Magic the Tournament Grind: May (Part 1)

Magic the Tournament Grind: May (Part 1)

Going into this tournament the meta was a little rattled.  Given that Dragon’s Maze had dropped just the week before there was some uncertainty as to what decks would be popular or not.  I payed attention to the SCG Open in NJ to see what decks were seeing a lot of play.  No surprise that Jund and Reanimator were still top choices.  I took a hard look at UWR Flash and whether it would still be viable with new cards from DM.  While I think playability isn’t the issue, it also isn’t the sort of deck I wanted to play and quite frankly was barely even a flash deck with so many sorcery speed cards.  Enter Bant Flash…

Creatures (9)

3 Augur of Bolas

2 Restoration Angel

4 Snapcaster Mage

 

Lands (25)

1 Forest

1 Island

4 Breeding Pool

1 Moorland Haunt

4 Glacial Fortress

4 Hallowed Fountain

4 Hinterland Harbor

3 Sunpetal Grove

3 Temple Garden

 

Spells (26)

4 Advent of the Wurm

4 Azorius Charm

2 Rewind

3 Selesnya Charm

3 Sphinx’s Revelation

2 Syncopate

4 Thought Scour

3 Unsummon

1 Runechanter’s Pike

 

Sideboard

2 Clone

2 Purify the Grave

4 Voice of Resurgence

2 Dispel

1 Dissipate

2 Renounce the Guilds

2 Supreme Verdict

 

This deck is a true flash style deck.  There is plenty of material on the deck out there so I won’t reiterate it.  The bottom line from my perspective is that this is exactly the style of deck I like to play.  It is super flexible, has a large variety of potential lines of play, and thrives when played properly (the most attractive point for me).  Being flexible also means that tuning the deck for the meta is quite important.  From my experience with these decks, those attributes often mean that mistakes are very costly.  Danger Zone!

Once again I didn’t get very good testing in with this deck.  I was out of town due to work for most of the week leading into SCG Charlotte and as such I only got a few hours on the Thursday before. When we got to Charlotte we played a few games in the hotel lobby with Todd Anderson from SCG watching our games and offering color commentary, which thankfully included insights from a professional player. I asked him what he thought and he said “Other than no main deck Supreme Verdicts, it looks good”… remember that readers, I should have taken this comment to heart.

 Pending Lessons

There were two big lessons gained from the last event.  I’m going to give the bottom line on these up front:

1) Physical preparation: This time around I did a MUCH better job of staying hydrated and fed.  I brought several bottles of water and had plenty of power bars and snacks.  After every round, no matter what, I ate something.  Sometimes it was a small handful of dried fruit and nuts, other times it was a giant protein bar. This helped immensely.

 2) Think slower/ evaluate my options: I felt like I did WAY better this time.  I honestly feel like I did not make any PLAY mistakes. This was reinforced when the team had opportunities to watch my games and commented that I was playing real tight.  A lot of this was due to me constantly paying attention to my graveyard and taking deliberate pauses during my own upkeep.

 The Tournament

 Going into this tournament I had three goals.

1) Remedy my lessons from last tourny

2) Improve my placement aka play well

3) (Possibly most important) Get some testing in on the deck I might stick with for several months

 Match 1 (BYE)

Yep, somehow out of 300 people I got the bye. To be honest I’d would have rather played but I’ll take it.

 1-0

 Match 2 (Bant Geist)

This deck was half Bant Flash, half Hexproof.  To be honest I wasn’t exactly sure what I was up against during game 1. We both ended up in a draw/go situation. When he was able to populate a Geist angel with a Selesnya Guildmage over and over, all I could do was dig for the Supreme Verdict that I wish I had main-decked. I conceded.

 -3 Augur of Bolas

-2 Syncopate

+2 Voice of Resurgence

+1 Supreme Verdict

+1 Clone

+1 Dispel

 At this point I was not really sure how to sideboard this deck, especially against this opponent. Game 2 went very similar to game 1. We both burned counters and removal with lots of back and forth. My opponent drew straight heat and when I stumbled on a land heavy Sphinx’s Revelation he was able to get a Geist in play and suit it up with enchantment pumps.

 1-1

Match 3 (Jund)

My opponent was on the play and dropped a turn 2 Ground Seal making the 2 Snapcaster Mages in my hand much less desirable. The game went long.  My opponent was able to match my Sphinx’s Revelations with Garruk card draw. I probably should have packed it up earlier but I did a good job of baiting my opponent into poor plays and these kept giving me a false hope of being able to sneak out the W but in the end I couldn’t.

 -4 Snapcaster Mage

-2 Syncopate

+2 Clone

+2 Supreme Verdict

+2 Renounce the Guilds

 Yes, you read that sideboard right. Yes, I didn’t think that through. I was afraid my opponent would bring in more Ground Seal effects to shut down my Snapcasters.  What a should have done was maybe shave one or two (Lesson 1). At any rate, I was able to handle his threats with Selesnya Charms as well as the Verdicts I boarded in, and then slowly chipped his life away with Restoration Angel(s). I unsummoned them back to my hand to Supreme Verdict his board and not lose one of my win-cons. Going into game 3 we had 7 mins left in the round and my opponent offered me a draw. I refused thinking I could squeeze another win out like in Game 2.

