This weekend, I was at a 1k qualifier (for the TCGPlayer.com invitational in Chicago) over at Level Up Gaming, in Manchester, New Hampshire. There was a pool of 63 people at the event, not that big but larger than some. Honestly, space was a bit tight, so I'm happy there weren't any more contenders.
Now, the deck I ran for this event was a modified version of SuperShock, shown below:
3x Koth of the Hammer
4x Dark Tutelage
3x Go for the Throat
2x Arc Trail
2x Kargan Dragonlord
2x Phyrexian Revoker
4x Goblin Guide
4x Lightning Bolt
4x Burst Lightning
4x Galvanic Blast
4x Forked Bolt
4x Lavaclaw Reaches
4x Blackleave Cliffs
4x Dragonskull Summit
2x Bloodchief Ascension
2x Brittle Effigy
4x Tunnel Ignus
This deck is essentially built to dominate creature aggro decks such as Vampires, Elves, Boros or Goblins. The Koths, Kargans and Revokers are just amazing in the control matchup, as is the duress in the main. The four forked bolts are not only amazing in most aggro matchups, but they're great for killing a pair of Squadron Hawks too. It can be difficult to maintain your board position for long though, because even though you can kill two creatures with one spell against a lot of decks, larger creatures and planeswalkers will usually require at least two cards to take off the board. That's where the Dark Tutelages come in handy, sacrificing a little life to maintain your hand advantage.
Anyways, now that you know what I've got, it's on to the main event!
Round one: Jeffrey Landry - Mono-black Vampires
This deck was surprisingly strong, using Abyssal Persecutors to dominate in the mirror. If we didn't have Go for the Throat now, Vampires would simply have no way to deal with it, aside from maybe a double bolt.
In the first game, he tried to put on early pressure but every creature he cast died rather fast. I was even holding a Go for the Throat when he dropped that deadly 6/6, even though I had no idea he was running them. My hand was starting to run low, however, and I didn't see any creatures to damage him with. I ended up casting a Dark Tutelage around turn six, and proceeded to flip at least two damage every turn and getting lands for my normal draws. My opponent then proceeds to get two bloodghasts, and since I'm only getting one spell a turn, I simply can't deal with it. Eventually, I flip up a Koth and take four to the face for game.
Game two was a really intense damage race, and a whole lot of fun. I resolved my Dark Tutelage on the third turn, and match all his creatures 1 for 1, swinging with a Goblin Guide and a manland whenever I get the chance. He managed to get two persecutors that game, but I had two Go for the Throats waiting for them. He got two bloodghasts as well, but one of them ate my Brittle Effigy, and I could handle the other with my two draws a turn. I end up winning at four life.
In game three, I managed to get a Bloodchief Ascension online early on. He starts beating my face with a bloodghast, but unfortunately for him, it wasn't going to do anything to me. Since I drain two life whenever he dies, and another two whenever he cracks a fetch, this race was definitely mine.
Round two: John-Paul Phelan - Big Red
This is a deck I never expected to see today. Essentially, it ran Koth-Kargan, Hero of Oxid Ridge, Tuk-Tuk, the Explorer, Razormane Masticore, Cunning Sparkmage, Inferno Titan, Plated Geopede, and a handful of burn spells. My deck being what it is, this matchup is decidedly the worst thing I could ever face. Being another burn deck, Dark Tutelage is simply too risky, but without it, I'll have no way to maintain card advantage after needing 2-3 burn spells for Tuktuk's token and inferno titan, no maindeck answer for Razormane Masticore, and simply nothing to give me an advantage against this deck.
In the first game, I get a turn one guide and start beating face. My opponent does get the burn for it, but I put him on the defensive, which was nice. I just sat there, burning his turn two and three Kargan Dragonlords, and eventually he drops a Koth, attacking me for four with a land. I choose to take the damage, and drop a kicked burst lightning at end of turn, followed by a Koth of my own, which manages to stay in play until I eventually win.
