Monday, December 4, 2017

SCG Invitational Weekend

Just got back from the SCG Invitational at Roanoake. While my Standard record was horrible (1-3 with conventional Temur), my Humans list had a combined record of 24-9. James O'Shaughnessy piloted the deck to a 7-1 finish in the Invitational, ending up in 9th place with the same record as 5th through 8th, missing out on breakers:

To get there, James had to win some grueling matches versus Ross Merriam (on Dredge) and Andrew Jessup (on Affinity). I scraped by with a 9-6 finish in the Modern Open (with a brutal 2-4 record in day 2), and Jacob Hagen put together a nice 5-2 finish in the Modern Classic. Here's the 75 that we all played:

James's only loss was to Sam Black playing Lantern and that he beat the Humans mirror in a game where he got to Dismember his opponent's Riders of Gavony (he also beat Storm twice and Eldrazi Tron twice). Jacob beat Junk, Eldrazi Tron, Dredge, GW Hatebears, and RW Chalice, losing to Titanshift twice.

Here's how my Modern Open went:

Round 1. Bant Company
I got paired against a nice gentleman who beat me in Standard in Day 1 of the Invitational. He was playing a combo version of Bant Company that had Spell Quellers. Bant Company is sometimes built as a value deck, with Voice of Resurgence or Knight of the Reliquary; the value build often doesn't have Chord of Calling. If they don't have Chord, I'm not bringing in the Cages.

I drew my Reflector Mages in both games and was able to keep him off the combo. I also got a bit lucky on a bad Collected Company. Don't let important cards get hit by Spell Queller! You often won't have the luxury of bouncing their Quellers with your Reflector Mages, since you need to take their Devoted Druids and Vizier of Remedies off the board first. Importantly, Devoted Druid is a much higher priority target than Vizier, since this list does not run the Viscera Seer + Kitchen Finks lifegain combo. 1-0.

Round 2. 4c Death's Shadow
I've found that the Death's Shadow decks tend to be a dog versus Humans in game 1. Stubborn Denial is just a dead card. DS isn't removal-dense, so Meddling Mage on Fatal Push goes a long way (though they also have some number of Terminate and Kolaghan's Command). Reflector Mage is really good versus both Death's Shadow and the delve creatures. Your creatures get really big, you can go wide to chump-block, you can fly over their blockers with Mantis Rider.

Don't forget how Death's Shadow works! DS will grow in Toughness before state-based actions check to see if it dies to damage. I had this situation come up where I swung my team into his 2/2 DS, where I was getting something like 4 points of damage through; my opponent put his DS in front of my 4/4 Champion of the Parish. Fortunately, I wasn't really punished, since I had Reflector Mage in hand to bounce it that turn anyways.

Game 2 was more interesting. I found myself to be in an overwhelming position: I had a Meddling Mage and Thalia's Lieutenant in hand with a bunch of creatures in play, something like a 2/2 Champion, a Dark Confidant, a Mirran Crusader, and a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. My opponent had a Tarmogoyf in play, 4 tapped lands, and 2 cards in hand. What's the play?

I quickly settle on casting my Meddling Mage, thinking that I'm fine if I correctly name the spell that brings my opponent back into this game -- he was at only 3 life anyways. Damnation would be the best card for my opponent here, but DS decks don't play it. Anger of the Gods is a common sideboard option, since it's also good versus Dredge, but my opponent was a 4c deck and wasn't fetching to get double red mana. So I go into the tank trying to decide between Flaying Tendrils, Engineered Explosives, and Kozilek's Return, ultimately picking Kozilek's Return. My opponent untaps and casts Radiant Flames, wiping my board.

Do you see my mistake? I don't think it's just my failure to name Radiant Flames (though that would have been a smart guess!). The mistake is that if I had settled on my opponent having Kozilek's Return, I should have just played the Thalia's Lieutenant! It would have made my Champion a 4/4 and my Mirran Crusader a 3/3, with my opponent dying to the unblockable Crusader.

Better lucky than good, though, since I immediately draw into another Mirran Crusader. My opponent doesn't have an answer. 2-0.

Round 3. Abzan Company
Again, I drew my Reflector Mages. In Game 2, I managed to get both of my Izzet Staticasters in play, which pretty much locked up the game. 3-0.

Round 4. GW Company
I keep drawing my Reflector Mages -- glad I'm playing all four in the main deck! I use them to bounce my opponent's Courser of Kruphix, which was threatening to draw them lands off the top of their deck, which they needed to cast their Elspeth, Sun's Champion in their hand. I beat them before they ever get too close. 4-0.

Round 5. BW Control
Playing 4 mana planeswalkers seems suspect when you're casting Smallpox. That said, it is critical for the Humans player not to get Smallpox'd in this matchup; Vial goes a long way here. These games aren't close. Brian mulligans in game 2, loses his Smallpox to my Kitesail Freebooter and shows me a hand with Kalitas and 2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. 5-0.

Round 6. Eldrazi Tron
Eldrazi Tron appears to be a very favorable matchup for Humans. James thrashed it several times during the Invitational. Don't forget that Chalice of the Void does not work on creatures cast with Cavern of Souls, and be wary of opponents who point to their Chalice triggers when you cast off Cavern! By default, you are assumed to use color mana from the Cavern of Souls to make your spells uncounterable. If your opponent knows how Cavern works, and points to Chalice and watches you put your creature into the graveyard, they are cheating. A spell being uncounterable is not a trigger or anything that you're allowed to "miss." It is a rule of the game. If this happens, both players should get a warning for failure to maintain a legal game state. I've had this situation come up before, though not here. My opponent, Joseph Horton, was an absolute gentleman, despite getting beat pretty bad; he went on to place top 2 in the Open. 6-0.

