If you were “lucky” enough to read my intro/origin story post you’ll be familiar with the fact that I travel a lot for work. One of the side benefits to this is being able to find local area stores to play in rather than sit in the hotel room watching Cartoon Network re-reuns.
Because of work I wasn’t able to play much if any standard just before and just after the RTR pre-release. My next opportunity it would seem would be Return to Ravnica Game day at Skyhaven. Thankfully my post RTR release work schedule had me down in the Seattle area, home of Wizards of the Coast and I’ll just say one of the more absurd areas I’ve been to for magic. Game stores abound including the amazing Card Kingdom and pricing on Magic product and accessories that made this Canadian shake my head in disbelief as to how good they have it there.
So I knew I was going to play in Game Day, I had scheduled that with the wife, but what
was I going to play? That was still a few weeks off but I needed something to play while on the road. Literally 10 minutes before leaving to the airport I gathered an Azorious Humans
aggro deck and sleeved it up while I sat in the terminal. I managed to run the deck 3 times at various free events in and around Lynnwood at The Comic Stop and Mugu Games respectively.
One thing I’ve learned is that after every major set rotation, playing humans has rarely been a bad idea. Everyone is completely screwing around with deck design and you can really exploit the linear and consistent strategy humans provides. With a 1st place finish, a 2-2 drop under heavy mana flood and a 3rd place finish providing me $40 in store credit I snapped up a dual land and a couple discounted Sublime Archangel out of the case and headed back home to Victoria knowing that the humans build, while good, was very quickly going to lose it’s edge. I still like this list but it’s effectiveness will certainly come and go in waves as standard’s meta fluctuates. I am sure this will be a great deck to come back to after nearly every set release. As they say, “There’s always money in the banana stand.”.
Azorius Aggro by Shawn
Back at home for a week with game day was fast approaching I new I had to refine the humans list or completely switch. Due to work and family commitments I had a small handful of days to actually test these decks. My first opportunity was an Thursday RTR draft where a bunch of locals would probably have some standard decks in their bags just in case. I showed up early and played against my friend Trevor of boostervictim.com who was running one of his signature G/W lists. We split the two games we played, game 1 he completely trounced me using Champion of Lambholt. Game 2 he got me down to 3 or 4 before I stabilized, came back and started dismantling his board, finishing the job with a miracle Bonfire of the Damned. Standard testing would have to wait though, draft was upon us. After 5 rounds of a combined pod draft, which I do not recommend, I was lucky to be 3-2 with a U/W tempo fliers list. With a combined draft value of about $3.50 and feeling a bit salty in 8th place, I grabbed my single pack prize and headed home still in need of more testing.
Like many Magic players I look forward all week to head out and play FNM and often use it to try a different deck out. This FNM however, in order to ensure wife points allowing me to draft Thursday and play Game Day Sunday I traded off FNM for both those events. It did leave me without more seat time with this Jund list, something I really felt I needed. After the kidlet was in bed I managed to sneak away for an hour down to Skyhaven to see if anyone had some byes or was just hanging around looking to play. A short bit after getting there the last round pairings were up and Garret, a regular at the store, found himself facing an opponent who just up and left without actually dropping, so he offered to playtest with me.
Our “playtesting” basically consisted of Garret drawing god hand after god hand with his Mono Red aggro list and handing my ass to me in 4 out of 5 games including a mess of a game that went….
His Turn 1. Mountain, play Rakdos Cackler unleased, go
My turn 1. Shock Land tapped, go
His Turn 2. Swing with the cackler, mountain, Vexing Devil (take 4), Vexing Devil (pregnant pause, take 4). 10 points, ow.
My Turn 2. Land, Farseek, go
I’d like to say this was completely unique but in the 5 games he had this near exact sequence happen twice. He did say the deck was incredibly streaky and he wished it drew that well during the event earlier. Great, glad I could be there to witness this… As FNM was starting to wrap up, I headed home to ponder my deck choice for the weekend.
After a busy Saturday with the family I checked the Star City Games top 16, noted the plentitude of G/W decks and re-animator. Through watching twitter and other local store chatter on Facebook between Skyhaven Games and Yellowjacket Comics, the other MTG store downtown, I knew Re-animator was going to be present. I had been really questioning my Jund build or at least my comfort level running it. At 1 am I decided to sleeve up an impromptu G/W deck for some gold fishing. A half hour later I was dealing out this list below and really liking the draws.
