October 31, 2014

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Tournament Report with UWr Miracles

This past weekend I found the time to get out to Gatineau to hopefully pick up a couple byes for the upcoming GP in New Jersey, something on many players’ minds right now. If you’ve ever played magic against me in any format, it should be no surprise that the deck I brought to the table was the staple control deck of the format, UWr Miracles. After some testing throughout the week I had made some minor adjustments to my list due to the rise of the delve cards in Khans. This was the list I settled on for the GPT:

You’ll notice this version of miracles, much like my hero Joe Lossett’s, runs main deck Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast. This gives us a bit more resiliency game 1 to combo matchups, and gives more ammunition against the Cruise decks too. The only thing more fun than Pyroblasting a Treasure Cruise is putting it back in their hand with Venser, Shaper Savant.

Now that you’ve seen the deck, let’s look at the matches.

Match 1: Imperial Painter

This is a matchup I’ve never played before, despite watching it on broadcasts frequently. This is another deck featuring main deck Red Elemental Blast/Pyroblast, and they make navigating the game very difficult.

Game one was a long affair. After landing an early Blood Moon against my board of Tundra, Mystic Gate, Plains, my game plan came to a halt. He landed an early Grindstone, but my one white source of mana gave me outs to Painter in the form of Swords to Plowshares and Terminus, and because of this the game dragged on for a long time. Fortunately for me, at some point my opponent started milling me the natural way with Grindstone while I had Sensei’s Divining Top in play which helped me dig for lands so that I could cast any of the blue spells in my hand. After discarding to hand size several turns in a row, and my opponent milling about 15 cards from deck, I finally found an Island (also my 4th land of the game) and got to play Magic.

Which didn’t last for long. My opponent had played an Ensnaring Bridge at some point which left me two options for winning; Jace, The Mind Sculptor, which was becoming increasingly unlikely due to the shortage of cards in my own library, or casting Entreat the Angels and then using Venser to bounce the bridge so that I could attack. Despite my planning, my opponent managed to find an Imperial Recruiter to get another Painter’s Servant, and I lost to the combo.

-1 Red Elemental Blast, -1 Pyroblast, -1 Terminus
+1 Wear / Tear, +1 Council’s Judgment, +1 Engineered Explosives.

Game two was very short. I kept a 6 card hand with Mystic Gate and Tundra as my only lands, and turn two Blood Moon into turn three Koth of the Hammer finished me off quickly.

Match Score: 0-1.

Match 2: Leylines

If you have not seen the hilarious Leylines deck in action before, I implore you to watch the following clip from a recent SCG Open event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEW0M-PrOLQ

The goal with Leylines is to mulligan (using Serum Powder if you can) into a hand with many Leylines, which you can animate using Serra’s Sanctum to cast Opalescence. A turn one kill is possible if your opening hand is 5 Leylines, Sanctum and Opalesence, as the Leylines are not summoning sick if you’ve started the game with them in play. That’s just good deck building.

Unfortunately for my opponent, both games I had two Force of Wills in my opening hand and rode out the Vendilion Clique beatdown to a quick victory.

- 1 Red Elemental Blast, -1 Pyroblast
+1 Wear / Tear, +1 Council’s Judgment

Match Score: 1-1

Match 3: Esper Deathblade

I say the match was Deathblade, but in fact I didn’t play this match out. I was paired up against my friend (and, maybe more importantly, my ride home) so we chose to draw the match rather than eliminate one of us. We’d both have to win the next two rounds to top 4 the event, but at least we’d have some time to eat before round 4.

Match Score: 1-1-1.

Match 4: Esper Deathblade

This time, I played the match out. I won the dice roll and kept a 7 with Counterbalance, 2 lands, a Brainstorm, a Swords to Plowshares, Spell Pierce, and Force of Will. Importantly, no Sensei’s Divining Top. Turn two I play the Counterbalance blind as the only turn two play I expect from my opponent can’t be Spell Pierced, and as expected he plays a Stoneforge Mystic. I reveal Terminus to the Counterbalance flip and let his Artificer find her Batterskull. I untap and Terminus the Stoneforge, and then the game begins. I don’t remember the exact play sequence in this match, but I believe the next turn he plays a Liliana of the Veil which we fight over, and gets countered. This was my big mistake in the game, as a few turns later he plays a True-Name Nemesis and I can’t win the counter war. Another Stoneforge Mystic gets the Batterskull (and later Umezawa's Jitte into play), and I’m left to find a Terminus or pack it in for game two. I don’t find any wrath, and we move to game 2.

-1 Terminus, -1 Swords to Plowshares, -2 Force of Will, -1 Counterbalance, -1 Counterspell
+1 Keranos, God of Storms +1 Blood Moon, +1 Council’s Judgment, +1 Relic of Progenitus, +1 Wear/Tear, +1 Supreme Verdict

Unfortunately Game 2 is quick and painful. I mulligan to 6 and keep a hand with Island, Scalding Tarn, Red Elemental Blast, Swords to Plowshares, Snapcaster Mage, Counterbalance. I play the Tarn, pass the turn. My opponent plays Underground Sea and casts Deathrite Shaman before passing back. I don’t draw a land, play the Island, and briefly consider fetching for a Tundra and plowing the Deathrite before passing back. My opponent then plays a Wasteland, and my game immediately falls apart. I fail to find a third land, can’t afford to fetch a Tundra, and will probably have to use the Tarn to find a Mountain for the Red Blast or Wear/Tear I’ve drawn. I die before finding a third land and drop from the event.

Match Score: 1-2-1 drop.

Overall, it was a pretty disappointing event in terms of results. Fortunately my ride friend also lost in the 4th round and we were all ready to leave together.

In terms of mulliganing, I feel like I could have been a bit more aggressive this tournament. I lost two games largely due to mana denial strategies. I had no right keeping the hand I did vs Painter in game 2, a deck that has access to 4-8 turn 3 Blood Moon effects. I have to keep a hand with the ability to prevent Blood Moon/Magus of the Moon or be capable of fetching basics early and playing basics afterwards, even if it means a mulligain to 5. Game two of round 4 was another game which might’ve been different if I had access to more/nonbasic lands, but I think my keep is defensible given the deck I’m playing against.

The one big take away for me from the event would be in terms of sideboarding. I think I overvalued Counterbalance in the Deathblade matchup. True-Name Nemesis is a 3cmc spell, and I have a very hard time hitting 3s off Counterbalance. The same is true of Liliana, although I don’t think Liliana is strong against Miracles and I would expect the Deathblade player to board them out. Stoneforge Mystic is annoying but certainly a manageable card, and I have many ways to remove a Batterskull if it gets into play. Next time I think I would cut two more Counterbalances to keep in an extra Force or two, or possibly a copy of Flusterstorm for winning the fight over Terminus.

I don’t think I would make any changes to my 75. I’ve considered swapping a Swords to Plowshares from the main for the Relic of Progenitus in the board as a concession to Treasure Cruise. Relic is very good in a lot of matchups anyway and also gives me another way to miracle on my opponent’s turn, so it’s a very small cost to have it in the main deck. I’ve also considered going the path we saw in last weekend’s SCG and playing mainboard Rest in Peace/Helm of Obedience combo as a win condition, but I’m still not a big fan of Helm and Rest in Peace is much worse against U/R Delver or other non-Tarmogoyf, non-Deathrite Shaman creature decks than Relic of Progenitus. Barring any huge shifts in the meta, I’ll likely be bringing the same 75 to the table for the next several tournaments.

Thanks for reading!
Ghengis Ron