Whoops: A Tournament Report for Arizona States

Whoops: A Tournament Report for the Arizona States
by Andrew Hanson

The anticipated MVC for States.
Whoops. If you have been reading any of my other articles, you know that I've been testing and thinking a lot for States. I had been predicting high levels of five-color control, Faeries, and Monored Demigod. I don't know about the other 49 states (or Canada), but in Arizona, the metagame was not quite so lopsided. Faeries had a strong showing, as did Monored. But five-color control was not nearly as dominant as I had anticipated, and kithkin's Mirror Master deck was quite popular. And, like any event with an open invitation, there was a whole slew of home-brew and rogue-ish builds. Merfolk, the deck I played, did not seem to have much representation (certainly less than Faeries, Monored, and Kithkin), but did make two of the top eight places.

Was I one of them? Maybe. Maybe not. If I told you, my report would lose so much of its dramatic edge (not that it has much to spare, anyways).

But, in case you haven't read my FNM reports, here's the deck I ran on Saturday.

My U/W Merfolk deckMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Adarkar Wastes
8 Island
4 Mutavault
4 Mystic Gate
4 Wanderwine Hub

4 Cursecatcher
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Sower of Temptation
4 Stonybrook Banneret
4 Sygg, River Guide
4 Wake Thrasher

4 Sage's Dousing
4 Cryptic Command

The star of a Cinderella story?
I had thoughts of maindecking the Deft Duelist for States and putting the Sower of Temptation in the board, but decided that, pre-board, I typically have a good game against Faeries and five-color control decks, but can have problems against very fast builds like White Weenies or Elves. So the Sowers stayed in the main.

The venue where the tournament was held was packed with 132 competitors. Around 10:30, we were seated alphabetically so that the judges could collect our decklists in a similar order, and shortly thereafter the first round pairings were posted. As I got to my seat, I tried to calm myself despite the butterflies with razors for wings tearing up my stomach. Tournaments, especially big ones with a whole bunch of people I don't know, always rock me with nervous energy.

Round One

My opponent in round one played a black/white deck that I can only describe as Panda Incarnate. Many of the cards in the deck were black and white (hybrid or classic multicolor, it didn't matter), and he ran a couple of the Eventide cards that liked it when you played that color combination.

A 5/5 Tidehollow Sculler? Thank you.
He won the die roll and chose to play. We both kept our opening seven, and he opened the game up with an Arcane Sanctum, followed by a Tidehollow Sculler on turn two. That Sculler was a bit rough, as he took my Stonybrook Banneret, which prevented me from being able to play a Silvergill Adept on my second turn. So instead, after my turn one Cursecatcher, I dropped a Mutavault and passed. At least my manland kept his zombie back. The opponent didn't do anything else until turn four (slow hand, I would find out next game), but I drew a Sygg, River Guide on my third turn and got the Adept down.

Then he dropped Edge of the Divinity on the Tidehollow Sculler. I'm not a big fan of playing with Auras—the inherent card disadvantage of it bothers me—but there is something to be said for the scariness of a 5/5 crashing in on you. Especially when I missed my turn four land drop. We traded blows and he went for an Ajani Goldmane, but I had a Sage's Dousing to stop it, which drew me into a Mystic Gate. So, on turn five, I played my land and a Wake Thrasher. Remember what I revealed for my Silvergill Adept? Sygg came down on the next turn, and the Thrasher started getting there. Plus, with a Sygg down, I was able to stop the giant Tidehollow Sculler from beating my head for a turn—just long enough to bounce the Sculler with a Cryptic Command. Wake Thrasher then got in there for the win.

Game One: me. 1-0

As for boarding in this match, I had no idea what he was actually playing other than black/white stuff. So I didn't actually change my deck up at all. I thought about swapping the Sowers for the Duelists in case my opponent brought in the creature hate, but then I thought about Edge of the Divinity. It's not too often that Sower of Temptation gets to take two cards with its triggered ability.

The deliverer of a savage beating.
Our first turns were identical to last game's. On turn two, though, he dropped a Nightsky Mimic. That actually worried me, as it can be a very fast, big flier. At least I got to play my Adept on the second turn. He followed up with a Sculler, taking a Cryptic Command away, and jacked me for four. I dropped a Mutavault, a Banneret, and a Cursecatcher. He played a second Sculler and took away my Sygg, River Guide, hitting me for four more. Left with only land, I swung in, hoping to keep up with the shapeshifter. Woe was me when he enchanted it with an Edge and swung in for seven. I drew a Merrow Reejerey and swung in for a lot, but not enough to finish it.

He only had one card in hand, which he'd been holding for a while now so I suspected it as a land, and I still had a Reejerey and a Cursecatcher back to block. He needed to draw a black/white spell to win that turn. So he draws, thinks for a moment, and then crushes my hopes by dropping a third Sculler, which was the card he had drawn. Phooey.

