Two Weeks before Regionals: “Sure Dan, I’ll come up to Ann Arbor to test with you for Regionals, nothing better to do”.
Thursday Night: “Sigh, I guess I have nothing better to do Saturday, may as well play in Regionals”.
9:55 AM, Saturday Morning: “If this event is ten rounds, I’m just going to get my money back now and not play”.
9:55 PM, Saturday Night: “If I make a ‘Your mom’ joke to the head judge, will they DQ me and take back my plaque?”
My “preparation” for Regionals was more or less a Standard tournament Thursday night in Ann Arbor. I played a Faeries deck that was not quite enough. I lost to a Naya Bloodbraid Elf deck in the Swiss, crushed a Red-Black aggro deck, Swans, and lost in Top Eight to the Five Color Bloodbraid Elf deck Pat Chapin posted on Wednesday. My hands were the absolute nuts and it just didn’t even matter, I still had no chance. I played a few games with the Elf deck against WB and the mirror, and really liked how it could perform as both the aggro and control really well, much like Faeries used to be able to do. I headed down to RIW Friday night for werewolf battles and block testing, and made a couple changes to the deck based on talking to several people who played it, including Pat Chapin, Chris Jobin, and Kyle Boggemes. Then results started coming in. According to DJ Kastner and Kyle, the deck was the definition of rancid. The mana was awful, there was no card draw, etc; the complaints were endless. Chris and I were prepared to audible to Faeries and we sleeved up both decks for the standard "make the decision on the way to the player's meeting".
Saturday morning, I had talked myself into playing Faeries and sat down with DJ to brew ideas, but I couldn’t make a good list. I kept coming down to the last three slots or so and not knowing what to do, despite mixing it up. One configuration of the main deck looked decent, but the sideboard was just abysmal and there were zero Thoughtseize anywhere meaning I was pretty much cold to a Bitterblossom on the draw. With three minutes left before the player meeting, I almost dropped out to just sit around all day and watch people make bad plays but instead sleeved up these 75.
I would like to say I actually had some testing-based reason to run this specific build over either a Makeshift Mannequin or more controlling build of this, but it was really just that I wanted to tap their guys with Cryptic Command and smash.
Round 1: Brian Demars with UW Reveillark + Crucible of Worlds Control
It’s always awkward to face a teammate round one, especially when I wasn’t playing for the qualification. Still, I wasn’t going to run the round one scoop.
Game one is pretty simple. He lead with Terramorphic Expanse and a Crucible, which I Maelstrom Pulsed. After that, he didn’t get any real sources of card advantage going and eventually ran out of answers for my Cascading threats. Game two is similar, though I made a large mistake by choosing not to use the +2 ability on Jace Beleren one turn, letting him Wrath of God me and kill it with Mutavault. It doesn’t matter though, and I still ended the game ahead on cards. I boarded out three Pyroclasm, two Maelstrom Pulse, and one Cloudthresher for three Jace, a Broodmate Dragon, the Cruel Ultimatum, and the Identity Crisis. He got pretty unlucky this match by not drawing any “draw two” effects and almost having half his eight non-basics each game, making my Anathemancer actually good.
DJ ended up sticking with Faeries, and went 0-1 into drop due to being on life tilt from his match. Contrary to this result and what most people have said, I think Faeries is still a real deck, it just needs to evolve to beat the metagame like any control deck. The old builds just don’t have the proper answers for the format right now.
Round 2: Five Color Elf
His deck was a more controlling version then I ran, with Mannequins and no
Leeches, but he had Sower of Temptation and Mulldrifter as his blue cards with no Cryptics or Cruels. This seems very incorrect to me, as Cryptic Command is the main incentive to not just be three colors and gain some ground on Anathemancer. I guess that configuration could be a bit stronger against green decks, but Cryptic Command usually just rolls those anyways. Game 1 I only played 8 non-land cards to my 14 lands, but one of those happened to be Cruel Ultimatum, so I still won. He did make one large mistake however. I had a Putrid Leech in play to his Broodmate Dragon, token, and assorted other guys. I played Bloodbraid Elf and the ball landed on Jund Charm. I chose to pump Leech, do two damage to everything, and attack. He blocked instead of just taking it and lost his two turn clock when realistically I would have to have something like Elf plus Anathemancer or multiple Cryptics to race even if he had nothing. Game 2 he mulled and had mana issues. I tried to punt by Pulsing his Kitchen Finks when I had one in play I wanted to attack with, but it didn’t actually matter. I boarded out the Putrid Leeches, Pyroclasms, Cloudthresher, and a Pulse for the [CARD="Jace Beleren"]Jaces, Cruel Ultimatum, Identity Crisis, Burrenton Forge-Tenders, and Broodmate Dragons this match.