Game 3  I didn’t want to take up valuable time boarding my Snapcaster’s back in. I had a strong start but my opponent dropped Cavern of Souls naming “Beast” and proceeded to play Thragtusk after Thragtusk with a Huntmaster mixed in. I quickly turned through the cards in my hand to deal with the Thragtusks and ended up losing to the Huntmaster of the Fells. I was having a rough start to my tournament.

 1-2

Lesson 1: Have a sideboard plan ahead of time. Shaky sideboarding probably didn’t help either of the last two games.

Something I will have time to do moving forward is think about my sideboard in more specific terms, so that when I see a deck I more or less know what goes in and what comes out.  I had thought about it in broad terms but I think it became clear that I needed to be specific. I consider this a strategic failure as opposed to a play mistake.

 Match 4 (BUG Control)

Once again I was not 100% what to expect from my opponent. The lands put him on BUG and I assumed after Farseek he was on control. This game was a Bant flash dream. It went a little something like Turn 4 Advent of the Wurm, Turn 5 Advent of the Wurm, Turn 6 Snapcaster Mage, Turn 7 Advent of the Wurm, Turn 8 Restoration Angel then Snapcaster Mage and Snapcaster Mage an Advent of the Wurm. Needless to say my 5/5 wurms quickly burned through his removal and the team did what they do.

 -1 Unsummon

-2 Syncopate

-1 Selesnya Charm

-1 Sphinx’s Revelation

-1 Augur of Bolas

+4 Voice of Resurgence

+2 Dispel

My opponent didn’t show many creatures Game 1 and Voice of Resurgence seemed quite good.

This game entailed a lot of one-for-ones and me eating some Gaze of Granite. The game went kinda long and I got milled out from Nephalia Drownyard as I was pulling myself back into it.

Game 3 went way better. Turns 2 and 3 Voice of Resurgence cemented a constant board position. My opponent played a Talrand, Sky Summoner and made some drakes.  I attacked with Restoration Angel to bait a double block, which my opponent happily took, and I killed his drakes by pumping said angel with Selesnya Charm.  My opponent drew a land which gave me a greenlight to slam my Runechanter’s Pike and bring home the win.  That’s why I played that card!

 2-2

Match 5 (Bant Hexproof)

It wasn’t until going into this game that I felt comfortable with how to play my deck.  My opponent had a solid mix of hexproof creatures but no enchantment pumps Game 1.  This would have been fantastic for me if I could have gotten past four lands. Without being able to advance my board I eventually ran out of stuff to deal with his threats and/or race him.

 -2 Rewind

-1 Augur of Bolas

-1 Azorius Charm

-1 Selesnya Charm

-1 Sphinx’s Revelation

+2 Supreme Verdict

+2 Renounce the Guilds

+2 Clone

Probably should have left in Augur and maybe Rewind but hey, I was still learning how to sideboard this beast.  Game 2 illustrated how good Runechanter’s Pike is in this deck.  I went turn 3 Runechanter’s Pike into a turn four Advent of the Wurm.  On turn 5 I cast Thought Scour, drawing me another Thought Scour which I cast, which drew into another Thought Scour…which I happily cast. I suited up my Wurm and rumbled in with a 12/5 trampler.  My opponent untapped and scooped.  Game 3 my opponent mulliganed and stumped on his second land drop which I met by flashing in a Snapcaster Mage just to chip at his life ASAP. I kept the tempo going with Selesnya Charm making a 2/2 and more Snapcaster Mages. I countered his one Geist of Saint Traft that he managed to cast and sealed the game.

3-2

Match 6 (Naya Midrange)

Game 1 was a beating. I had a decent hand but my opponent had what seemed like the naya nut draw. He slammed a couple Thragtusks and Restoration Angels to keep them alive and then on turn 6 or 7 dropped an Aurelia, the Warleader and attacked for a million.  Doesn’t feel so good being on the receiving end of a Normandy Landing

Game 2.

 -1 Augur of Bolas

-1 Runechanter’s Pike

-2 Syncopate

-1 Selesnya charm

+2 Supreme Verdict

+1 Clone

+1 Renounce the Guilds

+1 Dissipate

 

Naya doesn’t really have card draw so I really wanted to burn his hand down. I didn’t see Thundermaw Hellkite so Selesnya Charm only really hit Thragtusk and I wanted more flexible answers for his threats. Game 2 was a hard fight. I ended up casting Sphinx’s Revelation three times. My life was low and he had a wolf run in play so he would play out one threat and force me to deal with it. I was able to keep dealing with his threat and landed an Advent of the Wurm to seal out the game.

Game 3, I countered a Farseek causing my opponent to stumble on his third land drop, queue  dropping every threat possible. I drew 3 Snapcaster Mages and a Dissipate so I would counter any and everything as he started to get lands and kept the Snapcaster Mage beatdown train rolling.

 It didn’t last long.

