By special guest writer, Lloyd Frias.
Note: Surnames of Lloyd’s opponents have been removed for privacy.
Event: Maryland 2009 State Championships
Date: December 5, 2009
Location: Dream Wizards – Rockville, Maryland
126 players competing
7 Rounds Swiss then Top 8
It was Saturday morning and the snow was falling. My brother Marc tried using the air compressor in our garage to inflate his tires. Well, he tripped. The compressor stopped working and did not function when he tried to restart it. Given these conditions, my brother, the engineer, stated there was the possibility of the device exploding. We unplugged it, put it back in the garage, hoped for the best, and started our journey.
We went to a nearby gas station to add air to the tires. I realized that I didn’t have the directions to the tournament site. We went back to the house and got the directions. (The air compressor was still okay). Yes, we’re off to an auspicious start already.
We arrived at the tournament and the parking lot was slippery. There was a line of people outside at 10:20 AM. We saw a group of players from our local store and waited in company.
In preparation for States, the first step was actually deciding to attend. I’ve been playing off and on since 1994. Until recently, the bulk of my tournament experience is from Extended (post-Necro, pre-rotation) and Vintage. There was also a Vintage tournament up in Philly to which we had considered going. Ultimately, my brother and I chose to attend our first ever States for the fun of the experience.
My tournament deck history includes the following: Wildfire, Forbiddian, Counter-Oath, Keeper/the Deck, Hulk Smash, Control Slaver, Meandeck Gifts. Looking at that list, the obvious is that I have a predisposition to control. I enjoy parrying an opponent’s attacks while setting up a riposte.
Given that context, my deck choice should be no surprise.
4 Courier’s Capsule
2 Sphinx of Jwar Isle
1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
3 Double Negative
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Traumatic Visions
3 Cruel Ultimatum
1 Chandra Nalaar
1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
1 Sorin Markov
4 Crumbling Necropolis
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Drowned Catacombs
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
2 Pithing Needle
4 Spreading Seas
1 Telemin Performance
Since I began playing Standard M10Zen, my deck building has been influenced by various Internets postings, in particular, the articles of Pat Chapin. As you can see, the maindeck is very close to his Wafo-Grixis list.
Since Pat discussed a lot of his card choices in his article, I encourage you to read that article: I can’t explain better. I will explain, however, my variations.
Courier’s Capsule vs. Sign in Blood – The 2 mana draw slot is critical for hitting land drops. In general, Sign in Blood is a stronger card. The double black cost, however, shapes the mana base differently, and I was cautious about the life loss, especially in a burn and aggro meta (Jund, Naya, Boros).
I went with 2 Sphinx of Jwar Isle maindeck as a drop-and-forget win condition. I anticipated expending my counter base forestalling my opponent and would be unable to protect a creature during riposte.
Since I was only running 1 Sphinx of Lost Truths, I wanted to minimize situational cards. Yes, Flashfreeze is awesome and in every green/red matchup I boarded the other 2; however, given my unfamiliarity with States, I played it safe and went with a more well-rounded counter base.
I went with a 2 Divination/2 Deathmark split. Moving the Deathmarks to the maindeck freed up sideboard slots and would be good in the anticipated meta. The adding of more removal also enabled me to draw into more answers for opposing threats.
Chandra Nalaar was more flexible than a 3rd Earthquake. In addition to frying Great Sable venison and singeing an opponent, you can shoot down a Walletslayer.
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker was there instead of a second Sorin Markov. The noted weakness of this deck is non-creature permanent destruction. Bolas fixes that problem, whether it be Valakut, Emeria, other planeswalkers.
Onto the matches:
Round 1 – Ben B. – Jund
Game 1 Jund does its thing and rolls me.
In: 4 Spreading Seas, 2 Flashfreeze
Out: 3 Double Negative, 2 Earthquake, 1 Sorin Markov
Game 2 Spreading Seas stalls him until I gain control and win.
Game 3 I landstall, and he overwhelms me.
Round 2 – Conor M. – Jund
Game 1 He stalls out and I take over after Cruel.
In: as in Round 1
Out: 3 Double Negative, 2 Traumatic Visions, 1 Sorin Markov
Game 2 Spreading Seas and lack of land draws stall him and forces him to play unkicked Goblin Ruinblasters to apply pressure. I clear the board and stabilize with Cruel. He runs out of gas, and control is mine.
Round 3 – Greg Q. – Up Down Dralnu
Initially I thought he was playing Dredge when he started cycling Architects of Will. Apparently, it was Gavin Verhey’s Up Down Dralnu.
Game 1 – I resolve Sorin and drop him to 10. I bolt, drain 2, and end with Cruel
In: 2 Pithing Needle, 2 Negate
Out: 2 Flashfreeze, 2 Deathmark
Game 2 – I draw dead and get pounded by Vampire Nighthawk and a Sphinx of Jwar Isle.
