From the Sideboard—Hugh Kramer, 20SS Champion

This past weekend at Twenty Sided Store was the longest Magic: The Gathering tournament I’ve played in to date. The Twenty Sided Store’s Players Championship consisted of 16 store regulars in 12 rounds of swiss, spread across four different formats, with an additional two-round single-elimination top four.

The formats were:

Day 1
3 rounds of Standard Pauper
3 rounds of Cube Draft
2 rounds of Standard

Day 2
1 round of Standard
3 rounds of Return to Ravnica Draft
Cut to top four for two additional rounds of Standard

Before I go any further I would like to thank Luis and Lauren for running this event. It was entirely free for all 16 participants and Luis and Lauren donated both their own time to run it, as well as a significant prize pool spread out players that easily totaled at least $800 in store value, according to my calculations using both math and numbers. I would also like to thank all 15 other players at the store, many of whom have become close friends and associates of mine. Twenty Sided Store in general has truly become a very strong focal point for myself and many others who not only have love for game of Magic, but also for the environment that the Twenty Sided Store and it’s community of players as a whole provide.

On to the rounds!

Day 1

Round 1 (Standard Pauper) vs. Dylan

If you don’t know Dylan Hiester, he’s basically the nutter butters and is probably the best looking player at the store. I knew he was on Mono Red for this format, which I felt was a pretty good match-up for my deck. It should also be noted that he completely foiled out his Standard Pauper deck for this event. What an absolute dreamboat. I ran the following Junk list:

Junk (Standard Pauper)

4x Seraph of Dawn
4x Centaur Healer
4x Borderland Ranger
2x Duty-bound Dead
2x Sentinel Spider

4x Murder
4x Victim of Night
4x Sign in Blood
2x Dead Weight
1x Altar’s Reap
1x Undying Evil
4x Abundant Growth

3x Selesnya Guildgate
4x Golgari Guildgate
4x Swamp
3x Forest
2x Plains
4x Haunted Fengraf
4x Evolving Wilds

Sideboard:

2x Primal Huntbeast
3x Ethereal Armor
1x Mark of the Vampire
3x Ray of Revelation
2x Aerial Predation
4x Cremate

The goal of the deck is basically to spend the first few turns killing threats and fixing mana. Then catch up/pull ahead with card advantage from Sign in Blood and Haunted Fengraf and play bigger creatures than opponents all while gaining life to fully stabilize.

My games against Dylan were relatively uneventful. I either drew a lot of Centaur Healers and had removal for the games I won…or lost to a triple curse of the pierced heart draw.

1-0

Round 2 (Standard Pauper) vs. Dana

This round would be the first of four rounds in which I would play against Dana in this tournament. The players were split in eight-man pods, consisting of the top eight or the bottom eight records, within which the three rounds of swiss for each format were played. Dana and I remained at the top of the standings for most of the tournament and thus had to play one another multiple times.

Dana was on Mono Black, which is probably my worst match-up, since my game plan of killing all their creatures is rather tough because both Undying Evil and Altar’s Reap are pretty hard for me to deal with. Game one I was able to nearly stabilize but didn’t quite get there. Game two wasn’t even close, as I durdled with mana while Dana was completely content to beat face.

1-1

Round 3 (Standard Pauper) vs. James

James was on mono white, which should be an easy match-up. It is even easier when in game one I draw all four Centaur Healers and game two I draw all four Seraph of Dawns. Better to be lucky AND good!

2-1

Round 4 (Store Cube) vs. Dana

My plan going into this draft, as with most cube drafts where I prioritize winning over fun, is to draft Mono Red. I really do think that this is usually your best bet to consistently win any cube draft. With that in mind, I first-picked a Hellrider and never looked back. I ended up with a sweet mono red deck splashing green for the perennially splashed Bloodbraid Elf, as well as for a Kessig Wolf Run.

I had the most ridiculous nut draw against Dana in both of our games. I won the roll for game one and keep a hand of Stromkirk Noble, Kurin Striker, Krenko’s Command, 2x Mountain, Wasteland, and a burn spell. I curve out into T1 Noble into T2 Striker. Dana plays T1 Forest into T2 Selenya Sanctuary returning her Forest…

I untap for T3 and immediately apologize for what I was about to do because I genuinely felt kind of bad about how unfair wasteland is against bounce effects. The game ends there.

