This is part 2 of this tournament report by Austin Mansell. You can read part 1 here.
When we last left our valiant Hero (we use that term loosely) he had just regaled us all with a thorough and rousing description of Mardu vehicles for the 14th time. And while his decklist may have been properly filled out with the most mediocre of penmanship, his mind and body were currently being ravaged by the crippling grip of a booze-induced hangover. Could he overcome? Could he eat enough peanut butter filled pretzels potatoes to drive off the debilitating affliction? FIND OUT… RIGHT NOW!
14 brave warriors had stepped into the arena but only one was destined to walk away with the coveted RPTQ invite and upwards of 12 (TWELVE?!?) Kaladesh booster packs. Who would it be?
The pairings go up, he fights back his headache and scans the list for his name.
Austin Mansell: Opponent – ***BYE***
RUNNING HOT ALREADY!
Now I know all of you read my article from Tuesday where I already spoiled my end result as being a lackluster 3-2, so I know what you are thinking.
“You started off with a bye and only finished 3-2? You Scrub!”
Trust me, I am just as disappointed as you are. But just wait! It is for very different reasons than you might assume.
With a bye granting me further time to recover from my hangover I decided to mosey about the room and do a minor bit of scouting. In a field that only consisted of 6 actual matches being played I figured it would not take particularly long to get a general sense of what everyone in the room was on. Both my teammates were on U/W Flash and I knew of at least one more acquaintance that was also on the ever-so-popular U/W deck, so I was not particularly surprised to see a few more players also flashing in Spell Queller and Archangel Avacyn. The rest of the field contained another Mardu vehicles player, a copy Grixis Control, a Jeskai Control deck, an Aetherflux Reservoir Combo deck, a R/B Zombies, and one local grinder on that sweet new Logan Nettles G/R Aetherworks Marvel deck. Zero B/G Delirium was noteworthy and kind of a bummer because I felt particularly good about my 4 Fevered Visions sideboard plan against them. On the flipside, I felt good about my matchups against everyone in the field other than R/B Zombies.
The room is battling away and I decide this is a prime opportunity to go get a bagel potato for breakfast. To my dismay and mild irritation, a local grinder I recognize comes rushing in desperate to sign up for the event. They allow him entrance and my precious sweet bye is stripped from me.
Goodbye sweet bye, I hardly knew thee.
He plops down in front of me still having to fill out a decklist. To my benefit I get to see my opponent is registering U/W Flash. To his benefit, however, I am still quite hungover.
(Personal aside: I’m only slightly annoyed to have my round 1 win taken away from me, but I’m really annoyed that this regularly happens at small local events. This is Competitive REL. Start times are posted in advance for a reason and if you want to be serious about Magic you should play by the rules, and showing up in time for your match is part of the rules. I see the same players consistently showing up late to events and every time the judges allow them admittance without consequence and the players never learn any better.)
I win the die roll and have a decent start as I curve a Toolcraft Exemplar into a Smuggler’s Copter. He follows suit and leads with Thraben Inspector into Smuggler’s Copter. He holds back the Inspector so he can crew and block my crafty tool-wielding draft or copter if I play an able pilot. I play Selfless Spirit, crew, and bash. My loot draws a land and discards a land. He declines to block. Selfless Spirit: working as intended. His turns then sound something like Reflector Mage, Gideon, Archangel Avacyn. I draw a few more lands and use an attack step and an Unlicensed Disintegration to take down a creature and the Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
He’s playing aggressive despite being the slower deck and being on the draw, and I think it’s working for him. He’s more interested in trying to race rather than being the control deck, it’s a stance most U/W players don’t take against Vehicles while they are on the draw, but he’s curved out well and drawn mostly proactive cards so I like his play.
He’s at 6, I’m at 7. This is maybe the most interesting turn of the entire tournament for me. My attacks aren’t great, but my blocks are due to my Selfless Spirit. He has one card in hand. I have a land in hand and a Clue on the board from a freshly cast Thraben Inspector. If he attacks with everything I can make favorable blocks that prevent the most amount of damage so I’d only take 4 and go to 3, but I’d then die to his Avacyn’s flip trigger. There is no way to take non-lethal damage without trading or eating one of his creatures. I can stack block the Archangel Avacyn with my Smuggler’s Copter and Selfless Spirit to prevent the extra 3, but then I can’t sac the Spirit and make my team indestructible.
Toolcraft isn’t great on defense, so I’d still take a few points and I’d lose most of my board but I wouldn’t be just straight dead to the trigger. This doesn’t put me in a great position to win however, and I’d definitely lose if I stack block and he has another Avacyn or a Stasis Snare. If he attacks with everything and I make good blocks and use the Spirit to protect my team, I have a loot from my Copter and a draw off my Clue to hit another Unlicensed Disintegration, which I can use with the trigger on the stack during my upkeep. I could still lose to another Archangel Avacyn or a Spell Queller though. I lean towards that line because it gives him a similar number of outs, but at least it puts me in the position of winning. I do need to draw well to even make that happen so I’m waiting to see what attacks he makes.
