Heyo saltines! I hope everyone is well! Christmas is less than a month away, and ultimate masters is looking to be the the ultimate Christmas gift. MTG Goldfish dropped an article on the EV, or expected value, of said box and it looks to be incredibly high. I may possibly get my mitts on a box and do a box opening for you guys, time will tell! As usual, I’d like to thank my amazing sponsor, Jack’s on Queen. Rocking a crazy assortment of things from comic books, to miniatures, to boardgames, and MTG singles, Jack’s on Queen has something for just about everybody. Go show ’em some love, and tell them the salt man sent you.
So this past weekend I traveled to the quaint little town of Penetanguishene to North of Exile games. They were hosting a standard PPTQ and since I wasn’t working I decided to attend. I made the trek to participate in the standard event with my B/G Undergrowth deck. Now I had played at FNM the night previous and went 2-2, which isn’t great but going even is better than not. Before filling out my decklist I made one small change. I decided to remove the one copy of Underrealm Lich and replace it with one copy of Golgari Findbroker. I found that, more often than not, Lich would get me pretty low in the deck, and then just die. Findbroker has the pretty unique ability of grabbing any permanent from my yard, so I can grab a land, another creature, or even Vraska. Other than that change, I decided that the Pilfering Imps were just too slow, so I threw in a few copies of Duress for those control match-ups. How did we do? With 17 people registered in the event, that meant five rounds of swiss and a cut to top 8. Let’s review the grind.
Round 1; Win in 3 vs Izzet Drakes
So round one we got paired with another Jack’s regular, one Kyle MacDonald. Kyle has been a thorn in my PPTQ side for far too long. This fine gentleman took me down in the finals of a PPTQ earlier this year. We were both piloting very different decks then, but it seemed like I still had the bad match-up. Kyle was piloting Izzet Drakes, probably one of the most explosive decks in the standard format due to its’ namesake card, Crackling Drake. This flying four drop might not seem like a huge threat on its own, but when the deck is a solid seventy percent cantrips, the drake can basically kill you in one swing. The deck also plays a Guilds of Ravnica all-star, Arclight Phoenix. As I said previously, with the crazy amount of cantrips in this list, it is incredibly easy to bring back multiple Phoenix in a turn. Game one i was forced to mulligan to six. I got ahead early with a lone copy of Stitcher’s Supplier, which alone did five points of damage over consecutive turns. The game then became quite grindy as Kyle and I traded back and forth as I swung with my supplier and he swung with Goblin Electromancer. Kyle was drawing nothing but counter spells and spot removal for my threats, and I was drawing nothing but threats for his counter spells. However, the game ended quite abruptly once I managed to resolve a Lotleth Giant and threw eight damage at my opponent’s face. For my sideboard I removed; 2x Mausoleum Secrets, 2x Vraska, 1x Izoni, 1x Ritual of Soot, and 1x Glowspore Shaman. I brought in; 3x Carnage Tyrant, 2x Vraska’s Contempt, and 2x Duress. Game two my opponent really got to show me the power of a Crackling Drake. After he took a mulligan to six, Kyle controlled the dickens out of my board state until I was out of threats. He then resolved a drake, with a power of nine. Two turns later I was wrapped up in an izzet coloured blanket and thrown in the ditch. Game three was the most back and forth game I believe I have ever played. We were both at each other’s throats, back and forth removal spells, big threats, and then I ripped a copy of Vraska’s Contempt, took care of his last creature, and managed to get there. This was a crazy first game. Kyle is a crazy skilled player, and it took a lot of luck to win that game. GGs!
Round 2; Loss in 3 vs Mono-Red
Oof, is it getting hot in here or is it just….HOW AM I DEAD? That is basically how I felt during the duration of these games. Game one was pretty rough for me, not only was I on the draw against a burn deck, but my library neglected to supply me with a single green source. I had to mulligan to six… needless to say the game ended with no board for me. Game two was a wee bit better. I had brought in a couple copies of Deathgorge Scavenger in order to eat some graveyard creatures to gain me some life, and boy did it come in clutch. My opponent had hit a Risk Factor and I elected to take the damage. A couple of turns later I was at four life and my opponent was empty handed. They decided to Jump-Start it back, discarding a land, so I opted to give my opponent three cards. My opponent drew into a Lightning Strike and took me to one. I drew into a copy of Deathgorge Scavenger and slammed it. Its’ enter the battlefield effect exiled a creature out of my opponent’s graveyard and I gained two life, putting me to three. I then hit a hard streak of luck as my opponent drew lands and I was able to eat more creatures and gain enough life to put me out of burn range. Game three was very similar to game one. My opponent drew a flurry of burn spells but I managed to sit at four. That’s when he dropped an Experimental Frenzy, to which I promptly removed via Assassin’s Trophy. I was feeling pretty good, then my opponent played back to back Viashino Pyromancer. That’s four to the face for those not counting. Not much I can do when I die on turn five, and I also realized I can crumble really hard to a well placed Goblin Chainwhirler.