In game two, he T3 Tuk-Tuks. I still don't know if he was in the main or the board, but either way I hadn't seen a reason to bring in Brittle Effigies, and now I wish I did. I had no way of dealing with the 5/5 token he eventually produced by Arc Trailing and pinging his own creature, since Go for the Throat simply wasn't an option, and I was stuck at two lands anyways. When he plays a Koth on T5, I was put on a two-turn count with no hope of getting out of it.
In game three, he manages to T3 Tuk-Tuk yet again, and I manage to get the mana to use an Effigy, but the Effigy is nowhere to be found. I manage to get in for two by attacking with a Tunnel Ignus (he had eight fetches for the geopedes), but he simply left TukTuk untapped until he drew the burn spell for it, which happened to be an Arc Trail, turning his creature into that deadly 5/5 artifact. To my dismay, my random jank deck loses to yet another random jank deck, which means that my odds of making top 8 are slim to none.
Round three: Matt O'Brien - RUG Aggro
Essentially, this deck used Fauna Shaman/ Vengevine with a few toolbox creatures such as Cunning Sparkmage, Sea Gate Oracle, Acidic Slime, Birds of Paradise or Manic Vandal, with JtMS and Garruk for support. I didn't see a whole lot of this deck, but I'm assuming that it had at least a couple Mana leaks, Green Sun or Bolts, I wouldn't know because the only noncreature spell I saw him cast other than the planeswalkers was a Basilisk Collar.
Going into game one, he T2 Fauna Shamans, only to eat a Galvanic Blast, and me seeing an island and Raging Ravine on his board, I cast a Dark Tutelage to make sure it resolves. This ended up being the right play, since it accelerated me into a Kargan Dragonlord, which not only resolved, but ended up winning me the game. When Kargan was up to six counters, my opponent came at me with a JtMS and bounced the dragonlord, stalling for a few turns, but my EoT Burst Lightning ensured that it wouldn't happen again. I cast the Dragonlord and leveled it to four in the same turn, swinging for lethal the turn after with my 8/8 with flying and trample.
In the second game, I kill a T1 birds and a T2 shaman, and he casts a Sparkmage on T3 that I oddly enough don't have the kill for, my hand holding two koths, a couple lands, and a Dragonlord. He ends up pinging me for four with it over the course of the game, but it's the only damage I take. I draw a Duress on my T4 and cast it, revealing a Vengevine, Obstinate Baloth, Basilisk Collar, and JtMS, when he only has one each of blue and green on the board and two mountains in play. I take out the Collar, knowing what would happen if he had it out with the Sparkmage and I didn't get my kill, and dropped the Dragonlord, pumping once. Two turns later, my opponent still doesn't get their land, and I have an 8/8 flier on the board beating for lethal damage.
Round four: Josh Herr - Bu Vampires
If you haven't heard of this deck, it's essentially the original mono-black vamps list, only with Drowned Catacombs, Creeping Tar Pits, and Unified Will. It's strong, real strong.
In the first game, we go back and forth on trading spells for the first five turns, he takes three damage off of two fetches and a forked bolt and I hold off at 20. At that point, I cast a Dark Tutelage, and with him being in topdeck mode, I quickly take the advantage. He manages to hit double Bloodghast, however, and I end up taking twelve damage off of six reveals of DT, making the game extremely close. In the final turn, I'm at four life and he's at two. I have no cards in my hand, and neither does he. I have a manland I can activate, but he has two, meaning he can block if I swing, and then attack for an unblockable three points next turn. Even if I don't take any damage off DT, he has a fetch in play to return his bloodghast and attack me for game. I reveal a staggershock, go to one life, and put him at exactly zero.