He draws, plays a land, and attacks with everything. I pop my clue hit the Disintegration and force myself not to smile. Well, we hit the out we need, what more could we ask for? I make my good blocks, loot away my land drawing a redundant creature, sac my Spirit, keep my board, eat a few of his creatures, and take 4 going to 3. He passes and triggers his Avacyn, I go for the disintegration, but he has the Spell Queller. A bummer to lose that first game, but it was a sweet one.
I cut both of my Gideon, Ally of Zendikar for the 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and the 1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Gideon dies to too many flyers and you often spend 4 mana to just gain some life and get a 2/2 knight token which doesn’t line up particularly well against U/W’s many 2/3’s.
Game 2 was not particularly close, and I rolled over him. He had a Fragmentize for my turn 2 Copter, but I dumped my hand and it was good enough. Playing a 1-for-1 sorcery on turn 2 and playing a Stasis Snare on turn 3 just wasn’t good enough to beat the kind of draw I had.
Game 3 plays out similar to game 1, where he is aggressively trying to race. I have Skysovereign, Consul Flagship in hand and I want to drop the big boat, but haven’t been able too. We’re racing back and forth and I’m primed to drop my 5th land as an Aether Hub and “drop da boat”, but he plays a critical Thalia, Heretic Cathar, and I’m set back a turn. There isn’t anything I can do due to the texture of my hand so he effectively cast Time Walk. He passes, I finally drop the boat trying to hit his Thalia but he has Archangel Avacyn. He plays two copies of Selfless Spirit, giving him both a trigger for his Avacyn and protection for it if I have the removal spell. I don’t have it, and I’m dead.
All and all, it was a sweet match and I’m mostly happy with how I played. I had some tough decisions and I think I played well, but I’m wondering now if I should have boarded differently for game 3. Galvanic Bombardment is tempting to bring in to answer Selfless Spirit or Thalia, Heretic Cathar, but every time I’ve tried that on MTGO, they just play Reflector Mage, Smuggler’s Copter, and Archangel Avacyn while I’m left weeping holding copies of Shock in my hand. I also don’t think we can overload on removal spells like I mentioned in my article on Tuesday, but it’s worth exploring and I’ll continue to adjust how I board in the U/W Flash match up. The biggest factor might have been boarding in response how aggressive I saw him play game 1.
I win the die roll and play against U/W Flash again, but this time I win in a pretty decisive 2-0 fashion. I see zero Thalia game 1 so I board the same way I boarded Round 1. The match as a whole is nothing special, I draw fairly well and curve out and my opponent just doesn’t draw as well as my first round opponent did.
Round 3 I’m unfortunately paired against the lone R/B Zombies player in the room, and while I don’t think the match up is horrendous, it’s definitely not one I’m ever looking forward to playing. Haunted Dead, Cryptbreaker’s zombie tokens and Prized Amalgam are all annoying blockers to deal with, plus the card advantage they offer can typically grind me out. In game 1, that is exactly what happens when I flood out a bit and I’m ground into dust by the reoccurring horde.
I want to bring in the Galvanic Bombardment so I can have cheap removal for his Cryptbreaker, but I can’t board out all of my Unlicensed Disintegration because there is a strong likelihood he’ll be bringing in Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. I’m cautious of Weaver of Lighting, as well, so I board out the 3 Selfless Spirit along with 2 of the Unlicensed Disintegration. In their place comes 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance (more Kalitas killing plus potential card advantage), 1 Declaration in Stone, and 3 Galvanic Bombardment.
Game 3, I see a tough 7 for me on the draw. Concealed Courtyard, Spirebluff Canal, Inspiring Vantage, Inventor’s Apprentice, Veteran Motorist, Cultivator’s Caravan, and Unlicensed Disintegration. It’s a fine hand, but not great. No artifact on turn 2 means Inventor’s Apprentice is just a 1/2 until turn 3 and I don’t have any of my premier threats like Smuggler’s Copter, but I’ve got a good removal spell, good mana, and scry 2 off the Veteran Motorist.
He leads with Cryptbreaker and I immediately draw a land and scry 2 lands to the bottom and suddenly I don’t like my chances. I draw a Bombardment and a Declaration but no more creatures, so I’m unable to put much pressure on. My opponent’s board is 2 Cryptbreaker, 2 zombie tokens, and 1 Haunted Dead and his spirit pal. I’m holding the Unlicensed Disintegration for a Voldaren Pariah or a Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and I have an important decision to make. Do I save the Declaration for hitting multiple reoccurring threats, use it on the 2 Cryptbreaker, or use it on both zombie tokens? Due to my Apprentice waiting till turn 3 to become a 2/3, I’m behind in damage. I decide to Bombardment one Cryptbreaker and Declaration the tokens to clear out multiple bodies without giving him any clues. This lets me get aggressive and try and close out the game with my 6/6 Caravan and the singular Inventor’s Apprentice.
