Hey everyone! I’m back from Baltimore and loving New York–it’s been a long time since I’ve taken a vacation, and I’ve realized how much I needed it. Today I’m gonna talk about my tournament experience at Baltimore. I won’t go into too much detail about the games, but I’ll talk about the deck, the days, and the changes I’d make going forward.
The week before the event, I was miserable–there wasn’t a single standard deck I liked. I’d been playing Delver for a while, but once the PT debuted a new version of “Delver” that played Lingering Souls and Phantasmal Image, I immediately knew my U/W Delver would be the underdog–after all, my Midnight Hauntings and Geist of Saint Trafts would be trumped by their Lingering Souls and Images. Still, like the stubborn fool I am when I fall in love with a deck, I kept jamming games against Spirits with the old version of Delver, and I kept losing. Frustrated, I set out on a path to find a new deck.
Monday afternoon: Give up on U/W Delver, decide to play Ramp.
Monday evening: Play Ramp against U/B, cry myself to sleep, give up on Ramp.
Tuesday through Thursday: Talk about U/W Humans, convince myself I want to play Thalia against everything (more on this later).
Thursday night: Goldfish with Humans, cry myself to sleep, give up hope about Baltimore and decide to stay with Humans.
Friday afternoon: Test Humans vs. U/W Delver, lose; test Delver vs. R/G aggro, lose; life tilt.
Friday evening: Test Humans against R/G aggro, lose, life tilt, waver between U/W Humans and U/W Delver for infinite hours, decide on U/W Delver.
My thought process for Baltimore was play a deck I know rather than a deck that’s inherently strong and well positioned–this meant I was on a U/W aggro control deck, as that’s my go to for most formats. I just didn’t know what version of a U/W aggro control deck would be best against the field. Going into the GP, we determined that Spirits/Delver and Ramp would be the decks to beat (or at least, the most popular)–which then meant that U/B would be a great choice for the event. Furthermore, if you look at the PT results, one U/B player barely missed Top 8 at 9th place, which suggested that a good U/B list theoretically had the potential to get there. Thinking a lot of pros would realize the same thing (as it was also hinted in their articles from the week prior), I wanted to play a deck that beat them–i.e., Humans. Coincidentally, Thalia is the nut in this format due to Delver, Ramp, and Control having hard times dealing with her (it’s not random luck that some guy managed to Top 8 with four of them in his deck). Add in the fact that less people would expect Geist of Saint Traft and more people would pack Corrosive Gales, it seemed correct to play Humans. So why didn’t I?
The problem with Humans is that it doesn’t have a great matchup against the most popular decks I expected–Spirits/Delver and Ramp. The Ramp matchup is pretty shaky if you don’t have Destiny or Hero, but those suck against Spirits and Delver. Since I expected the Humans decks to be edged out by those three decks (Thalia notwithstanding), I didn’t want to play it. Plus, I was miserable playing the deck, so it felt like the wrong choice–Delver made me feel bad, but not miserable. I wanted to play the “best of both worlds deck” (i.e. 8x Wild Nacatl via Champion and Delver), but I thought the mana was terrible so I didn’t play that either. I ended up playing U/W Delver and sticking to what I knew best:
3 Sword of War and Peace
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Phantasmal Image
4 Mana Leak
2 Gut Shot
1 Mutagenic Growth
4 Vapor Snag
3 Midnight Haunting
3 Gitaxian Probe
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Seachrome Coast
3 Moorland Haunt
2 Revoke Existence
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Dungeon Geist
2 Phantasmal Image
2 Timely Reinforcements
1 Day of Judgement
1 Corrosive Gale
2 Celestial Purge
Props to Denniser and Terrance for helping me iron out the list. While Denniser went a bit of a different direction, Terrance and I felt that all we wanted to do was jam down a Sword and go to town–this turned out to work about less than half the time I drew a Sword. I think you can’t lean on Sword that hard anymore because the format isn’t only white creatures and control decks anymore–you need to play more equipment besides Sword of War and Peace. It was pretty great for me in the event, but there were times where I had it in hand and it did nothing, I had it in play and it did nothing, and I had connected with it and it did nothing. Overall, I’m going to think about the equipment the most.
If I had to play in a Standard event tomorrow, however, this is what I’d do:
-1 Growth, +1 Probe; -1 Gale, -1 Revoke, -1 Day, -1 something, +1 Dungeon Geist, +1 Jace, Memory Adept, +1 Batterskull, +1 Divine Offering
I really like Costa’s sideboard, even if I don’t like his Stalker/Pike choices main deck. I don’t want to play with Curse of Pierced Heart against aggro decks (but it probably rocks against control, and I guess you can side it out)
On to the matches!
Round 2–Jund Ramp
My opponent had to deal with turn 3 Geist, turn 4 Image on Thrun + Leak on his turn, turn five Leak, turn six Snapcaster Leak in game one. Game two, he mulls to four and gets a turn 6 Grave Titan…countered by my Ponder into shuffle/topdecked Mana Leak. Geist takes it home again.
