Thirst for Knowledge: Another Side, Another Story



[The forum software is having fits again, apparently being Canadian. You can view the thread to discuss this article here in the forums.]

Back in February, my roommate Ben and I had decided to go to Ontario, Canada to compete in a PTQ for Honolulu. The idea was that the competition there would be drastically lesser than that of the Michigan PTQs, and we felt like that logic justified the long trip to the Great White North. We turned out to be right about the competition, but wrong about the trip being worth it. That weekend in particular was the first weekend that Bant was a deck in Extended, and I was promptly destroyed by it in the first round. Ben did slightly better, but we both dropped after receiving our second loss. We spent another night in Canada before heading back to the United States, but not before Ben contracted some weird parasite/virus/sickness that caused me to have to call an ambulance to be sure that he wasn't going to drop dead before we crossed the border.

A week ago, my friend Jon pitched the idea of maybe getting a car together to go to the PTQ in Kitchener, Ontario. Considering that I could not attend Grand Prix: Seattle due to budget restrictions, I gave the idea some thought and asked Ben if he wanted to give the country a second chance. He resisted at first, insisting that Canada was obviously bad luck for us, but eventually he just gave in and told me he'd be at my place on Thursday afternoon. By that time I had gotten in touch with a few friends and assembled a full car of five for the trip, with two more people meeting us at our hotel later Friday night. We drove to Detroit, picked up a few people, and were on our way.

I'd like to start off the next portion by just saying that I hate Canada. I hate their McDonald's menu, their Burger King menu (they don't have Burger Shots!?), their highways, their hotels, their roadsigns, their gas stations, and I even hate Tim Horton's now. It always seems to be overcast and dreary whenever I'm there, and something awful never fails to befall someone in my group on my trips there. It's not that I have a problem with the people who live there in particular (though the people in Canada seem to be extraordinarily nice, which is almost creepy), but rather that I can't even begin to fathom living in a country like that. Maybe it's because I'm a spoiled American, but Canada just strikes me as an awkward place to live after living in Michigan all my life.


Pretty sick with Reveillark, yeah?
In any case, we made it to our hotel in Kitchener and started building our decks for the next morning. Brian Arnoldy, fellow RIW player and former Canadian resident (he got a lot of grief for this, as you can probably guess), was the only one of us aside from myself who had actually known what deck he was playing prior to making it to the hotel. Ben had a deck in mind, but no idea for a sideboard or even if he was satisfied with his maindeck. Travis Ladouceur, as always, wanted me to help him brew up a totally new list for him to play the next morning. We ended up building a sweet five color Reveillark deck with Anathemancers and Makeshift Mannequins, which we both thought was pretty solid. I had Faeries sleeved up and ready to go as my last article suggested, and Brian had UW Lark. Ben and Jon (the aforementioned friend of mine who had suggested this accursed trip) both had Five Color Blood as their deck of choice, but an email from Patrick Chapin from his hotel room in Seattle gave Ben a new deck to play: an update to the Blood deck, which was to be showcased the next morning at the Grand Prix.

While scrambling to find enough Syggs, I got a call from Gavin Verhey. I had talked to him on Magic Online a few days prior, and basically talked him into playing Faeries in Seattle. As soon as I answered, he asked me about Chapin's new deck, and I told him that I had it in front of me already. He asked what I thought of it, but I merely offered that I felt Faeries was still definitely the right choice. I asked what kind of a maindeck he'd settled on for Faeries, but he just told me it was basically the same one I had posted in my article last week. The only true difference was that he had added a Loxodon Warhammer to the main, which I knew was the doing of none other than Ari Lax. I talked to Ari for a few minutes at that point, ensuring that he had decided to play Faeries the next morning. I then had to try and convince Gavin to do the same, which I did pretty easily.

Me: "Gavin, play Faeries."
Gavin: "Convince me."
Me: "You get to play Bitterblossom, Mistbind Clique, and Cryptic Command."
Gavin: "I like where this is going."

Needless to say, I think I sold him on the idea. I wished both him and Ari good luck, and bid them farewell.

***

In the morning, we headed out to the event site. When we drove by the address, we were a bit confused when we saw nothing except a theme park, complete with a water slide and go-kart track. As fate would have it, however, that place was the tournament venue. I was going to be playing Magic at a theme park, with an arcade and foam obstacle course just a single room over. Maybe Canada wasn't so bad after all? We went on inside and registered our decks, taking a bit of time to scope things out. I saw few red decks, but also a surprisingly small number of Swans decks. Considering that I was playing Faeries in order to beat down on that deck, it was a tad disheartening to make this observation. I didn't pay it much heed, though, and just went on about my business anyway.


If I had a dollar for every time I lost to this...
My first round had me paired against a guy who lead off the game with a Mountain into a Mogg Fanatic. At this point, I was both shocked and a little upset. The biggest question was why this guy had chosen to play a deck that could not beat Swans just a week after the deck had won a Grand Prix, but I also had to wonder how unlucky I was to have to play against RB Aggro in the first round of the tournament. The match-up is far from unwinnable, but it is very challenging and most times comes down to the quality of draws from the two players. My draw in the first game wasn't superb, but I had Broken Ambitions, Cryptic Command, and some removal. That hand could have potentially gotten there, but he had three Volcanic Fallouts in that game coupled with two Flame Javelins at crucial points. I couldn't beat that. The second game was a bit better on my end, as I lead off with Bitterblossom and had a strong grip filled with Mistbind Cliques and Agony Warps. He had three Boggart Ram-Gangs and plenty of burn, and I just didn't have the cards to keep myself alive long enough.

Round two was slightly more awkward, but no less depressing. My opponent had brought BW Kithkin to battle with, which was arguably my second-worst match-up. I feel like I can usually beat the Kithkin deck, though I lost the first game (got destroyed, actually). In game two I stabilized at one life for seven turns after championing my Bitterblossom, and managed to use my opponent's Figure of Destiny to take the win. In game three, though, I made a misplay that cost me the match. He had a Goldmeadow Stalwart that was now a 5/5 via Ajani Goldmane and Rustic Clachan pumps, and he attacked me with it. I had a Faerie token, a persisted Puppeteer Clique, a Sower of Temptation (with nothing taken any longer), and a Mutavault. I blocked with my three creatures, but not the land, and he Reinforced his guy and blew me out. Looking back, there was no reason for me to not block with the Mutavault. There was nothing that he could have had that wouldn't have blown me out anyway. I mean, I suppose if he had Zealous Persecution I would have lost all of my creatures, but I'm not sure why it would have mattered at that point anyway. I suppose I might have made the right play (as I was being cautious about Zealous Persecution and didn't have him on holding another Reinforce land since he had already done it once that game), but in this case it didn't matter anyway. I drew two lands in a row, and then a Loxodon Warhammer to put on my token each turn to block, but eventually he drew into gas and I had nothing to stop him. At that point I could do nothing but concede and drop from the tournament.

Travis ended up doing poorly as well, and eventually everyone else in my group dropped. Considering that at least twelve Americans had attended this PTQ, it was shocking to see us all leave so early. To make matters worse, I found out later that the Top 8 ended up being two Swans decks and six Token decks, all of which I could have easily dispatched. I suppose it's out of my control, but playing my two worst match-ups in the first two rounds is awfully rough. I know it's unwise to blame your losses on bad match-ups, but in my defense those two match-ups are pretty bad. Better luck next time, I guess. Canada might just be bad mojo.