He chumps with Haunted Dead and takes the mighty 2. He draw’s another Cryptbreaker and starts churning out zombies and drawing cards. The extra cards let him keep buying back Haunted Dead while amassing a spirit army. I’m taking 3 in the air each turn and while I’ve drawn a few more creatures like Pia Nalaar and Scrapheap Scrounger, I’m now under pressure from an Amalgam and several tokens. I start to play defensively hoping to set up a situation where I can kill a key blocker with the Disintegration, deal 3, and then use Pia Nalaar’s pump and non-block ability to get my big caravan in for the last few points. He draws Kalitas and gives me the key target I need for my Disintegration, but a Disintegration of his own closes the door on me and I’m now a very sad 1-2.
The game definitely came down to how I used my removal in that one key turn, and I’m still not entirely sure how I was suppose to play the turn out. The extra cards and the tokens from Cryptbreaker definitely dragged the game out and started to snowball, but the Haunted Dead might have been the real threat.
Round 4 I’m paired against the Aetherflux Reservoir Combo player and on the draw, and I’m a little worried about how the matchup is going to play out now that I have cut all of the Ceremonious Rejection in my sideboard. My opponent’s draw is too slow and I’m able to just run him over game 1.
I board out my 4 Disintegrations and 1 Selfless Spirit for 2 more Gideons, a Chandra, and 2 Fragmentize. I draw multiple Cultivator’s Caravan, the Chandra, and all 4 Gideons and clunk out a little. Turns out he has Crush of Tentacles to support the 0 mana artifact theme of the deck, and any progress I make with the Caravan and Gideon is bounced back to my hand multiple times. I keep hitting land drops and he hadn’t, so I was able to replay a Caravan and a Gideon in one turn. I make a knight and chump block the octopus, protecting the Gideon and I play the Chandra. Another Crush and we’re back to where we started. He eventually starts drawing lands and is able to combo me out to force a game 3.
Game 3 I debate bringing back in some Disintegrations now that I have seen the octopuses but decide against it. I draw a hand with a pile of 1 drops and Scrapheap and I quickly run him over.
Round 5 ends anticlimactically with a very fast win against the Mardu Vehicles mirror. My opponent mulligans to 5 on the play game 1, and while he’s able to play a one-drop every turn, I simply do a whole lot more than him and roll over his meager defenses.
On the draw in the mirror, I like to swap all my Disintegrations for Bombardments. I want to be able to cast 2 spells as early as possible and the tempo gain from using a 1 mana spell to kill their 2 or 3 drop is typically important when trying to catch up to their earlier on the play start. I also swap the 2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar for 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance and 1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, as both spells play to the board more defensively while still being threats.
Game 2 he leads with a Needle Spires and I start off with a Toolcraft Exemplar. He plays a Smuggler’s Copter, which I match, but I’m the one bashing in for the first 3 damage. A Depala, Pilot Exemplar on his side lets him crew and attack for 4, but his slower start is losing the race. Turn 3, I play a Scrapheap Scrounger and another Toolcraft Exemplar, and my board and life total is looking a lot more impressive than his. He plays a Veteran Motorist to crew the Copter and attacks with both Depala and the 5/5 Copter. Second main phase, he drops a Thraben Inspector, misses a land drop and I know I’ve won. I Bombardment the Inspector and bash in for 12, bringing the game to a close. I can understand his rationale for wanting to be aggressive, but holding back just 1 blocker when he’s at 11 and I’m threatening 12 damage might be a tad bit risky.
I’m mostly happy with my play for the day, despite my headache and hangover. I question how exactly I was suppose to board in that first round and also my use of removal against R/B in game 3. But, as a whole, I’m fairly pleased. In a larger field, I think I could have finished 4-2 with a shot at being in top 8, but I’ll just have to hope my matches go better in Denver at the Grand Prix next weekend. I’ll be testing Thalia in my main over the 2 Pia Nalaar this week on MTGO and seeing how the Heretic performs.
I ended up finishing in 6th with my mighty 3-2 record, which in turn let me rejoice in the wonders of 3 hard-earned Kaladesh packs. It was a cut to top 4, as the tournament was actually that small. Fellow Spellsnare writer and teammate Peter Rawlings ends up as the 4th seed in the clean cut to top 4, and hopefully he will bless you with his tournament report next week. I will not steal his thunder and spoil how it went for him, but I will dare him to come up with as sweet of a carrot double dipping analogy as I did in part 1 of my tournament report. The gauntlet has been thrown Peter ‘Blunderbuss’ Rawlings.
I lost to U/W Flash in this tournament, and it’s certainly an elite deck in this format. Read this article if you’re looking to learn more about the powerful Flash deck.
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