Round 3; Loss in 3 vs Jeskai Control
So this deck plays very similarly to the Izzet Drakes in the sense that is plays Crackling Drake. However, it does differ greatly by relying on counter spells as opposed to cantrips when it comes to winning the game, but they both finish with the drake. Another unique interaction is with the card Deafening Clarion. So normally a card like this would only be used as a sweeper, but when combined with Crackling Drake it gives this massive beater lifelink. Such was the issue in game one when I took a three land hand and never drew any more. Not being able to play more than one threat in a turn against a control deck is never ideal, and this game got closed out pretty quick. Game two was a little more my speed when I was able to grind a little more and I managed to resolve a pretty spicy Izoni, who brought a total of nine wee friends to play with. Now game three was one of those games. It was super close, countering threats, resolving threats, removing threats. Until I revealed a copy of Carnage Tyrant off the top. A turn previous my opponent had used a copy of Star of Extinction to wipe my board. That’s when I got the idea. I wanted a turn where I could resolve the Tyrant, and have enough land to activate my Field of Ruin to blow up one of my own lands and fizzle the Star. So I waited, and waited, and waited one turn too many, as my opponent was tired of waiting for Carny T, and played a 10 power drake. Needless to say I couldn’t get there in time, and you want to know what’s worse? My opponent was holding nothing but lands. You want to know something else? I just realized, as I’m writing this, that Field of Ruin says ‘target nonbasic land an OPPONENT controls’ so I wouldn’t have been able to do it anyways. I played way too safe, and I paid for it. I’ll remember that for next time.
Round 4; Win in 2 vs U/W Prison
This deck was very interesting. I sat down in front of my opponent and they said to me ‘are you prepared for jank?’ For those unfamiliar with the term ‘prison deck’, it derives originally from the card Ghostly Prison which basically made it so your opponents’ creatures couldn’t attack you. A majority of these cards are enchantments that render a creature unable to attack or block, or cards that exile creatures until that enchantment leaves the battlefield. Game one was kind of a meme fest. Luminous Bonds kept all of my unable to do anything, while Seal Away kept getting flashed in to exile my stuff. I eventually stuck a Vraska, and just recycled all of the stuff that got pacified into card advantage and got there. For sideboarding I took out a single copy of the following; Ritual of Soot, Golgari Findbroker, Ravenous Chupacabra, Stitcher’s Supplier, and Necrotic Wound. I brought in; 2x Thrashing Brontodon and 3x Duress. I used the Duress to take as many enchantments out of my opponent’s hand as humanly possible. Needless to say I took that victory pretty handily. That deck is probably well suited for decks that run a few big creatures, not against a deck that runs a variety of threats.
Round 5; Win in 2 vs Jeskai Control
This deck was very similar to the deck I played in round three. However, this game was quite the opposite as I was able to resolve Vraska, Golgari Queen. It took a while to get Vraska to ult, but I did. Now all I needed to do was untap with a single creature, and I did! Twas a lone Llanowar Elf, and Stitcher’s Supplier against the world, well it was just him until my opponent dropped Niv-Mizzet, Parun. My opponent had two mana up, and I had a Chupacabra in my hand so I slammed it, turns out you can’t negate a creature. So for sideboarding I took out; 2x Vraska, 1x Lotleth Giant, 1x Ritual of Soot, 1x Izoni, 1x Glowspore Shaman, 1x Stitcher’s Supplier, and 1x Mausoleum Secrets. I brought in; 3x Carnage Tyrant, 2x Vraska’s Contempt, and 3x Duress. I was able to play some early creatures, but had to stop swinging when my opponent slammed Lyra Dawnbringer. However, Lyra was not longed for this world as a Vraska’s Contempt removed her from existence. When my opponent a second copy of Lyra, Assassin’s Trophy made sure it didn’t last. These games felt a lot different from the games that I played in round three.
But hey, with a record of 3-2 we managed to crack 6th place going into the top eight!
