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By: stsung, Jaroslava Stefankova
Sep 27 2017 12:00pm
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I had a truly Magical weekend and I'd like to share my experience with you. I'll be talking about just one online event but that weekend I had several possibilities where to go and what to play in paper. Unfortunately the two events that had higher priority for me were taking place on Friday. I didn't go to either MKM Series Hamburg (Vintage) nor Slovak Nationals (100 card singleton) which I regretted. The following days though made up for it. On Saturday there was a Czech Vintage Series event that was just few hours away from here. I traveled there with another Vintage player.

We went there with a private company train which meant two things - it didn't cost us a fortune and we could play Vintage during the whole trip! Here I managed to deal with Blightsteel Colossus.

I was on Esper Leovold ending up in the finals after 5 rounds of enjoyable games. It felt very good playing a control deck and beating people with Kambal, Consul of Allocation and Leovold, Emissary of Trest. The confusion shown on players' faces when I played Kambal and later their expression of understanding what Kambal actually does was truly priceless. Something one does not experience on Magic Online - where the only signal of surprise is a card floating on the stack for few seconds.

 

The next day I planned to sleep since I came back past midnight and even played on MODO for few hours then. I was exhausted from the Vintage event and Nationals from the previous week and I really needed to sleep (silly of me playing Online when I came back). If I would wake up during the day and I would feel up to playing I'd join a Vintage League. On the other hand I wanted to try Death and Taxes in Legacy for a really long time. It was time to use those Rishadan Ports that I bought! I wanted to join a League but then there was Legacy Challenge starting in few hours and that would allow me to play more rounds and possibly have more fun. The EV is also better so I joined that instead.

Since I do not play Legacy, I decided to check some decklists. I was also curious about how current Death and Taxes decklists look like. I noticed a high number of Mirran Crusaders, lower numbers of Cavern of Souls, and presence of Serra Avengers. I was trying to figure out why people tweaked their decks in this way. Mirran Crusader is obviously a good choice against Leovold decks and decks running Gurmag Angler but could this card have enough impact to win against those? 4c Leovold sounds like a really bad matchup and a single card couldn't possibly win it. No matter how long I thought about this I came to the conclusion that playing Death and Taxes in Legacy is probably suicide. Nevertheless I wanted to pilot this deck and see what it can do.

I discussed my decklist with a friend of mine who certainly understands Death and Taxes and has similar point of view on deckbuilding and playing Magic. I made some changes (if you want to see how the deck looked like before you can check my article introducing Death and Taxes). In the meantime I was reading messages about how this deck is totally unplayable. What I knew is that it has a game against Miracles, it dies to 4c Leovold and it can fight Delver. I knew that Grixis decks would comprise majority of the metagame. Here is the deck I entered with (decklist at the end of the report).

Round 1 - Miracles
I kept Plains, Plains, Karakas, Mother of Runes, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Flickerwisp and then wondered if my opponent will manage to join the game. I won the die roll so I was on the play. I started with Plains and Mother of Runes and wondered what deck I'd face. I wanted to avoid 4c Leovold at least in the first round because I needed to wake up first. My opponent started with Tundra, Portent so I knew I'd play against Miracles which wasn't bad.

I played Thalia, Guardian of Thraben that got countered by Force of Will. My opponent played Brainstorm putting Terminus on top. I played Thalia and Karakas. My opponent played the Terminus he put on top, so I returned Thalia to my hand. I replayed it later. In the meantime I drew Cavern of Souls and Recruiter of the Guard. I wasn't really sure what to look for so I tried finding Stoneforge Mystic that wasn't really likely to resolve. My opponent was mana screwed and was taking some damage. Stoneforge Mystic resolved and I fetched Batterskull. Then my creatures started dying to Swords to Plowshares, Snapcaster Mage into Swords to Plowshares and finally Terminus. My opponent still couldn't play Jace, the Mind Sculptor nor Entreat the Angels due to being mana screwed and my Rishadan Ports. I hardcast Batterskull and Thalia which both resolved but later I lost both the Germ token and Thalia. I just tried playing creature after creature trying to hit my opponent for lethal. In the end I won game 1.