Selesnya Midrange by Shawn
Next morning I was sitting down at Skyhaven, pulling hands off of either deck, overhearing some other players chatting about their decks. At the call for round 1 I put the Jund deck away without thinking and that was obviously my gut instinct. I was going G/W knowing that it stood a chance to get there, happy with a top 8 I was shooting for the playmat!
I was still considering writing this stuff down so below is my recap from memory, in future events I’ll try to keep better notes.
Return to Ravnica Game Day Swiss
R1 – Paris – 3 Colour Epic Experiment Deck. Paris was cycling pretty hard but my deck just went off Game 1 pairing up Rancor, Silver Blade Paladin and Sigarda, Host of Herons for some pretty crazy beats. Game 2 was more of the same. Paris managed to get a little deeper and I really felt I was only in this game by a single draw. His last dig through his deck gave nothing but mana and he scooped it up. Won 2-0
R2 – Noel – Reanimator (?) My deck ran just as strongly as Round 1, I just didn’t see very much of his deck. Won 2-0. This deck can be completely brutal. I went 4 straight games without taking a single bit of combat damage. I was feeling good and was already well on my way to the Top 8 berth.
R3 – Christina – B/R Zombies. Won 2-0, Christina took me to the brink in both games with her very solid zombie build. Christina is a relatively new player but she is getting pretty good and her deck is solid. We chatted after the last game with Cody from the store about some plays that would have very likely cemented game 2 for her. 3-0 / 6-0 I was feeling pretty strong.
R4 – Dustin – Bant control. This was an epic match with me blitzing Dustin in very short order game 1. Post sideboard as it typically does with control, the matchup switched quickly to Dustin. Game 2 I mulled down to 4 for the first time I can ever recall in sanctioned tournament magic. Despite this I managed to actually get a board going and get a bit of damage in against Dustin, Alas he drew a punishing number of Terminus and Supreme Verdict and I came up short, his planeswalkers tying up the board. With 15 minutes left to play game 3, I quickly shuffled up to try and get a chance to run game 3 back.
Game 3 was a lot like game 2 however I drew slightly better creatures and Dustin struggled a little bit on his sweeper draws. Eventually though the tide of sweepers took their toll and I started to flood out. Near the end I miracle an Entreat the Angels for 5, 4/4 fliers. All I had to do was fade a sweeper and I should have this wrapped up. Dustin draws, passes it back after lamenting the presence of my Grafdigger’s Cage on the board.
These kinds of cards are key against these decks, it really puts a hurt on their speed and helps force them to top deck mode a bit quicker. It was at this inflection point where I could attack and jump forward in this game. I had decide how to attack with my angels. I could swing at Dustin, taking him back down from his lofty life total or swing in and kill his Tamiyo and Garruk Relentless. I think I chose wrong here, I decided to get some damage in in case he played a sweeper letting his planeswalkers go..
My error in this game was that while the damage was important, it became too easy for him to recover from that miracle Terminus he cast the next turn. I managed to get some bodies out but his Tamiyo, the Moon Sage managed to keep any that mattered pinned down. Time was called and we went to turns. I was basically in stay alive mode as he started generating wolves off of Garruk. I managed a knight off of Selesnya Charm that with another creature could maybe keep me alive through Dustin’s last turn, turn 5. Any creature or buff would do the trick.
Sadly my last draw was a Gavony Township. I could buff my knight token to 3 but it wouldn’t matter, Dustin could just fight my knight with Garruk even with a pump and leave me with no blockers. I play the township and pass it back. Dustin does just that and swings in for exact damage and I lose on turn 5. I dropped this round 1-2. This was a tough loss given the past three rounds but I was still feeling decent about the deck, Bant control is very well suited for the current meta and it showed here.
Time for an aside here. One thing I can express that is very important is to make sure to keep hydrated and eat during tournaments, even shorter ones. This one was going into round 5 and it had been a long while since I had ate. I was really starting to feel it and with the length of this last round I didn’t have time to grab a bite before we jumped into round 5. Your reasoning and play can take a huge hit when you’re blood sugar drops, make sure to have a granola bar or banana to keep you going, it makes a huge difference for me I’m finding.
R5 – Ben – Jund aggro. Ben’s a long time player and has a penchant for building interesting decks and trying to attack the field from different angles. Even till the end I called this mono red but it was in fact a Jund list utilizing light splashes of black and green for Abrupt Decay and rancor. Game 1 he blitzed me so fast my head spun. This was basically a replay of my testing against Garret’s mono red list. I kept way too slow of a hand, took some repeated beats, burn to the face and that was that.
