The best of times

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I’ve always been something of a casual try-hard when it comes to Magic. I’ve never been part of a team of testers trying to break the new Standard. I’ve never gone abroad to a Magic tournament. Heck, I’ve never even been to a proper Grand Prix, even though there was one in Stockholm just last weekend, and one in Gothenburg last year, and another one only two or three years ago. I did almost go to Bazaar of Moxen this spring, I pitched the idea of a mini-vacation in France to my fiancé, and she loved it, even if I did “have” to spend Saturday at a tournament. We ended up buying a car with the money instead. Long story.

These days, with many obligations outside work and this blog, I don’t have time or energy to spend on Magic in the same way as I did when I was younger, which is a huge shame. Magic is the only game I have ever played that makes me want to say “Can we play another game?” almost each and every time. Even after long EDH games, I often yearn for another go with my deck against the others. A lot of the time these days, it’s about meeting friends – either old school friends that I don’t see very often since moving for university studies, or seeing people I’ve met through the game at tournaments. Well, that, and the competition.

opposition.hqCompeting against other players in this amazing games is the best way to spend a weekend, in my books. On saturday, I spent the entire day, from about 10 AM in the morning, to about 1:30 on Sunday morning, doing nothing but playing Magic against loads of different people, and even if I only got like nine or ten hours of sleep over the course of the entire weekend, I can’t wait to go again this spring.

I was planning to do proper tournament reports of everything, but chances are I won’t be able to. Recounting well over twenty games of Magic in two different formats, is too much for my old brain. Maybe the old try-hard casual me would be able to do so, but he seems to be nowhere to be found. I will, however recount my experiences with my deck on Saturday evening, the main event, the finals of the “King of Eternal” tournaments that have been played throughout Sweden this year. I wasn’t qualified in the proper way, but anyone can play in the finals tournament, the properly qualified people (i.e. those that had won a qualifier tournament over the year) competed for a separate prize pool, that’s all.

I played in the last-chance qualifier for the separate prize pool on Friday evening, and was 4-1-1 after an unintentional draw, got paired against a 4-2 player and lost the win-and-win against Death and Taxes in two quick, short, unfair games. I was pumped for Saturday anyway. Here’s my list:

The deck on TappedOut.net.

Temur Delver, 2014-11-01
4 Polluted Delta
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Verdant Catacombs
4 Wasteland
3 Underground Sea
3 Tropical Island

4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Tarmogoyf

4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Abrupt Decay
3 Stifle
3 Treasure Cruise
2 Spell Pierce
1 Dimir Charm

Sideboard:
3 Disfigure
2 Thoughtseize
2 Golgari Charm
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Sylvan Library
1 Krosan Grip
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Pithing Needle
1 Null Rod

As you can see, the deck is more tempo than “regular” Team America, and plays Stifle over maindeck discard. This makes the deck somewhat schizophrenic, since playing it in the same way as Team America will likely be sub-optimal. I’ve taken to call it BUG Delver instead, since Delver of Secrets is much better in this shell than in Team America, and one could at least argue its status as “most important creature”, contrary to in Team America, where Deathrite Shaman beats it easily. Stifle/Wasteland combos well with the Daze plan, which I like a lot, and the deck has some outs in the mid game due to Treasure Cruise. Treasure Cruise was insane the entire day, as expected. 75 players showed up, meaning seven rounds of swiss followed by a cut to top 8.

Apologies to anyone if I get any details wrong, a lot of the games are a bit blurry in my memory. The metagame was a lot of UR Delver and a lot of Elves, few other combo decks. My friends that I stayed with over the weekend were playing RUG Delver (with True-Name Nemesis over Young Pyromancer) and Burn respectively.

propheticflamespeaker.fullRound 1 – Werewolf Stompy: Werewolf Stompy is basically Dragon Stompy but with other beaters, hence the name. It employs the same quick mana in Ancient Tomb/City of Traitors and it has the same lock pieces in Blood Moon, Chalice of the Void and so on. He also had Prophetic Flamespeaker, how awesome is that? He wins the roll (losing the roll is something I got used to over the day), and opens with Mountain, exile Simian Spirit Guide, Chalice of the Void for 1. I have both Delver of Secrets and Deathrite Shaman in hand, but refuse to Force of Will it anyway, since I also have an Abrupt Decay. If I counter, drop a land and pass, and he has Blood Moon, I lose, even if I can play a Deathrite Shaman or Delver of Secrets on my turn. I play a land and pass. He plays a second Mountain and pass. I play a land and pass. He passes back after drawing a card (oops), and I Abrupt Decay his Chalice of the Void in his end-step. From there, I win while he stumbles with mana.

I board in Krosan Grip, Maelstrom Pulse, and Vendilion Clique, and I take out the Stifles. Game two is more or less the same as the first one. I Force of Will a Blood Moon and just win with Tarmogoyfs.

