Indianapolis, here I come!
The weekend had passed and I had been left feeling as though I missed a great opportunity to win a national qualifier at my local store. I thought I was prepared. I thought I was ready. But after a tenth place finish all I had to look forward to this summer was the PTQ season with hopes of grinding to Phili and possibly a trip to Grand Prix K.C.
That was, until Monday evening.
I log on my Facebook and see the red number perched up in the middle left of the screen and click on it. I had a few random messages and status updates that were equally appealing to me, as in not very at all, except one.
Brook Gardner-Durbin( a fellow writer for this site and quietspeculation.com) posted something on my page. I’m excited, though I don’t know why.
I click on it. I read.
“coming down this weekend?”
I had forgotten about the tournament in Bozeman he had previously told me about. I felt my heart rate speed up and a twinge of hope bubble up inside me.
I knew it was a long shot at this point to find people to travel six+ hours through Montana (a what a trip it would be) for a Nationals Qualifier. I tried not to get my hopes up but found it difficult. I received a flurry of texts saying ‘working’, ‘no money’ or the like. But by some miracle by the end of the night I had just one other grinder with a dream on the squad. Mr. Robbie Calhoun.
By the end of the week we had managed to secure Spokane’s other local ringer, Christopher Housley (The Dirty Dangler), on board and a free place to stay in Bozeman at Brook’s place.
We ventured out Friday afternoon after eating some delicious Papa Johns, courtesy of Robbie’s mother’s coupon 😀 Along the way we managed to sing, car dance, and I even got a little head banging in there for good measure. Robbie hit 90+ mph for a good amount of the trip and we were fortunate enough to get pulled over when we were going only 87. The cop reduced it to 10 miles over and gave Robbie a twenty dollar speeding ticket…
I love Montana.
At a gas station in some random city I saw a man who looked so much like a zombie with sunken in eyes and enormous purple bags under them that I actually felt a quiver up my spine when I turned my head and noticed him staring at me. I am very weary of upcoming Zombie attacks and being axe murdered whilst partying with males and females at the same time at night.
The further into Montana we got, the more snow we encountered, eventually resulting in us trudging through a blizzard. At the end of April/beginning of May…
I hate Montana.
We finally got to Bozeman around 10 at night and after getting to Brook’s place began playing some test games. Brook informed us of the metagame we should be prepared for and we tried to build our decks accordingly. He said there was basically going to be no Valakut or RUG, and that all of the better players would be playing Caw-blade. If you read my last artile you would know that I was on the Caw-train. You would also know I had played RUG at Regionals in Seattle a few weeks ago.
I played a bunch of test games against Brook’s Venser control deck with My Caw-blade build and promptly got rolled in all the games we played. Then I had an idea.
Seeing as Brook supposedly beats everybody in Montana, I assumed I would have to go through him to get to Nationals. If there was No Valakut, and everybody was playing Caw…I grabbed RUG and started smashing him multiple times because I’m a master, and was waffling with my deck choice up until the very last minute. Here’s the deck I played…
1xSword of Feast and Famine
4xJace, The Mind Sculptor
2xDay of Judgment
I had learned my lesson. Even though RUG was actually a very legitimate choice since almost the entire top 8 was full of Caw decks, I made the correct decision. The 75 was adjusted for the metagame I saw before the tournament. I loved my card choices for this tournament, but obviously would have had a completely different list given a different metagame.
I’m not going to go into too much details about the matchups except for a few specific important plays. I also won’t go through some of the sideboarding I did because, frankly, I don’t remember. Also because my sideboard changed whether I was on the play or draw and also on the playstyle of my opponents. I think it’s kind of redundant to give sideboarding walkthroughs for a deck that’s been written about infinite times already. However there is one matchup I’d like to address specifically.
I played against a lady named Meghan who was playing Black/White allies. Game one I kept a hand that was four land, double Squadron Hawk, Gideon on the play for some unfathomable reason. I would have been in a fine position too had she not had a second Kabira Evangel to get through to my Gideon. I lost that game, refocused, and promptly won games two and three.
