Well, despite finishing 39th at Kansas City with a 5-3 overall record, I thought I would do a write-up anyways. I've been lazy as far as posting tournament reports, but improving your play is facilitated when you get increased constructive criticism (I would even take "play better" in that category) and a pair of fresh eyes. Anyhow, spoiler alert: it starts as every player would dream, but ends in absolute tragedy.
So, as always, a little back story. Over Christmas break I'm just loafing away on Facebook and Wienburg wants to organize a car to drive to Kansas City. I check how long of a drive it is; almost 10 hours total for me, since I have to tack on the extra time from Columbus to Cincinnati. But what else am I going to do? I was sold. The last 5K event that I attended was Philadelphia last June, and I didn't do well, so I was looking for another shot. The first problem was finding a Standard deck to play on Saturday, so I looked at some RUG lists online, built one, tweaked the list and tested it, and thought it would be fine for the event (I went 3-3-1, whoops). I... likely won't want to talk about that format again. But the main question came down to what to play on Sunday.
With most of my recent success coming from playing Survival, I hadn't touched another deck in almost three months. I looked at the pre-GP, pre-Survival metagames and determined that there would be a lot of CounterTop in the field once again, along with other blue-based control decks, and of course everyone's favorite, Merfolk. CounterTop eats combo, and all of the sudden it seemed like a pretty good metagame to be playing Zoo in, which the last I sleeved that deck up was a week after the GP, and I had no idea how to approach the list or build. I got a ton of great pointers and Zoo deckbuilding strategies from Alix Hatfield -- a special thanks to him for revitalizing my interest in Zoo again with new strategies for future iterations and a different perspective on the archetype. I decided to play this list:
4 [ZEN] Arid Mesa
1 [FUT] Horizon Canopy
3 [R] Plateau
1 [R] Savannah
3 [R] Taiga
3 [ON] Windswept Heath
4 [ON] Wooded Foothills
1 [UNH] Forest
1 [UNH] Mountain
1 [UNH] Plains
1 [UL] Treetop Village
4 [TO] Grim Lavamancer
4 [ARB] Qasali Pridemage
4 [ZEN] Steppe Lynx
4 [FUT] Tarmogoyf
4 [ALA] Wild Nacatl
1 [CFX] Knight of the Reliquary
2 [VI] Fireblast
4 [M11] Lightning Bolt
4 [CFX] Path to Exile
2 [LG] Sylvan Library
1 [CST] Swords to Plowshares
3 [MPR] Lightning Helix
SB: 1 [LG] Sylvan Library
SB: 2 [TE] Choke
SB: 2 [CFX] Knight of the Reliquary
SB: 2 [TSP] Krosan Grip
SB: 2 [IA] Pyroblast
SB: 1 [CST] Swords to Plowshares
SB: 1 [WWK] Bojuka Bog
SB: 2 [ZEN] Mindbreak Trap
SB: 2 [BOK] Umezawa's Jitte
In retrospect, the Mindbreak Traps really didn't do a whole lot. I decided around 8 AM the day of the event to cut a Karakas and put Bojuka Bog in its place, mainly because I didn't think Karakas would be that relevant (define Irony here, please). If I were to rebuild the sideboard, the only thing I would change for the event would be -2 Mindbreak Trap, +1 Pyroblast, +1 Karakas. But every card in the sideboard except for the MBT's were relevant throughout the day.