Game two: him. 1-1

For the third time, I got to open Island, Cursecatcher. Sadly, this kind of thing did not always happen when I went up against the control matchup. He responded with a Nip Gwyllion. Here's to hoping he didn't have an Edge in his hand for an attacking 4/4 lifelink on turn two. As it was a real concern, I played my Sygg on turn two. Normally, I like to wait until turn four so that I can drop him and protect him, but the thought of a giant Gwyllion made me play him sooner, so that he could block with pro-black on turn three. Luckily for me, he didn't have the Aura—just a Sculler that stole my Cryptic Command again.

This + Edge = scary on turn two.
I played a Mutavault on three, and he answered with a Bitterblossom. I thought about that one life he'd lose a turn, and decided to turn aggressive. In went Sygg and manland. Over the next couple turns, he took a good amount of damage, but must have been sick of Sygg protecting my guys and had nothing else good in hand, as he played Infest to clear the River Guide off the board, which also killed the Sculler. I got my Command back, but I was short on blue sources as I had two Mutavaults on the board. He took four from them after the Infest. When they came in again, he played Unmake on one of them.

We were both running on empty as far as our hands went, and the Mutavault kept getting there. He played another Gwyllion to buy some time, and played Esper Charm twice, trying to dig into something good. But he hit nothing, and the Mutavault finished him.

Game three: me. 2-1

I filled out the slip and handed it to a judge, who happened to be a friend of mine. We started joking and he said he didn't want my slip. I kept insisting that he take it. So he did, and then ripped it in half. Man, what a jerk.

Record: 1-0-0

Round Two

A black Blaze and so much more.
My second opponent, who was also named Andrew, ran a blue/white/black control deck that capitalized on Reveillark to generate card advantage and Profane Command to do the same while finishing off an opponent. I won the roll and chose to play. We both kept our opening seven, and he opened with land, land, Mindstone, Arcane Sanctum, and an evoked Mulldrifter. I, on the other hand, opened with Cursecatcher, Silvergill Adept, Wake Thrasher, and a Mutavault drop on turn four. He tried to get off a Sower of Temptation, but I had the Sage's Dousing. He conceded as the Wake Thrasher had him dead.

Game one: me. 1-0

Though he didn't do much in game one, I knew he was playing control, so I put the Duelists in and pulled the Sowers out. The Sower of Temptation is good, but it dies to so much, and I hate trading a four-drop for a two-drop removal spell.

So...much...card advantage.
His opening four turns were only land drops. I made a Deft Duelist on turn two, but didn't have much after that, drawing into land and no merfolk for my Adept. He went for a Reveillark, but I countered it with a Dousing, drawing into no cards as I had no wizards in play. But I finally hit a merfolk and dropped my Adept, which he killed on his next turn with an Infest. I hit another Adept, dropped it, and got in with my Mutavault. He Esper Charmed to draw some cards, then played Wrath of God on his turn.

That sucked, but I had a Reejerey in hand, so I played it and swung for three with my manland. He Esper Charmed at the end of my turn again, then dropped a second Infest on his turn, followed by a Mulldrifter. I played another Reejerey and got in there, but he Wrathed it away on his next turn, following up the board sweeper with a Reveillark. Wow, did that game turn on me. I eventually hit some more creatures, but he had a mitt full of control, and saw all four Reveillarks that game. Eventually, I was out of gas and he was still drawing more cards.

Game two: him. 1-1

I didn't really change up my board, as his deck ended up being exactly what I thought it would be after game one. I needed the Duelists, as they can dodge all his spot removal and force his hand with the board sweepers. Again, I got to open with a turn two Duelist, but didn't have the opening Cursecatcher—and this is the match that I really want it for. I also made an Adept on turn three, followed by some Bannerets later. But he hit all four Mulldrifters in the early- and mid-game, drew into board sweepers and Reveillarks, and smothered me in card advantage. Again. I only saw one counter that game, but it couldn't make much of a difference when my hand was low on cards and his was still full. Sad face for me.

Game three: him. 1-2

As I didn't win and didn't get to turn in the slip, no judge ripped it in half. And now, with a loss this early, I would have to win out the rest of the swiss rounds to make top eight. Quite a daunting prospect.

Record: 1-1-0

Round Three

It can trump a Cryptic Command.
I'm still not sure what my opponent was playing this round. It was some kind of monoblack home-brew that attacked the hand with Distress, Thoughtsieze, and Hypnotic Specter. Part of the reason I'm not sure what was in it was that this match went fast. He won the roll, chose to play first, and mulled to six. I also had to go to six, but I liked my six. He opened with Swamp, Swamp, and Distress, hitting my Cryptic Command. Why doesn't anyone let me keep those?

I opened with Wanderwine Hub, Hub, Adept, revealing an Adept. He played a Thoughtsieze on three to put Sygg in the bin, so I played my second Adept. He dropped an Oona's Prowler, but made the mistake of blocking one of my Adepts. I had a lot of land in hand, so I pitched two of them to kill the faerie without losing my merfolk. He dropped a second Prowler, but I responded with a Reejerey, making the land in my a hand like a kill spell on the faerie rogue if it blocked. Which it did.

