SCG Open Report: I need a test group (43rd)

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So, this last weekend was a good chance to go home, see my family and my in-laws, and play some Magic. Unfortunately, I was not able to repeat last year's performance. On the other hand, I did get some interesting insights into the format. But before we get there, here's the list:


2 Mountain
2 Swamp
1 Plains
3 Evolving Wilds
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Clifftop Retreat
2 Vault of the Archangel

4 Slagstorm
2 Dismember
1 Doom Blade
1 Go for the Throat
2 Pillar of Flame
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Tribute to Hunger

4 Lingering Souls

3 Liliana of the Veil

4 Grave Titan
2 Elesh Norn

4 Faithless Looting
3 Unburial Rites
4 Sign in Blood

1 Griselbrand
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Zealous Conscripts
1 Unburial Rites
1 Pillar of Flame
2 Oblivion Ring
3 Celestial Purge
1 Tribute to Hunger
1 Murder
3 Nihil Spellbomb

So, how did it play out? Pretty well, actually. You get to play the most calculated sweeper in the format, Slagstorm (it catches almost every relevant creature). You also occasionally get to combo off on turn 4, but the rest of the time you grind them out til you hit a point of advantage or just play Souls a bunch of times.

Yes, Vault of the Archangel is awesome. No, I didn't get to use it much (but the few times I did, it locked my opponent out of the game). No, I didn't have mana problems, but I did have problems with hands only having 1 land... a lot. That's very unusual, but it happened quite a bit. Just variance.

The sideboard and the removal choices seem a bit all-over-the-place, and that's just because they ARE. I had no idea what I was doing, but more on that later.

Alright, here are the rounds:

1 - Infect (0-1)

Game 1: I mulliganed, then kept a hand that was a bit slow but generally good against anything but a blazingly fast draw... then my opponent plays a t1 Glistener Elf. I actually had Elesh Norn and Rites in the bin on turn 1 (thank you Looting). I never got a turn 4 to lock up the game.

At this point, the judges come over and ask for my deck, saying that I only have 59 registered in my main on my reg sheet. I had counted that sheet 3-4 different times, and it was definitely 60. I even counted the quantity of odd numbers to make sure. While the judge counts through my deck, I recheck my sheet and it's most definitely 60. I tell the judge this, and he says that 3 different judges counted 59 on it. He recounts and gets 60. Most likely feeling very silly, he apologizes and we move on to the next game.
--End Interlude--

Game 2: I kept 4 removal spells and land. He was never even close to being in it.

Game 3: Mulliganed a 1-lander, then kept a hand that beat anything except a nut draw with an Inkmoth and me drawing all blanks. So, of course, that's what he got and that's what I did. Even with a GFTT to 2-for-1 Elf + Rancor, I lost to an Inkmoth I couldn't stop at instant speed because I drew nothing helpful.

So, that was a thoroughly disappointing coin-flip for me. I actually feel that the match is in my favor, but the guy drew extraordinarily well and I bricked on everything in the 4th game. Nothing I could do.

2 - U/R Delver w/Grim Lavamancer (1-1)

Game 1: He has a very fast, smooth draw and just kills me through tokens and with burn. I think he played 3 Delvers in the first 3 turns, and I didn't have a sweeper.

Game 2: I pop his t1 Delver, and that was pretty much the game. I had sweepers, removal, and the reanimation combo. He bounced G-Titan a bunch of times, but it didn't slow me down quite enough.

Game 3: He keeps a 1-lander with no ponder/Probe, bricks on his second land for a turn, then misses with 3 Augur of Bolas, and I had killed his t1 Delver, so I elect to just race him with 3 Lingering Souls instead of playing Slagstorm. So he got very unlucky, but I doubt that it actually mattered.

Match-up is iffy. As I learned in the second Delver match, Inferno Titan is actually better in this match-up, especially if you ever get to activate it with Vault. OTOH, Grave Titan >>> Conscripts. Going forward I would probably have 3 Inferno in the board (for the remaining month of legality, lol).

3- Grixis Ramp Control (seriously?) (2-1)

Game 1, Game 2: I play Lili on turn 3. I activate her on turn 6. The end.

4 - Zombies (3-1)

Game 1: He won with a topdecked Messenger after I had otherwise locked him out with Norn. It's possible I sequenced my plays incorrectly, but it was really just a coinflip on the Messenger (I had the win on the board for the next turn).

Game 2: He kept a very reactive hand with a Spellbomb, artists, and not much pressure. 1 Pillar of Flame on his Crawler pretty much sealed it up, and I just hardcast Norn for the win. The spellbomb he actually used, but it didn't keep me out of the game since I elected to not go all in on the reanimation... this is something I think a lot of people forget, since the deck can just play control.