We headed out on Friday, myself, Wienburg, and his friend Dennis. We get to the hotel pretty late, so we look over our lists, and go to bed. Many hours later, after scrubbing out of possible money on Saturday, I decide to walk around and see if I could jump into a cube draft or just hang out. I first heard someone call me by my username -- it was SpikeyMikey, we introduced ourselves and had a great talk. He had driven down with JACO, and apparently we're all terrible at Standard. Ouch. I catch up Wienburg, and he's hanging out with Alex Bertoncini and Caleb Durward's crew. Bertoncini is still in so he leaves to play his matches, and I jump in some testing with a UR Welder-Painter-Grindstone deck. Goldfishes very well, but is lacking a little bit in the sideboard. I recommend the Show and Tell plan, since I've been trying out Ooze Reanimator, and most absurd combos g1 fueled by a g2 Emrakul are pretty good. We all head out to dinner at Famous Dave's, which was excellent. Caleb is sold on boarding into the Show and Tell package tomorrow, and will likely transfer the information to a few other people. I think the deck'll do pretty well. I head back to the venue, meet up with Wienburg, who drops at X-3, and our car and Donnie Noland head out to Fogo de Chao, where I seriously regret eating BBQ and stare at the absurd amount of steaks on the table while I sip on my water. Anyways...
Sunday is finally here. We get to the venue early, I resleeve Zoo, and I'm ready to go. Player meeting, there's about 190 people (I didn't hear the exact count) in attendance, so 8 Rounds of Swiss. Much better than the 10 Rounds of Standard yesterday. I head to my first table, who is...
R1) Ethan Jian-Washburn playing UWb Landstill, Win-Win
Game 1: I lose the die roll but keep a hand with Steppe Lynx, Sylvan Library, and two fetches. He leads with Marsh Flats, pass. No reads yet. I fetch, throw the Steppe Lynx out there, and it resolves. I pass back to him. On his turn, he plays a Mishra's Factory, and passes. He doesn't look to happy, I'm guessing he doesn't have removal for the Lynx and should have countered it. On my turn, I draw, fetch and attack for 4. He chooses not to block. I decide to put the dagger in here, and just play Sylvan Library (Landstill doesn't play Daze, and I'm okay with him Dazing it if he had it to fall even more behind). It resolves. He finds removal the following turn, but I bury him in card advantage on my turn, drawing two extra creatures, and he can't keep up with my steady flow of guys on the table. I assume he had the Standstill-Mishra's Factory draw, but that doesn't help when you can't play your draw engine.
Sideboarding: -4 Path to Exile, -1 Swords to Plowshares, -2 Fireblast, -2 Grim Lavamancer, +1 Sylvan Library, +2 Knight of the Reliquary, +2 Krosan Grip, +2 Choke, +2 Pyroblast
Game 2: My opponent has to mull to 5 to keep a steady hand, and is on the play. I have in my notes that I resolve a Sylvan Library with Pyroblast backup, and he StP's a 5/6 Goyf, allowing me to draw more cards at my draw step. I burn him out with a combination of Lightning Helix and Lightning Bolts, and he doesn't have the answer.
Overall comments: I've been on the bad end of the Zoo-Landstill matchup before, so I knew what I wanted to do going in. It was awkward playing against a deck that I played for so long, but I assumed correctly that he was playing Landstill g1, so I did what experienced Zoo pilots have done to me and the past and slow rolled him with the efficient creatures of Zoo and forced him to 1-for-1 me until I could drop a Sylvan Library reliably, always keeping a guy on the table. Library is definitely the most important card in this matchup by far. 2-0 games, 1-0 matches.
Round 2) Chris Bechtholdt playing Affinity, Win-Loss-Win
Game 1: I lose the die roll and he leads with an Artifact Land, Arcbound Worker. Whoa. I keep a hand with Steppe Lynx and Grim Lavamancer, so I feel like I'm okay here. I play out the Steppe Lynx first, and pass. On his turn, he plays an Artifact Land and passes. On my turn, I play a Land, don't fetch, attack with a 2/3, he doesn't block. I cast Lavamancer. On his turn, he drops Arcbound Ravager. Fair enough. On my turn, I play a Land, double fetch, activate Lavamancer targeting Worker, he sacrifices it in response, and I path Arcbound Ravager to remove any +1/+1 counters from the equation. Steppe Lynx gets in for a whopping 6. I draw a Qasali Pridemage the next turn to add insult to injury, and he concedes when he can't stick a guy and has a steady flow of damage coming to him.