He took a bunch of damage while I drew cards and didn't play them, fearing a maindeck Infest, or some such. He was down to 3 life when he dropped a Hypnotic Specter as a blocker. My Sower stole the Hippie, and he conceded.

Game one: me. 1-0

I didn't bother boarding, as I had no real idea of what he was playing. My seven was pretty good, and he mulled to six. He played a Swamp and passed. On turn two, he drew and passed. No land. I couldn't believe, and still can't believe, that he kept. I dropped an Adept on two and a Thrasher on three. He never had a chance, especially when, on turn five, he finally hit his second land and tried a Dismiss. I played Cryptic Command, countering the spell and chosing to bounce one of his lands. He just scooped.

Game two: me. 2-0

It may not seem like much, but it's
everything when you don't have it
Let this be a lesson to all out there who fear mulliganing to five cards: never keep a one-lander while your still at six. Maybe, and I mean maybe, you can keep a one-lander at four cards. Otherwise, keep digging for something that gives you game. Of course, if you're playing Extended Elfball, a one-lander may be acceptable. But in Standard, it almost never is.

Oh, and the judge ripped my slip in half again.

Record: 2-1-0

Round Four

He's good in Monored and Monowhite.
For this match, I was up against monowhite kithkin. I'm not sure if it was the Mirror Master, as my opponent never played some signature cards of that deck (Mirrorweave, Windbrisk Heights, Spectral Procession). Either way, I was happy when he dropped his first little man, as Kithkin is a good matchup for me.

I won the roll and we both kept our opening seven. I opened with a Cursecatcher on one, a Sygg on two, and a Wake Thrasher on three. As he was playing a white creature based deck, I didn't fear for loads of spot removal, so I went for the throat right off the bat. He opened with a Figure of Destiny, pumped the guy up on turn two, then dropped an Oblivion Ring on my Thrasher. Doh! Well, what can you expect? I think my deck was the only one there that didn't maindeck some form of removal. Heck, I didn't even have any in my sideboard.

But, I had more merfolk, and they all got played with mana behind them for a Sygg activation. One of them was a second Wake Thrasher. Despite the fact that he was developing his board quite nicely, he couldn't handle the Thrasher-Sygg combo, especially when I dropped a Cryptic Command during his End Step to tap down all his dudes.

Game one: me. 1-0

First Strike. Lifelink. 2/2. All for WW.
For this match, I pull three of my Sage's Dousings and put in Pollen Lullaby. Weenie strategies typically play threats at the same time I am, and the Dousing ends up being sub-par. But the Lullaby buys a turn in the mid- or late-game, hopefully when my opponent and I are damage-racing.

We both kept seven, and he opened with a Knight of Meadowgrain on turn two. I went Cursecatcher, Banneret, and a Sower of Temptation on turn three to steal his knight. That little llama-rider is so good. Stealing him at just about any point in the game changes the board so dramatically. My opponent had played an Order of Whiteclay on his third turn (something I did not expect to see), and a Kitchen Finks on his fourth. That kept me back for one turn. Then I drew a second Sower, took the 1/4 blocker, and swung in with my flyer and first striker. He answered with a Knight of the White Orchid, but my next turn involved playing both a Sygg and a Thrasher. When I showed him the Cryptic Command a turn later, he scooped.

Game two: me. 2-0

Some people say the Merfolk's best matchup is agaist Faeries, but really, I think it's this one. Or, more accurately, any other creature-aggro deck that doesn't have a lot of spot removal. Giving Merfolk a chance to build is a fatal move, as they can race the aggro decks without a cheater card like Cryptic Command. Throw in the blue instant, and it doesn't even seem fair.

The judge decided to stop ripping up my result slips at this time. We didn't want to annoy the scorekeeper who was plenty busy already, and earlier, I saw him taping one of my ripped slips together, which made me feel like a jerk. So from then on, we exercised a bit more restraint.

Results: 3-1-0

Round Five

A sure sign of Mirror Master.
Another kithkin player. For this match, though, I knew I was up against the Mirror Master on turn one. He played the Windbrisk Heights. But I think I'm getting ahead of myself. He won the die roll—guess what he chose to do—and we both got to keep our opening seven. I must say, my deck treated me quite well on Saturday. Even at FNMs, or maybe I should say especially at FNMs, it seems like I am constantly mulling to six cards because of one land or five land openers.

He led off with the Heights, like I said, then played a second one with a Burrenton Forge-Tender. He ran those maindeck, which was actually a pretty good metagame read. Monored was a popular deck there. My opening two plays were a Cursecatcher (not so great against the little white men) and a Mutavault into Silvergill Adept on turn two, which is really good. Then he dropped a Wizened Cenn and got in there with the Forge-Tender. Again, as I was up against white and figured the deck can't play that much removal, I made an early turn Sygg. And he stuck.