In game two I started off with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and started swinging. My opponent wasn't missing land drops this time so my plan with beating with just Thalia was doomed to fail. My opponent played a Monastery Mentor later that I managed to deal with. Unfortunately a second one followed, and that cost me Council's Judgment that I was saving for Jace. Thalia eventually died. I managed to play Phyrexian Revoker and wanted to play Sword of Fire and Ice which got countered by hard cast Force of Will which I could have avoided with Rishadan Port. My opponent then landed Jace, the Mind Sculptor and I decided to concede.

I expected that me losing the game was very likely since my opponent was on 4 Monastery Mentors. As I feared that is what happened. My draws were all land and my opponent played Monastery Mentor on turn 3 and turn 4 which meant I'd probably die very soon. My opponent had 20 seconds on his timer and wouldn't be able to win the game in time so I conceded and wished him good luck for the rest of the event. Spoiler alert, he won the event and was nice to me.

Round 2 - Miracles
Round 1 loss is never good if one wants to top8. I didn't expect to do well in a field full of Delver and 4c Leovold so top8 was unlikely (I'd have to win all matches) but I was motivated to try. I wondered what I would face next. The Miracles match was a nice one. To my surprise I faced yet another Miracles which I suspected to be a rather rarity. The deck though is a good one and is fun. I couldn't play CounterTop Miracles in the past because I was constantly annoyed by it (similarly to not to being able to play Mentor in Vintage) but this version is totally different. One has a lot of options and it is up to them how the game will play out and I love decks like that! Do not underestimate Miracles when you play against it. Anyway, back to my match.

I kept Plains, Plains, Aether Vial, Stoneforge Mystic, Stoneforge Mystic, Flickerwisp, Karakas. My opponent started with Scalding Tarn and passed. I played Plains and Aether Vial and wondered if it would be countered by Force of Will or Daze. Neither happened. Next turn my opponent played Portent so it was clear I was facing Miracles. I put a counter on my Vial and stared at frozen MODO for a while. That day I encountered three 'Main Navigation has stopped working' errors so I just stoically waited for my client to crash (which normally puts me seriously on tilt). Later I got to continue in my game. I decided to just pass and hope that either of my Stoneforge Mystics would survive till I could put Batterskull in play.

First Stoneforge Mystic got plowed, nothing unexpected. Then I played Mother of Runes and started tapping my opponent's white sources. Mother of Runes was also removed from the game. I wondered if my opponent also had a Snapcaster Mage and if I should play around it. I decided not to do so in the end because I could play Batterskull next turn from my hand. It would be less likely to die then (still could have easily been countered). This way I would lose tempo and could possibly avoid Jace, the Mind Sculptor or rather my opponent would have to tap out for Jace and I could Vial in Flickerwisp and deal with Jace.

What I envisioned happened with the exception that Jace didn't die thanks to my opponent's Swords to Plowshares. I cast Sword of Fire and Ice which resolved. I equipped my Germ token with it and hit my opponent for 6 and their Jace for 2. Things started to look good for me unless I'd face Entreat the Angels. Unfortunately a stop in a draw step suggested that I'd face the Angels. My opponent played Entreat the Angels for 4. I attacked into the Angel tokens with my Germ token and destroyed one Angel. I played Palace Jailer on another one and hoped for a miracle from my part next turn. Another Jace from my opponent followed and I got hit by an angel. I put Mirran Crusader into play and I drew Recruiter of the Guard next turn. I played that and looked for Flickerwisp so I could deal with another Angel. I hit my opponent and Jace and hoped to avoid Terminus off the top. I won next turn.