Sideboarding: -2 Sylvan Library, -2 Fireblast, -1 Knight of the Reliquary, +1 Swords to Plowshares, +2 Krosan Grip, +2 Umezawa's Jitte
Game 2: I screw up the sideboarding here, mainly because I put him on a less "make big guys" plan, but instead a "aggro swarm" plan, so I misboard. Needless to say, I get torn to shreds by double Master of Etherium + Cranial Plating. I kill one, and have active Jitte, but I can't attack profitably, so I scoop it up and reboard.
Sideboarding (In Addition to g1 Boarding): -4 Steppe Lynx, -1 Plains, +2 Pyroblast, +3 Sylvan Library
Game 3: Much better. I resolve an early Sylvan Library this game and he has zero answers for it. From my notes, I drew 4 extra cards from it (played 2 Lightning Helix), and was far enough ahead that his lack of card advantage sealed the deal.
Overall comments: I cannot say how happy I was that he didn't play Etched Champion, I would not have had a reliable answer if he did. Cranial Plating makes this deck a lot more scary than it should be, but it was a lot less swarm-like than I thought. Sylvan Library saves the day once again. 4-1 games, 2-0 matches.
Round 3) Nick Wise playing UWr Enlightened Tutor Control, Win-Win
Game 1: I win the die roll and lead with Steppe Lynx. My opponent mulls to 6 and allows it to resolve. Awkwardly, this little guy goes the whole way, as my opponent misses his third land drop, plays a Factory, and walks into a Lavamancer activation. I put him on Landstill for now.
Sideboarding: Same as Round 1.
Game 2: I have to mull to 4 this game, as I was either getting a one-lander or one-spell hand with each of my mulligans. I keep a land of Choke, Wooded Foothills, Lavamancer, Lightning Bolt. I can't afford to go to 3, and I'm on the draw. Whatever. I miss my second land drop until the fourth turn of the game, and then get another land to make it three. He really hasn't advanced his board position or played a kill condition, but he has managed to kill a few of my 1cc threats that I've put out. I eventually draw Knight and he casts Enlightened Tutor at the end step, and reveals a Humility. Great. He draws and casts Humility, then Explosives for 3. On my turn, I draw Grip, and start thinking about my lines of play. I have 5 Lands in play at the moment, and he hasn't shown any signs of playing Wasteland. I have 2 Lightning Bolts in hand. It is possible to Grip Humility, grab a Treeptop Village, and start bashing, and burn him out. Choke wasn't going to do anything with an Explosives for 3 in play. I Grip Humility, activate Knight, and he pops Explosives in response. What? He's... tapped out. I grab... an untapped land. And cast Choke. He reads the card. And looks extremely unhappy. I am all of the sudden excited, I play Sylvan Library but it reveals nothing to me for four turns straight, except for these Lightning Bolts. When I finally get a Goyf, he Tutors again for Explosives, makes it on 3, and blows up Choke. I Sylvan again at my draw step... 3 Lands again. I attack with Goyf, putting him to 13. He untaps, puts EE on top, draws, fetches, and kills Library and Goyf. On my turn, I fetch at my upkeep knowing what's on top, and draw a Lightning Bolt. My fourth now. Oh, he fetched? 1 card in hand? Bolt, Bolt, Bolt, Bolt?
Overall comments: I obviously got really lucky in g2 with the mull to 4, able to avoid the recurring EE lock with burn. Nothing else to say really, Steppe Lynx was wonderful again versus blue. 6-1 games, 3-0 matches.
