GP Boston Report
By Tom Fowler on March 6th, 2005 · Filed in Extended (Type 1.x) · Comments not available just now
TAP THAT: OPPOSITION AT GP BOSTON *33rd-64th*
By Tom Fowler
Several weeks before the GP, I was the Head Judge of a GP Trial. The decks one would expect after Columbus were present there: Red Deck Wins, U/G Madness, Life, Scepter-Chant, Goblins, and more. The Rock and Tog were barely present. One of the finalists was playing a U/G deck, but it wasn’t anything that resembled a Madness build. He was using mana creatures, Wall of Blossoms, Opposition, Deranged Hermit, Meloku, and Gaea’s Cradle. It was a unique take on the Opposition decks of old, and looked like a blast to play.
A teammate got the exact decklist, and off we went. Immediately, we found a bunch of things we liked, and a few that we didn’t. Still, the deck had just done well in a large and competitive GP Trial (84 players, about twice the usual turnout), so we decided to play it as it was. We played a bunch of games against RDW, Goblins, and U/G Madness before deciding on what changes we would make.
The core of the deck was always the same, though: Opposition. It enabled us to win some games we would’ve otherwise lost, and it iced some wins that would have been very close. The deck was choking on four and five-mana spells, though, with Opposition, Ravenous Baloth, Masticore, Meloku, and Hermit. The mana creatures helped, but if we didn’t draw them (or if they died, which happened all the time against RDW), a handful of expensive men was the pits.
Over time, the deck evolved from a basic U/G Opposition deck into a U/G/r Opposition deck. I wasn’t positive on adding the Red at first, but an hour or so of playing with the Red build changed my mind. We added Flametongue Kavu and Fire//Ice. The aggro matchups, already favorable, became a lot better. Instead of having to wait for Opposition to tap down a Jackal Pup, we could simply blast it from play with the saucy FTK, or take out the Pup and something else with Fire.
We playtested as much as we could, which wasn’t as much as would have liked, since all three of us work and two of go to school on top of that. Still, we found a few evenings a week and some days on the weekends to bang out the matchups. Email helped a lot here, as there were times only two of the three of us could get together. After all the testing and emails, this is the deck we took to Boston:
Looks like a pile, doesn’t it? Yeah, I’m aware there are a lot of 3-ofs and 2-ofs on the list. Still, it works quite well when you build it and play it. I’m not going to go over all of the card choices individually, since that’s not really the point of this article. Why we ran the cards we did should become apparent through this tournament report.
Of Late Starts, Misplays, and Savage Beats
GP Boston was slated to start at 10 AM. We were at the event hall by about 9:20, which gave us plenty of time to buy the last few cards we needed (Engineered Explosives was a Friday night decision, and none of us had enough) and some new sleeves. Soon, 10:00 came and went with no sign that the GP was going to start. Having played and judged many large events, I’m used to things not starting exactly on time, especially events the size of most GPs.
However, the fact that we didn’t start shuffling for the first game of the day until 12:20 was patently ridiculous. Apparently, there were some issues with DCI Reporter and byes. Perhaps that was even announced, but the PA system was the pits, so all I heard was a bunch of gibberish that sounded like adults talking in the old “Peanuts” cartoons. And to really rub our noses in the funky spot, an extra round was added, “to account for the byes.” All of this was probably out of the staff’s hands, so I can’t fault them for it. Once the event got going, it was as smooth as any other GP, but the late start and the addition of another hour-plus on top of it definitely soured many moods.
Round 1: Adam Murray, Red Deck Wins
My hand in game one is average. He has a double-Wasteland draw, which sets me back quite a bit, since two of my first three land drops are Yavimaya Coasts. I never really get much going in this game, so it’s onto the next one.
Sideboarding: IN: 1 FTK, 1 Masticore, 3 Engineered Explosives. OUT: 3 Living Wish, 2 Tradewind Rider
Game two goes much more according to plan. RDW is a good matchup for U/G/r Opposition, especially after boarding. Wasteland doesn’t hurt me this game, as I get some early creatures to stay right with him. Spike Feeder helps a lot here, giving me +4 life early in the game, which just makes his job that much harder. Masticore shows up and wrecks his team, and we’re going to the third game.
