Good Game: Another One in Albuquerque



Good Game: Another One in Albuquerque
by Andrew Hanson

This past weekend, myself and four other guys made the six-and-a-half hour trek to Albuquerque for a PTQ. But Magic wasn't the only thing on our agenda for that weekend. We also brought a Wii with us, as well as Super Smash Brothers, Brawl. We spent many, many hours on Saturday night playing 32-man, one-stock, single-elimination tournaments. Now, most of those players were just the computer, set to a random character, but at the hardest difficulty. It was still a blast. Games of Smash are so intense when they're only one-stock.
a

The Koopa King.
Of the many tournaments we played, the computer won most of them. I, though, had the most human wins: four. Two of them were with Zelda, who has gotten a serious power boost from Super Smash Bros., Melee. Her attacks seem to have a higher priority (meaning that when both the opponent and Zelda attack simultaneously, Zelda's attack hits whereas their's does not), and seem to deal more damage. Though her sparkle jump kick is harder to land now, it sends the opponent much further.

The other character to get two wins was—wait for it—Bowser. Turns out, this guy is a house against computers. They will reliably charge willy nilly straight at him, meaning you can rack up insane amounts of damage with his fire breath (his B button attack) or with his normal A attack (where he just swipes his claws back and forth). And once an opponent is around 75% damage, a smash attack pretty much ends them. Bowser is sick.

What? A Magic tournament? Oh yeah...The PTQ was...well, it was Standard. And though people keep talking about the death of Faeries, and though it sometimes briefly disappears from the tournament scene, the fact remains that the metagame always seems to circle back to the blue menace. This tournament was no exception. There were a lot of Faeries players there, and I was one of them. Here's my deck:

FaeriesMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Land
7 Island
4 Mutavault
4 Secluded Glen
4 Sunken Ruins
2 Swamp
4 Underground River

Creatures
4 Mistbind Clique
4 Scion of Oona
2 Sower of Temptation
4 Spellstutter Sprite

Spells
4 Agony Warp
4 Bitterblossom
3 Broken Ambitions
4 Cryptic Command
2 Jace Beleren
4 Peppersmoke




Even if you can't draw, kill the Heirarch.
After Massicard's win in Seattle, I felt like Faeries needed to have some extra hate for the Doran decks. That's what the four Peppersmokes are doing in the main, and why the 75 runs all four Sower of Temptations. Also, after five Faeries decks made top eight, I figured the anti-Faeries decks would be a bit more popular, so I wanted to have the best game against red decks that I could (hence, the four Agony Warps in the main, and no Terrors anywhere to be seen). I think my card selection to beat those decks was alright, as I took down all Doran and Black/Red aggro decks I came across.

Sadly, against other decks, like 5cc and the mirror, Faeries really needs to see one card to be in it: Bitterblossom. And I didn't get to make a turn two Bitterblossom play until my fourth match. But, enough of that. Here's the tournament:

Round One, vs. Cascade Swans

He won the roll, and I had to mull to six. No worries, though, as I had a fair number of counters in that starting hand, so when he went for his Seismic Assault on turn three, I had the counter for it. Then he played a Swans on turn four, which I didn't counter. Instead, I hit it with my Agony Warp.


If it hits the board, it's almost game over.
He got some beats in with man-lands, and did eventually drop a Bloodbraid Elf, but I countered the Assault that came off the cascade. And I did resolve a Mistbind Clique, championing a Mutavault that had gotten in a few points of damage. The Mistbind Clique pretty much went the distance, especially with a pair of Scion of Oonas backing it up.

Game one: win.

As for boarding, out came the Peppersmokes, the Sower of Temptations, one Agony Warp, and two Spellstutter Sprites, as they can't counter a turn three Assault while I'm on the draw. Plus, for them to be any good, I have to make a turn two Bitterblossom. In came the fourth Broken Ambitions, the Flashfreezes, and the Thoughtsiezes.

We both kept seven card hands, and I got to start with a turn one Thoughtsieze, though it came off an Underground River. His hand was Maelstrom Pulse, Bloodbraid Elf, Bituminous Blast, Vivid Crag, and another land. I took the Elf.

I started going aggro with my Mutavaults until he could play a Bituminous Blast, then I flashed in my Scion of Oona with enough mana open to counter an Assault off the Blast's cascade. He went for it, and hit a Maelstrom Pulse with the cascade. Yah for me. I did drop a Mistbind Clique again, and the beefy faerie ended up closing the game quickly again.

Game two: win.

Match Results: 1-0-0

Round Two, vs. Five Color Control


Annoying...
He won the roll, and I had to mull to six again. This time, I had two lands, but both were Sunken Ruins. Sadly, if I had known what I was up against, I probably would have kept it; I would have had the time to get my colored mana source, and my hand was full of gas (including a Bitterblossom). But I mulled, and did not get the enchantment.

I did start my beats with a Spellstutter Sprite, though. That, and a Mutavault, did some good work, but an Ajani Vengeant came down and I had to fight that off. Then a second one came down. Eventually, he had a Volcanic Fallout to sweep my meager board (except for the Vaults; I at least read the Fallout play right), and then played a Broodmate Dragon to finish the game.

Game one: loss.

Out came the Sowers, the Peppersmokes, an Agony Warp, and something else (I can't remember, maybe a Spellstutter Sprite). In came the Thougthsiezes, the Broken Ambitions, Jace Beleren, and a pair of Flashfreezes. I had to mull to five on this one, though, and I still didn't have a Bitterblossom, though I drew it on turn three. But, he had counter mana up, so I tried to maneuver it so that his lands would be tapped on my turn. Unfortunately, I was also lightly mana screwed, so that maneuvering took a while, and by the time I got my Blossom down, he answered with a Broodmate Dragon. The game didn't go well from there.

Game two: loss.

Match Results: 1-1-0

This is a good matchup for the Fae, but it needs to see a Bitterblossom to make it so.

Round Three, vs. Faeries


This card is everything in this matchup.
Ah, the mirror. The thing I was hoping to avoid, but knew I wouldn't be able to do it. The dude, though, flashed his deck at me while shuffling, and I couldn't help but notice the Mistbind Clique in there, so I knew I had to get to a Bitterblossom to have a chance here. I didn't get to it, but he did. On turn two, as well, and I had no counter for it. This game was a blowout. If you've ever done the Faerie mirror, you know that it's all about the Blossom, and if one player has it while the other doesn't, there's almost no hope for the player not getting free creatures.

Game one: loss.

As for boarding, in came the Ambitions, the Thoughtsiezes, and one more Sower. Out came the Jace Belerens and the Agony Warps. I had to mull to six, and even though I didn't have the Blossom in it, I did have a Thoughtsieze with some other action. So I got to Thoughtsieze him on turn one, and get rid of his enchantment.

On turn two, I flashed in a Spellstutter Sprite to get the beats on, but I got a bit land screwed again, and couldn't find my fourth land. He did, and eventually got a Mistbind Clique on the table. My 1/1 could not compete with his 4/4.

Game two: loss.

Match Results: 1-2-0

Wow, there was my PTQ. But, I paid the money, and I was stuck in Albuquerque anyway, so I didn't drop. Besides, with a 5-2-0 record, I could get prize.

Round Four, vs. Doran


Even Faeries has problems with him on turn two.
He won the roll, and I mulled yet again. On the bright side, I had a turn two Blossom this game, and he did not have a turn two Doran, the Siege Tower. My tokens played defense for a while, until I managed to get a Mistbind Clique to stick on the board. I thought I was golden, but he killed my Clique and then overran me with Treetop Villages. It was sad, too, as I had him down to 3 life when he killed me.

Game one: loss.

In came the Flashfreezes, the Deathmarks, the Sowers, and the Jace. Out came the Broken Ambitions, all the Spellstutter Sprites, and two of the Bitterblossoms. If he landed a turn two Doran, I was screwed, so I set up my deck to play more reactive on the first two turns rather than focusing on a quick Blossom and then countering all their mid-range drops with Spellstutters.

Of course, I still had a turn two Bitterblossom. When I don't need it as much is when I see it. The game went almost the same as the previous one with one exception—I had the counters to answer his removal against my Mistbind Clique. It was another close one (Treetop Village is a beast), but I pulled this one out.

Game two: win.

I didn't change my boarding for game three. He opened with a turn one Birds of Paradise off of a Forest. I killed it with a Deathmark. Turn two, he just dropped a Treetop Village. Wow. He kept a risky hand, and was really banking on that Birds. At the end of his fourth turn, I played a Scion of Oona (he didn't play anything to counter). I played a second Scion soon after, and between the two, I was hitting pretty hard. He never did get any damage in against me that game, as I had an answer for pretty much everything he played.

Game three: win.

Match Results: 2-2-0

Round Five, vs. Doran again


So good against green and white.
Here we go again. He was on the play, and made a turn two Dauntless Escort. I took a few hits from it while I countered and dealt with everything he played after that, eventually killing the Escort, too. I made my Spellstutter no-counter play, and then made a Mistbind Clique play. He had no answer for the 4/4 flyer, and the game ended soon after.

Game one: win.

I used the same sideboarding strategy as before. He made a turn two Gaddock Teeg, whom I let live because, really, the only thing he affected in my deck at that point was Cryptic Command, which I didn't even have in my hand. Again, I went on the double Scion plan, using my counters and kill spells to keep the lead. It looked scary for a moment when he dropped the Wilt-Leaf Liege, but I answered it with a Sower, which is really good when you have two Scions in play. So between the Scions and the Sower, I had lethal (8 damage) on the board.

Game two: win.

