Pondering—Near Misses

20SS Store League

Sometimes I wish the store league were more forgiving. Hipsters of the Coast readers will be familiar with the league and its scoring system, but for those reading this via my personal blog, you can check out the Twenty Sided Store League here. Before I left for New Mexico, I was comfortably in the top 5. Now, after two weeks of being MIA, I am perilously close of dropping out of top 16 contention. I had two opportunities today to get back in the thick of things, and I ended up narrowly missing out on both. Had things played out a little differently in each case, I might have walked away with nine whole points. Instead, I had to settle for just two.

The first came from the weekly pre-FNM draft. Even though I am not a big fan of the RTR draft format, I had to do it for the points. Pack one, pick one: New Prahv Guildmage in an otherwise unexciting pack. Not so great to commit so early to a color combination that just straight folds to the most drafted guild, but it soon became obvious that Azorius was the place to be as both colors were fairly open in both directions. I ended up with a decent tempo deck. Flyers, detain/bounce spells, and some Hussar Patrols to hold the ground. No real bombs, though opening a Sphinx’s Revelation was pretty nice. Had no idea they shot up to over $20.

Round one was against Jonathan, whom I was passing to for packs one and three. I had a feeling he was in Rakdos, having passed him some good Black cards, though I didn’t see enough two- and three-drops go that way to make me too worried. Turned out to be the case as I simply played flyers both games and tempoed my way to victory. Racing is easy when you don’t have to deal with Dead Revelers and Splatter Thugs.

Jess sat down across from me for round two. I enjoy our games together as the play is often tight, even if the games aren’t particularly close (Affinity eats me alive in Modern). Jess ended up with a solid deck in Junk colors. I got beat down in game one by Korozda Guildmage and dudes. Game two I won off of Guildmage and some flyers, though I had to fight through two Aerial Predations; that card is so good against what I was trying to do. Game three was an exciting one that came right down to the wire. I was trying to race a Loxodon Smiter and a Lotleth Troll with multiple counters while having to constantly play around those Aerial Predations. Dramatic Rescue was an all-star, changing up combat math completely and buying me precious time. I eventually was able to avoid dying to an alpha-strike with a Sphinx’s Revelation for four, and won on the crack-back.

Zach was observing our match and was rooting for Jess to win as he feared my deck moreso than hers. I disagree with his assessment as he was the one that ended up with the nut Rakdos deck that just effortlessly crushes Azorius. Our two games weren’t close. My heart sank both times as I had to watch turn 3 Hellhole Flailer into turn 4 Bloodfray Giant, knowing that there was no way to profitably block, and even less of a chance to race. We agreed to split prize packs prior to the match, though it was little consolation for three store points that were so near yet so far.

We had some time before FNM, so I tested some Modern against Zach and Jess taking turns piloting UR Epic Experiment Storm. Having never played the matchup, I now have a rough idea of how to play against it with UW: mulligan to countermagic, never tap out during your turn after turn 3 (sometimes even doing it on turn 3 is dangerous, as tempting as slamming a Geist onto an empty board can be), and learn to read your opponent so as to recognize which rituals are meant to bait out your counters and which ones are actual attempts to go off.

Moving on to the main event of the evening: FNM Standard. This time, it’s back to what brought me to the dance, Seance Reanimator.

Seance

Round one against Taylor, piloting freewin Jund. I drew the nut for game one, having four lands, Faithless Looting, Unburial Rites, and Griselbrand. Despite setting up Olivia and threatening to steal my turn 4 Griselbrand, I simply drew enough cards so that I could blink Big Poppa Grisel with a Restoration Angel when Taylor went for the steal. In game two, I got Taylor twice with Acidic Slime to keep him off of his red sources, and from there I set up Seance and it was pretty academic.

We played some Modern afterward. Taylor is on his own version of Dredgevine, which is a pain to deal with pre-board. Path to Exile and Blade Splicer are great against his deck, and Kitchen Finks to a lesser extent (I run them over Wall of Omens since I think the card doesn’t do enough. It overloads my 3-drop slot, but that’s a conversation for another time). Things get easier post-board with Rest in Peace and Celestial Purge, but our game went long and we never bothered boarding.

1-0 after round one.

Round two was a lesson against greed. I went up against Chris and his Grixis Walkers brew. I mulled to six and kept five lands and Thragtusk, and was promptly punished by a turn 4 Slaughter Games. I end up playing only lands the entire game as Chris dropped a turn 6 Nicol Bolas off of a Gilded Lotus. Scoop ’em up.

Game two was another turn 4 Slaughter Games, but I had enough action that it didn’t matter. The Seance engine was up and running, so I had inevitability on my side. Things got a little scary when Liliana came down with an edict, followed by Olivia the next turn, but I was able to answer both quickly by slamming a Zealous Conscripts to steal Liliana and kill both her and Olivia with the edict. The concession came shortly afterward.

Acidic Slime did its job again in game three, keeping my opponent off of Blue as I set up my engine, building up creature count with Seance’d Thragtusk tokens and Grisly Salvaging into a Craterhoof for the win.

2-0 after round two.