The kithkin player made a Knight of Meadowgrain, which is scary by itself, but with a Wizened Cenn on the board, he is downright terrifying. I had the Sower of Temptation. Unfortunately, my opponent had the Unmake. But he had to wait until his next turn to play it, so the Sower bought me time to drop a Wake Thrasher and another land so that I had a Sygg activation up. His only play left was to drop an Ajani Goldmane and activate the second ability. Sure, it hurt, but whatever. We had been trading blows all game and now the Sygg and Thrasher combo was online. There was nothing he could do. Thrasher got there for the win.

Game one: me. 1-0

Give me an F. Give me an O.
Give me a G. Oh, wait.
Game two, the only boarding I did was to swap out three Dousings for three Lullabies. Thinking back on it now, though, against Mirror Master, which makes all kinds of big plays in the mid- to late-game, maybe I should have boarded out the Cursecatchers, which only ever get in there for a little damage before they're eclipsed on turn two or three by big kithkin. It's something to test out.

He opened this game all aggressive, with a turn one Figure of Destiny. Me, I just played a Mutavault. He didn't have any other one drops, though, and all he did was pump the Figure and get in there, leaving one Plains untapped. Maybe he had Condemn, but I doubt it. On turn three, though, he made a Kitchen Finks. My turn two was the Banneret, which led into a turn three Sower that stole the Figure. He had the land available to up the kithkin to a 4/4, which would pound down a stolen Finks, so I took the bigger threat, even if it was weaker in my hands. At least I could throw it in front of the Finks to get rid of it.

He answered my theft with a Goldmeadow Stalwart and a Wizened Cenn, but I answered that with a Silvergill Adept, a Merrow Reejerey, and a Cursecatcher. The next turn, I dropped a Wake Thrasher, too, while he didn't have much left to play. The game looked too good for me, I guess, because he conceded then, even though I didn't have him for at least two more turns. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, right?

Game two: me. 2-0

At this point, I was beginning to hear how other deck types were doing. It seemed that the five-color control decks weren't doing very well, Faeries was rocking out, as well as Monored and the kithkin variants. I actually had a decent matchup against the five-color control decks, but I still hate playing against them (I hate playing against mass-removal). I was glad to hear that kithkin was doing well, as that was possibly my best matchup. I felt neutral about Monored and Faeries. Against Faeries, I have a good pre-board game, though post-board it gets hairy. Monored is just a crazy matchup where the real questions becomes, “Do I see my red color-hosers?” and “Do they see a way to deal with Burrenton Forge-Tender and Sygg?”

Record: 4-1-0

Round Six

I finally went up against a true five-color control deck in this match. If you are unfamiliar with the deck, it runs the Vivid lands out of Lorwyn, Reflecting Pool, and the best control cards out of the five colors of Magic. Pretty self-explanatory, huh?

Easily the best creature in my deck.
He won the roll and got to keep his seven while I had to go to six. And my six was mediocre. My only early play was a Silvergill Adept, but I had no merfolk to play it with. Well, he opened all slow the way decks that run 12 “comes into play tapped” lands are wont to. I drew a second fishman, Stonybrook Banneret, on turn three, so played my Adept, which got its soul removed courtesy of a blue instant. Then he dropped a Finks, which I took with a Sower of Temptation. On his turn, he played Bant Charm on my Sower.

So I made my Banneret play, took some damage from a Finks, then made a Reejerey, Cursecatcher play. He Bant Charmed my Reejerey. Then, on his next turn, he went for a Cloudthresher. There was no way I could handle a 7/7, so I Sage's Doused him, and followed up on my turn with a Wake Thrasher. He then played Firespout, which more or less sucked hard for me. But he was running out of gas, just like me, and I fended off his Finks with a Cursecatcher. Then I drew a Sygg. It took a while of both of us doing little, but he couldn't handle the River Guide.

Game one: me. 1-0

For boarding, I swapped the Sowers with the Duelists. I figured, he was probably boarding in extra Wrath effects and maybe some Condemns, so I wanted more fast drops that could put serious pressure on him. We both got to keep our opening seven. He opened with a filter land, and I with a Cursecatcher. He made a Reflecting Pool on turn two and passed. Maybe he had another Remove Soul? Sadly, the only thing I had to test the waters with was my Silvergill Adept.

Which didn't get countered. Boo-yah.

On turn three, he just evoked a Mulldrifter—a sign that the deck needs to dig for something spicy—while I was dropping Mutavaults and swinging with my two dudes. This game actually went by quickly, with him trying to stall me with Cryptic Commands, and me getting in with manlands still.