Round 4) Tim Gotton play Rock (Max McCall's List), Win-Win
Game 1: I lose the die roll, but my opponent mulls to 6. I open with a pretty good hand, Nacatl, another creature Pridemage, Bolt, Library, and the supporting lands. I open with Nacatl, and he plays a Lotus Cobra. Wtf? On my turn, I kill it, bash for 3, and pass. He makes a Goyf on his turn, which at the moment is a 4/5 already. I get lucky with a Path off the top, and continue to apply pressure. He makes a Knight the next turn, which is bigger than any of my creatures. I play Library, but start seeing a ton of blanks and he draws Top. I finally find a Goyf and play it, but we're at a standstill. He activates Knight at his end step and finds a Maze of Ith, which makes combat a lot more annoying. On my turn, I draw another Goyf, which he answers with his own Goyf. No Maelstrom Pulse, please! On my turn, I draw a burn spell, and try to Jedi Mind Trick him into blocking a Goyf so I can kill it. He bites, and his Knight dies only able to be as big as 6/6. He spins Top at his end step, looks unsatisfied, and fetches, but I activate Pridemage targetting Top. He shuffles away his Top, but rips a Maelstrom Pulse off the top to destroy all the Goyfs on the table. However, I still have a Nacatl left. He takes 3 before Swordsing it, but I still have my Library, which finds me burn to end the game.
Sideboarding: -3 Lightning Helix, -2 Fireblast, +1 Sylvan Library, +2 Knight of the Reliquary, +1 Bojuka Bog, +1 Swords to Plowshares
Game 2: He Thoughtseizes me on his opening turn, taking Sylvan Library. That's fine. The following turns are full of boredom, as we trade removal for each other's Goyfs/Knights, and somewhere along the line a Tidehollow Sculler gets Pridemage'd. He's up to 25 life at one point, but I land a Goyf and a Pridemage, and start taking chunks out of his life total. I topdeck two Lavamancers as he topdecks two Knights, so all of the sudden I'm a little nervous. Instead of attacking into my bigger Goyf, which is absurdly huge at 6/7 from the Sculler in his yard and the Library in mine, he decides to supercharge his Knights, buying me time to find an answer. When his Knights are ready to be 10+/10+ the next turn and attacking me, I rip the Bojuka Bog off the top. I calmly tap the appropriate mana, activate both Lavamancers, each targetting a Knight, and play Bojuka Bog, targetting him with the trigger. He looks in disbelief, and scoops.
Overall comments: When my play happened, he was at 9 life, so it was not at all unreasonable to burn him out in 3 turns with how much was in the graveyard. But the play happened at an opportune time, and my opponent had correctly taken Sylvan Library out of the equation. I hear that card is really good! 8-1 games, 4-0 matches.
Round 5) Dennis Taylor playing Burn with Wastelands, Win-Loss-Loss
Game 1: Dennis was the other person in our car, so it's pretty awkward that we are paired so early, but oh well, gotta play it out. I know this matchup is not exactly favorable, but if I apply good early pressure, I should be fine. I win the die roll, and I start with a Nacatl in play. He Wastelands me, and I fetch up a Plateau, bash for 3. He Wastelands me, and I fetch up a Plateau again, bashing for 3. Eventually we start trading blows with Goblin Guide vs Wild Nacatl, but when he tries to Price of Progress, I have the Fireblast to take 0 damage, and then Bolt him on my turn.
Sideboarding: -1 Knight of the Reliquary, -3 Path to Exile, +1 Sylvan Library, +2 Umezawa's Jitte, +1 Swords to Plowshares
Game 2: I have no idea if I boarded right, but I want card quality in this matchup, I'm pretty sure. I die a miserable death to 2 Goblin Guides.
Game 3: I punt here, as I fetch out a nonbasic with a guaranteed t2 Library, but he has the Wasteland. I draw no Lands for the rest of the game.
Overall comments: I made a critical mistake in g3, getting greedy with my t1 Wild Nacatl, as I was not looking far enough ahead. I'm a little unhappy that I had to play tight and I didn't. I had to get my shit together after this round. 9-3 games, 4-1 matches.
Round 6) George Blankenship playing Merfolk, Win-Loss-Win
Game 1: I win the die roll and lead with Steppe Lynx, which eats a Force of Will. Seems good. He plays a Mutavault on his turn, but no Vial. I play a Goyf on my next turn and follow it up with another. I’m sure mossivo1986 has educated everyone what Goyf math is.
