"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."
Success can be planned and it can be organized. But success always needs a good plan. It took me a lot of time to plan my success in BYOS but my initial plan was a good one. I organized it well, I executed it well, and at the end I managed to be successful.
And here's my story.
BYOS Season Two Finale
|by Nafiz Erman
Hello dear readers and welcome back to Rogue Play. Last week in this article, I showed you all what happened during Season Two of BYOS, which was sixteen weeks long. And just this past Sunday we had the big Season Finale of Season Two which determined the champion of the season; yours truly!
And in this article I will first show you what I played, how and why I decided to play that, how I finalized my deck, my testing results and then the tournament report.
So let's start!
Obviously I needed a very good deck for this final tournament of the season, and so I started searching for options. Last season I played a very good Rock deck, and I was in need of something better this season.
I searched and searched and searched for options and finally found it! I was going to play this one:
This is the key to a quick painless victory. A 20/20 flyer that cannot be destroyed is nice, no?
So there I was with a nice idea. And now it was time to build the deck around it.
After I determined my main win condition, I started thinking about the deck I had to build around this two cards combo. The old Extended version of this deck was also using Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek in it, but sadly this second combo was not an option for me. My main blocks were Ice Age (for Dark Depths) and Zendikar (for Vampire Hexmage). And that also meant no Muddle the Mixture and no Dark Confidant which were essential parts of the old Extended version of this combo.
After a period of thinking ("a period of thinking"=like five seconds; maybe even less), my deck started to look like this.
I am the proud(!) owner of two Force of Wills, and this was the perfect opportunity to use them. Ice Age also gave me Counterspell, Rune Snag as well as Brainstorm and Underground River, and after looking at the deck at this point, I felt really good. Now I had to answer a few questions:
1- How was I going to tutor for my combo pieces?
2- How was I going to stay alive long enough?
3- How many Jace, the Mind Sculptors was I going to play?
4- Above else, what core set was I going to use?
Actually question one was the easiest to answer. My tutor was going to be this:
Lim-Dul's Vault is just a fantastic card and it was all I needed for tutoring. No matter how deep I need to dig for my missing combo piece, Lim-Dul's Vault was getting it for me. And besides, it was also an instant.
Then I skipped question two and answered question three. I first decided to play twenty lands plus four Dark Depths'. This meant that I could only play two Jace, the Mind Sculptors in the main deck. Then I decided to add one to the sideboard in case of opposing Control decks. If one Jace manages to get through in those games, he simply ends the game; especially with a good amount of counter back-up.
So the deck started to take shape:
This was really looking good; at least in theory. Now I had to decide my core set. That answer was also going to help my question two; how to stay alive long enough.
I went through all the core sets, from Fifth Edition to Magic 2011, slowly and very carefully. I considered every option. I stopped at Seventh Edition for a long time because of Force Spike, Duress, Persecute and Engineered Plague. My other candidate was Magic 2011; for Duress again but also for Mana Leak, Drowned Catacomb and Leyline of the Void.
I couldn't decide between those two core sets for some time. Duress was in both sets but what made Seventh Edition so special was Engineered Plague for me. Its mana cost was perfectly within my range and its ability to single-handedly shut down those pesky Goblins and Elves was looking very appealing. But on the other hand there were Mana Leak and Leyline of the Void.
Wait a second; did I just say Leyline of the Void? The one Leyline of the Void that combos with Helm of Obedience which also happens to be in Ice Age?
Oh yes. This was the same Leyline of the Void. So the decision was made. It was going to be Magic 2011 and my deck was going to be a "two combos in one" deck!
Here's how the deck was looking at that point:
I had still space left for six cards, and I selected a bunch of removal and immediately started testing (more on how I test later).
My early test results were actually very disappointing. I was easily winning against Control but I was losing to Aggro pretty badly. I was in need of removal and so I started playing with the numbers; first four Leyline of the Voids became three, then two Helm of Obediences became one, Mana Leaks went into the deck and then went out... I did a lot of changes. But I was still losing to Aggro.
I had to do something.
And I did.
I did move my Helm of Obedience / Leyline of the Void combo to my sideboard. Completely. This secondary win condition was way too slow against Aggro and I was already winning without it against Control, so I decided to keep it in the deck but I moved it to the sideboard.
And at the end, after intensely testing the deck for more than ten days, this is what I ended up with:
Let's examine the deck a little bit more and talk about some choices.