In: Telemin Performance
Out: Traumatic Visions (I think)
Game 3 – After seeing Sphinx of Jwar Isle game 2, I decide to see if I can steal his to add to my Sphinx collection. I resolve Telemin Performance, mill a Terramorphic Expense and get…Vampire Nighthawk. I wouldn’t have minded so much if I had milled more than 1 card at least. Ah well. We trade Nighthawk life swings. I get a Sphinx of Jwar Isle on the board and he sits back on defense. At this time, I was at 19 and he was at 25. I play Sorin and drop him to 10. I Cruel, then I terminate his Nighthawk and swing with Sphinx for game.
Round 4 – David Z. – Vampires
Game 1 – I draw dead, and his minions suck me dry.
In: 2 Negate, 2 Pyroclasm
Out: 2 Flashfreeze, 2 Deathmark
Game 2 and 3 – I Cruel and take over from there.
Round 5 – Nathaniel C. – Naya
Game 1 – I answer his threats. I set up Cruel and finish with double Bolt headshots.
In: 2 Pithing Needle, 2 Flashfreeze, 2 Malakir Bloodwitch
Out: 2 Double Negative, 2 Sphinx of Jwar Isle, 2 Traumatic Visions
Game 2 – I stall and his Luminarch Ascension gets to 4 counters. Between angels, soldiers and Elspeth, I drop from 17 to 0 in one turn.
Game 3 – He drops a Baneslayer. I drop a Malakir Bloodwitch to hold that off. He plays Luminarch Ascension. I drop Pithing Needle to shut it down. I play Sorin and drain him until I get a removal for Baneslayer at which point he’s at 11. 2 turns later thanks to Sorin and Bloodwitch, I down him.
Round 6 – Billy K. – Naya
Game 1 – He gets Baneslayer active. I’m at 6 and he’s at 28 before I deal with it. I play Sorin and drop him back to 10. He fetches to go to 9 to thin out his deck for threats. I drain for 2 with Sorin to put me at 8 and him at 7. He has an empty hand, so I Earthquake him for lethal.
Sideboarding as in Round 5
Game 2 – I Cruel twice. Then I play Bloodwitch and Sorin to close.
Round 7 – Matt D. – Jund
Game 1 – I forestall him and hit 2 Cruels to drop him to 9. I bolt and then Earthquake for 6.
Sideboarding as Round 2
Game 2 – I cut off red sources with Spreading Seas. I hit 2 Cruels to drop him to 8. I drop Bolas and begin destroying red sources to ramp to ultimate. I hold off his creatures as he tries to stop Bolas with Lightning Bolts. At some point I drop a Sphinx of Jwar Isle. After getting an opening I drop him to 3 with Sphinx and have Bolas at 10 as I pass the turn. With my board position so overwhelming, he effectively concedes the match to me: on his turn, plays Sprouting Thrinax and asks me to finish him with Bolas’ ultimate, so he can go down in style.
Top 8 – Jacob W. – RDW
Game 1 – Red Deck Wins
In: 2 Flashfreeze, 2 Pithing Needle, 2 Pyroclasm
Out:2 Deathmark, 1 Chandra Nalaar, 2 Earthquake, 1 Nicol Bolas
Game 2 – I stall him and drain with Sorin to stall him further. At 3 Life, I drop his life to 10 with Sorin, I Cruel and then take over from there.
Game 3 – He stalls out on 2 Teetering Peeks. I hit him with 2 Cruels but have trouble finishing him: I do not draw another kill card until there are only 4 cards left in my library. I play nearly every land in my deck by that time. Eventually, I play a Sphinx of Jwar Isle to seal the game and match.
Top 4 – Jim B. – Naya
Game 1 – I weather the onslaught down to 6 life. I play Sorin, drop him to 10, and follow with Cruel.
Sideboarding as Round 5
Game 2 – Malakir Bloodwitch holds off Baneslayer all day. I play Chandra and fry the Angel. I Terminate the next Angel. Between Chandra and Bloodwitch I finish him off in 3 turns.
Finals – Steve K. – Jund
Game 1 – I blunt his offense, while ramping to Cruel. I use Sorin to siphon life and finish with an Earthquake.
Sideboarding as Round 2
Game 2 – Spreading Seas hamstrings his offense. I Cruel to disarm him further and knock him to 14. I lay Sphinx of Jwar Isle and swing to 9. I have a full grip with Cruel in hand along with counter and removal spells. Next turn I plan to swing with Sphinx and finish with Cruel. He draws and concedes.
On a final note, in addition to the standard States prizes, Dream Wizards also awarded 18 packs of either Zendikar or M10. I went with the M10 packs. The second pack I opened had a foil Baneslayer Angel.
In closing, I wanted to thank the following people:
Pat Chapin for another excellent deck.
The Rotunda/Amazing Spiral crew for helping me field test my initial build going into States.
The Legends crew for your support throughout the Tournament.
Michael P. Hantsch for the peer critique of my draft of this report.
My younger brother, Marc, for driving and lending me his cards.
Thanks for reading.