Game two on the draw, my opening hand is again T1 noble, two-drop, a few mountains, and the Wasteland. Dana again has the T1 Forest into T2 bounce land. The game again effectively ends with the wasteland on T3.

3-1

Round 5 (Store Cube) vs. Li

Li is on a Grixis control deck that both he and I know has no business beating my deck…then I go right ahead and lose game one. I curve out on the play with T1 Figure of Destiny, T2 Mogg Flunkies, T3 another dude. Li had a semi-Jedi mind-trick for me T2 when, after I play my Flunkies, he groans in order to lure me into a false sense of security. After I play my T3 dude feeling oh-so-comfortable due to his facade of despair, he calmly untaps, draws and says, “Firespout?” I mean….

T4 I play two two-drops but he answers right back with, “Infest?” With him at 13 life, it’s time to move on to game two.

Game two I play a bit more around his semi-wraths and the game ends in pretty short order.

Game three I don’t remember too well, but I think it was pretty much the same.

4-1

Round 6 (Store Cube) vs. The Kadar Brock

Kadar had a Mono White deck that, while probably able to do some cool things, should not be able to keep up with the pace of a Mono Red deck. Both games in this match were pretty much the same as I beat face, cast some burn, and sided out Wasteland for game two.

5-1

Round 7 (Standard) vs. Dana

I would like to pause for a moment here to talk about current state of Standard: I think this metagame is sweet! There is no clear-cut best deck and you can pretty much choose to play anything and have a shot at winning a tournament. Standard is very healthy and I think it is a MUCH better format than the current limited format of RTR limited, which I utterly despise. Despite considering myself much more of a limited specialist than a constructed one, in the past few months I’ve found myself playing Standard and thoroughly enjoying it, while not enjoying my time playing limited.

The previous weekend at Grand Prix Atlantic City, a friend of mine Top Eight’d with Jund. I had been playing Dark Naya the past few weeks and liked it but didn’t love it. After looking at his Jund deck from the tournament, I realized that it was basically a better version of a G/R deck than Dark Naya was, and after swapping a few cards I didn’t like from his list (namely the Thundermaw Hellkites in his deck for his lack of Bonfires), I did some testing and can confidently say that Jund is the best choice for any given tournament…at least until the new format arrives in a few weeks. It attacks from so many different angles and just has all the answers for both aggro decks and control decks. The worst match-up is the Hexproof deck, which I was lucky enough to dodge the entire Standard portion of the tournament, as the 3 people playing it ended up in the other pod. I was so afraid of it that I jammed four Liliana’s in my board just in case. Needless to say that I’m very happy a functional reprint of Diabolic Edict is on it’s way. Here was my Standard list for this tournament:

Jund (Standard)

3x Vampire Nighthawk
4x Huntmaster of the Fells
4x Thragtusk
2x Olivia Voldaren

3x Garruk, Primal Hunter
3x Rakdos Keyrune

4x Pillar of Flame
3x Ultimate Price
2x Bonfire of the Damned
2x Rakdos’s Return
4x Farseek
2x Abrupt Decay

4x Bloodcrypt
4x Overgrown Tomb
4x Woodland Cemetary
3x Dragonskull Summit
3x Rootbound Crab
2x Kessig Wolf Run
3x Forest
1x Mountain

Sideboard:

4x Liliana of the Veil
2x Golgari Charm
1x Mizzium Mortars
1x Sever the Bloodline
3x Slaughter Games
1x Underworld Connections
2x Dreadbore
1x Olivia Voldaren

