September 8, 2017

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Going for the Gold: Play Along with Sammy #2 (GP Indy 2017 – Part 1)

Hey Wizard's Tower fans!

This week we’re back to analyzing Magic feature matches. It’s one thing to talk about Magic in a contextual frame, but it’s another to analyze a match and break down each of the decisions as they happen. Last time I did this with Grand Prix Vegas 2017: Legacy, I received a lot of positive feedback. So going forward, I'm going to publish an article to accompany every feature match that I have. As promised last week, since GP Indy 2017 had two feature matches, I'm going to cover exactly what happened in both and provide you with the ability to watch the match unfold as well.

Our first match opens up in the 4x HOU 2x AKH Sealed format. It's round six and I am currently 4-1, having gone 1-1 after my three byes. Not what you’d call impressive by any stretch. To be honest my deck didn’t boast that many stellar cards and I had built it to attrition opponents out of the game. For reference, here's what I was playing:


The feature matches are called for at the start of the round, and I am playing against Seth Manfield. I couldn’t recall if he had a feature match before the round, but if I did I would have asked my friends who are watching coverage about the contents of his deck. We have a couple of minutes before the round starts, so I grab some Mountains and start putting together my aggressive sideboard strategy. When I easily lost in Round four, I realized that I needed a deck that could go under the very slow control decks that had bombs that I could not deal with. Case in point, this opponent had three on-colour gods in his Grixis deck.

Seth notices me doing this and asks me if I had a read about what he was playing and I was like no but I just want to have my options ready. We’re given the green light and I start the game on the draw. You can watch the feature match here. Seth keeps and I glance at the following hand:





Seth plays a Desert of the Mindful and passes the turn. I draw River Hoopoe for the turn and play a Swamp. Seth draws and plays his second desert in Desert of the Fervent. I’m already super jealous! This signals to me that either he's playing a very slow mana hungry control deck, or is short on lands as most players would save their deserts to cycle in the later turns.

I draw a Swamp for my turn, play my Plains, and pass back. Seth draws and plays a Forest before passing the turn. I stop him at the end of his turn to cycle Beneath the Sands. I'm missing the ability to cast it, and its value is greatly diminished if I don’t pluck a Forest on my next draw step.

I draw Harrier Naga and another Swamp. I play a Swamp and pass to Seth, who has nothing to cast at end of turn and draws and plays a Swamp. He then lands a 5/5 creature in Magmaroth and passes back to me so that I am able to cast Start/Finish. I draw a Mountain for the turn and play it to use the Aftermath part of Start // Finish which lets me sacrifice a soldier token in order to destroy the Magmaroth. My hand was pretty slow so I wanted to make sure that I didn’t get Juggernaut’ed out of the game. Attacking for one lets me bring Seth down to 19, first blood!

Seth plays a Forest and a Bitterbow Sharpshooters, which is another great creature in the sealed format. I finally draw a Forest and cast my Oasis Ritualist. This is important because I have a Greater Sandwurm in my hand that I wish to deploy. Seth attacks me for four with his Sharpshooters and since I have no profitable blocks, I go down to 16 life.

Seth asks me how many cards are in my hand, signalling to me that he's debating removing my mana ramp creature from the board to try and strand some cards in my hand. He plays Crypt of the Eternal, goes back up to 20 life, and I slump in my chair.

BDM: “What’s wrong?”

Me: “No one ever plays that card unless they have Bolas or Crested Sunmare, and it’s definitely Bolas with this manabase”

BDM: *goes quiet*

After some quick deliberation, Seth points a Struggle // Survive at my Oasis Ritualist before playing a Traveler’s Amulet and passing the turn. I draw another Forest and then cast a Harrier Naga and pass to Seth, who cracks his Amulet for a Forest after consulting his hand. This is something that I don’t recommend doing while you're searching, as you potentially give away the contents of your hand. In the moment, I remember wondering if Seth knew what the colour requirements of Bolas were.

Seth draws for the turn and sends his Bitterbow Sharpshooters back into combat. Since it rendered my Harrier Naga and soldier token ineffective, I decided to take this opportunity to offer the trade for either the Sharpshooters or a removal spell. Seth declined to cast a spell in combat and the trade was made. In this situation, both of my creatures were doing nothing and I had already gotten the card advantage off Start // Finish, so even with a removal spell it would have balanced itself out. You can see how fast I did the block, and it wasn’t because I hadn’t thought it through. I had already made that decision during my turn when I consulted my game plan.