Game 3: He kept a moderately fast hand, but again a Pillar and another removal spell made it look silly. Grave Titan sealed it up.

5 - G/R Trading Post (3-2)

Game 1: We grind each other out until he gets 2 posts going simultaneously. I pull off the Dismember/Pillar trick on a Wurmcoil after getting him to tap out, but he soon has another. I win at any point for about 5 turns if I find a Norn, but that never happens. He eventually just grinds me out with inevitability. Very frustrating game on the whole.

Game 2: Mulligan a 1-lander (again), then get fatties, 3 lands, and draw. Proceed to not get anything but more fat (had 6 of 8 by the end of the game), and actually miss land drops so he's able to pull ahead with Thrag and Wurmcoil. He has Magnet for Titan and Whipflare (seriously? huge mistake to keep in under any other circumstance) for the zombies, then attacks for lethal.

It was at this point that I realized that I REALLY need a testing group for the random decks like Post. I also need a bit more card draw to just cycle through my deck to answers. Overall, a very disappointing match where I felt like I played everything correctly (and trapped my opponent a couple of times) but lost regardless.

Also, Post decks don't actually DO anything. The durdle so much, which is fine against me, but I don't see what they could possibly offer post-rotation.

6 - 4-color Pod (4-2)

Game 1: I cast Slagstorm to wipe his board. A couple more removal spells and then I drop Elesh Norn at 15 life against his Thragtusk token. He proceeds to topdeck Conscripts, attacks me to 1, and sacs my Elesh (failing to find). I use my second Slagstorm and reanimate Elesh in the same turn. I win at 1 life, and my opponent is visibly pissed.

Game 2: Slagstorm + Grave Titan, then Elesh to seal it up. Exactly as expected. My opponent complains about my "nut draws," despite the fact that I never got a turn 4, or evern turn 5, anything. I don't have much sympathy for the guy who topdecked Conscripts to do 14 damage.

7 - U/W Delver (5-2)

Game 1: Spot Removal got his dudes, a Slagstorm that he Probed kept him from ever playing Traft, SOuls bought me time, and a Grave Titan came out on turn 5 to win it pretty easily.

Game 2: We get deck-checked before this one starts, and everything is ok. He mulligans to 5 after we shuffle a lot, but actually pulls it out. I may have sequenced this wrong, as I was playing for value to retain my CA start, but he had the Snag to return Norn and the two golem tokens made it lethal. I'm not actually sure if I made a mistake or just had a clunky start, but ah well... on the play for game 3.

Game 3: He keeps a lose hand, loses his t1 Delver to a Pillar, but stabilizes with an Image on my Titan. We durdle for a few turns, but I'm at high life and all I need is a Slagstorm. When it finally turns up I play it and use Lili (who has been ticking down his hand for a couple of turns) to finish off his board. It's more than lethal.

Overall, the Delver match-up seems pretty good. And yes, Slagstorm >>> Whipflare (golems and Agugur for those lists).

8 - G/R Aggro (6-2)

Both games I just played Slagstorm, then rode a fatty to victory. The green-based aggro decks are where reanimator shines. You blank their best card (Bonfire), you have spot removal to force them to extend into a sweeper (Elesh or a Slagstorm), and just just don't really care about what they do.

We actually played 3 more games, and none were even close.

9 - Wolf Run Naya (6-3)

Game 1: I keep a spectactular hand against any other list. On the play, he goes Farseek-Simulacrum-Titan-Titan-Norn. Oh joy. I was never even in the game, though a Liliana on t3 might have put me in it.

Game 2: He does essentially the same thing, and what looked like a good draw turned out to be very clunky when I got nothing useful.

So, overall the deck performed exactly as expected. I beat every "meta" deck that I played against, and I figured out what the deck needs for Delver (Inferno Titans).

If I were playing this again at a big tournament, I would put 3 Infernos in the board, clean up the maindeck removal (probably just 2 Murder, 2 Dismember, 4 Pillar, 2 Sever), put a fourth Lili in the board, and maybe go 2-2 on SiB/Wild Guess. Definitely don't want 4 Guess, however.

The main thing I learned from this is that I just don't have the time and resources to crack a full metagame on my own. I beat everything I planned for, and I lost to stuff I never bothered with. Having testing partners in Colorado was a big deal for me. But people here (Wyoming) are definitely getting better, and the ones who are taking my advice are getting better very, very quickly. Hopefully by next year we can have something going

Oh, and here's to getting to play Sealed PTQ's soon. I'm a lot better at limited than I used to be, and I think I can take one down. 

IMAGE( Sig by zpikduM.

Tough breaks man, I know the feeling (well, a little worse but still). You gave me flashbacks of my PTQ crusher.

If I could get the ability to hit games while at work I'd do it, but I cannot commit too much unbroken time so people would need to be real understanding. 


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