Sideboarding: -2 Sylvan Library, -2 Fireblast, -1 Knight of the Reliquary, +2 Umwzawa’s Jitte, +2 Pyroblast, +1 Swords to Plowshares
Game 2: I have to mull to 5 to find a manabase that doesn’t suck, and I fail to draw lands favorably. He has a timely Submerge on my Nacatl, and has a Reejery and 2 Cursecatcher attacking through my Steppe Lynx without Lands. That was ugly.
Game 3: I open with Steppe Lynx again, and he Forces it again. Already a good start. The game gets fairly competitive, but I kill 2 Lords in the process and a fetchland activation that didn’t get a Submerge in response puts him to 6 life. With one creature in play, he plays Jitte and tries to equip, and I Pyroblast it in response. He looks at the board, I show him a fetchland, and he scoops them up.
Overall comments: I think Merfolk is still pretty tricky, he was only playing 2 Perish effects which would have done a lot of work against me, but he failed to draw them both games as he only resolved maybe 3 Silvergill Adept through the entire match, and couldn’t afford to play Standstill. Submerge was pretty clutch as well. 10-4 games, 5-1 matches.
So the Standings go up and I’m 13th headed into Round 7, and I get a call from my teammate who is Germany for the semester. He wishes me luck in the upcoming rounds and tells me that ggslive is talking about the one (!) Zoo deck that is in contention at the moment. I’m pretty excited, until I get my pairing…
Round 7) Jacob Baugh playing Spiral Tide, Loss-Loss
Game 1: I mull to 5, and since I’m already nervous about the match, I draw 6 and the judge ruling puts me to 4 cards. I apologize to Jacob, assure him that I'm not up to any shenanigans, and open with t1 Nacatl, t2 Lavamancer, and that’s all she wrote. He plays Candelabra of Tawnos on his opening turn, followed by t2 cantrip, t3 go off.
Sideboarding: +2 Krosan Grip, +2 Mindbreak Trap, +2 Pyroblast, +2 Knight of the Reliquary, +1 Bojuka Bog, +2 Choke, +1 Swords to Plowshares (he is playing Cloud of Faeries and Snap), -2 Sylvan Library, -4 Grim Lavamancer, -4 Tarmogoyf, -2 Path to Exile
Game 2: I board in a lot, mainly because I don’t have anything really gamebreaking against him. I keep my opening hand, in fear of mulling into oblivion. I actually get him to 10 life before he goes off, this time without needing Time Spirals, and setting up a kill of Brain Freeze for lethal + Cunning Wish into Ravenous Trap in case I had anything. Ugh. Another t3 kill.
Overall comments: This deck is pretty powerful. I talked to Jacob after the match and he said that he only really had issues with Counterbalance the entire day, hence his X-1 record when we met. Other than that, he had been blowing through the Swiss with this deck. To combat this deck, the only feasible answer would be hate bears, as Minebreak Trap honestly does nothing (and Pyroblast probably can’t do a whole lot without Hate Bear backup). Teeg turns off Turnabout and Time Spiral, which are the crucial spells in the matchup. I will have to test appropriately when the Spiral Tide list starts to be refined. 10-6 games, 5-2 matches.
Round 8) For all the marbles, Caleb Durward playing UR WelderStone, Loss-Loss
Game 1: I walk over to our table and grin sheepishly at Caleb, who laughs when he sees me. We sit down, and I keep an opening seven of Steppe Lynx, Lavamancer, and Lightning Helix. It's not enough to keep Painter's Servant at bay (only one spell kills it), but again, I don't think the mulligan would have helped. He plays t2 Grindstone, Painter, go, with mana active next turn. I draw a blank for the turn, attack him to 9, and on his turn he activates. I Helix the Servant, but he has the FoW.
Sideboarding: -2 Sylvan Library, -1 Knight of the Reliquary, -2 Fireblast, +2 Krosan Grip, +2 Pyroblast, +1 Swords to Plowshares
Game 2: So, as I mentioned earlier, I know that Caleb is going the Show and Tell plan. And, of course, that is exactly what happens on t3, where I have absolutely nothing that can put him close to lethal. I scoop it up to the Emrakul.