I can’t remember his first name for the life of me, but his last name was Tobbler (though I probably spelled it wrong) who was playing Tezzeret. Both game I managed to make sure my Jaces wouldn’t die to his Tezzeret and made sure he never had a Tezzeret out for more than a turn or two. I countered his important spells and won 2-0. He was a nice guy I had meet before, so we had some awesome banter during the games.
Some guy playing B/R Vampires. Game one I managed to get control of the board and leave him with few resources before he dropped Dark Tutelage. I was at too low a life and didn’t have a good enough draw to overcome the immense card advantage he gained throughout the course of the very long game. This is one of the matches I really wished I had a second SOFAF in my deck. Up until this tournament I had two swords because You don’t want to feel helpless if they IoK one of them or destroy it, and sometimes having two creatures with a sword on it is the best way to get a sword hit in if they have a tumble magnet or a removal spell so you’ll still get your mini time walk. Both games two and three were fairly long affairs. Game two I had a pretty good draw and his was mediocre so I won, despite him topdecking a go for the throat for my BaneslayerL
Game three came down to some crazy long attrition war when he got me down to one life to his nine. He had no cards in hand and three creatures on the board with no Bloodghast in the yard. I had a Sword, Mortarpod, Tumble Magnet with two counters, and a Colonnade with plenty mana. I untap, cast the Day of Judgment in my hand to wipe the board, cast a stoneforge, search for nothing, say go, and plead for a blank on top of his deck.
He untaps, draws, and throws a Bloodghast into the redzone tapped and attacking, I point to my Magnet and he sighs. I untap activate Colonnade, equip sword, and put hi to three. He untap and draws…
Good thing I have this trusty Colonnade to block with and one last counter on my Tumble MagnetJ
I win, and he reveals the top card of his deck to be a lightning bolt. Close one
Nate playing U/W caw. Nate’s a player I meet last year in the finals of a National Qualifier. We both went to Nationals, hopefully one of us would be going again. I win the die roll but have to mulligan. I have a fine draw, except that he gets ahead on mana and planeswalkers and I fall too far behind and scoop. Game two I’m on the play And he gets mana screwed. Not a real game.
Game three is interesting. He doesn’t do anything in the early game, which makes me think he kept a hand with counters. He counters my baby Jace on turn three and plays a tapped land and says go. He doesn’t counter my tumble magnet on turn four, which makes me think he has a hand full of planeswalkers and only a few counterspells. He again doesn’t do anything on turn five. I assume he doesn’t cast a Jace because he’s playing around a Spell Pierce I don’t have. I’m putting him on having limited counterspells and I have a Gideon and a Sun Titan in my hand, both of which I’d like to resolve. I can’t do nothing because if he calls my bluff He will resolve a plainswalker with counter backup and then I will just lose. So I play out a Jace, with my bluffed Spell Pierce mana up so he can’t cast a Gideon the next turn, fully expecting it to get Pierced/Leaked. He says okay and I look at him strangely. I’m confused as to what’s going on. I brainstorm and pass. He untaps, activates his Colonnade…and gets it tapped by my Magnet. It was unfortunate for him he made the misstep of forgetting about the Magnet. I knew I was going to win from there. I untapped, cast Gideon, brainstormed…Yeah that’s all there is to it. I think his sequencing in this match, specifically game three, was why he lost. I just don’t think he understood well enough how you play the mirror and he played too cautiously at times. He did tell me that this tournament was his first experience with the deck, so naturally anybody will have problems with it. Especially in the caw-blade mirror.
I got paired against Housley, who was 3-0-1, and after doing some math decided to draw. We spent the rest of the round doing even more math, and after seeing how all the relevant matches played out, realized I should have scooped to him and we both would have been locked. That’s what we get for not waiting til the end of the round to sign the slip. It didn’t matter because he won his next round and made it in anyway.