Game 2, I kept Horizon Canopy, Phyrexian Revoker, Council's Judgment, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Swords to Plowshares, Plains. As usual I started with Thalia, which got countered by Force of Will. I played another one next turn and destroyed my opponent's Tundra. My opponent played another Tundra and passed. I attacked with Thalia and destroyed the newly played Tundra. Then I tried my best to keep my opponent of white sources. That ended up in me facing Jace, the Mind Sculptor and its Brainstorm ability which didn't suggest anything good. I played Phyrexian Revoker right into Terminus. My opponent played Entreat the Angels then and I conceded.

Sometimes fetchland triggers come handy.

Game 3, my hand contained Aether Vial, Plains, Plains, Palace Jailer, Stoneforge Mystic, Stoneforge Mystic, Cavern of Souls. I played Vial that didn't resolve and then it was time for some uncounterable Stoneforge Mystics. Both got plowed. On turn 4 I got rid of Snapcaster Mage with (Palace Jailer) and hoped to win the game thanks to being the Monarch. I drew Ethersworn Canonist which was probably a card my opponent wouldn't like to see (at least I hoped so). I hoped they would counter it so I could play my Sword of Fire and Ice. Canonist got countered and the Sword resolved. My creatures died to Terminus later but I was far ahead with resources so I started playing my creatures and expected to eventually win since my opponent would ran out of the resources while I was in 'discard mode'. At one point I played Mother of Runes because there were two cards that could possibly wreck my plan - Terminus and Entreat the Angels. The former I didn't care about, the latter I needed to avoid. My opponent played Entreat the Angels and thanks to Mother of Runes my Sword wielding creature dealt the remaining damage.

Round 3 - ANT
This match was very short and I was very grateful for it because the previous two lasted the whole round. I kept a hand that I didn't particularly like because it contained one land and Aether Vial, meaning that if that would get countered I'd probably lose. I was on the play though so it was more likely to resolve. My opponent played Polluted Delta. I drew Cavern of Souls which was an ideal top deck and played Thalia, Guardian of Thraben since she's good against any deck running noncreature spells. My opponent fetched for Volcanic Island, played Brainstorm and conceded.

I expected my opponent to be on Storm and boarded that way. I kept a hand with Ethersworn Canonist but I didn't live long enough to cast it - died to 16 Tendrils of Agony.

Game 2 I had a perfect hand. I played Aether Vial on turn 1 which I didn't really care about at that time. I wanted to survive turn 1. I survived so I played Ethersworn Canonist which would slow my opponent down. They would have to deal with it. I expected Burning Wish into Massacre so I was glad I didn't have Plains in play. My opponent played Burning Wish and tutored for Deathmark instead. I played my Plains then to play Rest in Peace and after my Canonist would die I would put Thalia, Guardian of Thraben into play. My opponent conceded a bit later.

Round 4 - UR Delver
I took a mulligan and kept a really bad hand. My opponent played Volcanic Island and Delver of Secrets which I wasn't particularly happy to see. I got rid of it which may have been a premature decision. I had difficulties concentrating. After I destroyed my opponent's land they played cantrip after cantrip to find something. In the meantime I played Stoneforge Mystic which immediately died. Then I tried getting rid of Young Pyromancer. My first removal got countered and second one I messed up, because I targeted a wrong creature. This sent me on tilt and I managed to do few more totally nonsense plays and lost a game I could have possibly, even though not that likely, won. My embarrassment didn't end there because I didn't notice that my opponent is on just UR Delver thus with higher number of True-Name Nemesis and probably a couple of Grim Lavamancers (my opponent played two in the first game so at least 2 were present in their deck).

In game two I managed to play Stoneforge Mystic on turn 3, put Batterskull into play, deal some damage. Then it died along with my Stoneforge Mystic. I let my Sword of Fire and Ice get countered and hoped this wouldn't be the deciding mistake. We both were in top deck more then. While I was drawing lands (8 in a row, including Wastelands) my opponent top decked Delver of Secrets and Young Pyromancer and the game was soon over.