Overall comments: "Nah, I don't need Karakas." That was my thought process at 8 AM. So much for that one. I don't think I could have been that lucky to have gotten Karakas in both games post-board anyways, but it would have given me a better shot for sure. Caleb admitted he did have the nuts in g1, but pointed out a line of play to me that could have gotten me closer depending on what my hand is at the point which I scooped. I didn't have it, but it was good to know for future reference. Anyhow, he's a cool dude, we shake hands and I wish him luck on his tiebreakers to get to Top 16. He does make it, at 16th 10-8 games, 5-3 matches.
So that concludes my Kansas City 5K, I finish 39th at 5-3, after a really hopefully 5-1 start. Of course, it was the risk that I took going into a tournament not playing Force of Will or additional hatebears, but as I stated earlier, I'm happy with how the deck performed against the expected portion of the metagame and I'll continue to attempt to refine it with what I learned this weekend.
Meeting Sourcers and hanging out with them through the tournament.
Famous Dave's, for having delicious BBQ.
Sylvan Library, for being the absolute nuts. Will never play less than 3 in my 75 again. Maybe.
Steppe Lynx, for getting there against decks all day long.
Choke and Lightning Bolt, for hilariousness and shattered dreams in Round 3.
hungryLIKEALION, for knocking some sense into me before I took my original list.
SCG for hosting another great event.
My teammates, who got a hold of me throughout the day to cheer me on, from Columbus or from Germany. I love all of you guys.
Not being able to eat at Fogo de Chao, but instead stare at all the delicious steaks. Saved some $$ though.
Mindbreak Trap, you're terrible.
Non-interactive combo, I hate you.
Suggesting cool sideboard plans and losing to said sideboard plans.
Punting away my chance at at least competing in my Round 5 match by not fetching out a basic and getting greedy.
Standard, for being a god-awful format.
Missouri roads, for being confusing as hell.
Ben Wienburg's car, for not having cruise control, since I drove half the way home, sometimes 5 below the speed limit or 15 above. Meh.
Well... that was a wall of text. I hope everyone, uh, enjoyed living vicariously through this tournament report, and I'll see you guys at Indy next month. Thanks,
Delver enthusiast and avid practitioner of blind flipsmanship.
Follow me on Twitter: @AllSunsDawn
Have you considered playing Stirring Wildwood instead of Treetop Village? Do you think the mana-fixing and extra point of toughness is worth the higher activation cost?
EDIT: Fuck, now that I think about this, play land + any blast also fucks you, as if everything's blue in addition to its other colors, your WUR helix gets countered by REB/pyro AND BEB/hydro! I don't know if he was playing MD blasts, but this definitely seems like a click, as he has a LOT of outs if he gets that extra card and untaps with a possible land drop + activation + blast.
Nice report Morbid. I never would have guessed me amigo Dennis would have played burn.
Entered this world without my consent, leaving this world against my will.
Not really sure how much I helped, but thanks for the prop ;p
5-3's not too bad, it just sucks to get slammed with two bad combo matchups in a row like that. But hey, them's the breaks. Good luck in the next one. The report was very good.
Edit//Actually, some junk:
I know you said in your PM you liked Helix more than Chain. I played Helix over Chain for a long time, often switching between them based on what I expected in the meta (More zoo? Helix! More CB and Folk? Chain!) but would you say you liked the helixes right now?
Also, I've played three Libraries before, but always felt like I drew too many. I mean, I see you had one in the board here for the matchups where it's good, but I don't see it being worth the board slot. But maybe it is. I could be wrong. Might have to try it out.
Edit again//And the 5th Sword Effect over the 8th Burn Spell. How was that for you? I never liked that configuration, but I know some people have had success with it.
I saw you playing Caleb. I was the kid with a white bear hat.
I ended up playing Team America and it sucked. I was kicking myself all the way home for not playing Zoo.
big links in sigs are obnoxious -PR
Don't disrespect my dojo dude...
Sweep the leg!
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