Game 2 I side in some Centaur Healers and start off really quick. Ben gets stuck on land and my deck curves out quick ramping into Loxodon Smiter on turn 2 and Sigarda, Host of Herons on turn 4. Ben scoops shortly after and were on to game 3. Game 3 I managed to make my first really bad play mistake, ensuring my loss. Ben felt he had it either way with his hand which was basically as loaded as game 1. At minimum my play mistake made it a more of a certainty.
With my blood sugar getting low and in a fog I made a bad mistake attacking Ben with my rancor equipped Loxodon Smiter into 2 Ash Zealots, doh, hi there first strike. Two turns later and I die without my much needed target for my Wolfir Silverheart. Lost 1-2
I was feeling completely deflated after going 3-0 and then losing a tough one against Dustin and punting against Ben. For a change I was on the losing end in short order, I try to avoid it but I bought a Coke and snack from the counter, slammed that back as I waited for results.
The final standings for swiss were posted and…. I ended up in 5th, phew. Top tie breakers at the 9 point level and ready to do battle in the top 8.
R6 – Ronnie – G/W control or maybe another midrange (?). Ronnie stumbled a bit but my deck returned to form and with me seeing straight I ran him through with little delay, my Rancor equipped Loxodon Smiter, Angel, Wolfir Siverheart board winning game 1 in short order. Game 2 I thought Ronnie was going to take. He managed to get out not one but two Thragtusk and was utilizing a bounce package with Cloudshift to play shenanigans with Thragtusk. I assembled a combo of Loxodon Smiter Sublime Archangel and Silver Blade Paladin, quickly smashing his inflated life total in under 15 minutes. Won 2-0.
The snack had made a difference, I was feeling much more in tune with the deck again and the fog had cleared!
R7 – Paris – Much like our match in Round 1 he wasn’t able to get much going. He did take down Dustin in 2 games the previous round. I really wish I had been able to see this as I never did see Paris’s deck combo off.
Game 1 was uneventful, Game 2 he repeatedly mulled no land hands all the way down to a 2 land/card hand. By the time I finished him off he had ramped up to 7 mana but hadn’t drawn enough action to make a difference. He scooped it up and I was on to the finals. Won 2-0.
R8 – George Blank – Mill. George is one of those players that primarily likes playing decks that are fun, sometimes with wildly varying levels of competitiveness. George’s pick for this event apparently was a solid choice as he ran through the Swiss finishing 4-1 and met me in the finals. There isn’t much to say here, my deck was on fire and George couldn’t manage to get the main mill engine or draw any control and we spin through two quick games. Taking the round 2-0, I became a Return to Ravnica Game Day Champion!
Final Record 6-2 Match / 12-4 Games
Wrapping it up
Nut draws with this deck are Forest, Temple Garden, Arbour Elf, Silverblade, Loxodon Smiter and one 4, 5 or 6 drop. More than a couple turn 4 kills or swing for 18+ are easy with this deck. The two entreats were a Sunday AM modification to the deck and I have to say I was pretty pleased with them in the deck. They’re not just for control anymore!
I never once sided in the Restoration Angel, never felt I needed it. I now see it was a mistake not to bring those in against at least Dustin’s deck. They, much like a Wolfir Avenger, are the perfect plays post sweep and could have very well allowed me to steal one of those two games against control. Hindsight and all that.
Changes to the G/W list would include removing Odric, Master Tactician out of the side and including a 3rd Sigarda, she is just so good in the the current meta. I am glad I picked these up under $10! The Armada Wurm are quite solid but they didn’t see a lot of play. I may consider removing one of those and some other card from the side for a couple Faith’s Shield. Useful in a lot of decks that utilize spot removal like Jund, Zombies and even Bant/U/W with the tempo-rific Azorius Charm.
So after participating in 3 Game Days I won the mat and 10 packs for 1st. Also had feature matches round 1 and 2 which Skyhaven provides a pack for the winner. It’s no grand prix cheque but as one of the largest game day’s the store has had, it felt pretty darn good.
Thanks for reading this far, watch for a RTR draft snapshot post in a few days. Next week is Louisville where I will be drafting at a local store and then heading up to Grand Prix Chicago for my feeble attempt at Modern and likely a bunch of limited side events.