First I decided to play a full playset of Smother. Why? Very simple actually.My problem was early turns. I realized that those big monsters of Control decks were not a big concern for me; I could get rid of them easily with all those counterspells in the deck. But a second turn Doran, the Siege Tower off of a Birds of Paradise or a second turn Tarmogoyf? Not always. Maybe if I had four Force of Wills instead of two, things could have been different. But with two Force of Wills, I wasn't always able to counter those early threats. Smother therefore was an obvious choice.
Then I made a decision between Portent and Preordain. Preordain was actually my first pick but then I realized that Portent is the original Ponder and that Ponder is a superior card to Preordain. So it was Portent for me. First I tried four copies but then cut two and added also two Vendettas (which were first two Doom Blades for some time).
My sideboard has also two Consuming Vapors'. I couldn't decide for that last two slots in the sideboard for sometime. Flashfreeze was an option. Spell Pierce was another option. Hydroblast was also another good option. But at the end I decided that I already had enough counterspells in the deck. Control decks and/or Combo decks were of no concern to me; my biggest problem was Aggro decks.
Deathmark was another good candidate against Aggro but at the end testing showed that I was handling early threats well enough with my Smothers and my Doom Blades which later became Vendettas. But late game was a problem and therefore I picked Consuming Vapors.
Now, before I tell you what happened in the Season Finale, I will reveal a secret of mine.
HOW DO I TEST ALL THOSE DECKS?
Last week I showed you all the decks I played in BYOS Season Two. They were all very good decks which were all heavily tested before entering the tournament. And now this week I'm showing you what I played in the Season Finale, and keep talking about "testing". But how? How do I test all those decks? Do I have a testing partner? Someone that is willing to test all my decks with me anytime I want? Or do I join Classic games and try to see how well my deck functions?
Actually the answer is none of those. I don't have a testing partner for BYOS. And even if I did, no one would "sacrifice" all his spare time and test my decks with me non-stop. A few games are always okay and I know that if I want that, I could ask Flippers_Giraffe for example for a few matches, but intense testing? That's something else.
And no, I don't join Classic games either. Those games tell me nothing. I play a deck that restricts itself to two main blocks and a core set, whereas my opponents play all what they want. This is like testing a Pauper deck against a normal Standard deck with lots of rares and uncommons. Those games wouldn't tell me anything.
Oh and of course I don't play a bunch of solitaire games and call them testing.
But what do I do?
Well, here's my little secret: I test my decks against myself. Yes, I know what I'm saying; I test them against myself. So the thing is that I have a second account. And I gave this second account of mine two decks. A very fast and deadly Mono White Aggro deck, and another very good Control deck; you know, counterspells, mass removal, Ghostly Prisons and horrible monsters.
During weekdays, unless I'm testing a deck for an article, you can always find me in the Casual Room playing unwatchable games against the same opponent. Well, that mysterious opponent is me!
And exactly this dear readers, is the secret of my success in BYOS. Intense testing. And to do that, I keep a second account and keep playing and playing, until I'm satisfied.
ONE OTHER INTERESTING NOTE
Okay here's another note. I always say that Ravnica is my favorite set of current times and that Urza's Saga is my favorite one from early days of Magic. I recently took a look at all the decks I played both in Season One and Season Two, and saw that the reality is a bit different. Here's how and why:
Which blocks did I play so far and how many times?
Apparently my favorite block isn't Urza's Saga nor it is Ravnica. It seems that my favorite block is Zendikar; and by far! Ravnica seems to be my second favorite block and Time Spiral together with Lorwyn share the third spot.
Hmm, very strange. Very interesting.
|It seems that Zendikar block is my all times favorite block. Even I didn't know that!
And I also see the blocks I dislike the most by looking at this table. I never played Mirage, Champions of Kamigawa, Onslaught and Odyssey until now. Surely there are many nice options in those blocks, but so far and somehow I didn't try any of them.
And here's how things look like for the core sets:
Which core sets did I play so far and how many times?
I never "touched" Sixth Edition, Seventh Edition and Eighth Edition so far. Eighth Edition was horrible and I don't think I will ever play it, but not playing Seventh Edition so far looks a bit strange.
And according to this table, my favorite core set seems to be M10. Well, that will surely change during Season Three because M11 is definately better than M10 (say hello to titans!). But this is what the table says right now and apparently I found a lot of reasons to select M10 as my core set for my BYOS decks.
Okay, fun and interesting notes end here.
Let's get serious.
Let the final tournament of the season start!
The first game of any tournament is always a bit tense for me. Scouting is an important part of tournaments but that only happens after round one. And therefore I always find this first match to be the most difficult one. I have no idea what my opponent is playing and that makes things a bit hard.