Never trust four land up.
There was one turn, though, where I felt like a total noob. He passed turn with four land up. I knew, I really knew, he had the Cryptic. So what do I do? I activate my Mutavaults and ask to declare attackers. As soon as I said it, I was slapping my forehead. What on earth was I doing? Normally, a player that knows how to play Magic would wait for the Cryptic to tap down all creatures, then activate the manlands and swing. Not me, though. I like to put them right in the way of the Command. Thankfully, I had him so far on the ropes, that the loss of tempo didn't cost me the game. But if I wanted to make top eight, I would definitely have to shore up my plays.

Game two: me. 2-0

Only two rounds left. That top eight spot was actually looking like a possibility. All I had to do was win the next two matches. Of course, they would also probably be the hardest matches of the Swiss rounds.

Record: 5-1-0

Round Seven

I had to play against Monored Demigod. This matchup is so tricky for both players, and really comes down to how each player spends their cards. Notice my word choice. I say spends because it seems like both players are making trades left and right until one of them emerges with clear board superiority. At least, that's the pre-board game. I have a lot of experience with this, though, as Monored was the most popular deck choice at my FNM for quite some time. My great hope was that my opponent wouldn't really know how to do this matchup as Merfolk was not a predicted major player in the metagame.

Ever gone fishing with dynamite?
He won the roll, and we both kept our seven. He started with Mountain and Mogg Fanatic.
I made a Cursecatcher. He swung in and I blocked. Heck yeah, let's get that Fanatic off the board so my Banneret in hand would be safe. He followed up that attack with a Figure of Destiny...and no land drop. I tried not to make a face, but he kept a one-land opener. When I asked him about it at the end of the match, he seemed comfortable with it, like it was the right play, but I'm still not convinced. If he was playing the deck I think he was playing, he wants to be making land drops all the way up to turns four and five. But, that's just my opinion, and I don't play Monored in competitions. I just playtest against it.

On my turn two, I laid down the Banneret, which led into a Mutavault and a Reejerey. He hit his second Mountain on turn three, though, and already had a second Fanatic on the board (two Fanatics and a Figure were probably what convinced him to keep). On his fourth turn, he Incinerated the Reejerey and Fanaticked (not a real word) the Banneret. Next turn, I played another Banneret, got in there with my manland, and prepared to take some more damage from the 2/2 Figure. He didn't have anything to play on five, and I dropped another Reejerey followed by a Sygg on my turn.

He drew another land and had the opportunity to kill Sygg, but he didn't know what else was in my hand and instead tried to hold his lead in the damage race by playing a Boggart Ram-Gang. But I dropped the Wake Thrasher on my next turn. If you've never played with or against this guy, please trust me on this. He completely skews the math involved in damage races. I never gave my opponent a second chance to burn out a merfolk, and the Thrasher ended it.

Game one: me. 1-0

My anti-red...
Time to sideboard against red. Out came the Sowers (a four-drop that dies to one- and two-drops; no thank you), the Cursecatchers (they can't typically counter anything, and what replaces them is so much better), and the Sage's Dousings (for much the same reasons I take it out against kithkin—when I want to play it, I'm playing other stuff, and I am not the control deck in this matchup). In went Reveillarks, Deft Duelists, and Burrenton Forge-Tenders (the card that replaced the Cursecatchers; see what I mean by much better?).

We both kept our opening seven, and he started off with a Mogg Fanatic. I started off with a Burrenton Forge-Tender, and my opponent looked less-than-pleased. But, he wasn't trying one land again, and made a Stigma Lasher on turn two. But I made the Duelist on turn two. Really, my hand was crazy. The opening seven (in the order I drew them; I actually remember this much detail on this one) were Island, Sygg, Burrenton Forge-Tender, Mutavault, Island, Wanderwine Hub (which just about made my heart explode with joy as it was my W source), and Reveillark. It was the anti-red nuts.

He dropped a Ghitu Encampment on turn three and passed, using his two open mana to Incinerate my Reejerey that I played on three. Then he dropped another land and played a Pyroclasm. Goodbye, Deft Duelist. I laid down a Banneret, and he didn't do much about it on his next turn as he was getting low on cards. But then I drew a Mystic Gate, and laid down the Sygg. In went my Banneret, and he blocked with his manland. Cool. In the end, I knew that by giving the Banneret pro-red so that it could kill the Encampment would mean the end of Sygg. I was alright with it, though, as that meant my opponent was one more land away from a Demigod of Revenge, and I still had the Reveillark in hand.

...card suite.
Sure enough, after my Banneret killed the manland, Sygg died to an Incinerate. But the 'Lark came down, and my opponent had no answer to it. The game ended three turns later.

Game two: me. 2-0

Now, some people thought that Merfolk would be a bad metagame choice as it is supposed to have a horrible matchup against Monored. But I'm fairly certain that the data they're using for that argument comes from pre-Alara Standard. I've found that, without Magus of the Moon, the matchup is a lot closer, maybe around fifty-fifty. Which is what makes it so scary. It really comes down to the quality of the hands and the quality of the pilots. And I recognized my opponent as a frequent player at the top tables during PTQs and such, so, really, I thanked my lucky stars that my hand was so good.