Round 5 - 4c Leovold
My next opponent was WinRyder who was in the finals of the Vintage Challenge the day before and they are a very good player in general. I expected them to be on either Grixis Delver or 4c Leovold. My opponent started with Badlands and Deathrite Shaman which revealed to me what deck they were on (the latter). I kept a strange hand with 2 Aether Vials. I played them and then hoped that I would get to put my creatures into play and that they would stick. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben died to Fatal Push and then my opponent played Hymn to Tourach discarding my only hope in the form of Mirran Crusader. I put into play (Sanctum Prelate) which was the only card that survived Hymn to Tourach and set it to 1. My opponent still had access to Kolaghan's Command, and possibly Toxic Deluge so it was just a question of time until my creature would die. My opponent played Leovold, Emissary of Trest and attacked with it. I had Flickerwisp so I decided to trade with Leo. Next I put into play Phyrexian Revoker naming Deathrite Shaman. This may have not been the best idea since both cards could have died to Kolaghan's Command or Toxic Deluge. It was Toxic Deluge that destroyed my creatures. My opponent landed Jace, the Mind Sculptor then. I still had cards to play so I tried my best at still doing something and destroying Jace. I was the Monarch and still had 2 creatures and Batterskull. Unfortunately my attempt at doing something ended up in vain because one creature died to Abrupt Decay and the other two to Fatal Push.

This was a silly idea when there were few cards that could deal with both creatures and it would cost my opponent 1 card. I've done this few times during the event and always regretted it.

I mulled to 5 so I expected that this would be a quick game that would end up in my opponent's favor. I kept a hand with Plains, Plains, Swords to Plowshares, Swords to Plowshares, Mirran Crusader. Mirran Crusader was the best card I could have and I really hoped it would avoid one of Lightning Bolt, Marsh Casualties, Toxic Deluge or Diabolic Edict. I drew Thalia so I played it and was happy with that. Next turn I played Mirran Crusader that resolved. My opponent tapped out into Hymn to Tourach which allowed me to swing for 6. Thalia died but Mirran Crusader managed to win the game.

My opponent was running out of time but in theory could still win since Leovold on turn 3 could have been a problem and Snapcaster Mage still attacks for 2. My opponent played 3 Baleful Strixes while I was playing Aether Vials and Thalia. Null Rod stopped my Aether Vials from doing their job so I had to start playing my cards while keeping mana for Swords to Plowshares that I kept for Leovold or anything bigger than 1/1 Baleful Strix. Snapcaster Mage came, bolted me and died to Thalia blocking it. Then I was able to play Stoneforge Mystic to fetch an equipment and next turn or the turn later put it into play. I was down to 5 but I expected that my opponent played only 1 Lightning Bolt which was already removed from the game. They didn't Bolt me and timed out. A pity because I would have liked to see how the game would have gone even though the game was altered already because my opponent had to be the beatdown and kill me super fast.

Round 6 - MUD Eldrazi
Outcome of the last match was unexpected for me so I was still a bit bewildered. I thought that I was on the play and kept a hand with Rishadan Port, Rishadan Port, Rishadan Port, Aether Vial, Umezawa's Jitte, Phyrexian Revoker, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. To my surprised my opponent was on the play and I started swearing a bit. They played Ancient Tomb. That I was glad to see since the deck wouldn't probably be countering my Aether Vial. A Chalice of the Void for 1 was a big slap in my face though. This was followed by Trinisphere which didn't help things much. At least I had my 3 Ports that I could put to a good use and eventually play Phyrexian Revoker. Revokers turned out to be crucial in this match.

My opponent played Vesuva copying their Ancient Tomb meaning that they would have 8 mana available +2 if another sol land would enter play next turn. I played Phyrexian Revoker on turn 3 and named the Monolith. My opponent was so kind and untapped it prior Revoker resolving so I managed to deal 2 damage in the process. In the following turns I was tapping my opponent's Ancient Tombs and swinging with Revoker. In the turn I had to tap out to play Revoker my opponent played Thran Dynamo. I hoped I'd manage to draw another Phyrexian Revoker to deal with it but I didn't need that. I could tap down three sol lands and that was good enough to win the game. I was like 'What did I just play against?'. My answer to this was 12post with Eldrazi and I was actually right.

