block Draft (TCGPlayer Spring States 2014-05-31)
I think it was probably wrong to run so many copies of Mortal’s Ardor and Rise to the Challenge, and I often sided them out to just play more guys. I do not claim to have any great theory to contribute to MTG but one thing that I think about in a deck like this is “combat tricks as removal.” When you have no hard removal, your pump spells and tricks are your removal. Rise to the Challenge is your Doom Blade, you just have to work really hard to make it happen. Maybe that’s stupid; shut up!
Quarterfinals vs White-Blue: I had strong aggro curves and took down both games pretty quickly. He showed me lots of enchantments in game one so I brought in Setessan Starbreaker and even Desecration Plague which I used to kill a Harvestguard Alseids so I could attack in for lethal.
Semifinals vs Blue-Black: Game 1, Bladetusk Boar was great – especially with a Boon Satyr strapped on. Opponent had an Abhorrent Overlord but only got two tokens out of it, and I was able to keep crashing in. Game 2, he had some running frost effects (Triton Tactics, Sudden Storm) and turned his Artisan of Forms into a Pharagax Giant so that it could block Bladetusk Boar but I just kept attacking.
Finals vs White-Green: He had a strong aggro/heroic deck with an Ornitharch at the top of the curve. Game 1, I’m feeling good, we’re kind of racing but I feel confident. Then I get blown out.
It is my turn, he is at 14 life, I am at 12. My board is a 5/5 trampler (Nylea’s Emissary wearing a Lightning Diadem) and a Nyxborn Wolf. His board is a tapped Staunch-Hearted Warrior and an untapped Eagle of the Watch. I go into the tank before attacking. I’d like to kill his eagle because I feel soft to fliers. Since my 5/5 has trample, I can attack with just that and even if he blocks, I’ll deal 4 because the Eagle is a 2/1. He most likely won’t want to trade the Eagle to just prevent one single point of damage, so I feel I need to offer up my 3/1 Nyxborn Wolf. I attack with both of my guys and he makes no blocks, taking 8 down to 6. On his turn he casts Phalanx Formation with strive and kills me from exactly 12. Ouch.
Those plays always sting me, when you kind of get combo’d out. Sure, I’ve delivered some of those myself – I once killed a guy from 20 with a Fabled Hero + 2x Titan’s Strength – but it still tilts me when I’m on the losing end of it. Fear of these plays leads me to being too conservative sometimes.
Game 2, I had a strong draw but I’m still living in fear of Phalanx Formation. I had to go ask for the Oracle text because I forgot what the specific costs on the card were and I desperately wanted to play around it now that I knew it was in his deck. Couldn’t look it up on my phone due to the new electronic device policy, haha. He was on the backfoot for most of game 2 and actually had to use Phalanx Formation defensively on his Nyxborn Shieldmate just to kill a 2/2 attacker on my side. So, yeah, I managed to get that game.
Game 3, I was on the draw and felt pretty nervous. I see on my notepad that my life total went from 20 to 8, so he 12’d me in there somewhere. I don’t remember exactly what the final sequence was, but it was a very tight two or three turns at the end. I think it went like this:
On my turn, I was at 8 life, he was at 13. His board was an 8/8 Staunch-Hearted Warrior (tapped), an Eagle of the Watch and a just-added Elite Skirmisher. I had Pheres-Band Warchief and a Pheres-Band Thunderhoof. Once again, I’m feeling soft to the flier but I’m more afraid of the Elite Skirmisher tapping my blockers. So, I put Ordeal of Purphoros on my Pheres-Band Thunderhoof, triggering Heroic for two +1/+1 counters. I attack with both creatures, triggering the Ordeal and using the 3 damage to kill the 3/1 Elite Skirmisher. Opponent makes no blocks and takes 10, down to 3.
On his turn, he attacks with the 2/1 vigilant flier and, I think, he leaves back the 8/8 on defense. I take 2 in the air, down to 6. He has no other play.
On my turn, I determine that I have to attack with both of my guys. Even though his 8/8 will eat my 7/8 trampler “for free,” he will then also have to lose his 2/1 flier blocking my 3/3 trampler, which will kill the flier and put him to 1. I make the attack and he blocks as expected. In my second main phase, I play out a lowly 2/3 Pensive Minotaur.
He untaps and draws, and my read is that he doesn’t have anything but I am definitely sweating. His board is just the 8/8, and he attacks with it. I chump with the Pensive Minotaur and he has no other play before passing the turn. I attack with the Pheres-Band Warchief and he extends the hand.
The Warchief was super clutch in this game 3 and it felt pretty sweet to ultimately win the tournament with my pack one, pick one. I’ll probably save that guy for sentimental value instead of tossing it into the bulk rare box.
We had agreed to split the prize packs evenly and play for the playmat, and there were also these TCGPlayer Maxpoint skeeball ticket things in the pot. First place got 50 and second place got 20. I didn’t really know what they were for, so I just offered mine to my opponent as we were collecting our prizes at the counter. “Hey man, you want these? I don’t need them for anything.” He seemed like he might go to some of the events where they could be used for entry fees so I was happy to give them away. Afterward, someone told me that the Maxpoints can actually be sold for cash on eBay so I guess I punted there, just out of ignorance. I can’t say I really care, though; I’m just super stoked to have won and my opponent was a very nice dude. Thanks for the awesome match, Scott!
Mistakes that I recall: Missing a scry trigger on a Titan’s Strength in Round 1, Game 2. Not seeing the best line in that clogged-up board in Round 3, Game 2 (start attacking with Servant of Tymaret). In the draft, not taking the first Bladetusk Boar that I saw.
Cards that impressed: Fleetfeather Sandals was great in that one game. Maybe that’s a maindeck card if you have no evasion? Flurry of Horns was very good in the spots that I was casting it. I guess it passes the vanilla test as a “4/6 for 5,” so to speak. Obviously Pheres-Band Warchief was strong but that’s a rare, after all. Lightning Diadem was excellent every time I cast it. I always killed an X/2 with it and then attacked with a buffed guy. In a vacuum, I don’t think that card looks like it’s worth 6 mana but in practice it’s doing a couple of different things when you cast it, and that versatility makes it pretty decent.
I ran well, no doubt about it. I don’t think I missed a crucial land drop all day which is just plain good luck. I kept multiple two-land hands that desperately needed to draw the third on time and I always got there. I only lost one game on the day, game 1 of the finals. I do think I played a little bit more tightly than I usually do. I won’t exaggerate the achievement, it was just a small local tournament but this tier of tournament is kind of where I’m at in skill level so it’s a thrill to do well.