In the second game, I get a pretty impressive hand, two lands, a Dark Tutelage, a Bloodchief Ascension, an Arc Trail, and a Bolt. He T1 Inquisitions on the play, and after a bit of thought, forces me to discard the quest. He then drops a Bloodghast on T2, and another Bloodghast on T3. I get a Brittle Effigy, but it gets countered, and he starts beating me hard with Bloodghasts and Tar Pits. I get down to four life, and flip over a Koth for game.
In game three, I get a T1 guide, but he gets a T1 tracker and T2 double Lacerator, rushing me for early damage. Eventually, we go into topdeck mode, with me at 14 and him at 11. Unfortunately for me, I didn't see a manland, but he was able to activate two Tar Pits a turn, eventually putting me to zero since all I drew was lands and sorcery speed burn. Which means that I was out of the running for Top 8, unfortunately. At this point, I was just playing to try and recover some of my lost rating, and for the sake of playing. After all, I came with a group of three, and one of them still had a shot at top 8, so we weren't leaving any time soon.
Round five: John Thorson - Big Red
Yes, that's right, this is the second time I have to fight that random jank deck. Oh boy.
In game one, he drops a T6 Masticore with two lands untapped and we're both at 14 life. I have two lands in play, and my hand contains two Dark Tuts and two Koths. I scoop.
In the second game, I get a T2 Kargan and beat through twice for four damage, but he bolts it when I try to put the fourth counter on. He follows up with a T4 Koth, tying up the life totals. I tap out to play a Koth of my own and clearing the board, having run low on cards in my hand. He counters with a Hero of Oxid Ridge, and after taking four I use up my last burn spell on it, and thus having no answer to his T6 Inferno Titan. I draw a land, and I lose.
Round six: Zachary Phillips - Grixis Tezzerator
As far as I can tell, he's using an exact copy of Chapin's list, the same deck one of my friends came in running, so I knew I had a decent matchup against it. On T2, a Revoker naming Tezzy or a Dragonlord that will be able to kill Tezzy by the time he's cast really dominates the deck, especially with the support of sixteen spells that cost R that automatically kill Tezzeret if he goes -1
However, this match was extremely unsatisfactory. He had only won once all day, and was very disgruntled, to say the least. In the first game, he had to mull to five, said screw it, and kept a zero land hand, not getting his first land drop until T3. Having seen a Tezzy when he was shuffling and angling his cards toward me, I had cast a T2 revoker naming Tezzy, a T3 Kargan, and Just started beating face with the two creatures and a Lavaclaw Reaches, ending the game by throwing two Bolts at his face.
As I said earlier, I could tell that this guy was really frustrated, and kept muttering about how 'he just didn't care any more'. I felt his pain, being unable to imagine how bad your luck has to be to lose that hard with Tezzerator. On the play, he stares at his hand for a couple minutes, before finally deciding to keep. I inform him that I can't do the same, and start to shuffle my hand in, only for him to do the same five seconds later. I ask him what he's doing, and explain that you can't go back on your decision based on your opponent's choice. He freezes for a second, before saying that I'm right, "and I guess that means I get a game loss", taking the sheet and 2-0 ing me, signing and walking away. I was going to let him do it anyways, since as I said, I felt confident in the matchup and I was looking forward to playing it out, but I could tell he wasn't in the mood to play any more, and he didn't give me a chance to say so anyways.
So overall, I'm definitely disappointed. The deck is built do dominate creature aggro, and I've played against Elves, B/R Vamps, Boros, Gobbos, Valakut, UW, UB, UG Wave and Valakut all the time at FNM, and know the matchups by heart. Of course, I didn't see any of them, and played five builds (well... four) that I had never gotten the chance to play against before, including two I've never even heard of. Not to mention that I actually lost a round to a Vampire deck, an archetype I normally dominate. However, it was a great chance to check out what kind of decks are available in the post-besieged format in action, and I just hope I don't see Big Red at FNM in the coming weeks, as that will be rather painful indeed.
Until next time, may you dominate at FNM as often as I dominate yo mama.