1-0 (2-0)

adnauseam.hqRound 2 – ANT: I keep a hand full of creatures and as he casts Ponder off of a Volcanic Island (after winning the roll, naturally), I assume he’s on UR Delver. I cast a Deathrite Shaman, and pass the turn. Evidently, he is on ANT, which I learn when he starts fetching for basics before cantripping some more and passing the turn. I’m careful not to do anything stupid with Deathrite Shaman and he eventually kills himself with Ad Nauseam – it takes him to two life before he is able to find something to dig for his Tendrils of Agony with, and I just kill him in response to him casting a mana artifact. I didn’t draw much permission, however, so I was really nervous the entire time.

I board out two Abrupt Decays, a Tarmogoyf, a Treasure Cruise and something else for two Thoughtseize, Vendilion Clique, Surgical Extraction and Grafdigger’s Cage. I didn’t want to take out all Abrupt Decays, since he could very well board into Xantid Swarm or something else, and here’s a huge downside with playing black for Abrupt Decay over red for Lightning Bolt.

Game two, he mulligans and then indeed opens up with a turn one Tropical Island into Xantid Swarm. I have nothing to deal with it, only Spell Pierce and Daze as permission, and I’m forced to let it resolve. He has few things going for him, however, after he Ponders and shuffles, he casts an Infernal Tutor with some cards in hand. I take the bait, Daze the Infernal Tutor, and Surgical Extract(ion) his Infernal Tutors. As he reveals his hand, he was indeed on the Past in Flames plan, and was looking for more Rituals to make it happen. I win with a flipped Delver before he can recover. I got lucky this time with his shaky keeps, and as I report it to the judge, I’m hoping for more similar games this day.

2-0 (4-0)

stoneforgemystic.hqRound 3 – UWR Delver (Elof): The pilot of the UWR Delver is a well-known Legacy player in Sweden. He’s won the “King of Eternal” title before, in 2009, he’s won the Scandinavian Masters in Legacy, and he was the 2013 93/94 (“oldschool”) champion as well, making his Magic resumé quite a bit more intimidating than my own. We’ve played each other before, the last time I can recall I was playing BitterStalker (I wrote about the deck here), and I won with him having zero permanents on board. While shuffling, we causally talk about these past experiences playing against each other, and he mentions this blog in passing. I’d like to think I was just tired from playing six rounds of Sealed Deck before this tournament and not having a proper meal all day, but in reality, I was probably just a bit star struck –

In game one, I open with a Delver of Secrets while he Ponders off of a Tundra on his first turn. Delver of Secrets refuses to flip, I cast a Brainstorm to set it up for the next turn, and just pass the turn. “Oh, no land drop?” he says, and I look down at my two Misty Rainforests sitting in my hand. Like a true pro. Maybe he next-leveled me through casual conversation, I don’t know. He casts a Stoneforge Mystic for an Umezawa’s Jitte, and while I do kill the Stoneforge Mystic, I can’t keep a threat on the board before he finds True-Name Nemesis.

I board into Thoughtseize, Krosan Grip, Maelstrom Pulse, Golgari Charm and Disfigure to have outs to Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull and Umezawa’s Jitte into True-Name Nemesis. The play of the game is on the fourth turn (I think) of the game – I have Thoughtseize, Stifle, Tarmogoyf and two lands in hand, and I know he has Umezawa’s Jitte in hand from a Stoneforge Mystic, and he has a True-Name Nemesis in play. I Thoughtseize to steal the Jitte, and he casts Misdirection. I have to discard my Tarmogoyf since I didn’t want to lose to Jitte-Nemesis. I Stifle the first equip, but can’t find a Golgari Charm in time.

2-1 (4-2)

I ask him to continue winning to keep up my tiebreakers, which he agrees to – and boy did he deliver.

nettlesentinel.hqRound 4 – Elves: I recognized the name from the previous night, it’s the guy who won the last-chance qualifier I’m up against. He mulligans and casts a Gitaxian Probe on his first turn, followed by a Misty Rainforest, and I put him on Infect. I cast a Delver of Secrets and pass the turn. He fetches a Bayou (!) and casts an elf, I think a Deathrite Shaman. I’ve got a couple of Force of Wills and some removal, and I’m able to keep his pressure off the board while Delver of Secret flips and flies in for the win. He drew very poorly in the game, apparently, as he shows me his last cards, a Natural Order, and a Progenitus, with not enough mana to cast the former to get the latter.

I board into Disfigure, Golgari Charm, Grafdigger’s Cage and Vendilion Clique, I take out Daze, a Treasure Cruise, a Tarmogoyf and something else. I keep the Stifles since it can help me control his mana development, and it can save me from a Craterhoof Behemoth.

Craterhoof Behemoth is also my bane in the second game, as he combos way earlier than I expected or would have liked, and kills me with just three or four elves in play through Natural Order for Craterhoof Behemoth.

In game three, he mulligans to five and keep a land-heavy hand. I win quite quickly, the biggest nemesis being the clock. It sucks, but my opponent shrugs it off well, saying “it’s Magic”.