Round 7. Dredge
I mulligan to oblivion both games and lose both games very quickly.

I recognize my opponent from a Grand Prix a few years back in DC, and we strike up a conversation. He tells me that he's from North Carolina and that he followed the RPTQ in Raleigh (I don't recall if he said he played in it). I mention to him that my friends, Alex Majlaton and Mark Rankin, both qualified for PT Rivals of Ixalan at the Raleigh RPTQ, and he tells me that Alex winning the RPTQ was one of the reasons why he selected Dredge to play at the Modern Open.

The actual copy of the Dredge deck that Alex qualified with? Yeah, that's mine. There is no justice in the world. 6-1.

Round 8. UW Control
My opponent stumbles and dies quickly. This matchup is surprisingly a lot easier than the Jeskai matchup despite the 3 Supreme Verdicts main, since there are fewer removal spells to play around (Path to Exile, Supreme Verdict, Detention Sphere).

As an aside, can we please get an Errata'd version of Meddling Mage? He's also a Human. 7-1.

Round 9. Jeskai Nahiri
I played against my friend, Patrick Reynolds. I stole game 2 off him when he stumbled for a turn on land, but he crushed me in games 1 and 3. The combination of Search for Azcanta/Celestial Colonnade and Supreme Verdict really put a squeeze on Humans. In game 3, I cast Sin Collector on curve and he flipped over a hand of land, Electrolyze, 2 Path, 2 Supreme Verdict. I took Electrolyze; I had 2 Mantis Rider and a couple of other creatures in my hand. I sequenced my plays so that Patrick had to use his Supreme Verdicts on 1 creature at a time, but Patrick continued to draw lands to turn on his Colonnade and also drew a Search, which lets him run away with the game.

The Search for Azcanta and Colonnades makes you want to jam your creatures onto the board to kill your opponent quickly. Supreme Verdict eating 2+ creatures is often just game over. This matchup has been looking worse and worse. 7-2

Round 10. Eldrazi Tron
I had a pleasant match versus Jacob Tilk. He took game 1 with a t2 Thought-Knot Seer on the play. I'm able to overrun him Game 2 after shooting an Expedition Map with Vithian Renegades, preventing him from hitting his 7 mana source to cast All is Dust. In game 3, he plays a Basilisk Collar on turn 1 (which is one of the main reasons why I play Vithian Renegades), which means I have to use my Meddling Mages on his Walking Ballistas (instead of possibly saving them for later for All is Dust). We grind out a bit of a game but he eventually casts an All is Dust and I lose. 7-3.

Round 11. Bogles
My opponent has bad draws. I name Daybreak Coronet with Meddling Mage. The (non-)games are over quickly. 8-3.

Round 12. BW Eldrazi Hatebears
This matchup is really tricky. I lose a game where my opponent gets off a Wasteland Strangler trigger. I win a game where my opponent plays 2 Leonin Arbiters and doesn't otherwise do anything. Game 3 is a much closer match.

I have a 3/3 Champion, 2/2 Champion, a Reflector Mage, and a Vial on 2. I have 3 lands in play, I have a Mayor of Avabruck, a Thalia's Lieutenant, and a Reflector Mage in hand. He knows I have the Mayor in my hand from an earlier TKS. I'm at 20 life.

My opponent has an Eldrazi Displacer, Eldrazi Temple and 2 BW lands in play, with a Vial on 2. I know he has a Thought-Knot Seer in hand, since I hit it with my Reflector Mage. I suspect he has at least a second TKS in hand based off his reaction when I bounced it; he has 2 other unknown cards in hand. My opponent is at 15 life.

What's the play? 9-3.

Round 13. Titanshift
I put myself into a winning spot in game 1, but my opponent casts Chandra, Flamecaller, and wipes my board. I get under him in game 2. In game 3, I have lethal on board on the next attack with a Meddling Mage naming Primeval Titan. He plays his 7th land (a mountain), shoots my Mage, then casts Titan, and the game is over. This matchup is getting worse, since a lot of pilots are adding Anger of the Gods to their main deck. You can't really play around it, since you're in a race with his land drops. 9-4.

Round 14. Jeskai
This matchup stinks. I win game 1 convincingly and lose game 2 convincingly. In game 3, I get him to a low life total, but he stabilizes with Pia and Kiran Nalaar and turns the corner on me with Celestial Colonnade. 9-5.

Round 15. Lantern 
At this point of the tournament, I'm pretty much done for the day. I sit down across from Ali Aintrazi. I know he's on Lantern; he was chatting with BBD about it earlier in the day (I lent BBD a Pyrite Spellbomb for the Invitational. Don't know why I'm aiding and abetting the enemy of Humans.) I'm able to get Ali dead on board to my next attack; he has 3 lands, Lantern, Shredder, Opal on the board, 1 card in hand, and an Ensnaring Bridge as his next draw. I have a Meddling Mage on the board naming Ensnaring Bridge.

On his upkeep, Ali flips over the card in his hand, casting Whir of Invention, putting the Bridge into play, shuffling his deck, then drawing and playing Inventors' Fair. Yeah, it's time to go home. 9-6.

Worthy of note: between the three of us, we were 0-3 versus Titanshift, 0-2 versus Lantern, and 0-3 versus Jeskai.

Other developments:
A lot of people are trying the Hostage Taker in the sideboard. Seems fine against midrange piles. It's probably just better than Vithian Renegades, since it let's you take Cranial Platings and Ensnaring Bridges.

I heard that Collins Mullen was playing Chalice of the Void at the Invitational in his sideboard for the Jeskai matchup (and, I suppose, any other deck with a lot of 1 cmc spells). Seems crazy to me.

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