Record: 6-1-0

Round Eight

Telegraphing the Bitterblossom.
So here I was, just one match away from the top eight. After the standings were posted, I realized that I could draw into the top eight. But it wasn't meant to be. I got paired down to someone that absolutely had to win to make it, so we shuffled up and I won the roll. I got to keep my seven while he had to go to six, and I opened with a Cursecatcher. He opened with a tapped Secluded Glen. Faeries. Well, the plan pre-board was a simple one. Get as much down as early as I can, and then protect my tempo with counters.

Turn two I played my Banneret, which I wanted to set up my next play. My opponent played an Adarkar Wastes (which told me to expect Esper Charms) and attempted to Agony Warp my Banneret. I'm not sure if he missed the Cursecatcher, or if he just figured that killing the Cursecatcher was as worthwhile, but I sacrificed the fishman to counter the spell. My next turn, I dropped a second Cursecatcher and a Wake Thrasher. His turn three was much less impressive. He only played a Vivid Creek and passed turn. I threw down another Banneret and swung out. He tried to flash in a Spellstutter Sprite, presumably to block the Thrasher, but I Doused it.

I know, the Sprite wasn't exactly a threat, but that attack put him down to dangerous life levels considering I had a Mutavault in play, and I had another Dousing in hand. He drew for turn, didn't hit anything that would save him, and scooped when I swung on my next turn.

Game one: me. 1-0

Simply a beast.
Like I do against control decks, I boarded the Duelist in for the Sowers. We both kept seven, and he opened with land on one and two. I opened with only land on one, but an Adept on two. He flashed in a Spellstutter Sprite in response, knowing he couldn't counter the Adept, just wanting a blocker. He dropped a Faerie Conclave then, and started to play the control game where he sits back and responds to my plays. But over the next couple turns, my plays were sick. I dropped a Cursecatcher to handle any Cryptic Commands, then a Reejerey, and a second Silvergill Adept. He had actually Thoughtsiezed me during these couple turns, taking my own Cryptic Command. But then I laid a Sygg and a Thrasher, and dropped his life to 5. He tried with a Mistbing Clique to play defense, but I just gave my Wake Thrasher pro-black and pro-blue (in that order) and he scooped.

Game two: me. 2-0

By this point, I really had to run outside and blow off some energy. I just made top eight. And not only did I make top eight, but I had 21 points, which would give me the first place seed (those that went 6-0-0 drew their last two matches to assure their place in the single elimination rounds, putting them at 20 points). So after much rejoicing, I went back into the venue and tried to calm myself, getting ready for the next round.

Record: 7-1-0. First Place Seed.


It's Double Dragon, only without the
8-bit graphics.
So, after all the logistics stuff that we had to go through was done, we got the top eight started. I was paired up with a young man named Sam Meyer, and he was running a deck that was completely off my radar. It was this Jund mana-ramp build where he accelerated into Broodmate Dragon, which is pretty scary when it comes down on turn four.

He won the die roll, but had to mulligan down to five cards while I stayed at seven. He complained a little about it—nothing excessive or annoying, just what you'd expect from someone that had to mulligan to five in the first round of the top eight—but got started. He opened land, land, Rampant Growth. I opened Hub, Hub, Banneret. Turn three, he dropped another land and played a Sprouting Thrinax for defense. I dropped another land and a Merrow Reejerey. He played more land and started swinging. I did likewise, hoping he'd keep it up as I had more damage on the board, plus I played a second Banneret.

But then he went for a Broodmate Dragon on turn five. I countered it with a Cryptic Command. He tried a second one on turn six. I had no more counters. Gulp. Sadly, I couldn't get past the dragons for much damage, and he killed me in two swings. Nice mulligan.

Game one: him. 0-1

Can't stop pro-red...until he dies.
As for boarding, I knew he was playing at least a little red, and the dragons were red. So I put in the Burrenton Forge-Tenders, pulling two Cursecatchers and two Sage's Dousings. We both kept our seven and I opened with Adarkar Wastes into Burrenton Forge-Tender. He wasn't happy about that, but not really that upset either. More annoyed than anything, I would guess. But I followed it up with a Silvergill Adept on two, with a Banneret and another Forge-Tender on three. His plays, conversely, were Treetop Village, Twilight Mire and Fertile Ground on two, with two more Fertile Grounds on turn three.

On turn four, I dropped a Reejerey, and he answered with a Sprouting Thrinax, who is a red guy that can't block my Forge-Tenders who were going aggro. On my next turn, I dropped two more Forge-Tenders (all four!) and he scooped.

Game two: me. 1-1

I made no changes to my deck as I still didn't know exactly what he did, and the possible defensiveness of the Forge-Tenders made me all warm and fuzzy. I got to keep seven while he went to five again. I felt a little bad for him, but at the same time, it was the top eight, and I wanted to win. He opened with a Treetop Village, a Savage Lands, and a Fertile Ground on turn three.