 

Bouncing Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger doesn't happen every day...

Game 2 I kept Stoneforge Mystic, Stoneforge Mystic, Karakas, Batterskull, Karakas, Flickerwisp. My opponent played Ancient Tomb and Grim Monolith on turn 1. I played my Karakas and passed hoping I wouldn't face Reality Smasher next turn. Out of the seven mana my opponent had available a Thought-Knot Seer and Thran Dynamo showed up. I was lucky to draw non-Karakas land so I played Stoneforge Mystic fetching Sword of Fire and Ice. Instead of playing the Sword I decided to play Flickerwisp so next turn I could equip it and swing with it. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger was the card my opponent played along with Chalice of the Void for 1 if I would choose to plow it. TKS hit me for four. It was time for me to draw Swords to Plowshares. I didn't draw it, but I top decked a land which I really needed. I played Flickerwisp on Chalice of the Void so I could possibly cast the Swords to Plowshares later. I bounced Ulamog and got hit by the smaller Eldrazi. I needed Wasteland, Rishadan Port or Phyrexian Revoker so I wouldn't face Ulamog again. I top decked Phyrexian Revoker so I played it and named Thran Dynamo which would naturally untap. I also played Stoneforge Mystic as a possible chump blocker or Sword wielder. My opponent missed a land drop so I could try to hit them with a creature with the Sword and hope. I drew Recruiter of the Guard out of it which meant that next turn I could possibly produce another Phyrexian Revoker (that were also All is Dust and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon proof) and shut down Grim Monolith (my opponent played another Chalice of the Void for 1). I needed to draw a land in two draws though. I top decked it and executed my plan. My opponent was down to 1 and would be unable to cast Ulamog next turn since they couldn't use their Ancient Tomb to pay for it. I won the match and I have no idea how that happened!

 

Round 7 - Grixis Delver
My first seven cards contained too many lands. I took a mulligan and kept Aether Vial, Karakas, Flickerwisp, Mother of Runes, Plains, Mother of Runes. I started with Aether Vial and passed. My opponent just played Polluted Delta. I didn't play Mother of Runes because I wanted to put them into play with Aether Vial. I still didn't know what my opponent was playing. They played Underground Sea and Ponder. When I tried to put Mother of Runes into play they played Stifle. Obviously I was facing a Grixis Delver. I put the Mother into play in upkeep and put a second counter on my Aether Vial. I wondered how likely it was that my opponent would have Forked Bolt. I decided that the chance was very slim and played the second Mother of Runes. My opponent played Wasteland on my earlier played Karakas and Forked Bolt. I was out of my mind. My chances of winning this game considerable changed, not in my favor. All I managed to produce was another Karakas and Aether Vial while my opponent played some mismatched lands and cantrips. Gurmag Angler followed. I put Flickerwisp into play flickering one of my lands (so I wouldn't run into Daze) and played Swords to Plowshares during end step targeting the Zombie Fish. It resolved. Next my opponent produced Delver of Secrets after another cantrip (it's so strange to see people play multiple copies of Brainstorm and Ponder!). I put into play my top decked Mirran Crusader and hoped it would survive a Lightning Bolt. My opponent immediately tapped their Volcanic Island and played the feared Lightning Bolt. They got rid of Flickerwisp though which was a relief. Crusader died soon after and I was being dealt damage by Insectile Abberation. I put all my faith in Palace Jailer that I drew but couldn't play and had to wait a turn to put another counter on Aether Vial. In the meantime I destroyed my opponent's Volcanic Islands. Palace Jailer got rid of Delver of Secrets. I played Phyrexian Revoker that I drew (my Vials were with 3 and 4 counters) and it got countered by Force of Will. I was happy about that since I also had Stoneforge Mystic that I didn't want to get countered. That card resolved and brought me a Batterskull. I won a bit later. This didn't seem to be a game I should have won.