The game plan for my match against Dana, who was on Esper control, was pretty simple: resolve a must-wrath creature by turn three or four (Huntmaster, Thragtusk, or Olivia), for her to tap out to deal with it, untap and play a Garruk or a Rakdos’s Return, which is usually enough to pull ahead permanently. Game one of our match here I don’t remember too well but I think I stuck to the game plan and resolved a T4 creature into her T4 wrath into my T5 Garruk. Everything in this Jund deck is just insane against any blue control deck right now (not including the blue flash decks). Rakdos Keyrune is almost unkillable and is a damage-dealing/planewalker-killing machine. Kessig Wolf Run can often single-handedly outrun Sphinx’s Revelation. If they have to wrath on T4 to kill your threat (which they often do), you can resolve a Garruk. And even if they untap and have the obligatory three-mana enchantment-form removal for him, Abrupt Decay can utterly own a D-Sphere or O-Ring. Game two of our match, Dana resolved a T5 Sorin into what I believe was my board of lands and a Rakdos Keyrune. I calmly untapped and Rakdos’s Returned her for five, redirecting to Sorin, dumping her entire hand into the graveyard, which I think was something like two Jaces, a Sphinx’s Rev, a land, and another spell. After that, a T6 Garruk mopped things up in short order.

Sideboarding was as follows:

+3 Slaughter Games
+1 Underworld Connections
+2 Dreadbore
+2 Golgari Charm
+1 Sever the Bloodline
+1 Olivia Voldaren

-4 Pillar of Flame
-3 Ultimate Price
-3 Vampire Nighthawk

6-1

Round 8 (Standard) vs. Richard

Richard was playing a pretty similar Esper control list to Dana, so I again pretty much felt like I couldn’t lose the match-up. Game one he misses his fourth land drop and Huntmaster/Garruk finish him off in pretty short order. Game two included my best turn of the entire tournament. Sometime in the midgame, he was able to establish a board of Jace, Sorin, and Tamiyo, with a bunch of spirit tokens in play, to my board of lands, including a Wolf Run, Thragtusk and a Keyrune. He untaps and tanks for a bit on his turn. He spends four mana to resolve the Sorin, plays a Runechanter’s Pike and equips to a token (it’s +7/0) and attacks with his two spirit tokens. I snap abrupt decay the pike and take two. My hand now is a Golgari Charm, Dreadbore, and a land, while he has one card in hand, which I know to be negate revealed off an earlier Jace activation. He pluses Tamiyo on my Keyrune (perhaps to keep me off mana?) but I think he should have tapped Thragusk instead, because even though he wouldn’t be able to chump one of my creatures on the crack back when I attacked a planeswalker with a Wolf Run, he could have at least made me spend the mana to activate it swing with less power than the Thragtusk. Regardless, I really needed him to spend his last two mana to tap out and flashback the Lingering Souls in his graveyard so that I can EOT Golgari Charm them all away and Dreadbore the Tamiyo on my turn. At this point I calmly ask him to see his yard to try and “remind” him that he does in fact have the souls in his yard to try and prompt him into thinking about flashing it back. Whether or not my tactic was effective, he does in fact flash it back and pass the turn, and I know the game is about to swing in my favor. I EOT Charm, wiping his Spirits and Vampire. Untap, draw the best possible card, of course (Garruk, Primal Hunter), attack Sorin to death with Thragtusk, Dreadbore Tamiyo, play Garruk and make a Beast. His Jace dies the next turn and Garruk again mops up from there. I finish Day One in first place!

Sideboard choices:

+3 Slaughter Games
+1 Underworld Connections
+2 Dreadbore
+2 Golgari Charm
+1 Sever the Bloodline
+1 Olivia Voldaren

-4 Pillar of Flame
-3 Ultimate Price
-3 Vampire Nighthawk

7-1

Day 2

Round 9 (Standard) vs. Johnny

Johnny and I would be playing a Jund mirror, where T2 Farseek is king. Though really, a T2 Farseek is pretty much the best play you can make in any Farseek deck…although I wouldn’t be against a triple Pillar of Flame draw on turns one and two vs. an aggro deck. Game one was my biggest punt of the tournament. I messed up some combat math and ended up dying to a Hellkite and an Olivia. Game two was Johnny’s turn to mess up some math. In games two and three, however, Johnny made what I think was the bigger mistake of bringing in Slaughter Games for the match-up. In both games he played it on T4 when I had already committed threats to the board, thus putting him further behind. Both times he named Rakdos’s Return, which, while potentially back-breaking in the mirror match, is a pretty risky thing to name. If you whiff (which he did, unfortunately for him both times), not only are you already down a card, but I will be able to resolve whatever spell is now in my hand instead. Both times in our match, a T4 Slaughter Games gave me an opening for a 5 drop (once a Garruk, once a Thragtusk). The beauty of Jund is that the threat density is so diverse and it attacks from multiple angles…not unlike the Jund of old (now Jund of modern). You have answers for aggro decks, huge threats for control decks, and it can become an absolute monster vs. both after sideboard.

