Monday, February 5, 2018

PPTQ Tournament Report by David Tardif

Over the last couple of weeks, David Tardif and I have been hard at work on Rivals of Ixalan Standard (along with Evan Appleton, James O'Shaughnessy and Derek Campbell). In search of a deck that would beat the seemingly dominant Mono-Red and Grixis variants, James suggested that I try the UW Eternalize list that top 4'ed the SCG Philadelphia Classic. After poo-pooing it, I nonetheless queued up with it and immediately had some success.

With about a week's worth of testing, David and I played roughly the same list to a 12-2 result at a local PPTQ. David took the event down while I lost in the quarterfinals. Here's what we played (with my list differing by a couple of cards):

Here's David's tournament report of the event:

46 person PPTQ, Standard Rivals of Ixalan

Round 1: UW GPG, Win 1-0

G1, pretty sure opponent thinks I'm on UW auras. This deck isn't really well known and I only play out Adorned Pouncer before I start missing land drops and my opponent Refurbishes a turn 4 GPG on the play. This isn't really a game, which I'm fine with.

+2 Silent Gravestone, +1 Gideon's Intervention, +2 Negate, -2 Angel of Sanctions, -2 Baffling End, -1 Fumigate

G2, the game is way different. I go turn 1 Silent Gravestone, turn 3 Champion of Wits, turn 4 I land a Gideon's Intervention, tank for a bit on what to name, and name Cast Out. Opponent ends up cycling four Cast Out during this game, including 3 in the next two turns, and I eventually resolve two Anointed Processions, Negate the hard-cast GPG, and draw 16 cards the next turn.

-1 Fumigate, +1 Angel of Sanctions. Reasoning that opponent will side out the Fairgrounds Wardens.

G3, opponent keeps a risky hand and can't cast any filter spells because they are color locked, move to discard three turns in a row. not a real game.

Round 2: Sultai Midrange, Win 2-0

G1 is More or Less this deck vs the format, or The Scarab God shell game. None of opponents' threats make a difference. I land a turn 4 Anointed Procession, turn 5 I Ixalan's Binding a The Scarab God, turn 6, opponent burns two removal spells on an Anointed Pouncer eternalize, and then I draw 8 cards and opponent quits.

+2 Silent Gravestone, +1 Jace's Defeat, -2 Angel of Sanctions, -1 Fumigate. Not sure how much countermagic opponent has in his SB, but I hate overboarding, and I want to keep in Fumigates in case opponent has Carnage Tyrant at the top end.

G2, Opponent plays his best route to victory against me, which is an early Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. I Baffling End it, but face down another one next turn, which ends up drawing a very large amount of cards through the course of the game. I struggle to find my Silent Gravestone in the midgame, and opponent has a full grip and I momentarily feel I might lose, so I keep my graveyard as empty of creatures as I can in case Scarab God comes down. He does, but only on the turn after I've filled the board with Adorned Pouncers.

Round 3: Esper GPG, Win 3-0

G1 is a game that I lose control of. Opponent has Scarab God on 5, which I don't have a clean answer for. I Fumigate the board, and when he re-casts it, I Angel of Sanctions it, which opponent grabs with Hostage Taker. I Fumigate again, and Ixalan's Binding a Gate to the Afterlife, but opponent lands a 7 mana GPG, and proceeds to pull ahead with his fully stocked graveyard. This matchup feels pretty difficult.

G2 I land an early Gravestone and we trade resources in the middle of the game. On turn 6, I decide to finally Ixalan's Binding his Gate, hoping he casts a Scarab God into me since I have another Binding in hand. That is how it plays out, but opponent has a very rich graveyard, so I play around the GPG for several turns until I draw 8 cards and the game is roughly over.

G3, opponent comes out of the gate quickly, and I lose a bit of life early. Opponent lands another early Gate, and fills the board up. I Fumigate an Angel and two smaller creatures, and opponent has a full bin and a healthy life total, including 6 creatures in the bin. I land a Gravestone into an Anointed Procession with a semi-full graveyard on both sides of the table, but I don't think I can actually beat a GPG from this position, so I have to sit on the activation of Silent Gravestone. Next turn, opponent activates Gate with an active Minister of Inquiries on the field, and I have to nuke the bin in response to the GPG trigger. Opponent mills with the trigger still on the stack and finds a mediocre threat to hit me with. I untap and mill myself with Ipnu Rivulet, and a turn later I find my second Silent Gravestone after drawing several cards off of Chart a Course. It turns out to be the game changer, as my opponent topdecks a now pointless Scarab God, and I end up gaining 16 life, then drawing 16 cards. This was my hardest round of the day.