I have another good start here, and this game is playing out just like the one before it. Masticore owns his squad again, and beats him down to 3. He then surprises me by dropping Ensnaring Bridge. Zoinks, Scoob, that’s a problem. Compounding the problem was the fact that I’d pitched two Engineered Explosives to Masticore so far – I didn’t need them at the time, since Masticore was killing his team, and the damage from the Poison Lion > the damage from Cursed Scroll. Another problem: I’d missed an attack with an Elf earlier in the game, opting to swing with only my Spike Feeder. I realized it right away, and immediately thought of football: missed extra points tend to bite a team in the ass. I build up a lot of guys with my Opposition, and manage to get him down to 2 with a 1/1 Spike Feeder. My misplay with the Elf really comes back on me when he cracks a fetchland – going to 1 life, just to put a fine point on that – and plays a Seal of Fire. Yes, I was at 2 from repeated Cursed Scroll activation. No, I wasn’t happy.
Record: 0-1 (1-2)
Round 2: Nico, Red Rock
I don’t see an Opposition in the first game thanks to his discard, but it ends up not mattering. Spike Feeder beats him down for a while, and he eventually drops a Spiritmonger. I chump it with the Feeder and gain 4 life, putting me to 17. That’s three turns to find an answer to this now-7/7 monster. Thankfully, I’m good at Magic and topdeck Living Wish, which gets me a Gilded Drake, which gets me his Spiritmonger. He pops a Pernicious Deed, but I have a Birds ready and willing to make the B that Spiritmonger needs to regenerate.
Sideboarding: IN: 1 Tradewind Rider, 3 Echoing Truth. OUT: 2 Fire/Ice, 2 Wall of Blossoms
In the second game, he went wild and crazy with Recurring Nightmare tricks. Solemn Simulacrum, FTK, and Wall of Blossoms continually took turns between coming into play and getting shoved off to the graveyard. Needless to say, this allowed him to get a superior board position on me, and even 32 life (yay, Spike Feeder) wasn’t enough for long.
In the third game, I miss something again. Not an attack this time, since I’m definitely on the lookout for every point of damage I can squeeze thru. No, I miss a chance to move a Spike Feeder counter when he tosses a Wall of Blossoms in front of my Troll Ascetic. Moving the counter and killing the Wall would have stopped him from doing the eventual Recurring Nightmare tricks he was able to do. It wasn’t as bad as the second game, but it was still preventable if I hadn’t been fixated on the “gain 4 life” aspect of the Feeder. This one ends in a draw. I now realize that I have to win out to make Day 2. I hope the title of this article didn’t kill the suspense for you in that regard, loyal readers.
Record: 0-1-1 L (2-3-1)
Round 3: Andrew, White Weenie
His first play is Plains, AEther Vial. I put him on either WW or Life, both of which are absurdly good matchups for the Opposition deck. He gets a pair of Mothers of Runes into play, along with a Silver Knight. Other than small mana creatures, my first man on the board is Masticore. Mr. Core proceeds to wreck his team and get in there for 4 several times.
For the second game, see the first game, except add an FTK to the mix.
Record: 1-1-1 (4-3-1)
Round 4: Patrick, RDW
In the first game, I mulligan and keep a mediocre hand. My early mana creatures are killed, and Wasteland wrecks my mana base. This one wasn’t close.
Sideboarding: See round 1.
The second game is much better. We go back and forth for a while, until Spike Feeder jump-starts be with +4 life right back up to 19. Troll Ascetic gives him all kinds of problems, as none of his removal can hit it, and it kills all his men in combat. An FTK shows up and highlights the disadvantage of Jackal Pup. Hey, that rhymed. Onto game three with a win for me.
The third game is very close. We again go back and forth for a while, though I don’t the life boost of Spike Feeder to help me out this time. The life totals are 5-4 in his favor late in the game, and that’s just not a good situation to be in. Thankfully, Masticore shows up at the top of my deck and destroys all his guys. He doesn’t have the burn, and I win a tight one.