I kept Phyrexian Revoker, Flickerwisp, Wasteland, Plains, Karakas, Swords to Plowshares, Stoneforge Mystic. My opponent played Ponder on turn 1 which I was fine with. I drew a Cavern of Souls, played a Plains and passed. In the following turns I destroyed my opponent's Volcanic Island, got rid of their Gurmag Angler, played Thalia which immediately died and then replaced Thalia with Ethersworn Canonist. That card stayed in play so it was time to put some pressure on my Delver opponent who obviously didn't manage to draw any creatures. I played Mirran Crusader out of Cavern of Souls. My Canonist died. My opponent's next creature was Gurmag Angler that I had no way of dealing with unless I'd block it with two creatures. At that time I didn't really care about it because I could race back. I managed to play Stoneforge Mystic, fetched for Batterskull from my library and started attacking with Mirran Crusader. I was keeping my opponent of a red source since the Crusader didn't immediately die. I decided to put Batterskull into play first and then play Sanctum Prelate on 1. I ran into a Stifle with Batterskull. Sanctum Prelate got Dismembered but I still had Flickerwisp to create a new Germ token (there was Pithing Needle in play, I couldn't equip Batterskull). I was still winning the damage race though. I played my Flickerwisp targeting Batterskull but it was Stifled once again. I played uncounterable Mother of Runes and expected to win next turn. My opponent needed to deal with too many creatures at once and Gurmag Angler couldn't block either. It attacked so I chumped with Stoneforge Mystic just in case. I just needed to attack one more time. I won.

After this I waited for the standings because if the stars would have aligned well I could have ended up in the top8. That didn't happen though, I was one of the players that didn't make it. I came up 10th. A good run for Death and Taxes.

After the event I reflected about changes to my deck. I have to say I was very thankful I did those changes. I was very glad I put Palace Jailer in my deck on last minute, this card was stellar. Fourth Phyrexian Revoker was obviously wrong and I'd fancy a second Sanctum Prelate somewhere in my 75. If I'd want to add one more Mirran Crusader I'd cut Gideon, Ally of Zendikar from the sideboard. Sanctum Prelate would take its place and the Mirran Crusader would be main deck. I also wondered about Serra Avenger. I'm not a fan of this card because the card is just good at beating, on the other hand having an additional flyer is something I sometimes would have welcomed. The problem with this card is that it cannot be found by Recruiter of the Guard so I'd have to play more copies if I wanted to draw the card eventually (2).

During the event I sometimes wondered if pressuring my opponent more was the better choice (I never did that). I kept my tempo and started to pressure only after I lost the tempo so I could gain it back. I feel that in some cases though my decision may have been wrong and that is something I'll have to observe when playing in other events. I should certainly prepare more for 4c Leovold and Deathblade decks - at least play against it to see how the matches normally go so for example I'd keep a land I do not need in hand so it can be discarded instead of a card I want to play.

The metagame was very varied. There were just several decks in higher quantities. There were 8 4c Leovold decks in the top32 which was a lower number than I expected, 4 Eldrazi decks (2 Stompy, 1 Ramp, 1 White Eldrazi), 2 Miracles, 2 Bant Deathblade, 2 Burn decks which is quite a change from Leagues that seem to be full of Grixis-based Control and Grixis Delver.

I played few games of singleton then and when I received my prizes I decided to open a Chest or two. I managed to open 2 overpriced commons in my first chest (Mox Monkey and Ash Barrens) so I decided to open the rest which contained 65PP, Damnation and Grave Titan so it wasn't bad. I went to sleep happy because the games were challenging and fun and apart from not getting rid of Young Pyromancer I didn't totally screw up.

Thank you for reading!
S'Tsung (stsung on MODO and stsungjp on Twitter)

Decklist