Round 4: BW Vampires, Win 4-0

It's my friend and I'm really glad he's 3-0 with another off-meta deck. G1 he comes out of the gate early with Legion's Landing, 2-drop, Radiant Destiny and a Call to the Feast. I Fumigate, and he starts to rebuild, but I've bought myself enough time to stabilize. I gain 8 life ditching another Sunscourge Champion, gain another 8 the next turn, and he's hellbent. I win.

+2 Fragmentize, +2 Authority of the Consuls, -2 Search for Azcanta, -2 Ixalan's Binding. This is the first game I feel regret about cutting the Fumigate from my 75.

G2, opponent comes out of the gates swinging and builds a pretty huge board with Mavren Fein and a Gifted Aetherborn. I'm trading away my guys hoping to find a Fumigate, and he lands a Champion of Dusk to draw 6 cards and lose 6 life. Dear lord, I thought this deck was supposed to be bad? I find my Fumigate but it's almost entirely irrelevant as he has a huge board one turn later.

G3, I have a ton of hand filter while opponent lands an Adanto Vanguard early. I see a Fumigate in my hand, but realize I have to deal with that indestructible menace first, so I Ixalan's Binding a turn 4. Opponent uses his Forerunner of the Legion to find his Lord, and he has a flipped Legion's Landing. I have a Field of Ruin, but with Fumigate in hand, knowing it's unlikely he has Duress, and knowing his draw, I let him draw the Lord, but hit his land during his draw step to get my second white source. He hits me pretty low this turn, but I Fumigate him and he's out of gas. I gain 8 life a few times and the game ends.

Rounds 5 and 6: I'm on top of the standings at this point so I draw twice into top 8. I briefly consider playing round 6 for good matchups, but I am hungry and get some food instead.

Ties to 4-0-2

Quarterfinals: UB Control

G1, I play out a few irrelevant creatures in the early game, which my opponent kills. Around turn 9, opponent has a full grip, and I have only an Ixalan's Binding in hand and every land in play, waiting to topdeck anything relevant. But I'm at 30 life with a Procession in play. Opponent casts a Gearhulk for no value to hit me, and I shrug and take it to 25. I decide to hold the Binding because I still feel confident I can dig out of this, crack a Rivulet to whiff, and two turns later, I've drawn nothing and he flashes in another Gearhulk, this time flashing back a Glimmer. He hits me down to 5. I draw another Binding, swallow hard, and cast both Bindings at 8 mana after he's cycled two Censors already. Both resolve. Two turns later he resolves Scarab God, which I luckily topdeck a Binding for. I feel way more comfortable until he lands a Chupacabra to finish me off. I topdeck a Rivulet, mill over a Champion of Wits, and draw 16 cards. The game's over, but technically it lasts four more turns.  Opponent keeps playing and informs me he still had an out. I guess he has Consign/Oblivion or Commit/Memory based on that comment, good to know. 

+2 Silent Gravestone, +2 Negate, +1 Jace's Defeat, +1 Treasure Map, -2 Angel of Sanctions, -3 Fumigate, -1 Baffling End. I don't take out the second Baffling End because the most common way I lose against this deck is when they side into Siphoners or Trackers and I don't have any answer for it early.

G2 is my only mulligan of the day. Best reason to play this deck right now is 26 lands, 10 filter/draw spells and almost no unkeepable openers. I'm scuffling on lands here but I keep a weird mono-white hand with Treasure Map. I end up having to use all three treasures for blue sources, and my opponent counters every spell I try to cast. Has a Glint-Sleeve Siphoner out and is clocking me. I get under 10 and opponent has drawn tons of cards, and I still can't find a blue source when my life runs out.

G3, I land a turn 1 Gravestone. I slam a Procession on 4 and it resolves. Still nothing on the board, I slam another on turn 5 and it resolves also. Opponent is missing land drops. I have relevant creatures in the bin, and I feel I can't lose. It's true, I end up gaining 16, then drawing 16. I actually only draw 12 because enough is enough sometimes, but the game's over anyway.

Semifinals: Grixis Midrange

G1, opponent hits a Scarab God and I haven't found an Ixalan's Binding yet. I'm staring at a hand with Anointed Procession and two Fumigate, and two relevant creatures in the bin, so I decide to Fumigate. Rinse, repeat, and I draw a third Fumigate but have to hold it. I Eternalize withAnointed Procession out to gain 8 life, but opponent eats me up with The Scarab God. I lose this round of The Scarab God minigame. 

G2, opponent has an early Siphoner, I kill the first Siphoner but another finds it way onto the field, and I'm starting to sweat a little. I drop to 10 while opponent drops a Whirler, and passes. I have 5 lands up, and can cast a Procession, as I have a Pouncer in the bin. But he has potentially 6 power on board, and that plus Glorybringer is 10, so I have to fire off my Fumigate. He follows up with another Siphoner, but I decide to ignore it to develop the board. He runs out of gas while I refill my hand and the game ends in my favor.

