March 24, 2016

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Tournament Report - St. Jerome Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier Part 1

Five straight weeks of PPTQ’s. From Montreal, Gatineau, St. Jerome, and Ottawa to getting knocked out of top 8 by friends. It was finally time to win. Let’s start with my deck:

I started with a list like what Alex Battistelli played at the Wizard’s Tower Open Championship in January. After a few shifts in the meta-game I moved to Kyle Boggemes list from the RPTQ in Toronto and worked with Alex to perfect our 75. Our decks are a few cards different but the core is the same. The goal of the deck is to control the game through efficient removal and card draw while having a higher card quality than every other deck in the format. This deck is extremely efficient. It mulligans well and outside of a sometimes strenuous mana-base I always feel I like can win. Let’s move on to the tournament itself.

Round 1: 4-Colour Rally

This match summed up exactly why Rally is such a powerful deck. Game 1, I forced him to draw a sacrificing outlet into back to back Rally the Ancestors or he was just dead. He did, then he crushed me.  Game 2, I swept his board and put him to six but without hitting any of my silver bullets like Hallowed Moonlight, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and Cranial Archive. He just proceeded to cast Rally and pull himself back into the game.  Let’s talk about sideboarding:

3 Read the Bones, 1 Transgress the Mind, 1 Goblin Dark-Dwellers, 4 Crackling Doom, 1 Ruinous Path
1 Chandra, Flamecaller, 1 Languish, 3 Hallowed Moonlight, 1 Radiant Flames, 1 Infinite Obliteration, 1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, 2 Cranial Archive

The way I like to approach this match-up is by having a ton of sweepers and activate a Cranial Archive early. It lets you be much more aggressive with your removal and then you can empty their graveyard or sit on a Hallowed Moonlight while being ahead on board. Pair that with an infinite obliteration naming Nantuko Husk or an onboard Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet into a sweeper and you’re golden.

There’s been a good argument for bringing in Pulse of Murasa to try and put your life total out of reach but it’s not the way I like to play this match up. After we shook hands, I warned my opponent that he was going to need to play a little faster since we barely had any time left on the clock and had only finished two games. He told me that he was still inexperienced with the deck and would do his best moving forward. This would have a huge impact on my tournament, but we’ll get there.
Record 0-1

Round 2: Mardu Green

Earlier in the week, I told my team I expected to see Mardu Green rise in popularity since its success against Rally was well documented. This rise could be bad for us since my list runs cards like Silkwrap and Radiant Flames. These cards in the main are dead draws if your opponent plays correctly. Silkwrap isn’t completely useless with Sylvan Advocate but Radiant Flames should be.

Sitting down for round 2, I watched my opponent shuffle. While he riffle shuffled, his cards were facing me and I had a clear view that I was playing the mirror. This let me mulligan a hand that had one Radiant Flames and two Silkwrap. When I cast Transgress the Mind on turn two he revealed a hand with two Silkwrap. I was able to play around this the rest of the game, only casting a Sylvan Advocate on the turn I activated a Needle Spires to push the extra damage through to kill him. His critical error was when he untapped on turn four and cast Transgress the Mind seeing a hand with Radiant Flames only to cast a Sylvan Advocate right after. This allowed me to turn an otherwise dead card into a decent removal spell. Now on to side boarding:

2 Radiant Flames, 4 Silkwrap
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, 2 Pulse of Murasa, 1 Ruinous Path, 1 Chandra,Flamecaller, 1 Infinite Obliteration

The mirror is all about card advantage and controlling your opponent’s hand. That said, I don’t bring in Duress because I feel every other card I play is better. Fueling your opponents Goblin Dark-Dwellers is just not good. I’d also like to touch on Infinite Obliteration: I do not play this card to blind name Siege Rhino. I play this card after casting a Transgress to guarantee a one-for-one once I know what’s in their hand. It only gets better if you have Goblin Dark-Dwellers and you can go turn three Infinite Obliteration, turn five, flash it back.