Unfortunately Housley and I got pitted against one another in the quarters. It sucks we couldn’t have met in the finals to assure one of us get the slot. It also sucked because Housley was the ‘other’ best player at the tournament. He won the die roll, but I won both games pretty uneventfully. Game one we each started with Stoneforge and sword. But he tapped out to preordain, played a tap land , and equip sword on turn four. I chumped and put a sword into play. I untapped, cast a Jace and bounced his Mystic. From there every time he cast a Planeswalker I had a counterspell and he was way too far behind. Game two he should have mulliganed but didn’t and made a couple misplays and I won. It happens. Just sucks it had to happen to my friend.
The rest is basically history. My semifinals opponent scooped to me so I could have a chance to go to Nats and, after prevailing through a two and a half hour Caw-mirror on the other side of the bracket, my finals opponent gave me the slot.
I know it may seem lame to get there that way, but trust me when I tell you this; When I win a tournament I know it from round one. I’m just in the zone. Both of my would-have-been opponents in the final two rounds were solid players and we would have had sweet mirror matches (I honestly do love playing the mirror match now) but there was no way I was letting this one slip from my grasp. This was mine from the start and I knew it.
The matchup I would like to discuss sideboarding is the mirror. People have different views about the mirror. I’m not even one hundred percent sure what’s correct. A couple weeks ago I was set to take out nearly all of my counterspells because they were bad in the late game and I could win an attrition war that way. Then Edgar Flores went up to 8 counterspells and zero Gideon Maindeck. And this was for the Mirror! SUFFERING SUCCOTASH! This made me rethink everything I thought I had known about the Mirror. I added one Jace Beleren to the maindeck and cut one Gideon. I went down to twenty six lands and added a Spell Pierce. Basically, my plan post-board was to have only Spell Pierce for counterspells. I didn’t always add the fourth Spell Pierce, but I did sometimes. I only brought in one Divine Offering in the mirror most of the time because If they have Sun Titan, it’s not very good. And If I don’t have Mana Leak to stop their Titans I don’t want their Titans to be absurd. Spell Pierce is very good at winning Jace wars early. This plan works when the other person keeps in their counterspells. If they take them out, then they will usually win the attrition war. Against most top players I would only leave in 2-3 Spell Pierce because they are taking out their counterspells. I don’t really like Mana leak in the mirror, though it can counter Titan while Spell Pierce can’t. It’s just when you have Mana Leak, your opponent knows you have it. It’s easy to play around.
Honestly, the Mirror is very tricky and I’m not sure what’s correct and what isn’t. All I know is I hate the idea of not having Gideon for the Mirror Match. If everyone is cutting them and just having more Jaces and more counterspells, that’s fine. I added one baby Jace and had almost as many counters and Edgar Flores’ version anyway, while still having the trump in Gideon. Planeswalkers are just so important in the mirror, I couldn’t imagine not having Gideon in my deck. I also think people attack with their Gideon way too often. Getting your Gideon Condemned when you don’t need to is just like trying to throw the match away. If you have a Gideon, it means you aren’t losing at the moment, and as long as you can keep him on the board you should be fine. I mean, yes Jace is the most important card in the match, but keeping your Gideon in play is just as important. Attack with other creatures instead. Eventually, they will have to use those condemns on Squadron Hawks. There are times when attacking with Gideon is correct, many times, in fact. It’s just not correct as often as some people tend to think.
I plan on Winning Nationals this year. I’ve never been to GenCon before So I’m excited for the opportunityJ
-RUG for being so enticing and almost making me audible to you (again)
-The Zombie at the gas station
-Montana ‘spring’ weather
-Truck stop gas station food.
-Robbie for driving.
-The Dirty Dangler (your time will come!)
-Brook, Sara, and Lincoln for letting us stay at your house.
-Sara for making a delicious breakfast the morning of the tournament.
-Rooks Games and Comics, the store the tournament was held in. If you ever go to Bozeman, go to this store. It’s roomy, has a very welcoming atmosphere, and wonderful staff and players.
-The Montana Police
-The Subway employees in Butte. “If I wanted to hold your hand I’d just do it”
-Caw-blade for being too good to pass up.
-And of course, yours truly for getting there again 😀