Quarterfinals; Win in 3 vs Jeskai Control
So being 6th seed going in to the top eight means that I had to play the 3rd seed, which ironically was my round three opponent. I was ready for my revenge! But alas game one was not time for such revenge. I got completely man handled during our first match. My early creatures did a decent amount of damage, enough to bring my opponent to 10, but Deafening Clarion combined with Crackling Drake is just an overwhelming combo. For sideboarding I took out; 1x Stitcher’s Supplier, 1x Necrotic Wound, 1x Findbroker, 2x Vraska, 1x Ritual of Soot, and 1x Glowspore Shaman. I brought in 3x Duress, 2x Vraska’s Contempt, and 3x Carnage Tyrant. Game two did not begin well. I was forced to take a mulligan to four as my seven, six, and five card hands contained all or no land. My four card opener consisted of a lone forest, a Llanowar Elves, and two copies of Ravenous Chupacabra. I scried a copy of Jadelight Ranger to the top, and was ecstatic, until I remember that I was on the play and I would miss my turn two land drop. I drew my Ranger, and was able to play it on turn three with the help of my elf. I held off on playing a Chupacabra until my opponent played a Drake on his turn four, to which I played my answer on turn five. My opponent’s turn six he played Niv-Mizzet, and on my turn seven I slammed the second Chupacabra. I could not believe it, my mulligan to four actually won the game. My mind was blown and I was rocking that natural adrenaline high, I got there with four cards. That being said I never want to have to mulligan like that again. Game three saw me hit my opponent with back to back copies of Duress, I managed to pick a Deafening Clarion and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria out of my opponents’ hand, denying him a sweeper and a card draw engine. With those back to back hand disruption spells I was able to ride the train to victory.
Semifinals; Loss in 3 vs G/B Explore
Oof, ok. So this is where things got a wee bit hairy. So I sit down across from my opponent and we engage in the usual small talk as we prepare and shuffle our decks. We both presented our decks and we took turns shuffle the others. As we were drawing our hands my opponent tells me that he forgot to de-sideboard after his quarterfinal match. We call the judge over and explain the situation. Now if you recall when I was at nationals, a very similar situation happened in my final round where my opponent also had some of his sideboard cards mixed in with his main deck. Which is why I was a little confused when all my opponent received was a warning for ‘mulligan procedure error’. I asked if we could double check the ruling and I was told that it was indeed a warning. It didn’t sit right with me but we continued as instructed. Game one was a land slide for my opponent. Him being on the play, and me basically mimic his moves a turn after was just too slow for me to stand a chance. As we were consulting our sideboards I asked the judge to just give another quick glance because I wasn’t understanding the rationale behind the infraction. Thus ensued a lengthy period of time in which my opponent and I just sat there, waiting for a solid explanation that never really came. So we moved on with our lives. Game two was super grindy. Both of us playing very similar lists, so the game was very back and forth. However, as I explained to my opponent before we begun game one, my deck has reach. As during the end of one of my opponent’s turns I cast a Mausoleum Secrets for nine. The card I grabbed? Lotleth Giant. How much health did my opponent have? Six. My opponent was floored that I would play this super jank uncommon in my list, but sometimes the jank gets there. Game three was the closest game I have ever played with this deck. I had my opponent at nine life, a Lotleth Giant in my hand, and eight creatures in my graveyard. I decided to slam the giant and try to deal the final point of damage, but alas it never came. My opponent had drawn a card for his turn and played it. Wildgrowth Walker. It was ok, I could still deal four points of damage. My opponent +1’d his Vivian Reid and looked at the top four card of their deck. They took a sigh of relief and put the nail in my coffin as they revealed a Jadelight Ranger. So for those of you who don’t want to bother clicking the links, Jadelight Ranger explores twice when it enters the battlefield, and Wildgrowth Walker gains three life and gives itself a +1/+1 counter every time you explore. My opponent put their life to seven, and on my turn I took them to three, but ulted Vivian on their turn and swung for the game.
So we cracked 3rd/4th placed. We won some credit and found out that playing Carnage Tyrant early is probably the better bet than waiting for a play that doesn’t actually work. I don’t feel like the deck is particularly weak to anything, next to Goblin Chainwhirler.
Since this was the last PPTQ in the area, we look towards the next big event in the area. Grand Prix Toronto 2019….or I guess Magicfest Toronto 2019? I still don’t know how to feel about the name change. But regardless, that is a modern format Grand Prix, and I will be posting a blog over the next few weeks, along with a poll so you can vote for which deck I’ll play! Yay for community engagement!
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Until next time, stay salty my friends.