There are also a lot of lists still running Kolaghan's Command over Pulse of Murasa. This can’t be right. The six life outweighs the two damage; as two damage kills almost nothing in the format and the life is a nice resource to abuse. The other modes are practically meaningless in this format as there are no relevant artifacts and not being able to control the discard effect does nothing. Not to mention being able to cast Pulse of Murasa on turn three to return a fetch land goes a long way towards stabilizing your mana-base. As for Chandra, Flamecaller and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, you just want more threats.

Getting back to actual match, my opponent mulled to five on the play and kept a hand with no green source, two lands, and three Crackling Dooms. I cast a turn two Transgress into turn four Siege Rhino and turn five Goblin Dark-Dwellers. Yes, this deck mulligans very well, but sometimes you just don’t get lucky. Had he hit a turn three Read the Bones, he may have been able to pull himself back in the game. This was not the case and I was able to use the rest of the round to scout the field.
Record 1-1

Round 3: Dark Jeskai Tokens

After scouting in the previous round I knew that my opponent was on Dark Jeskai tokens. I was also privy to some information from his round two opponent, Alex. Walking over to the table I zipped up my hoodie and hoped he hadn’t seen my team t-shirt that Alex was also wearing. I had to do everything I could to make sure he didn’t put me on the same deck as Alex because he would have been correct!

Game 1 was uneventful. My card quality was just higher than his and I was able to use my main deck Radiant Flames to wrath his Monastery Mentor turns. I dealt with his Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and for every Dig Through Time he cast, I had my own Read the Bones. Moving on to side boarding:

4 Crackling Doom, 4 Silkwrap
1 Chandra, Flamecaller, 2 Duress, 1 Languish, 1 Radiant Flames, 2 Pulse of Murasa, 1 Ruinous Path

This is pretty straight forward. I want more sweepers and less one-for-one removal spells. I bring in the extra Ruinous Path because I still need a way to deal with flipped Jace and Chandra. Controlling your opponents hand is relevant and being able to Pulse back a destroyed Goblin Dark-Dwellers can be back-breaking. I wasn’t sure which was worse: Roast or Silkwrap and made the decision on the fact I’d like to be able to Goblin Dark-Dwellers a Roast.

Game 2 had me mull to five and him take the game over with flipped Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. We got to the point where he had a full hand and a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy on board and I had nothing going for me. I conceded to save some time for game 3. Game 3 boiled down to one interesting game state. I had five lands in play, one being a Needle Spires, with a Chandra, Flamecaller and a land in my hand. I Duressed him and was forced to choose between Crackling Doom, Disdainful Stroke and a Chandra of his own. I was at 16 and he’s at 17. He only has five lands in play and only one blue source. I take the Crackling Doom knowing that if he plays his Chandra I can follow up with my own and kill his. In the meantime, I can put him on a four turn clock with my Needle Spires.

I activate my man land and attack him to 13. He draws and plays a sixth land, but passes the turn. He correctly bet on me having a Chandra of my own.  At this point, he’s hoping he can counter my Chandra and play his own. I draw a Siege Rhino and cast it hoping to either draw the Disdainful Stroke out so I can just cast Chandra in two turns and kill him or resolve the Rhino and force him to draw two removal spells, one for my man land and one for my Rhino. He elects not to counter and lets my Siege Rhino resolve going to 10 from the Rhino’s ability. He draws then goes to tap his blue source and another land. He immediately stops and says “I can’t do that”. This tells me he has a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. He passes the turn back and I immediately activate my Needle Spires and attack with it and my Siege Rhino putting him to two. He draws his card and then extends the hand.

After the match we talk about that line of play. I explained that the best thing he can do is counter my Siege Rhino and hope to draw a removal spell for my Needle Spires. Once I have no threats on board he needs to draw a way to protect his Chandra, Flamecaller and he should take control of the game.  Had he countered the Siege Rhino he would have been able to follow it up with the Jace, Vryn's Prodigy he drew and try to bait me into playing my Chandra. This whole line of play seemed better and gave him more draws than the one he took.
Record 2-1

Tune in Tuesday, March 29th for Rounds 4 through 6 of Mike's Tournament report!

Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter @Tanggarth for live tournament updates and sassy remarks.