And with these thoughts the tournament starts for me. My opponent is moromete who I know from previous tournaments. He wins the die roll and starts with a Snow-Covered Island; how nice! Apparently this will be a long game.
His second land (after a Brainstorm at the end of my turn) is a Boreal Shelf which is kind of a relief for me; at least he isn't playing a Dark Depths deck and this won't be a mirror match. Boreal Shelf actually can mean only two decks: Either a Permission deck of some sort or worse; CounterTop.
For some time we do nothing but play lands. I begin to think that he is playing a permission deck because there are no Counterbalances or Sensei's Divining Tops in sight. Finally we start discarding cards because we don't play anything! And after he discards a Cloudcrest Lake I see what I'm facing; a CounterTop deck that cannot find either parts of its combo.
And that I use to my advantage.
After he tries to play a Counterbalance and after I win the counter war over it, I bring in my Vampire Hexmage, create my token but cannot prevent it from getting exiled with a Swords to Plowshares. I then cast my Lim-Dul's Vault, find and play my combo pieces once again and win with my 20/20 flyer this time.
-4 Smother, -2 Vendetta
+4 Leyline of the Void, +2 Helm of Obedience
Game two is a bit strange. I have now two combos in deck but cannot seem to find anyone of them. And he starts with a Sensei's Divining Top which makes things a lot easier for him as well. Oh that and also his Boseiju, Who Shelters All as well. At some point I try to cast my Vampire Hexmage but with the help of that boring(!) land of his, my opponent casts an uncounterable Hinder. And I can do nothing but watch it resolve with five counterspells in hand!
Eventually with the help of his Boseiju, Who Shelters All which makes his counterspells uncounterable, he manages to bring in a Meloku the Clouded Mirror and easily wins from there.
Too bad I didn't think of adding Spreading Seas to the deck.
And so we move onto game three and this one starts a bit better. I first play my Leyline of the Void for free and then start searching for my Helm of Obedience. With the help of one Portent and one Brainstorm, I eventually find it in time and finish the game with it.
|Helm of Obedience is coming. Oh and look at those two cards I have in hand. Exactly this is why I called the deck HelmLine Depths.
I wasn't expecting any weak decks to show up in the Season Finale but starting with the well known CounterTop deck was a bit over my expectations. Still I was happy to be able to win against it. And winning with Helm of Obedience was extra sexy!
Playing: Sea Stompy
Before the tournament I was 110% sure that I was going to play against bluedragon123, but it happened a bit early. He finished the normal season at first spot after sixteen weeks and that fact alone should give you a clear idea how good he is. Ah well, if I'm going to be the champion, I then have to earn that title, right?
I am also kind of happy to face him in round two because my previous match against the CounterTop deck ended after all the other matches and thus I had no time for scouting. At least I know what bluedragon123 is playing and thus there will be no nasty surprises.
The deck he plays by the way, is a good mix of everything actually. Kird Apes, Tarmogoyfs, Trygon Predators and then some burn in the form of Char, Psionic Blast and Electrolyze, and then some Mana Leaks, Remands as well as Mystic Snakes. Basically his deck is one of the most deadliest decks you can face in BYOS tournaments.
Anyway, our first game starts and ends in light speed. I was expecting to win the first game but this was a bit faster than I anticipated. I start with Dark Depths in hand, quickly tutor for my Vampire Hexmage, play them both and win quickly.
-2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, -2 Portent
The best thing about playing against a deck you know, is the fact that you also do know what your opponent is going to bring in for game two and three. I know his deck well enough to know that he is going to bring in Voidslime, Evacuation and Trickbind. I can deal with the former two cards but Trickbind is a real problem because it has Split Second. That's why I side in four Duresses.
Game two starts well for me and I quickly assemble my Vampire Hexmage / Dark Depths combo. I have no Duress in hand but don't want to wait and sacrifice my Vampire Hexmage and voila; he has Trickbind!
From there he starts bringing in his beaters and in a short time I run out of counterspells. I try to win with my Creeping Tar Pit but don't have a chance against his Kird Apes and Mystic Snake. I deal three damage every turn to him but he deals more to me, and thus he wins.
Game three is almost a carbon copy of game one; actually no, it's even faster than that as you can see below:
|Well yeah, this was fast.
Starting the game with both parts of my combo in hand makes things really a lot easier.
Before the third and the final swiss round, I take a look at the points and see that there are two other players with six points; one is BlippyTheSlug who is another very good BYOS player and dragonfirewiz who is a player I don't know very well. But the bad news is that both are playing Goblins.