Dirty Red for round three. Not an unwinnable matchup, but I have to win the die roll and draw exceedingly well. I did not win the die roll, and while I think I drew fairly well throughout, I didn’t get there in the end. There was one questionable play in game three that still bothers me. I remember the game vividly. My opponent, Abe, was on the play:

  • Him: Mountain, unleashed Rakdos Cackler
  • Me: Untapped Overgrown Tomb, Avacyn’s Pilgrim
  • Him: attack with Cackler, bringing me to 16. Dragonskull Summit, Gorehouse Chain-walker, unleashed.
  • Me: Sunpetal Grove, Mulch, hitting Unburial Rites, Grisly Salvage and two lands.
  • Him: attack me down to 11. Play a land and another Chain-walker unleashed.

Here’s the point of contention. I draw my card for the turn, bringing me to 8 cards. With no spell to pitch the Angel of Serenity in my hand, I would have to voluntarily skip my land drop for the turn, play nothing, and bin the Angel during the discard step. Doing so would allow me to drop a land the following turn, flashback the Unburial Rites in the yard and wipe Abe’s board. This hinges on my Avacyn’s Pilgrim living through next turn, but I lose to any burn pointed at the Pilgrim or a Hellrider, which would force me to block. My other option was to make my land drop now so that I could cast my Thragtusk the following turn. That line of play would also lose to the same situations, but I was so fixated on the Angel line and how it could potentially backfire that I somehow convinced myself that trying to resolve Thragtusk was the way to go. So stupid.

Turns out Abe had neither burn nor Hellrider, at least not the following turn. He simply played Ash Zealot and hit me down to 1, at which point Thragtusk no longer mattered. Had I went with the Angel plan, I would have reduced Abe’s board down to one attacker. I was still dead to many things, but not 100% dead. I never asked what was in Abe’s hand to confirm whether I would have died, I was so frustrated with myself, both with thinking myself into a corner when there were other outs, and with voluntarily throwing four store points out the window. Granted, there would still be one more round, but I felt I would have won the whole thing if I just beat RDW.

Live and learn, I suppose.

I declined to split with my opponent in the last round, not because I was trying to be a jerk or anything, but because I knew my opponent was on Bant Control and I wanted to see how the match plays out when there is something on the line. It turned out to be fairly nondescript — the deck put on little to no pressure, which let me set up Seance. From that point on, his Supreme Verdicts were dead cards that actually gain me value when he casts them, and it was all about when I’d get my Craterhoof. I sided out Centaur Healers and one Seance, hedging against graveyard hate and bringing in Conscripts for any Planeswalkers that would come down. As it turned out, my opponent did not side in Rest in Peace; he didn’t even have those cards in his sideboard since the meta where he usually plays was “devoid of Reanimator.” Not a wise choice to go into a blind meta and not prepare for one of the more popular archetypes. He got me to 8 with Thragtusk beats before I resolved a Griselbrand, and it was pretty much over from there. Acidic Slime was an all-star once again, killing a Blue source, trading with a Thragtusk, then coming back via Seance to get another Blue source. Love this card.

3-1 to end the night, which is another consistent finish for Seance that could have been 4-0 if the cards lined up for me, and if I weren’t a complete idiot. Jordan Morgan, eat your heart out.

Some more Modern with my good bud Matt Jones before we got out of there. Kibler’s GW hate bears deck is really hard to deal with. Restoration Angel is the premier card in the matchup, as I get so much value out of blinking any of my creatures. Paths and Dismembers are awesome too, since Wilt-Leaf Liege and Baneslayer Angel demand an immediate answer. I didn’t win any games, but they were all really close, including one where Matt stabilized at 3 through a top-decked Baneslayer after I had Pathed away three Wilt-Leaf Lieges. Sword of War and Peace would definitely come out of the side, as well as Supreme Verdict. Maybe Rest in Peace? Turning off half of his Lingering Souls seems important, though I’d probably just want to be able to Snapcaster back removal for his lords and Angels.

There’s still a full weekend of Magic ahead, I’ve got lots of catching up to do. Luis has a spicy (read: non-competitive) UW deck brewed up for me for Sunday’s Legacy tournament. I don’t have any of the money cards, but he’ll happily lend them to me if it means more heads in attendance, and I’ll happily toss in $10 and go 0-4 in exchange for a store point. That should be a fun write-up after the fact. Stayed tuned!

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Comments
One Response to “Pondering—Near Misses”
  1. Matt Jones says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how our discussing Store Points could be seen as a negative thing. The main thing to remember is that it’s basically a Rewards system like Duane Reade or a sandwich shop will have. Buy x amount of whatever and get x in return. This version of the store rewards system gives back not only for participation but for quality participation. That’s pretty awesome. The whole thing is pretty awesome and I’m grateful to be a part of it. Luis’s “if there is a next season” message on the mailing list scared me today and I will only be talking positively about Seasons from here on out. What’s frustrating is that I’m not doing well at MTG and really nothing else. Not points. Not anything that’s going on in the store, on MTGO, nothing. I’m unhappy because my performance is poor and the results are worse 🙂

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