Record: 2-1-1 (6-4-1)
Round 5: Mike, Life.dec
This is a good matchup for Opposition. There’s absolutely no way to stop them from going off, short of being lucky enough to fizzle a Worthy Cause with Tradewind Rider. However, the sideboard gives us Ambassador Laquatas, and a win by decking is still a win. In the first game, he goes to a zillion life. I get Tradewind a turn too late to stop that silliness, and I’m waiting for the Wish. He decides to make another of his guys really fat, and I’m wondering why until he taps a City of Brass for About Face. With a pair of Starlit Sanctums in play. That, friends, is a frown squad. And an unexpected one at that, since About Face was so last year. He did a good job of hiding it by not playing any lands which specifically tapped for Red.
Sideboarding: IN: 3 Echoing Truth, 3 Engineered Explosives OUT: 2 Fire/Ice, 4 FTK
He goes to a zillion life again in the second game. This time, however, I get the Living Wish, and the good Ambassador starts milling away his deck in chunks. He has more guys than I do, so he’s swinging while all of this is going on. Spike Feeder helps out here, giving me the time I need to finish milling his library.
Surprise, surprise: he goes off again in the third game. Again, I get Living Wish and use Laquatas to start milling him. I have a lot of mana creatures and a Gaea’s Cradle this time, so the process is faster. Tradewind Rider is there to ensure no shenanigans ensue with his Starlit Sanctum. I mill him 12 with Laquatas at his end of turn, then count his library: 12 card exactly. I do it again and say, “Go.” I have Tradewind and two other guys untapped. During his upkeep, he makes his Task Force really fat, and plays About Face. I respond with Tradewind’s ability. He extends the hand.
Record: 3-1-1 (8-5-1)
Round 6: Ken, RDW
For the first time in my three chances against this deck, I actually get a good draw in game one. Spike Feeder completely undoes his early attacks, and Opposition makes sure he can’t get back into the game once I get a Troll and FTK for offense.
Sideboarding: See round 1.
In game two, I decide to stall on two lands. Needless to say, my early mana creature doesn’t last very long. He makes a Blistering Firecat and swings with it, and my next draw is nothing that helps me.
Troll Ascetic shines in the third game. After his early fetchland, his life total decreases in increments of three: 19, 16, 13, 10, 7, and 4. He manages to get me into the single digits, which is always a bad place to be against RDW, but Spike Feeder pulls me back onto the good side of 10, and Troll does what he does from there.
Record: 4-1-1 (10-6-1).
My two teammates who were also playing this exact decklist are both 5-1 at this point.
Aside: The exhibition hall prices were ridiculous. I felt like I was in a movie theatre, only with more gamer funk. Bottled water and sodas from machines were $2.50; cans of the same were $2.00. I got lunch/dinner (linner? dunch? Neither quite has the ring of “brunch.”) after this round, and was able to enjoy my meal after taking a second mortgage out on my house. For chicken tenders, fries, and a large soda, I paid $12.50. To be fair, the chicken tenders were tasty and of a reasonable size, but still. The convention hall got a lot of people coming and going, between the $12 parking fee and the outrageous food prices. I’m used to hotels and other venues offering a discount on their food prices because (gasp!) they actually want to encourage the players to spend money there.
Round 7: Mike, U/W Parallax.dec
This is a deck I wasn’t expecting. It seems like he’s playing Scepter-Chant for a few turns, but the differences become apparent quickly enough. He uses Gilded Drake tricks to take my team, and Exalted Angel is gratuitous by the time she shows up.
Sideboarding: IN: 3 Echoing Truth, 1 Tradewind Rider. OUT: 2 Fire/Ice, 2 FTK.
He doesn’t get as good a draw in the second game, and this time, I get Troll Ascetic. We’ll have none of those Gilded Drake or Parallax Wave shenanigans, thanks. The Troll goes all the way since his removal can’t do anything about it.
In the third game, I finally get out an Opposition. I also mise a Living Wish to fetch myself a Deranged Hermit. Even though he’s able to use Gilded Drake to steal my Masticore, I can still tap him down enough for Troll Ascetic and Spike Feeder to do their jobs over the next two turns.
Record: 5-1-1 (12-7-1)
Round 8: Brad Taulbee, The Rock
Brad is a fellow I see all the time at PTQs and GP Trials in my area. I comment that it’s a good thing we both drove about 400 miles just to play each other in Boston. I get a quick Troll Ascetic in the first game, and I’m always careful of two things: 1. Leave regeneration mana open in case of Pernicious Deed, and 2. Have at least one other creature in play, preferably more, to soak up a Diabolic Edict. I’m able to do both, despite him pecking away at my smaller creatures with spot removal. After initially being unsure what to name with his Cabal Therapies, he tears my hand apart with it, but my board is solid enough to carry the game.
Sideboarding: See round 2.
This plays out similarly to the first game: I get a Troll Ascetic, and he tries like mad to get rid of it. Again, though, I have Deed and Edict protection for it. He plays Visara the Dreadful, which is a cause for concern. Visara kills a Spike Feeder, who helpfully donates its counters to a Troll Ascetic, meaning the Troll could swing into Ms. The Dreadful and take her down, while living to tell the tale. I draw a Living Wish and play it, thinking for a moment before selecting Gilded Drake. Look at the Oracle wording there and see how it differs from the printed wording. Not many people know how Gilded Drake works, and I’m hoping Brad is one of them. I play it, and he thinks for a moment before asking me what I’m targeting. I tap my finger on Visara a few times. He thinks again. The right play here is to respond to the Drake’s ability by using Visara to kill it, thus ensuring no exchange happens. Brad’s misplay – a rare thing for him – is to use Visara to kill herself. I shrug and put my Drake in the graveyard. He thinks he should get the Drake, but he doesn’t, since the exchange never happened. Paying 2UG for Chainer’s Edict is pretty good, but you can’t rely on good players to make mistakes often, even if you give them the opportunity. The path is clear for my Troll at this point.
Record: 6-1-1 (14-7-1)
Teammate update: One is 7-1 and is virtually ensured of making Day 2. The other dropped at 5-2. He didn’t think his tiebreakers were good enough to make Day 2, but I think I would have taken my chances and played it out anyway.
Round 9: Todd Derbyshire, U/G Madness
Madness is a very good matchup for Opposition. Heck, any deck that wins thru creatures is a good matchup. We found Madness to be about 65/35 game one, since they could just get a nutty draw that was too fast to hold off. Game two was literally 90% in our favor in testing, though. I know most percentages are bunk, but that one is absolutely legit: 90%.
Anyway, the first game is a prime example of why Waterfront Bouncer is the pits maindeck in Madness. That’s his first madness outlet, and it died a quick death to an FTK. Troll Ascetic, already in play, helped beat him down quickly.
Sideboarding: IN: 3 Echoing Truth, 3 Engineered Explosives, 1 Tradewind Rider. OUT: 3 Living Wish, 2 Fire/Ice, 2 Llanowar Elves
Those sideboard cards were awesome in testing. Bounce is good against U/G for obvious reasons, and an Explosives set on 2 destroys all their Madness outlets. He gets a better start in the second game, with Wild Mongrel being the madness outlet of choice. He also has Arrogant Wurms to play on turns three and four. I play an FTK, killing his Mongrel, then trading with a Wurm when he attacked. The second Wurm was blocked jointly by a Troll Ascetic and a Spike Feeder, who regenerated and gave me +4 life, respectively. He hadn’t yet found a fourth mana source, and I’d overcome his good start. The Troll started in with the beats, and Opposition combined with the mana creatures I had in play spelled game over.
Record: 7-1-1 (16-7-1).
I came all the way back from a terrible start, caused by my own careless misplays, to guarantee myself a spot in Day 2. My play definitely tightened up after those first two rounds, as I never missed a point of damage or a good chance to move a Spike Feeder counter again. Getting favorable matchups the rest of the way definitely helped. My teammate who was 7-1 going into the last round played someone who refused to draw, and he fell to 7-2.
Pairings went up, showing me in 27th place, and him in 49th. A lot of 7-2 players made Day 2, but a lot more did not. It was almost midnight when we left the event hall, and we had to be back at 8:45 for the 9:00 AM start on Day 2. After getting some crappy food delivered to our hotel room, we played a few games against Mind’s Desire and called it a night.
Day 2, or, When the Matchups Aren’t Good
Round 10: Jesse Marczyk, U/R Fish
Yes, Fish. I was surprised, too, since it hasn’t even been showing up in Vintage recently. This is the same deck that was profiled on magicthegathering.com.
He leads off with a Mogg Fanatic in game one, leading me to believe he’s playing RDW. His second play, though, is Spiketail Hatchling. I’m surprised by this, and by the fact that he didn’t kill my Bird after swinging with the Fanatic. It ends up not mattering, as he has plenty of disruption for my plans.
Sideboarding: I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to bring in here, since Fish wasn’t something I planned to face. I’d heard similar comments from my opponents, but now the shoe was on the other foot. I needed more removal and couldn’t have slow cards gumming things up. IN: 1 FTK, 1 Masticore, 1 Uktabi Orangutan. OUT: 3 Living Wish.
I mulligan to five in the second game, and keep a respectable hand. However, he has a Daze and three Mana Leaks to stop me from resolving so much as a Vine Trellis. It’s turn six before I get something to stick on the board, and by then, it’s too late, as he’s already suited up a Cloud of Fairies with a Sword of Fire and Ice. Losing is obviously the pits, but it’s nice to see another rogue deck do well.
Record: 7-2-1 (16-9-1).
Round 11: Marty, Aluren
Aluren is an absolute bye. Unfortunately, it’s an absolute bye for the Aluren deck. In the first game, he combos me out pretty quickly. I don’t put up any kind of a fight, which wasn’t very surprising. My hand would have been gassy against a creature deck, but against the uber combo deck of the environment, it ended up being stains.
Sideboarding: IN: 3 Engineered Explosives. OUT: 3 Living Wish.
I actually get a crazy good hand in the second game. I play a Bird on the first turn, a Vine Trellis on the second turn, and an Opposition on the third turn. He Wished for a Raven Familiar on his second turn, so I use my untapped Wall to tap down his Yavimaya Coast. This is the only way I can win this matchup: keep his lands tapped down so he can’t start to combo me out. However, the best-laid plans of mice and men often get wrecked by savage mising. With just a Llanowar Wastes for mana, he plays a Chrome Mox imprinting a Green card, and a City of Traitors. Then he plays Aluren. Then he combos me out. All of this, of course, is despite the fact that I drew the nuts against him. It simply didn’t matter. Afterward, he tells me he built his Aluren this way to be a turn faster than Desire. It seems to get the jump on Opposition decks just as well, slugger.
Record: 7-3-1 (16-11-1).
At this point, I’m out of contention for the Top 8. Because of pros in the Top 8, though, PT invitations usually pass down to the Top 12 or 13, so I can always shoot for that. There’s also the amateur awards to consider, since I came into Boston with no pro points. My teammate had pro points, though, so he dropped at 7-3. I decided to keep playing, planning to drop if I lost the next round.
Round 12: Frank, Scepter Chant
This is a pretty poor matchup before sideboarding, but it gets a lot better afterwards. In game one, I get the early offense, but he counters Opposition both times I try to play it, and gets Orim’s Chant on a stick soon after. Frown.
Sideboarding: IN: 1 Tradewind Rider, 3 Echoing Truth, 3 Engineered Explosives. OUT: 3 Living Wish, 2 FTK, 2 Masticore.
Game two does not start out well for me, as I have to mulligan down to five. On the play, mind you. My five-card hand is Forest, Island, Opposition, Echoing Truth, and Engineered Explosives, so I run it. His early Scepter (imprinting Mana Leak, a good call with me down two cards) meets Echoing Truth. Drawing the single Masticore left in the deck seems random, but it ends up being quite good. I don’t have a wealth of creatures, so my Opposition only keeps his Scepter (with Chant on it) from wrecking me and lets me tap down a morph. That all changes with Masticore. I have enough mana to shoot down an unmorphed Exalted Angel. There are few feelings in this world as good as that one, friends. I suppose wild marathon sex with a supermodel outranks it, but I definitely want to try that... just to make a fair comparison, of course. Ahem. Anyway, getting Our Lady of the Busty Beatings shot down not once, but twice, is not a good way for Scepter-Chant to win. Nor is an Engineered Explosives that wipes out both his Scepters. Masticore indeed goes all the way here, helped out by Troll Ascetic.
More Sideboarding: Masticore was so good here that I put a second one back in, taking out a Spike Feeder for it.
He’s obviously on the play in the third game. My hand is quite good, with mana acceleration, a Troll, and an Engineered Explosives. He plays Meddling Mage on the second turn naming Engineered Explosives. That rather sucks, but I still have ways of dealing with his deck. I make a Troll and pass the turn. He plays another Meddling Mage. Now it’s getting a bit thick in here, Jeeves. He thinks for a minute, with me silently encouraging him to name Opposition. Instead, he’s smart and names Echoing Truth. My next draw? Definitely Echoing Truth. Sometimes, loyal readers, you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you. The part of the bear in this game is played by a 4/5 Spirit Linked Angel. I have outs, as I’ve run him out of counters; Fire/Ice will buy me a turn, and Opposition will actually let me stabilize. Alas, neither is forthcoming.
Final record: 7-4-1 (17-13-1).
This six-and-a-half-hour ride home was spent with the three of us talking about the Boston field, Extended in general, and how to improve the deck. We had great matchups against decks which turn men sideways to win, but were rubbish against combo. Boston was, of course, won by a combo deck (the combo deck, to be more accurate), and this change was reflected in the PTQs. Combo become more prevalent, which forced some players to play control decks like The Rock and Tog to battle the tide. The U/G/r Opposition deck is not good in such a field. If your local metagame is still ruled by Jackal Pups and Wild Mongrels, however, then this deck is for you.
We made some changes to the deck, keeping the same colors but changing things around to give us a better chance against the combo decks. We were still punting Aluren entirely, which was not good after its win at Boston. Desire became a better matchup, slightly in our favor after sideboarding, but that was about the best we could do.
Maindeck changes in this version: +1 FTK, +1 Troll Ascetic, +1 Fire/Ice, -1 Spike Feeder, -2 Wall of Blossoms.
The sideboard changes were more significant. We minimized the Wish targets, leaving only Gaea’s Cradle, Masticore, Deranged Hermit, Gilded Drake, Ambassador Laquatas, and Tradewind Rider. The rest of the sideboard became the holdover trios of Echoing Truth and Engineered Explosives, and the new meat: 3 Stifle. A timely Stifle could stop Desire in its tracks. A Desire for 13 became a Desire for 1, but they could still flip up Cunning Wish or another Desire and mise the win that way. Echoing Truth on a mana reducer in response to a spell like Cloud of Fairies would make the deck spend a mana or two more than it wanted, meaning it couldn’t go off. And there were times that Stifling the untap trigger on Cloud of Fairies was the right call. Even with myriad choices, the matchup was, at best, 60/40 in our favor after sideboarding, and it was all Desire game one.
We started working on a G/B/u version of the deck, scrapping the Red entirely and playing Black for its potent discard. Our testing with this list is still preliminary, but here it is.
The combo matchups are noticeably better. Desire is very favorable both pre- and post-sideboarding. Aluren is now about 50-50, which is infinitely better than it was before. If you expect a lot of combo decks at your local Extended events (a very reasonable presumption at this point), this deck gives you game against them. We haven’t delved into the aggro matchups very much yet, but they’re good. They’re not as good as they were with the Red in the deck, but you can’t have everything.
Boston was a great experience and taught us all a lot. Hopefully, this report has taught you something about Opposition decks, which are still under the radar in the current field. Good luck, whatever you decide to play. Unless you decide to play Aluren, which means you are a slimy person whose foul odor repels even famished vultures.
By Tom Fowler on March 6th, 2005 · Filed in Extended (Type 1.x) · Comments not available just now
About Tom Fowler
Tom is a Level 2 judge who frequently works in the MD, DC, and PA areas. He is also an active player, and has written articles from both perspectives. Tom has judged numerous Pro Tours, but would like to make it there as a player at least once.