During my testing period I perfected my deck against Aggro, but the gobos.dec is something else. It's the top of Aggro decks. Turn four kills are nothing unheard of for those decks. I watch the replays and see that BlippyTheSlug plays a rather slower Goblins deck that also splashes some Black. The other player's deck on the other hand, is just pure aggression with those Tempest Goblins. Yuck!
I wait for my opponent and hope that it will be BlippyTheSlug but no; my opponent is dragonfirewiz with his ultra fast mono Red Goblins. Ah well, there's no chance to Avoid Fate it seems. Let's see how this one will turn out.
Playing: Mono Red Goblins
We start playing and my opponent starts bringing in his gobos one by one. I on the other hand, start with my tapped Creeping Tar Pit and during my next turn I play my Brainstorm and... oh my God, there are no lands in the next three cards of my deck! But the good news is that now I have two more Brainstorms in hand.
My opponent by the way is hitting me as hard as he can with his Goblins, and those two Brainstorms aren't helping me either. I took a risk by keeping that hand and apparently this was a wrong decision.
Eventually I draw that second land but it's too late now. I concede and we move onto game three.
I start the final game with this hand.
Seriously, you just can't lose if this is your opening hand. At least not against Goblins.
Now it is time for the final Top-4. I went 3-0 in the swiss rounds and now I am wondering who the other three players are going to be. There are some very strong candidates and I am eager to see who will be in and who will be out. Soon this question gets answered and the Top-4 are me, bluedragon123 with his Sea Stompy deck, BlippyTheSlug and his Goblins and dragonfirewiz and his mono Red Goblins.
But this also means that Flippers_Giraffe, who is the champion of the last season, is out. That's very interesting because his deck is much better than most of the decks in the tournament (I will show it to you at the end). Goblins caused him some problems during the swiss rounds and at the end that one loss costed him a spot in the final four.
To be honest, after some scouting and seeing what everyone else is playing, I was so sure that the Top-4 was going to be me, bluedragon123, Flippers_Giraffe and moromete with his CounterTop deck. But those Goblins surprised us all and found themselves not one but two spots in the final four.
Where were you?
Game one is very interesting actually. I just can't seem to find my combo pieces and play defensively during the early turns. I Smother his creatures, counter others and try to stay alive as long as I can. I even hard cast two Force of Wills in the meantime and lose a Creeping Tar Pit to a Lightning Bolt; as I said, it's an interesting game. Then I finally find my savior, which is Lim-Dul's Vault of course, cast it and get me what I was looking for, and finally end the game.
-2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
+2 Into the Roil
Game two starts a bit awkward for me and I mulligan to five. This is the hand that I keep:
I first play my lands, counter a Goblin Chieftain with my Mana Leak and then use my Lim-Dul's Vault and it reveals to me that both of my combo pieces are actually right there at the top of my library already! I arrange the top of my deck and first draw a Drowned Catacomb, then I kill another Goblin Chieftain with my Vendetta, then draw and play my Dark Depths and then finally draw my Vampire Hexmage.
Oh and of course it's "gg" right at that point.
Lim-Dul's Vault is seriously the most valuable card in the deck.
Playing: Sea Stompy
So here we are. After sixteen weeks of battling, we come to the end. One final match and the winner is going to take all. But I'm definitely not after some bot credits or some other prizes. I want to be the champion and I want that title so badly. I have a big Spike in me to feed, and nothing will satisfy him other than the title.
And so we start playing. I know that I should win game one rather easily. His Trickbinds are what I fear the most and I know I won't have to deal with them in this first game.
Our game starts very slow. Bluedragon123 doesn't want to make any mistakes and plays patiently... which I think is a mistake.
His deck wins so frequently because it's fast and those fast decks are especially the ones that can cause me problems. Not many decks can win a counter war against me; especially those only with a few soft counters. I don't fear his Remands or Mana Leaks at all; but I do fear his Kird Apes, Tarmogoyfs, Giant Solifuges and Trygon Predators. The best strategy against me, especially in game one, is to hit early and hit as hard as can be. He has enough troubles to keep me busy but he chooses to play defensively instead; which of course works to my advantage.
There's actually not much to report from game one. All he plays are two Tarmogoyfs both which I kill with Smother and Vendetta. He then allows me to cast my Lim-Dul's Vault and I first bring in my Dark Depths and then the next turn after drawing my Force of Will, I win the counter war over my Vampire Hexmage (as expected), and the first game ends.
Poor Jace has become FoW fodder!
-2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, -2 Portent
Game two starts slow as well. We both wait patiently. Well, patience should be the nickname of any Blue mage; this is a lesson I learned years ago. I wait and wait and wait. First I cast a Lim-Dul's Vault at the end of his turn and get me my missing combo piece which is Dark Depths. I then play the land but hold my Vampire Hexmage in hand. Why?