 4-2

 Match 7 (Prime Speaker Bant)

Let the record state that I still maintain this is a bad deck. I loosely kept a 5 land hand on the draw hoping to draw into gas…I didn’t. Three lands and a Thought Scour netting me a land and I was way far behind. Thragtusks and Restoration Angels galore and we were on to Game 2.

 -1 Augur of Bolas

-1 Unsummon

+2 Supreme Verdict

I feel like my main deck is pretty good against this deck. Game 2 I had what I felt like was a great hand. 2 Advent of the Wurm, a Supreme Verdict, some lands and an Augur of Bolas.  My opponent went dork, dork into turn 3 Acidic Slime. I replaced my third land drop and had my fourth in hand. My opponent then dropped a Cavern of Souls fueled Progenitor Mimic on Acidic Slime. That was a wrap…and yes, I still think it is a bad deck haha

.

4-3

 Match 8 (Jund)

Game 1 I countered my opponent who went check land into turn 2 Cavern of Souls and tried to cast Farseek, which I naturally countered.  When he missed his third land drop I smelled sweet blood and started dumping threats.  He missed another land drop and then scooped to my Advent of the Wurm.

-1 Snapcaster Mage

-1 Augur of Bolas

-2 Rewind

-1 Selesnya Charm

+2 Renounce the Guilds

+2 Clone

+1 Supreme Verdict

Game 2 was another, what seems to be standard, long game against Jund. A lot of one for one removal on both sides.  I was definitely on my back foot.  The value Jund gets from both Huntmasters of the Fells and Thragtusk is challenging. Which is why I run Runechanter’s Pike.  I had been playing another tight game hoping it would save me.  I had it in play since turn 4 but couldn’t get it to connect.  My opponent attacked me putting me to 1 and then played a Garruk, Primal Hunter whom he sacked to draw a bunch of cards.  At this point he had one land open. I had an Advent of the Wurm, Thought Scour, Rewind and a couple lands in my hand. I dropped Advent of the Wurm and counted my graveyard.  I ended up going for it and Thought Scour drew into an Azorius Charm and cycling it into a Renounce the Guilds which I played on my turn only to get the last spell in my yard to attack for exactly lethal.

 My Wurm was a 20/5.

 5-3

 Match 9 (Bant Hexproof)

Game 1 was rough. I was on the draw and he went turn 2 Geist of Saint Traft. Turn 3 he dropped Rancors and a Spectral Flight and swung in for 12. Needless to say I scooped the next turn.

 -2 Rewind

-1 Augur of Bolas

-1 Azorius Charm

-1 Selesnya Charm

-1 Sphinx’s Revelation

+2 Supreme Verdict

+2 Renounce the Guilds

+2 Clone

 Game 2 went well for me. His turn 2 he played another shock land tapped so keeping with the “my opponent has a slow hand” trend that worked for me I made a 2/2 token with Selesnya Charm and started the tempo train. When he finally tried to cast a Geist of Saint Traft I countered it and brought home the W.

 Game 3 was rough. Looking back I made my one and only glaring play mistake of the day.  My opponent had no turn 2 play and I had a counter in hand. I should expect a turn 3 geist and to be fair I did.  I had a Supreme Verdict in hand so my line of play was Augur of Bolas to dig for more answers (Renounce the Guilds, Supreme Verdict, Advent of the Wurm, etc.) and to be fair I found an Advent of the Wurm.  Problem was his turn 3 play was a Nevermore naming Supreme Verdict. Now the proper line should have been hold a counter for the Geist of Saint Traft and have Supreme Verdict for the next hexproof dude.  This way I could have countered the Nevermore and been in better shape by exactly a million. His turn 4 he played a Geist of Saint Traft, suited him up with a bunch of crap, and after I spent a few turns trying to survive I scooped to a lethal attack I couldn’t deal with.

5-4

75th out of almost 300 players at SCG Open Charlotte

Lessons Learned.

Lesson 1 – Have a sideboard strategy

Looking back my sideboard plan in a lot of matchups seemed sub par or flat out wrong.  So moving forward I want to put effort into thinking through matchups better, how I should sideboard, and not do it on the fly. I think this will help alot in my matches.

 

Lesson 2 – Tune for the the meta

I brought in certain sideboard cards a lot throughout the day (Supreme Verdict).  Giving more thought to the meta and tuning the flexible slots in the deck (about 3 or 4) will help Game 1 a lot and now with my thought out sideboard plan, I should be strategically in a better position.

Final Thoughts

I’m happy with my performance. I improved! I certainly remedied the physical aspect and I got great testing in with the deck I plan to stick with all summer.

Every tournament I go to I leave feeling like I’m a better, tighter, more aware player and I think this is a clear indication of the benefit of going to big tournaments. If you can’t make it to large events like these put an effort into attending local events like the ones The End Games hold every month. Check the event schedule on their website to see what is coming up next. These will be a great start until you can make it to a big event.

I want to give a shout out to BIG who made a top 32 finish and mopped up in some side events. All around it was a great trip for everyone. The next event is a PTQ in May so stay tuned for Magic the Tournament Grind: May (Part 2) in a few weeks.

 

Peace,

JHenry

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