Spin that wheel!
Spin that wheel!
Round 3: Bant
Game one he played a Jhessian Infiltrator while his Noble Hierarch ramped into Finest Hour. He attacked, I Jund Charmed, then killed everything he played while bashing him with some random guys. Game two was similar, only he mulled and had some mana issues too. I honestly don’t remember how I boarded, only that I at least took out some Pyroclasm and brought in Wrath.
Round 4: Elves
Game one he started with Wren’s Run Vanquisher on two revealing a second Vanquisher, but I slow rolled the Maelstrom Pulse for the two for one. He ended up having all 4 Vanquishers, but I managed to kill them and a Garruk Wildspeaker and stall out some 3/3 Beasts until I drew Cruel and win. Game two he had a fast start off Manamorphose into Talara’s Battalion, but I fought them off and won with a Broodmate. I boarded in two Broodmate Dragon, one Cruel Ultimatum, three Wrath, and two Jace Beleren for three Pyroclasm, four Anathemancer, and two Putrid Leech. He didn’t have many two toughness guys for the Leech, but Jund Charm to rebuy Finks would have been relevant against his Chameleon Colossus so it stayed in. He was two colors with a lot of basics, making Anathemancer hardly optimal, and Putrid Leech isn’t the best combo with Wrath of God when it only trades with most of his guys instead of being a brick wall.
Round 5: Raja with Jund Ramp
Raja was back for vengeance, having lost to me in this exact same scenario at States. The situation was slightly different, as I was playing Spectral Procession to his Wren’s Run Vanquisher then rather than Cryptic Command, but I beat him at the 4-0 table in a tight match that went to game three.
Game one I ended up playing three Kitchen Finks, resulting in his double pumped Colossus only putting me to fourteen. I played around Anathemancer the whole game, and ended up winning with Cruel Ultimatum. Game two was close, as he had triple Anathemancer, but I pressured him enough to keep him from Unearthing them. The last turn he could have drawn an untapped land to kill me with an Unearth plus animate Treetop Village and swing, but he drew a Savage Lands and was one damage short instead. I boarded out three Pyroclasm, four Putrid Leech, the Cloudthresher, and Jund Charms for three Jace Beleren, three Wrath of God, two Broodmate Dragon, the Cruel, and the Identity Crisis. In retrospect, I should have boarded out the Anathemancers over Leeches as he was playing Rampant Growth and a bunch of basics, and I probably would have boarded in Pithing Needles as well to answer his Villages and Anathemancers I didn’t see game one had there been a game three.
Taking 21 points of burn from three cards is
some rough beats
Taking 21 points of burn from three cards is
some rough beats
Round 6: Jacob Elkon
Jacob was one of three people in the bracket I was hoping to dodge for the whole “dream-crushing friends is awkward" reason. I know him from Ann Arbor and his roommate Nate Poupard was the person who convinced me to play the deck. Jacob was playing the copy of the deck Nate had smashed me with in the local event earlier, which was the exact 60 Pat Chapin had posted, with some sideboard innovations like Time Stop. Our deck lists were something like 70/75 the same, with some of those being lands.
Game one I finally lost one. I mulled once into a hand with Reflecting Pool, Cascade Bluffs, and multiple Kitchen Finks, Cryptic, and an Elf on the play. I drew two more lands, but they were also Reflecting Pool and Cascade Bluffs. Interestingly enough, this game may have won me the match, as it gave my opponent incorrect ideas about how to sideboard. Game two he was the aggro and had one guy in play. I kept having to leave Cryptic up to avoid not getting Identity Crisised or Crueled, so I took a few beats for 3. The turn I was going to have to bounce his guy and draw end of turn to avoid dying to one Anathemancer shot he played a spell, letting me counter it and bounce a land to resolve a Cruel Ultimatum. I’m not sure if I would have lost had that not happened, but it’s a distinct possibility as I was behind on life and on board even with my alternate play of Finks with Cryptic up. Game three I vaguely recall him having Leech on two into Elf, but me having Finks then Elf into some kind of answer to end up ahead on the exchange. I boarded out Leeches, Pyroclasms, and a Pulse for the Thresher, Crisis, Cruel, Jaces, and Forge-Tenders. I could be wrong about Leech, but its only really impressive in the games you start out far ahead in my opinion.