Because I'm not ready yet. There is still one thing to do.
I once again cast Lim-Dul's Vault at the end of his turn, tutor for my Duress, cast it on my turn and as expected I see and remove his Trickbind. A few turns later, when I have six lands and my Dark Depths on table, I cast my Vampire Hexmage and repel all his counterspells first with a Counterspell and then with a Mana Leak.
And so I am the winner. The winner of the match, the winner of the tournament, the winner of some very nice prizes but more importantly the winner of the season. You have no idea what that title means to me. I devoted almost all my spare time to BYOS lately and now all that effort payed off.
Here's again the deck that helped me to become the champion:
The MVP of the deck? Surely and without doubt Lim-Dul's Vault. The card is simply crazy! And the biggest disappointment? Again, surely and without doubt Jace, the Mind Sculptor. In all those games I never (as in "never ever") played him nor did I feel the need to play him. Once I have my other two Force of Wills, I will immediately add them to the deck and move those two Jaces to the sideboard (removing Consuming Vapors from the deck).
And so Season Two has ended. But I must remain calm. I still have so many things to do and so many decks to play in this beautiful format. You can't even imagine all the deck ideas I have for this format and I do hope to play at least some of them in Season Three.
Now in this part I will show you two decks from this final event. One is bluedragon123's fameous Sea Stompy deck.
I already said all there is to say about this deck in my last week's article. It's fast and has answers to everything. Most probably after this tournament bluedragon123 will now at least consider a few Repeals for his sideboard. That was the card that could have ruined me but he wasn't playing it.
Next I have Flippers_Giraffe's deck.
This is one other excellent deck from Flippers_Giraffe and it's really a shame that this deck had to stay outside of Top-4. I now wonder; what would have happened if we played? Who would have won?
It's very hard to guess of course. He's the clear favorite of game one but I seriously can't even guess what would have happened after I bring in my Leyline of the Voids (as well as my Helm of Obediences). That card shuts down dredge completely and I think I would have a better chance of winning game two and three. Then again, he has Krosan Grip in the sideboard which would change the course of the game all by itself.
But of course games aren't won on paper but they are won on the battlefield. We never had the pleasure of meeting each other there which I think is a pity.
And so dear readers, I conclude this final event of Season Two. But before I conclude the article, there is one other thing I must share.
BONUS CONTENT - Pauper Tribal Apocalypse
The BYOS Season Finale wasn't the only tournament I played in last weekend. After many months I finally made an appearance in the Tribal Apocalypse tournament. I had my reasons to quit that tournament back then, and I had my reason (only one) to join it now.
And long story short, here's the deck I played in that tournament.
Momentary Blink is an old favorite of mine, and I knew that I could do something out of it for a Pauper Tribal deck. I went through all the options carefully and finally selected Humans as my tribe.
During testing I realized that my deck was a bit slow and that I needed some life gain to stay alive against faster decks. And just because Aven Riftwatcher wasn't a Human, I decided to add the famous Soul Sisters to the deck; Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant (as well as two Shu Soldier-Farmers'). I then added four Mulldrifters, my removal package and I was ready to
Round one I was paired against a Myr deck and won 2-1 thanks to my Soul Sisters keeping me alive and my Flame Slashs taking care of those 4/4 Myr Enforcers. Then round two I lost to mono Blue Illusions with tons of counters just because I wasn't fast enough. To be honest I was only expecting creatures and counterspells really did mess me up.
And in the final round I played against a Eldrazi deck and managed to win 2-1 thanks to my Aether Adepts bouncing back those Eldrazi titans to my opponent's hand over and over again (with the help of Momentary Blink of course).
So I went 2-1 at the end and all in all it was tons of fun.
And that's all from Rogue Play for this week dear readers. One other season of Build Your Own Standard has ended but a new one is about to start. The third season actually will start in two weeks and that means you will have some time to think about the deck(s) you want to play. Check the last week's Rogue Play for a list of decks played during Season Two. That article also has links to my older BYOS articles which you may find interesting and useful.
Trust me; after you try this format, the current Standard will lose all its appeal to you. At least that is what happened to me.
NEXT WEEK ON ROGUE PLAY
My 'Scars of Mirrodin', Part I
Next week it's time for the first part of my set review. I will be your tour guide on this metal plane and within two weeks we will visit every corner of this new Mirrodin and talk about everything there is to talk. There are some really amazing things going on here and I'm sure I can show you a few new things and a few card interactions you haven't seen before.
Thanks for reading.
See you online
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman