Prepping for Nats #1: Fun /w RG Beats
By Dave Feinstein on July 18th, 2008 · Filed in Standard (Type 2) · Comments not available just now
Hi. This is Dave Feinstein.
I recently qualified for Nationals via a top 4 finish at Regionals and plan on openly talking about my preparation for U.S. Nats in a series of articles. I was never into articles that talked about what the author would do for a big event but ended up being completely false and/or misleading. I just want to talk about strategies and decks that I actually plan on using for Nationals. I don't know what the end result will be and there's a good chance I just get smashed, but I enjoy writing so here we go...
I have always wanted to go to Nationals. Every time I tried to qualify for it, I always came up just short. I didn't even bother going last year because I just didn't want to grind through 9-10 rounds and hundreds of sweaty magic players for the slim chance of making top 8... which then would mean I'd have to win again and make top 4. That wasn't my idea of fun.
This year I still didn't plan to go to Regionals. I really wasn't thrilled with standard because there's really only one card I wanted to play with and he currently isn't legal.
Kird Ape: That'd be me.
Dave Feinstein: That's corre- what the hell?! Get out of my article!
Kird Ape: Make me.
Dave Feinstein: *Sighs* I can't.
Kird Ape: That's right. You are nothing without me.
Dave Feinstein: I qualified for Nationals without you! I don't need you!
Kird Ape: Nice Tattermunge Maniac you got there.
Dave Feinstein: Not everyone can be you, ok? Now let me do my article!
Kird Ape: I'll be baaaaaack.
Ugh. The nerve of some 'people.' Anyway, I wanted to play with Kird Apes and I couldn't. That sucked. Still, I held out hope that there would be something that suited my fancy. I worked on various lists but nothing really caught my eye. Every aggro deck I made was just completely outclassed by Kitchen Finks. That was depressing. I searched and searched for something that would make me want to play Regionals.
I knew Regionals would be defined primarily out of decks that came from the results of Pro tour: Hollywood. Just outside of top 16 laid a deck that immediately caught my eye:
Robert Dougherty- Finish 38th PT Hollywood
The one card that was in this version that I had not been testing in any version of my RG beats (and there were many ) was Kavu Predator. Basically, he's insane. With Finks in many top-tier decks, he'd probably get big in a hurry. Sometimes he might even get bigger than a Tarmoy-
Tarmogoyf: NOTHING IS BIGGER THAN THE TARMOGOYF.
Dave Feinstein: Oh for the love of--
Tarmogoyf: WE ARE THE TARMOGOYF. ALL YOUR DECKS ARE BELONG TO US.
Dave Feinstein: Get out of my article. You keep this up I won't borrow you for Nationals!
Tarmogoyf: BORROW? THE TARMOGOYF DOES NOT UNDERSTAND.
Dave Feinstein: You are expensive! I sold you when you were nothing... then they had to go make Tarfire and now you think you're big stuff! Well I'm not buying you again! Now get out of my article or I won't give you anymore face time.
Tarmogoyf: WE ARE THE TARMOGOYF. YOU WILL BUY US. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.
Ugh. That guy seriously got too big for his britches.
I knew immediately that I wanted to play a version of this deck. However, there were a few things that immediately stuck out at me. Mainly the fact that it had no Flame Javelin's. I can't fathom an aggressive red deck not playing that card right now. So I tweaked the mana to support it as well as some other tweaks to my liking and this is what I ended up running at Regionals:
I played around with the main deck some more in cutting Greater Gargadon and Countryside Crusher. The idea was to 'go small' and swarm then finish with burn. If that plan didn't work then the deck had the ability to 'go large' with Goyf and Predator, giving it some semblance of a mid-game.
So the maindeck was just about where I wanted it. The sideboard was where I went haywire. There were so many cards that I felt should be in the board, the main one being Magus of the Moon. The only thing my board had in common with Rob's was we both used Riftsweeper and Vexing Shusher. One of those would be incredibly useful, the other... not so much.
Just under 270 people showed for Massachusetts Regionals. This would mean 9 rounds of swiss with a cut to top 8. Then the 'lucky ones' would then be pitted against one-other in a battle to the death where the top 4 survive to Nationals. Nice tournament.
Round 1- RB Husk: Win 2-0
Both games came down to me racing Gargadons. I was in single digits each game but I managed to eke out enough burn to finish him.
Round 2- URW Lark: Win 2-0
Game one he mulliganed and I saw nothing. Boarded in Magus not knowing what he was, and he fires out 2 Gargadons. He had a chance to get them out and race me but didn't go for it.
Round 3- URW Lark: Lose 2-1
Game one finds me racing Gargadon for the third round in a row. Once again, I managed to just burn him out before it came knocking on my skull. Reveillark is not a terrible match, very close to a coin-flip really. What cost me the match was Arbiter of Knollridge.
Losing was bad. Losing to that card was worse.
I was sad.
At this point, I really just wanted to call it a day as it was well over 90 degrees in there.
Kird Ape: Where was Nick Lachey?
Dave Feinstein: Not funny.
I decided to trudge it out until my deck was ready to go home. I wasn't too upset because Arbiter Of Knollridge is probably a card I would not face again.
Round 4: Faeries- Win 2-0
He leads with double Bitterblossom game one and all that does is speed up his doom. Game 2 Flashfreeze keeps hitting me but I still manage to continually fend off Mistbind Clique with Flame Javelin and manage to finish with little guys.
Round 5: 5c Wafo/Quick'NToast/I need a more descriptive deckname
Game 1 Predator got big. Game 2 he killed it quickly. Game 3 I mulligan into a poor hand featuring just Kavu, so I figure I'm toast. As luck would have it, he had a fistful of Primal Commands and Kitchen Finks so it went all the way.
Round 6: GR Drop a Deus- Win 2-0
Both games he never saw Deus and I was always able to keep Chameleon Colossus off the table.
Round 7: Mono Red Burn- Win 2-0
Game one I managed beat him at one life. Game 2 he had triple Dragon's Claw and I had triple Kitchen Finks. It took 4 tries but eventually I got a predator to stick and it became a 14/14 for the win.
Round 8: UW Lark- Win 2-0
I had quick starts both games and he never saw any copies of Wrath of God.
Round 9: Intentional Draw /w Lark
So much for dropping and going home. I was now in top 8 and still had not lost a game 1. Earlier in the day I talked to Rob Dougherty, who happened to be the Tournament Organizer of the event. I spent some time showing him the changes I made. He was surprised at some of the alterations, but appeared even more surprised when I made top 8
Top 8: Faeries
Game 1- I won the die-roll and led with double Tattermunge and a Fanatic while he was stuck on a faerie conclave because he mulled to five.
Kird Ape: Must be nice.
Alright, alright. I had an easy game one. But game two was where things got interesting. Earlier I said Shusher and Riftsweeper were the only two cards from Rob's board that I carried over into mine. I alluded to the fact that one of them would be very clutch where the other would do absolutely nothing. This is the match where they both would determine my top 8 fate.
Game two I boarded out Marauders for Shushers and Rift Bolts for Magus of the Moon.
My opponent leads with double Ancestral Visions while Vexing Shusher is sitting in my hand laughing maniacally at me. I flood the board hoping to kill him before he draws 10 million cards, but the turn before I'd be lethal his first visions pops off and I walk right into a Damnnation. From there he's able to stabilize and every Magus I try to stick to the board is removed or countered.
I'm kicking myself at this point for not bringing in Riftsweepers but am happy I'll have another chance to correct my mistake. It also dawns on me while sideboarding for game 3 that I really just want to revert back to being pure beatdown since I'll once again be on the play. Keldon Marauders join the Riftsweepers and Shusher/Magus take a hike.
Game 3 my opening hand has some burn and Riftsweeper. My opponent leads with Ancestral Visions and I'm happy as a clam. If clams could be happy. I then curve out with some Marauders and a Javelin while he's stuck on 3 Mutavaults. By the time he sees another colored mana source I have enough burn to win.
Final record: 8-1-1 and qualified for Nats!!!
Who needs Kird Ape?
Kird Ape: You'll see. I'll show ya.
Overall, I was thrilled with the deck as it never lost a game one. Games two and three were often rough going, but the deck just had enough 'oomph' to finish anyone not running Aribter of Trashcan.
Most notable in my game ones was Keldon Marauders. I cut Countryside Crusher for him because although Marauders doesn't stick around long, he'll always plink for 2 and if he does the full 5 damage, it's usually very easy to burn the opponent out. Another plus for Marauders was that it didn't care about sweep effects, which are ripe in the format right now. Along with Keldon Marauders, Mogg Fanatic also doesn't care about things like Wrath of God/Damnation and most notably Firespout. Almost every deck I faced had one of those three cards, including the faeries in top 8 that wrecked me with Damnation game 2.
Flame Javelin deserves to be mentioned again, because it was that good. I asked Rob why he didn't include it in his version and he said it was due to the mana being tight. I told him I couldn't imagine running the list without it because it provided a finisher where no other card would have in many scenarios. Supporting Flame Javelin meant that I had to run more basics and cut Pendlehaven and a Mutavault, but it was well worth it.
Another reason for less non-basics was so I could run Magus, who was incredible. Often times he'd take the spot of Keldon Marauders after game one, then if I was on the play versus a non-finks deck he'd be swapped back out again.
Kitchen Finks was great against burn, and although that was the only match he came up big in, I was grateful he was in my board.
Wheel of Sun and Moon was interesting. It was there for Lark and I ended up hitting that matchup 3 times, going 2-1 against it. Wheel was key in many of those games, although I'm not sure I'd have it in the sideboard again.
Really the only sideboard card that was completely useless was the one card that I thought for sure would be great. One would think a 2/2 uncounterable creature that stops counterspells would be amazing in a field of blue decks, but really all it did was sit in my board and laugh at me. Then when I brought him in he'd laugh at me in my opening hand. He'd probably be popping in this report and laughing at me right now, but immediately after the tournament I set all copies of him on fire.
See you in Hell, Shusher!
Kird Ape: That ain't right.
At this point in time I plan on running the deck again for Nationals. Most people who qualify at Regionals end up playing the same deck, so that shouldn't come as a surprise. For me personally, I've been actively testing many different decks since Regionals but this is still the front-runner for me. Recently I added another Fire-lit Thicket, cutting a Forest for it. It's made the mana even smoother and allows me to get turn 2 Predator's/Goyfs with turn 3 Javelin mana available, which is huge.
I'd recommend the deck for anyone looking on a viable red-based aggro deck in standard. The deck is very explosive and also fun. If you plan on giving the deck a spin I STRONGLY suggest playtesting with it beforehand. It may look straightforward to play but situations will arise where playing the correct spell on the correct turn will result in you winning or losing the game. For example a hand with 2 lands, Tattermunge, Mogg Fanatic, Keldon Marauders, Rift Bolt and Tarmogoyf could be played several different ways. Tattermunge/Marauders are the most common and powerful pure starts the deck can get, but leading with them isn't always right. Sometimes you want to suspend Rift bolt on turn 1 and play goyf turn 2 with a hand like that. It all depends what you're facing. Now if one of those two drops in your hand is Kavu Predator, you might want to run him out there if there are any Groves in your hand. If you think you're up against Finks then you'd always run Predator out on turn two.
If one of those lands in your opener is a Mutavault, sometimes the correct play could be running it out and activating it ASAP if you're holding Shard Volley. Or maybe you don't have Volley but you just want your Goyf to be a little bit bigger when you cast him. I could spend an entire article on different ways to play the deck, but the best I can tell you is you want to maximize damage without putting yourself at risk. It sounds much easier than it is.
Kird Ape: Or You could just play Taiga and me on turn 1. You can't lose!
Dave Feinstein: Shut it.
Looking into Eventide, I don't see much for the deck. The only card that sticks out as a possibility is Stigma Lasher, but I'm not sure he's good enough. Yes if he hits they don't gain life for the rest of the game, but that's a big if. His primary obstacle will always be Kitchen Finks, and he only trades with Finks. The wither is nice but I want to be hitting the opponent with him, which means if they have Finks out I'll have to use 2 burn spells to sneak Lasher by. That almost certainly will never be worth the card disadvantage I've caused myself to swing with him. Plus Lasher shuts down my Predators, which isn't very exciting.
That's it for this edition of Prepping for Nationals. I'll be tackling limited in-depth for my next article, which I hope to have up sometime next week after spending some time with Eventide.
Before I go, here's a quick decklist I recently piloted at my local FNM. I come from Rhode Island, the arm-pit of New England... but almost every player in the state converges on one store which makes even the FNM's very brutal. I split in the finals of a 36-man FNM playing UW Merfolk. It's worth noting that I split with another Merfolk player, who was also testing the deck for Nats.
Ok, I'm leaving for real this time.
Thanks for reading!
- Dave Feinstein
By Dave Feinstein on July 18th, 2008 · Filed in Standard (Type 2) · Comments not available just now