Round 7: Brian Chung with WU Lark
This was one of the other match ups I would have rather dodged, both for the aforementioned battling a friend reason and the fact this match up is actually not that great for me. I didn’t scoop here for three reasons though. First off, I felt the odds of me being able to scoop a friend directly into Nats were very high and that a scoop into top eight wasn’t quite enough of a lock. Second, Brian would only have to win one of his next two as one X-2 was likely to make it as I planned on dream crushing in round nine to help out a couple people I know battling up the loser’s bracket and his breaks would be insane. Third, I had the fire to win at that point. I wanted the trophy/plaque thing, I wanted the 108 packs (as the head judge at that point had ruled discussing splits for wins in the top eight was legal and I planned on pushing the ship your 54 for the invite if I played a random), and I pretty much just wanted to smash someone.
Game 1 he played Island, Mistfield Borderpost on turn one through three, then Glen-Elendra Archmage on four. I Pulsed his Posts at this point after not playing it on three due to Broken Ambitions or Negate, which he had run in past events, and he never recovers. Game two I brought a bit of early beats while he played Mulldrifter, then he played Archmage. And another one. Definitely awkward, as my main ways to beat his engine are not creatures. I play to get him to burn the activations on removal or blocks that give him good value, but in doing so left myself open to straight up losing to Reveillark by burning my Jund Charms. He didn’t have it though, and I was able to play some Anathemancers and force him into the tough position of racing with double Faerie Conclave and persisted Archmages or leaving mana up to counter multiple spells while dying to my on board Grey Ogre beats. He played it well and didn’t race until he could double counter, but it he couldn’t deal with both the creatures and my hand. I boarded out Pyroclasms, a Maelstrom Pulse, and a Kitchen Finks for Jaces, Cruel, and Identity Crisis. Finks wasn’t terrible here, just unexciting as his removal was mainly Path to Exile and Sower of Temptation.
Round 8: Justin Bomia with Boat Brew
I played this one out to try to get one of my several friends at the top of the X-2 bracket into top 8, as well as to get the title. According to the reports of people I know who were testing with this deck while I was winning, this match up was unlosable, so I was definitely fine not drawing.
Game one I kept double Cryptic, double Anathemancer, and three lands that made my mana perfectly. I missed my fourth land drop and played Anathemancer to stabilize the board a bit against his Spectral Procession and inevitable more guys. He flipped a Figure of Destiny off Windbrisk Heights and passed back without a fourth land. I drew a Vivid Marsh and played the second Anathemancer. As expected, Figure stayed home while he played Knight of the White Orchid and another Figure. The next turn I drew another Vivid and have a hand of Maestrom Pulse, Cloudthresher, and three Cryptics. I determined the plan of action was to evoke Thresher and take the tokens down that turn, double block the Knight, Pulse the Figures the next one, and just Cryptic him out of the game from there. He had a Path to Exile to make the double block a bit less profitable, but the plan still went fine. He played Ajani Vengeant to make things a little unfortunate, but he didn’t try to shoot me with it and instead kept my lands locked down, and I go (in order) Pyroclasm your Knight, bounce Ajani and draw a card when he spent a turn on Mind Stones, counter draw his two Balefire Lieges, draw the fourth Cryptic for his Ajani, and obviously hit the one Cruel Ultimatum for the rest of his hand. Game two my opener had two Cruels, so I just play for that out. For example, I played a Putrid Leech on two, and didn't attack on turn three into his clear board so I could answer a future Ajani Vengeant that otherwise could get to 7 counters before I would Cruel. I ended up getting the opportunity for some good beats while playing the control due to Bloodbraid Elf, and he ends up at eight life. He resolved a Reveillark with Siege-Gang Commander in graveyard the turn before I would Ultimatum him, but I went for it anyways as I would be at nineteen post Ultimatum and only double Glorious Anthem would kill me, and I pretty sure he didn't even run the card. He didn’t have lethal, but he did have the Ajani Vengeant to go to 6 life, forcing me to actually play out the game rather then just play the other Ultimatum. Fortunately, Broodmate Dragon was enough to go the distance even in the face of double Forge-Tender.