Sideboarding:

+1 Mizzium Mortars
+1 Sever the Bloodline
+1 Olivia Voldaren
+2 Dreadbore
+1 Underworld Connections

-4 Pillar of Flame
-2 Abrupt Decay

8-1

Round 10 (RTR Draft) vs. Li

I hate this limited format. Part of it is definitely due to the fact that I played it a ton when it first came out in preparation for Grand Prix Philadelphia. But it is also the fact that I just don’t think it’s even close to balanced. Pack Rat aside, I actually think the worse offender is Vitu-Gazi Guildmage in terms of broken cards. Obviously, Pack Rat on T2 is almost always game over unless the opponent has an immediate answer. However, Pack Rat is a rare and therefore is not seen very often. Vitu-Gazi Guildmage, on the other hand, is more powerful than most rares and mythics in the set, and is an UNCOMMON. I think Selesnya in general has way too many redundant combat tricks that it almost doesn’t matter which ones you play in your deck. Blocking vs. Selesnya is never profitable and every match I seem to play in this format just always simply feels exactly the same. Each guild is very linear in what it’s trying to do and there isn’t any room to draft any kinds of really intricate strategies or anything outside the box. Though I’m possibly just whining because I can’t draft Spider Spawning in RTR, which means I’m not a happy camper.

That said, for this event I also managed to draft an absolute pile. I ended up with a Golgari deck splashing for 2 ethereal armors, an avenging arrow, and yes, a Trostani (with no token making cards to boot!). My mana was actually not as horrible as it could have been, but the rest of the deck was. Somehow, some way, things just fell my way and I was able to beat Li’s Rakdos splash Mercurial Chemister/Mizzium Mortars deck in three games. Game one, he curved out and crushes me with an overloaded Mortars after I thought I had stabilized. Game two, my plan becomes based around getting my T2 Daggerdrome Imp to 5+ toughness as soon as possible (before he can draw a Mortars) and I am eventually able to kill him with it due to some scavenging and an Ethereal Armor. Game three, he lands a T5 Chemister, which I’m pretty cold to unless I can get him to shoot my Daggerdrome Imp, and then hit his Chemister with an Avenging Arrow after it’s ability resolves. It was a pretty sweet play and Li is a good enough player that he might consider it a possibility from my deck, though it’s hard to put a Golgari deck on splashing such a terrible card. But again, it was just my day, so the play worked out.

9-1

Round 11 (RTR Draft) vs. Chase

Chase also had a Rakdos deck and game one I was able to take him down with the help of some number of my four Sluiceway Scorpions mucking up the ground. Game two, I had a sweet play of Launch Partying my own Scorpion in response to it being targeted by a Launch Party cast by Chase. I think it was a questionable play on his part due to the fact that I had another Scorpion in my yard, and an Imp pinging for one in the air and on my turn. I had chosen not to scavenge and instead left up 4 mana, clearly representing the Launch Party. His creatures were a Cobble Brute and another small creature, which he used in his first main phase to try and take out my Scorpion to let his Brute get in for some damage. Once my Launch Partied Scorpion took out his Brute and gave me the two-for-one, the game was effectively over as I scavenged up my Imp.

10-1

Round 12 (RTR Draft) vs. David “Bones” McCoy

Although I was pretty much a virtual lock for the top 4 after round 10 I continued to play my last two rounds out because I felt an obligation to the players below me in the standings trying to squeak their way into the final spots of the top four. I was really relaxed this round and it happened to work out perfectly, since this was the round in which I had my worst draws of the tournament. I missed my third land drop in both of our games and died shortly thereafter. That’s not to take away from the fact that Bones actually drafted a good Selesnya deck (unlike my pile).