In any case, here is the list I registered:

Faeries
As suggested by Chris JobinMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Lands
4 Mutavault
4 Secluded Glen
4 Sunken Ruins
3 Underground River
1 Faerie Conclave
7 Island
2 Swamp

Creatures
4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Scion of Oona
4 Mistbind Clique
1 Plumeveil

Other Spells
4 Bitterblossom
4 Broken Ambitions
4 Cryptic Command
3 Agony Warp
1 Terror
3 Peppersmoke
2 Jace Beleren
1 Loxodon Warhammer



In retrospect, I don't think I should have played Plumeveil maindeck. The reason I played it was because I wanted a maindeck answer to Putrid Leech that didn't expend multiple cards, though other than that the card felt pretty narrow. It's a do-nothing against control decks like Five Color and Swans, and it doesn't apply any pressure if I needed it to. It's by no means bad, but I think it might have served me better as a two- to three-of in the sideboard. Also, now that Seattle is over and it's clear that Faeries is definitely back in a full force, swapping Peppersmoke and Thoughtseize around is probably right. The mirror match is now relevant again, and the decks that you want Thoughtseize against will undoubtedly become a bit more pronounced in the meta.

***

Back in the States, I texted Gavin to see how things were going. Both he and Ari had made Day Two, both playing Faeries. Michael Jacob and Josh Wludkya also had made Day Two (with Pat's new deck), and I was really excited for them.

When the Top 8 was announced with a total of five Faerie decks, I must admit I was pretty impressed. With a lower number of BW decks in the meta due to Swans and an increase in the number of control decks, Faeries was the deck that would naturally rise to the top of the metagame. I knew going into this weekend that Faeries was the right call, and Seattle proved it. The Canadian metagame seemed to honestly be two weeks behind (despite the two Swans decks being in the Top 8), and thus being "one step ahead" actually hurt me, rather than help me. I suppose this is the risk you take when you try and get ahead of the pack, and I certainly had it come back around to bite me last weekend.

As you all probably know, Ari and MJ lost in the first round of the Top 8, but I want to offer them both my congratulations regardless. I told Ari going into this that he could Top 8 the Grand Prix, and I was obviously very right. Congrats, also, to everyone who made Day Two. And thanks to Gavin for offering me his apartment as a place to stay had I gone, despite my not doing so. I really appreciated it!

***


Expect even more of these soon.
So with five Faerie decks in the Top 8 of Seattle and no sign of Swans, what does that mean for the metagame? I think the Doran deck might make a comeback due to its win at the Grand Prix, but I can't say for how long. I didn't think much of the deck even though it won the event, as I hate decks like that. It was mostly an aggro deck that had a midrange game plan, and that just doesn't do much for me. It's obviously a pretty solid archetype considering that it won a large pro-level tournament, but I definitely think that Grand Prix should have been Fae's, without a doubt. Still, five copies of the deck in the Top 8 is probably more than enough to justify naming Faeries as the clear winner of Seattle. I mean, what was it, a Block PTQ from last summer? Five Fae decks!?

Now, Faeries coming back means a few things. One, decks like TurboFog and Grinding will likely become pretty scarce, and GW Tokens will see less play as well. BW should actually see more play since it has a good shot at beating Faeries, not to mention that Swans will be less relevant since Faeries has scared it off. Chapin's new Blood deck should definitely be seeing a lot of play, as I can personally attest to how good it is. Sygg truly was the missing piece of the puzzle, and what the deck becomes is a strong aggro deck that has a great stage three to give it an edge vs Faeries.

Of all the decks that lose to Faeries, I think Reveillark is the one that will continue to see play. I personally love UW Lark, and I think that the deck has enough inherent strengths to keep it on top of the metagame, even in face of the reemergence of Fae. It can take down the token decks pretty handily as well as Elves and Swans (if you build right), not to mention that it can potentially slaughter the Blood decks. I'm going to be talking a lot more about that deck next week, though, so I'll save my thoughts on it until then.

I realize that this week's article was light on strategy and a little thick on the story-telling aspect, but I like to think that part of the enjoyment of reading Magic articles is hearing about all the parts leading up to the tournaments and things like that, so I thought I'd share. I've also had a busy weekend and not had a ton of time to test, so I don't want to throw too much out there before backing it up with plenty of results. That being said, I'll be back next week with my thoughts on the Reveillark archetype as well as some tips on how to tackle the upcoming metagame. To all of those going to Honolulu this weekend, I wish you the best of luck!


Until next time,

Chris "Shinjutsei" Jobin

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