3-1 (6-3)

cloudpost.hqRound 5 – 12-post: I’m never sure about these match-ups, it feels like some games I draw enough disruption to easily keep these decks out of the game, and sometimes they just blow me out of the water with Titans and Eldrazis. It never seems to be grindy, and the most important card in his deck seems to be Pithing Needle for Wasteland, basically. I finally win the die roll and elect to play, Stifle his first fetch, play a Delver of Secrets who blind-flips on the very first try and then I just win. Such a strange match-up.

I board in Thoughtseize, Vendilion Clique and Krosan Grip, and I board out a couple of Abrupt Decays and a couple of Dazes. In game two, he leads with Cloudpost, and I drop a Deathrite Shaman. He doesn’t do much for a couple of turns, but I do destroy the Cloudpost and a Candleabra of Tawnos while he plays a Cavern of Souls naming “Giant” (oh shit). I drop two Tarmogoyfs to quicken up the beats, and he’s stuck on just four mana. I Brainstorm, fetch, Ponder, shuffle and Treasure Cruise for a Thoughtseize, but can’t find one, and as he drops his fifth mana, I’m almost panicking. I find a Wasteland, and if I draw a Thoughtseize I can Thoughtseize a creature to pump my Tarmogoyfs and swing for lethal on the next turn. I do just that, even though I had an Abrupt Decay for back-up, since I could activate Deathrite Shaman, drain him for two, Abrupt Decay the Shaman and swing for lethal, had I not found Thoughtseize. His hand was Primeval Titan and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. At that point, I’m very thankful for Wasteland.

4-1 (8-3)

monasteryswiftspear.fullRound 6 – UR Delver: If I win this one, I can safely draw into the top 8. Before the game, my RUG Delver friend, also on 4-1, comments how it would be awesome if we don’t get paired against each other, and if we both win, if we could then draw into the top 8 the both of us. I get paired against someone completely off my radar, and we start off the round by getting a random deck check, which we both passed in flying colours. My luck against the Elves player is repaid when I first don’t see any lands in my first two hands, and my five-carder is Spell Pierce and four lands. One is a Wasteland, so I keep in the hope of him playing combo. He doesn’t and my three first draws in the game (three only draws, really) are all lands, and I scoop. It’s magic!

I board into Disfigure, Golgari Charm and Maelstrom Pulse, I take out Force of Will and Stifle. Even if he has a lot of fetchlands, that’s his only target (aside the triggers on his creatures, which are numerous and redundant and generally not worth both a mana and a card), and his mana-base is quite stable with only two colours. I win a very tight game two where he has me dead on board but declines to attack since I represented Abrupt Decay and a potentially lethal back-swing. Some people around the table commented how my opponent played this incorrectly, after the match.

Game three is equally exciting, I effectively lessen the impact of a game-winning Price of Progress through activating a fetchland, failing to find a land, and then Wastelanding another dual land, netting me “only” four damage. I had seen the Price of Progress from a Delver of Secrets flip, so it wasn’t spectacular, but I don’t think my opponent expected the “fail to find” play. I win with very little life, very little time on the clock, literally shaking from the match. Since we had an eight minute time extension, the table is surrounded by other players. I hope neither noticed my shaking, or the coffee stain on my shirt.

5-1 (10-4)

Meanwhile, my friend had won his match as well, and was also on 5-1, and as the standings are presented, it’s apparent that one 15-pointer will have to play. I don’t get stabbed by the pairing system this time, my friend did, and he has to play against someone on 4-1-1, on camera. I got paired against hall of famer Olle Råde, who had ID’d round 6 against Elof, my round 3 opponent. We agree to an ID quickly, meaning I’m sure to T8 unless something really unexpected happens (like a meteor crashing into the site).

Final result: 5-1-1

My friend wins a tense win-and-in and finish 6-1. We split the top 8 prizes since it’s way past midnight and we’ve been playing Magic all day long.

I’m happy with how my deck performed, and I’d play it again without any changes in a similar metagame. The Death and Taxes match-up is very difficult, but it’s always been that way for Team America, and it has a decent match-up against most of the rest of the field. UR Delver is very 50/50 and draw-dependant, as Delver mirrors usually are. They have red blasts for Delver of Secrets in the sideboard, we have Golgari Charm for Young Pyromancer. They have very few outs to Tarmogoyf, which really helps, and even if Monastery Swiftspear can get frighteningly large, especially when there’s two of them on the board and he’s chaining cantrips into Treasure Cruise, it dies to Abrupt Decay just the same.

Also note, the deck name is a blatant joke, since I don’t like the wedge names. I called it “Abzan Delver” on Friday.

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3 Comments

  1. Grim Lavamancer

     /  November 3, 2014

    Well, congratulations to both you and Temur Delver, looks like you had a splendid weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. elof

     /  November 5, 2014

    Ggs and congrats on the top 8! Really liked the Dimir Charm, they sound really good in todays meta.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Same to you! 🙂

      Dimir Charm did perform pretty well, I actually used all three modes over the tournaments on Friday and Saturday, once I even cast it on my own library to power up my second Treasure Cruise. Not sure if I want another copy somewhere, a single miser’s copy feels correct right now, at least considering the rest of the deck.

      Like

      Reply

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