In retrospect, it would have been better for my teammates had I drawn then convinced Justin to help me out on the dream crush plan, but quite frankly I just didn’t think about that. Even if I had, I didn’t know him well enough and he didn’t know the people I was trying to push for well enough for me to be sure he would go along with the plan. I also would have likely come in second after the Swiss had we both won round nine as his breakers were better, resulting in not actually having the official win.
Round Nine: Brandon with Sanity Grinding.
I know Brandon, I was a lock for 1st, so we IDed. There were two and a half real matches this round. White-Green Tokens at 6-1-1 was playing Red Aggro at 7-1 for a slot, and Jacob was battling Todd Maddock’s Aaron Breider special for eighth place. The deck was actually more or less the same thing we were playing, only with Bitterblossoms and no blue cards. In the unlikely event the later match went to time and drew or Jacob’s tiebreaks dropped five percent after he won, Jason Newill with White-Green Tokens was playing Raja for the slot. In the end the Red deck beat Tokens, and Jacob lost to Todd. Jason’s curse from States continued, and he was stranded at ninth due to the fact I didn’t get a dream crushable pairing.
Dave Rappaport, who did an excellent job of head judging, shipped the trophy, announced that word had come from Mike Guptil from an even higher authority that discussion of prize splits in top eight was in fact illegal, and I went to watch some block testing while the deck check occurred. The pairings were as follows
WU Lark (Brian Chung) vs. Grinding (Brandon)
WU Control/Lark (Josh Wludyka) vs. Red Aggro
Boat Brew (Justin Bomia) vs. WB Kithkin (Russel Slack)
Jund Brew (Todd Maddock) vs. 5C Elf (me)
Top 8: Todd Maddock
“So, you aren’t qualified for Nationals, right?”
“Nope, not yet.”
“Cool, see you there. Dave, I’m dropping.”
In the end, Black-White Kithkin, Red Aggro, and Grinding won the other matches. The third consecutive Regional Championship Winner plaque was dropped off at RIW Hobbies, and much werewolf and Elf mirror was played.
The deck was absolutely insane. The main deck Cloudthresher should be swapped with the sideboard Cruel Ultimatum, and I’m not sure if the anti-Anathemancer sideboard cards were the right ones. Forge-Tender was alright, but Pithing Needle may as well have been Fleshbag Marauder. At least that would have killed Chameleon Colossus. The slots could realistically also be Runed Halo or Thought Hemorrhage from what I can think of, but there’s probably some sick other option I’m forgetting. Its possible more Jund Charms would work, but that doesn’t stop the ones in hand. One of those could possibly be main decked over the third Pyroclasm, but there’s still enough Tokens of both varieties to question whether the extra choices are worth the mana. The Putrid Leech version was definitely much more impressive then the others, even with how often Leech came out. It just happens that the card is bad in one match up and bad with your post board plan for some aggressive decks, but all around its still a very solid card. I would much rather play it then do something like main deck Wrath of God, and there's not another two drop that fights as well as it does that you run in the deck.
For those who will be there, assuming this is up in time, I’m attending Grand Prix Seattle. I’m pretty sure I just want to be casting Cryptic Commands, and its likely to be paired with some other broken four drop, but I’m definitely open to other decks. I wouldn’t play Black-White, but Green-White looks interesting to say the least. Still have a couple weeks to test, so time will tell here.
Bonus Section: Faeries.
Here was the Faeries list I ran in the aforementioned local event. Its decent against the non-Bloodbraid Elf decks, but still needs a lot of work.
This card is still stupid good.
Thoughtseize should just be gone, as the days of the mirror are over. Vendilion Clique needs to be something with a larger body and flash, like Wydwen, the Biting Gale. I really want to try Faerie Harbinger too, as it plus Mistbind Clique leads to 20 flying damage over the course of 3 turns they are locked out. The Jaces should also be main along with another Plumeveil, and without Scion of Oona or hand disruption Sower of Temptation is real sketchy. Faeries is currently just another deck for the first time since Bitterblossom due to Bloodbraid Elf and the prominence of the always near-even Tokens match up, but the proper build is probably just as insane as always.