10-2

Top 4

Semi-Finals (Standard) vs. Dana

This would be the fourth and final time I played Dana over the course of two days, and I mentioned to her that even though I enjoy matches against her very much, I thought it might be time for us to start seeing…I mean playing other people. She wholeheartedly agreed. This match, like our first meeting in Standard, was not very close. Her Esper deck just has too few ways to get around the variety of threats my deck presents. Game one, I kept a slow draw of Huntmaster on T4 on the draw. Sure enough, on her T4 she resolved a Jace and mini-Fact or Fiction’d. Though I was immediately behind, I felt relatively safe that once I resolved my Huntmaster and she was forced to deal with it, I could just untap and resolve the Garruk that was waiting in my hand, for which I could be reasonably confident that she didn’t have an answer. Game two, I was able to resolve an Underworld Connections from my board and it pretty much took over the game in short order. Rakdos Keyrune also provided a ridiculous threat when paired with Wolf Run, since the Esper decks have almost no way to interact with it aside from Azorious Charm, which is pretty terrible against the rest of my creatures, meaning that it is often correct to side them out. Just to reiterate how good the Rakdos Keyrune is against control decks, I can’t remember if it was against Dana or Richard, but in one of my matches against Esper, one of them was forced to D-Sphere my Keyrune INSTEAD of a Garruk simply because it was going to kill them and all the wraths in their hand were useless against it. As a blue control deck in this format, death by Jund is basically pick-your-poison.

Sideboard (same for both Top 4 matches):

+1 Mizzum Mortars
+1 Sever the Bloodline
+3 Liliana of the Veil
+2 Dreadbore
+1 Olivia Voldaren

-2 Rakdos’s Return
-3 Garruk, Primal Hunter
-3 Rakdos Keyrune

Finals (Standard) vs. Brook

Brook was playing UW Humans. A pretty good match-up since my deck was chock full of removal. His nut draw can be extremely difficult to handle, and Jund has some irrelevant cards like Garruk and Rakdos’s Return in the mainboard. Game one, Brook gets me to about ten life before I stabilize after chumping a huge exhalted Geist of St. Traft for four turns behind two Thragtusks, until finally top decking the absolute trump card in the matchup: Oliva Voldaren. Vampire Nighthawk is a pretty huge roadblock as well. Once I untapped with Olivia, however, the game was over. Game two, I mull to six on the draw and keep on Overgrown Tomb, two Pillars, Farseek, Dreadbore, and Huntmaster, figuring my two draw steps to draw a second land should be better than going to five. I hit on T2 (though it’s another Tomb). I use up my removal spells on his creatures but ultimately never hit my fourth land in the next two turns and his continuous stream of threats finishes me off. Game three is extremely close, though I have an Olivia doing work but she’s barely keeping up with the pace of his threats. Brook gets me to four life and has an attack the next turn that can bring me to 1, but would require suiciding his remaining creatures. After two more turns, and what I can only assume are lands drawn by Brook, he scoops. I’m 100% sure his scoop was premature and that he still had a few outs, especially since my life total was so low, but I was not going to be one to complain. I do think that at that point the match was overall in my favor and I had some measure of inevitability with Olivia.

So there it was! Store champion! It felt fantastic to finally win a tournament at 20 Sided Store, after making the finals in a few others before but never being able to seal the deal. Thanks again to everyone who played and made it such a great time, and thanks especially to Luis and Lauren for running such a classy establishment!

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Comments
3 Responses to “From the Sideboard—Hugh Kramer, 20SS Champion”
  1. DMG says:

    Thanks for posting this; was fun to read through your thought process and boarding strategies. I definitely agree, though we should play other people. Maybe just for a while, you know, take a break. It’s not you, it’s me, honestly.

  2. thehiest says:

    Hottest report I ever read. And I do mean sexually.

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  1. […] Not to mention, Hugh is a more than capable pilot and one of the best players at the store (he did win the store championship, after all). We decided on a split, but played it out for funsies. Hugh would take it in three close […]



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