Mana Leak? Please.
(Disclaimer: If a Banneret is in play.)
I came out with a Cursecatcher on one, a Banneret an two, and a second Banneret and Reejerey on three, leaving me one land open and a Sage's Dousing in hand (a counter that only costs one thanks to the two Bannerets). He didn't really hit anything else, and my army swarmed him.

Game three: me. 2-1

After game one, where he slapped me down with a five card hand, I was really worried. But his seven card hand was pretty iffy with that tweaked land base and all those Fertile Grounds, and his third hand was ponderous. Lucky for me, my hands were pretty good and I had a decent chance at winning even if he had a solid seven.

Record: 8-1-0. Though, by this point, record is meaningless, and all that matters is going on to the next round, which I did.


Why was he in Kithkin?
Oh yeah. Because he's awesome.
In this round, I got paired up with Johnny Bates, one of the top players in the State. He was running the Mirror Master, which I knew before this round as he sat next to me for a couple rounds during the Swiss. He won the roll, and we both kept seven. He opened slow, with a Windbrisk Heights, Mutavault, and a Plains into a Stillmoon Cavalier. My opening wasn't that fast, either. I dropped a Cursecatcher on one, nothing but a Mutavault on two, and a Wake Thrasher on three, which would have been awesome if he didn't Oblivion Ring it on his next turn. I followed up with a Reejerey and another Cursecatcher, but the game started to fall apart on me from here.

He dropped a Spectral Procession next, tried to hit a Wilt-Leaf Liege out of the Heights when he swung on the next turn (I countered it), then dropped a Knight of Meadowgrain post-combat. I tried to swing the board back in my favor with a Sower, but he O-Ringed that card, too. Then he dropped a Cloudgoat Ranger. I tried to keep up, I really did. Even going so far as to play a second Sower. But he eventually dropped a second Ranger, and I was simply overrun.

Game one: him. 0-1

That's four creatures for one card.
As for boarding, this was my third time up against the little white men, but I decided to try something a little different. I only pulled two of the Sage's Dousings for the three Pollen Lullabies. But wait, isn't that illegal? Yes, that's why I also pulled out one Cursecatcher. Like I said, he's not that good against kithkin. Sure, it's nice to have a turn one play, but I really don't want to see this guy outside of my opening hand unless I have dual Reejereys going on.

We both kept our seven, and I opened with land, land, Banneret. He opened wit Goldmeadow Stalwart, revealing a Figure of Destiny, then played the Figure and a Windbrisk Heights on two. Turn three, down came another Banneret and a Reejerey. He puttered a bit here, pumping his Figure and not doing much else. Turn four, I dropped another Reejerey, two Adepts, and a Cursecatcher. He tried to play an Oblivion Ring, but I countered the enchantment. Then I played a Thrasher and stole his blocker with a Sower and he scooped. Go God-hand!

Game two: me. 1-1

So versatile. So annoying.
Game three, I had to mull to six, but I liked my six card hand quite a bit. He opened with the Heights, and I with a Hub. He then dropped the Rustic Clachan and a Knight of Meadowgrain. I laid down a Mutavault and a Banneret. His turn three, he played a Mutavault and nothing else, swinging in with the Knight. I came back with a Thrasher and an Adept. On turn four, he dropped a Procession for three flyers and hit me again. But I put him back to 20 life with a 4/4 Thrasher that he didn't want to chump block.

He got a few more beats in with his Knight and the flyers, and I came back with the Thrasher and the manland. Eventually, he tried for an Ajani, but I was holding a Cryptic Command and I countered it and tapped down all his dudes. The next swing by the Thrasher was lethal.

Game three: me. 2-1

Johnny was a good sport, even when I got the nuts hand in game two, and was a lot of fun to play against. As for me, the intensity of the matches only heightened my nervousness/excitement, and it was an effort to keep my mind focused on the game.

Record: 9-1-0. Onto the finals...


My opponent in this match was Dusty Ochoa, again a top player in the State and owner of one of the big card shops in Tucson. He was running Faeries, which I knew before this match as I saw parts of his other games. The judges gave us the opportunity to barter for the outcome of the match (normally, this is illegal, but in the last round of single elimination, it is allowed), but we both wanted the plaque, the glory, and the free entry into other premier events.

Mana: you need to invest it to make it.
He won the die roll, and we both stayed at seven, though Dusty agonized over it for a while before deciding. He opened with a Sunken Ruins, then a Mutavault, then another Sunken Ruins. Ah, yes, I know that dilemma: a hand with land, but none of it able to produce colors yet. I have to mull those, though, as I need to make turn one and two plays. Faeries may be able to get away with it a little better.

My opening was Mutavault into Silvergill Adept on two, Wake Thrasher on three. He was having a hard time of it, especially when I dropped a Sygg to protect the Thrasher. He held me off with some blockers and a Cryptic Command, but eventually fell to the Thrasher. He simply came out too slow for my deck.