Round 3–4cc Unburial Rites Control
My opponent was playing a U/W/R/b control deck that featured Sun Titan, Elesh Norn, Unburial Rites, etc. I lost game one, came back game two off a strategic Geist, and won game three with a ton of Delver/Vapor Snag pressure.
Round 4–Solar Flare
These games were intense, so I don’t remember all the details–I lost game one, to the nuts, won game two, then took game three after dealing with a ton of resistance.
Round 5–Hippo Blade
Amazing deck–basically R/W Swords + Titans and some midrangey creatures like Solemn. If you want more details on it, there was a deck tech in the Pro Tour coverage. Game one, my opponent goes for a turn four sword hit off a nexus just to be blown out by Vapor Snag. Game two, I counter all his spells and bash with Delvers.
Round 6–U/B Control (Pat Cox)
I find out I’m paired against Pat Cox, crap myself, and settle in for a long game against (what I expect) is U/B Control. Turns out he was playing control as I Probe his hand to see infinite removal spells, black mana, and no blue sources. Pat bricks on blue for six or so turns while all my creatures trade with his removal. I stick a Geist, bash for a while, and eventually defeat his mana screw. Game two, I Probe turn three to see infinite targeted removal, Snapcasters, and a dearth of countermagic, so I slam a Geist and ride it to victory. Pat seemed a little salty afterwards, which was to be expected–I got pretty lucky in some of the games, and those Probes were quite invasive.
10-2, 6-0, defeated my first pro player
Round 7–U/W Humans
I smash my opponent game one with a Sword of War and Peace. While we’re shuffling, he says he’s never played against Delver and doesn’t know if he has a good matchup or not–he finds out game two when he gets crushed again with Vapor Snags and Dungeon Geist.
11-2, 7-0, first Day 2 locked up
Feeling elated, my nerve calm a bit, though I still feel the fire to succeed–it’s my first Day 2, but all that means is I’m in a new tournament.
Round 8–U/W/b Delver
He plays Porcelain Legionnaire and Lingering Souls game one, which handily defeats me. Game two, I Mutagenic Growth his Phantasmal Bear (the only thing it did all day), then we stare at each other having kept otherwise reactive hands. Thankfully he doesn’t see any Lingering Souls, and I grind him out. Game three, I mull to five and die to two blind Delver flips and three separate copies of Lingering Souls.
12-4, 7-1, slightly salty
The first loss always stings, but not as much as the last.
Round 9–U/W Delver (Jesse Hampton)
I’m not sure if it was a true mirror, though the card numbers were quite close. Jesse draws Moorland Haunt and Geist to my nothing game one, and game two he sideboards better and sees more Geists, Snapcasters and Images than I do. I get crushed.
12-6, more salty, but not out of it
Day 1 ends, we go out to dinner, and I try to sleep afterwards while people argue about some random girl who was at the event and how much Izzy loves some dessert people were talking about at the restaurant.
Round 10–Esper Tezz
My opponent bricks on lands game one while I smash him, then I counter every spell he plays game two and ride a Geist to victory.
Round 11–R/G Aggro
I win game one off of Geist and counters, lose game two due to a bad keep on my part (no white mana), then win a close game three because my opponent punts. I have an Image out copying his Strangleroot Geist. He plays Hellrider, Blasts my Image, my Image returns copying his Hellrider, then he attacks with both his guys. I block his Hellrider with my Image, my Image lives, then I kill him later on with the Image and a Geist of my own. If he Blasted my Image before playing Hellrider, I probably would have lost.
Round 12–U/W Delver
My opponent draws better than I do (more Geists/Snaps/Ponders to my none of those), and I lose games 1 & 2. I’m probably missing something here and need to test this match up a lot more…
16-9, 9-3 and playing for Top 16-32
Round 13–U/B Zombies
I get crushed both games. Not much to say here, really, though game two was at least close…ish.
16-11, 9-4 and playing for Top 64
Round 14–G/W Tempered Steel (Chris Mascioli)
Not what I expected to see on Day 2, but it was a decent choice for the event. I was a bit bummed at this point, but at least I got Chris to smile–that was more unexpected than facing Tempered Steel, honestly. Unfortunately, I blow most of my luck in the match on the smile and in game one with triple Delver flipped by my turn three to his mulligan to five, then get crushed in game two and lose an interactive (yet lopsided) game three to 3x Tempered Steel & 2x Etched Champion (though I did handle two of the Tempered Steels just fine).
17-13, 9-5, not worth playing for the PWPs
So it was a crappy way to end a great run, but hey, what can I expect? I didn’t even like any of the decks going into the event; I’m certainly not complaining that I did well…though apparently, “well” is relative–some people think it doesn’t matter to just Day 2. You know what? Screw the haters–it matters to me. Another thing off the bucket list, and now we’re on to the next one on the list–Top 64. One step at a time friends, one step at a time.
Just keep swimming,