G3, opponent keeps a strange one, Aether Hub into Duress turn 1. He thinks for a while between Jace's Defeat, Fumigate and Ixalan's Binding, and takes the Binding. Next turn he plays a second Aether Hub and Harnessed Lightnings my Adorned Pouncer on my end step, proclaiming the he's all in. On turn 4, he's missed a land drop, has just played a tapland, and I decide to cast Gideon's Intervention over an Anointed Procession I just drew. He tanks, and then Negates it, going to 1E. Alright, Scarab God in hand, and I have Jace's Defeat. The next turn he plays his 4th land, and I decide to tap out for the Procession, thinking that it's unlikely he can cast Scarab God because he has so few lands that will come into play untapped, and I can Fumigate anyway. Turn 7, I decide to hold up Jace's Defeat, he has 6 lands in play with 1E (thanks to a flipped Search) and decides to mainphase Glimmer, going to 0E. I tank for a while since I know he has the Scarab dude in hand, and I decide to counter it. It pays off as he gets locked out for two more turns as I start to fill the board up, and by the time he gets the Scarab Guy down, he has to trade it with an Anointed Pouncer 4/4. I win.

Finals: Grixis Midrange

G1, opponent lands a T4 Chandra. I'm staring at an Ixalan's Binding and an Anointed Procession in hand, and my board's empty. The classic situation. The Chandra's on 5 naturally, and I don't have a threat coming for days, and even if he has Scarab God in hand, the Chandra will be at 7 before I can get any creature on the board. So I binding the Chandra, and opponent confidently slams The Scarab God. Long story short, I lose.

+2 Silent Gravestone, +1 Jace's Defeat, -2 Angel of Sanctions, -1 Fumigate. I feel his threat package is more diverse than the last Grixis Midrange's, and the Intervention is not a great card anyhow.

G2, my plan A goes perfectly, which is Gravestone, Baffling EndChampion of WitsAnointed Procession, 2 Anointed Pouncer 4/4's. Opponent fights the good fight but we're going to the finals. At some point, I see an Hour of Devastation enter his hand, via Azcanta. This More or Lessinforms me that he won't have River's Rebuke, which I bank for game 3.

G3, my opponent mulligans and struggles on colors early. Honestly the reason why I didn't want to play the deck. I don't have a ton of action, as I'm struggling to find my Procession, and even though I'm ahead on board with a Gravestone out, it's a tenuous lead. Opponent discards a Cut//Ribbons and hits me with a Glorybringer without exerting with a pair of 4/4's on board. I'm at 9 and it's obvious he's trying to burn me out here, so I loot as much as I can to find Sunscourge Champion. I'm at 11 lands and I decide to hold up my 1-of Cast Out. He attack exerts his Glorybringer, and I rewind him to Cast it Out (which is my last card), which effectively ends his all-in plan. He plays a Chandra, ticks it up to exile something irrelevant, and I kill him two turns later.

End Thoughts:

Angel of Sanctions is obviously the worst card in the mainboard. I'd probably make the second Angel of Sanctions into the fourth Fumigate. I would consider cutting the last Angel for a Cast Out, or something else mediocre. The problem is that every deck postboard has incidental ways to deal with it, Glorybringer or Chandra being the main two problems. The UB decks generally don't have things worth snatching with it, and the go-wide decks make it feel useless to play it. Plus it interferes with the Fumigates mainboard. The only times I cast it are when I have lethal when I do and when I'm absolutely desperate and hoping they have stone nothing. In the former time, it's typical that I've turned the corner already, and since this deck turns the corner really hard, I usually won't lose if I don't take that line anyhow.

Silent Gravestone was MVP all day, and since we don't actually have elite sideboard options, I'd want to add a third. I'd also consider adding a second Jace's Defeat, as while UB is favored for us, it's still loseable. I think the Treasure Map was pretty underwhelming and we should already be set up to outgrind every other deck in the late game. Gideon's Intervention was for UW Approach which is mostly gone from the meta, and I mostly ever cast this card to bait out a Counterspell anyway, plus the deck is already flooded with good things to do at 4 mana. I would be comfortable cutting this card as well.

Our worst matchup is still Mardu, in my opinion, and I was lucky to dodge that for the tournament. Our best matchups remain the UBx Control/Midrange decks that pepper the format, providing you can play around Scarab God effectively. The 6 card sideboard for red plus the four Sunscourge Champions are solid, but you could make the matchup better by adding another Sacred Cat, which might be necessary based on recent MTGO results.

Overall though, I do think this deck is worth playing. It's a meta deck, but it felt like the strongest deck in the room for the day, and it's felt very strong online as well. This deck is a real deck and you should genuinely consider playing it alongside the "best" decks of the format, so UBx and monored.

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