Of course he lands Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, and my above analysis is rendered useless. I can go into what else happened in the rest of the game but it wouldn’t be worth your time. There was no card in my deck that could get me out of that spot, so instead I tried to get more information from Seth’s deck. I had decided once Bolas hit the field that I would be sideboarding into a much more aggressive deck so any misinformation I could give Seth during sideboarding would be great.

Me: “I knew you had Bolas!”

BDM: *giggles*

So I build a more creature-centric Jund deck that I am going to play against Seth in games two and three and we are off to the races. I keep the following hand:




Seth also keeps and I lead with a Forest. Seth also matches my Forest but one ups me with a Traveler’s Amulet. I play my Mountain and cast Earthshaker Khenra which lets me get in for two damage. Seth plays a Mountain and passes the turn back to me. I draw Burning-Fist Minotaur and play it along with my Mountain. Seth cracks his Amulet end of turn for a Swamp. He then plays his new found Swamp and casts Banewhip Punisher, which totally devastates my board position by killing my first striker.

I untap and offer the trade with my Earthshaker Khenra for his Banewhip Punisher since I can get it back with Eternalize. He declines, and I play my Ramunap Ruins and cast my Oasis Ritualist. Seth plays a Desert of the Indomitable , then casts Cartouche of Ambition on his Banewhip Punisher to kill my Earthshaker Khenra. He swings for three and I block with my Oasis Ritualist since he's already played his land and cannot threaten my creature. This is a small mistake on Seth’s side, as you should never play a tapped land until your last opportunity to do so, unless it will affect the board in some way. I use my Oasis Ritualist to cast a Bitterbow Sharpshooters of my own. That’s right, I have one too!

Seth casts Electrify on my Sharpshooter and gets in for another three damage. I untap and draw a Swamp, which lets me exert my Ritualist and cast Sifter Wurm. I put two lands to the bottom and reveal Edifice of Authority to gain three life. Seth attacks for three life link, clearly suggesting that he has a Struggle // Survive in hand, and I'm willing to take the trade since I have a Wander in Death in my deck. He has the Struggle but also casts Oashra Cultivator with his remaining mana since he's stuck on four lands.

I cast Manticore of the Gauntlet to potentially trade with another of Seth’s bigger creatures. I place a counter on my tapped Oasis Ritualist and Seth takes three damage. Seth plays a Desert of the Mindful for his turn and makes a heads up the play when he casts Survive to shuffle our graveyards back into our decks. I attack with Manticore and put Seth down to 15 before casting Firebrand Archer and Edifice of Authority. I chose that order so that Seth would take another point of damage and fall to 14 life.

Seth plays his sixth land and taps out to cast a Rampaging Hippo, a 5/6 creature that can easily get in the way of my Manticore. At the end of his turn, I use Edifice to add a counter and make it so that the Hippo can't attack until I untap, which would be in a few seconds. I have no cards and on my draw I pick up Kindled Fury. I instinctively attack and Seth thinks that I've misread my Edifice, so he holds priority to block while reading the artifact, then blocks. I slam down Kindled Fury and blow him out. I made sure to point to my Firebrand Archer for the spell trigger so that I got in another point of damage.

Seth taps out to play another Rampaging Hippo and I add a second counter to Edifice at end of turn. On my turn, I draw and cast Bitterbow Sharpshooters and pass back to Seth. He casts Banewhip Punisher to kill my Firebrand Archer and then a Tenacious Hunter. I put the third and final counter at the end of Seth’s turn, which now allows me to temporarily pacify a creature every turn. I draw for the turn and finally get lucky and see my bomb Grind // Dust. It’s a huge blowout, and I remove the Hippo and the Hunter from the game.

Seth is visibly shaken and chumps with both of his creatures instead of taking nine damage. Seth plays Nicol Bolas and I check to ensure that he has the right mana to cast it before saying okay! He flips my Greater Sandwurm into play, which I prevent from blocking or attacking and a few turns later the game is over despite Seth’s best efforts with a Sand Strangler.

Game three ends up being more of the same as game two and I am able to overrun Seth by casting Wander in Death and Sifter Wurm. Unfortunately since we were a timewalk match, they didn’t end up showing it, so you’ll just have to trust me. 😉 I walk away from the match as a 2-1 victor over Seth Manfield, and I would end up going 8-1 on the day. Join me next week as I walk you through my 10th round feature match against Steve Rubin.

Post in the comments below or tweet at me (@SammyTMTG). And, if you want to keep up with my articles and happenings, please make sure you hit the follow button for Twitter @ SammyTMTG. I’ll see you next week for that article I promised you about, where I go into my feature matches from Indy.

Have a great weekend!

Sammy T