There was one point though, where we both misplayed. I had lethal on the board with Sygg and Thrasher, and he used the Cryptic to tap down all my guys and bounce the Thrasher. I allowed, then replayed the Thrasher on my post-combat main. See it? I could have given the Thrasher pro-blue from Sygg, which meant that the Command's only target would have been illegal (it doesn't target an opponent for the tap down; it's an envelope effect), and it would have fizzled with no effect. Then my Sygg could have gone in for the win. I misplayed in that I didn't see it, and he misplayed in had he seen it, he wouldn't have risked his Command like that.

Game one: me. 1-0

Oh Bitterblossom, why are you so good?
Sideboarding time. Out came the Sowers, in came the Duelists. Sadly, I had to mull to six while he got to keep his full seven. He opened with Mutavault, into Secluded Glen and a Bitterblossom. Yikes. I made a turn two Adept. He made a turn three Vendilion Clique, targeting himself to dig. Turn three, I dropped Reejerey and went in with the Adept. He chumped with a token. Next turn, he dropped another Bitterblossom, and I realized that this was going to be a race. So I dropped a Banneret and a Thrasher on my next turn (leaving me with two Sage's Dousing in hand) and swung in for a good chunk of damage.

The game was looking good for me until he played Infest. Holy crap, I walked right into it. Stupid, stupid, stupid...He didn't even bother playing another threat, relying on his Bitterblossoms. I eventually hit a Banneret, and we traded blows. I did the math: all I had to do was stop him for one turn, and his Blossoms would kill him for me. So I tried a Cryptic when he didn't have four lands open for his own to stop me, but he was holding a Broken Ambitions for just enough. Sad face. On the turn he killed me, his Bitterblossoms put him at 1 life.

Game two: him. 1-1

We both kept our seven, and I dropped a turn two Duelist. Sadly, I didn't have the kind of hand where I can barf onto the board and still protect my men, so I held back a bit, not wanting to over-commit into an Infest again. He opened with a Faerie Conclave and only played land until the end of my fourth turn, when he tried for a Vendilion Clique. I countered it with a Cryptic Command, and he played a second one on his turn, burying the Sygg I had in my hand.

Very hard to outrace.
So it would be a race again. I tried for a Wake Thrasher, but he Remove Souled the guy. He dropped another Faerie Conclave and a Mutavault, and I got a Cursecatcher and a Banneret down, which were held back by the 'Vault. At one point, I was holding a pair of Sage's Dousings, a Reejerey, another Banneret, and another Duelist in my hand. His hand was just as big, and he still played like he had the Infest. Eventually, he dropped an Island, and both the Duelist and the Banneret could get in. He tried to Agony Warp the merfolk, a small counter war ensued, and I ended up winning it, cantripping into land. Yah.

But I didn't do the math that I should have on the next turn. I was at 11 life, and my attack had just put him at 7 life. I had him in two turns. I thought I had time—he only had the Clique—but I forgot about those manlands (the two Conclaves and the Vault), and didn't realize that he had me dead in two as well. I should have dropped one more threat to win the race, but I didn't. He swung in for 5, putting me down to 6. I needed a miracle to pull it off.

So I dropped my Merrow Reejerey, which he tried to counter with a Spellstutter Sprite, but I countered the creature with a third Sage's Dousing. Please, cantrip, give me another Reejerey.


I drew a Wake Thrasher, which wouldn't help anymore. So I played the Adept in my hand, hoping his cantrip could draw me another Reejerey and I used the Reejerey trigger to tap down Dusty's only blocker. Really, he was at 7 and I had six damage on the board. I just needed a Reejerey.


I drew a Mutavault, which would have been nice a little earlier. But really, the mistake was not seeing that I was dead sooner, Infest or no. I needed to play another threat, and I just didn't see that soon enough.

Merfolk really hate this card.
So I hit him for six, putting him at 1, and he had me dead on his next turn. And guess what, he didn't have the Infest. Nice play.

Game three: him. 1-2

I ended up in second place, which is good, but it was such a hard fought match that the loss stung. Dusty was cordial about it, congratulating me on a good match, even doing so a second time before he left the venue, which was nice of him. Nicer than he had to be, for sure, especially since he completely outplayed me in that third game.

One point of life...


Record: 9-2-0

Second place. A hard loss at the end, but it'll teach me: pay attention to the freaking manlands.

All considered, though, I took second with a deck that hadn't been forecast as a strong choice. I caught a number of opponents off-guard with it, even the Monored player in round seven, who admitted to not testing against it at all. One other player ran Merfolk to a top eight finish as well, though I never got to see his deck in action, so I'm not sure how it differed. But that's the fun part about States, right? The metagame is still so undetermined that anything could break out as the next deck to beat.

P.S. Faeries took up three of the top eight slots, so if I had to guess, I would say that it is still the deck to beat.


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