Match Results 3-2-0

Round Six, vs. Grixis Control?

This deck looked and behaved a lot like five color control, but it was only three colors: black, blue, and red. I won the roll and opened with a turn two Spellstutter for the beats. He played a turn three Anathemancer, but I only had one non-basic in play, so I let it resolve, then threw down a Scion of Oona. On his next upkeep, I played the Mistbind Clique, championing my Spellstutter. It was over soon after.

Game one: win.


I forgot how annoying this guy can be.
I still wasn't sure what he was playing, so my boarding was probably off. I put in my Thoughtsiezes, my Jace, and my Ambitions, pulling out the Peppersmokes and the Sowers. Really, I think I should have ran all the Sowers, taking out the Agony Warps in their stead.

I didn't have any early plays this game, but I had counters and a Scion of Oona. I even had a Mistbind Clique play, and was pounding on him. But he had tried for a Demigod of Revenge, which I had countered. Then he got me to tap out on my turn by trying to flash in a Wydwen, the Biting Gale, which, again, I countered. On his next turn, he played a second Demigod, and hit me for 10 damage, putting me down to 8 life.

I must have been out of counters, because on his next turn, he tapped my guys down with a Cryptic Command and swung for the win. Wow, Demigods can swing a game like nobody's business.

Game two: loss.

I had to mull once in this game, but opened with an early Bitterblossom. I even made a turn three Scion behind his turn three Anathemancer. Things were looking good, but I got stuck on four land for a while. He tried for a Demigod, but I countered it. Then, on my turn, he tried to flash in that damn Wydwen again. However, he only had one other card in hand and I knew it was a Crumbling Necropolis from an earlier Thoughtsieze, so I wasn't too worried about tapping out on my turn to counter it.

Of course, that's when he rips the second Demigod. My life was low enough that, with my one blocker, I couldn't survive.

Game three: loss.

Match Results: 3-3-0

There went my chance at prize, now, too. But, I stayed in because what's one more round of Magic?

Round Seven, vs. Black/Red

What's one more round? My worst matchup, that's what. And he won the roll, so he was on the play. Thankfully, he kept a crawling hand, and didn't make a play until turn three, with a Boggart Ram-Gang. But guess what? I had the turn two Bitterblossom again. And it was okay, because it let me play my two Mistbind Cliques. One of them blocked the Ram-Gang, because he's really annoying, and the other championed the first to get rid of his -1/-1 counters. It's really hard to fight against two Mistbind Cliques, regardless of what deck you're playing, and the game was mine soon.

Game one: win.


Still a nightmare for Faeries.
As for boarding, in came the Flashfreezes, the Loxodon Warhammer, and the pair of Deathmarks. Why? Because it can kill both Boggart Ram-Gang and Figure of Destiny, both of which are otherwise pains to deal with.

Speaking of which, he opened with the Figure, and I did not have a way of dealing with him. I did, once again, make my turn two Bitterblossom play. I even got to counter something with a Spellstutter, but a Hellspark Elemental hurt, and his Volcanic Fallout that killed my Scion and Sprite really hurt. He got me down to 4 life, and then played the Flame Javelin. I was out of counters.

Game two: loss.

Game three, he opened with a turn one Mogg Fanatic, and put me on the ropes right away. There were a series of card trades in those first four or five turns that left him at 20 life and me down to around 10. But, I had a Spellstutter Sprite in play while he only had two Ghitu Encampments, and when I equipped my Faerie with a Loxodon Warhammer, I found out he was out of burn in hand, too. The Sprite connected three times before finally getting killed.

But then I drew two Scions in a row. The first came down at the end of his turn, and on my turn I equipped it. He threw a Flame Javelin at it, but I flashed down the second Scion, and swung for the win. After the game, someone pointed out a potential problem.

My Warhammer might not have been able to equip the Scion, as I played the second one, so the first had shroud. I didn't even think of that in the game. Neither did my opponent. Of course, it's only true to say that I couldn't have had the Whammer on my Scion if the opponent Flame Javelined my creature in response to the equipping, which he never actually specified. By the time we realized that anything could have been amiss, we had already packed up our cards.

Game three: win.

Match Results: 4-3-0


Not a legitimate strategy.
So, I finished 29th out of 96 players, and didn't get any prize. Sad. My last few PTQ experiences have been pretty blah lately, too. I think part of it is that I'm really bored with Standard right now, so I'm hoping M10 will shake things up enough that the PTQ in Phoenix at the beginning of August will be more exciting for me.

As an aside, I'd like to throw a "Thank You" out to Mike Flores. Last week, he wrote about a cheat called the Double Nickel, in which a player pile shuffles in stacks of five twice to get near perfect mana distribution. I, nor the people that went to Albuquerque with me, had ever heard of it before then. But one of us got paired up with someone doing it in Round One, and called the judge. That player was disqualified from the tournament. Dirty cheater. Thanks again, Mike!

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