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By: RexDart, Chris J. Wynes
Aug 02 2013 9:40am
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There are dozens of PREs (player-run-events) on MTGO every week offering the chance to win a few spare tickets or a little bot credit.  But how often is there a PRE where SEVEN HUNDRED TICKETS plus $100 store credit are split among the Top 8?

This was the Classic Quarter Invitational.  The best of the best were gathered from all over the planet, to fight in the ultimate tournament, so that Eric Roberts could inject Jaime Pressley with nanobots and somehow become the greatest martial artist in the world, thereby saving the planet from Shao Khan and his Outworld invaders.   Or something like that, I can never follow the plot of these things.

I admit I got a bit lucky in spots winning the qualifier.  But nobody ever wins any tournament without a bit of luck.  I didn't want to be the Classic format's John Daly, I wanted to be a legitimate up-and-coming new player.  I know I still have a lot to learn about Classic, but I was ready to battle.

With only a week to prepare, and having just won with my Bant Excalibur list, a variant on Noble Fish, I decided to stick with the horse that brought me.  A few tweaks were certainly in order now that I had a better handle on my opposition and more experience with the deck.  I felt throughout the qualifier that I needed more countermagic.  The one copy of Mana Drain was always awkward in my deck, and my dreams of powering out Jace or Batterskull with the singleton were unreasonable.  So in came Spell Pierce, which should always have been in the list.  I made no other maindeck changes, though I highly considered abandoning the deck's namesake Sword, or even the entire Stoneforge Mystic package.  There wasn't enough time to experiment with that, but it's on the chopping block in the future.

My sideboard in the qualifier was unusual and probably raised a few eyebrows.  I was expecting some rogue or budget decks in that event, and they didn't materialize.  But this was an Invitational, and if rogue decks were scarce in a qualifier they were sure to be almost non-existent here.  So I tweaked the sideboard accordingly.  The 3 Chill were removed for the other 3 copies of Spell Pierce.  Jitte and Linvala were also pulled, adding a third Tormod's Crypt and one Nature's Claim.  I now believe removing Jitte was a mistake.  It would have been useful in the creature mirrors, and I have SFM to tutor for it, so it should have earned a spot.

Anyhow, here's the deck I ended up playing at the Invitational:

The regular Classic players likely consider that Sideboard to be much better, though still a little light on Dredge hate compared to the norm.  I was pretty happy with the sideboard, at least until my last match... but we'll get to that.

The field had a significantly higher number of Fish decks than the qualifier had.  Maybe my win had something to do with that.  I think Fish is a fun deck to pilot, and maybe seeing it win made people feel safe to play it.  Maybe everyone thought the metagame was ripe for it.  There was certainly a TON of hate for Shops in the field, though they managed alright.  Let's get to the report!


Round 1 versus ncsu31sb Ravager Affinity:  This is a horrible matchup, and I got completely crushed.  I have "better" creatures than at least some of theirs, but they can swarm the board fairly effectively.  I had no shot game 1.  Game 2 I kept a fairly sketchy hand hoping that Stony Silence Turn 2 on the play would be enough.  It might have been against anything BUT Turn 1 Lodestone Golem, but that's precisely what my opponent had.  Just like that, off to a tough start.  0-2 (0-1)

Round 2 versus PhilipJFry Delver Gush:  This deck had tons of disruption.  It was threat light in some ways, but I also made the mistake of underestimating his threats.  You can see an example of that in this replay, where a single Talrand keeps him in the game for several turns, though I eventually pull it out.


I go on to win the match.  2-1 (1-1)

Round 3 vs thorne Forgemaster Shops:  Thorne had an interesting variant on the Mishra's Workshop deck.  Rather than lean on the prison/tax effects of Stax, he focused on powering out huge threats.  His only mana denial plan was Lodestone Golem (too good not to run in any deck with Workshops) and Wasteland / Strip Mine.  He ran Grim Monolith, along with 4 Voltaic Keys, powering out his big plays.  Naturally he included Time Vault as well, which he could attempt to search up with Kuldotha Forgemaster or draw into with his three copies of Memory Jar.  His version of Shops had less disruption, invested a lot of resources into his threats, and was vulnerable to Stony Silence, so my deck was well-suited to fighting it.  I dispatched it in a similar fashion to the Shops decks discussed last week.  2-0 (2-1)

Round 4 vs GainsBanding Noble Fish:  The mirror match!  GainsBanding ran a more typical Noble Fish list without the SFM package, and had gone all-in on maindeck artifact hate.  He wasn't messing around -- 4 Trygon Predator, 4 Qasali Pridemage, Kataki, Magus of the Unseen, 2 Steel Sabotage and 2 Hurkyl's Recall, all maindeck!  In a format without real Moxes, this looks like extreme metagaming.  Fish has some flexibility to be built to combat different strategies, and Shops still had a huge target on their head this tournament.  His artifact hate was dead against me game 1 and got stuck in his hand.  I finished him off, 2-0 (3-1)

12 points was expected to be good for Top 8, so I hoped I'd only need one more win.

Round 5 vs ilsken Oath:  I had avoided this matchup somehow until now, never once meeting it in the qualifier despite it being a very popular deck in Classic.  So now is a great time to take a look at Classic Oath decks, and we'll use ilsken's list as an example:

Similar to the Vintage Oath decks, Classic Oath is essentially a blue control deck with a bunch of tutors and a combo kill.  Oath of Druids mills your deck until you reveal Emrakul, Griselbrand, or Blightsteel Colossus, putting everything else in the graveyard along the way.  If you manage to bin the single copy of Dragon's Breath when resolving your Oath trigger, you can immediately swing in for a possibly lethal attack.  He can also Tinker for Blightsteel, or to complete Vault/Key.  

Against a creature-light deck, Oath may have to wait for a Forbidden Orchard to go off.  But my deck has to play out creatures to win, making Oath a one-card combo against me.  My deck can answer Emrakul with Karakas (which I can tutor with KotR), and Blightsteel with StP.  If Griselbrand comes into play, however, he can draw cards to find countermagic and protect it, making that the most difficult Oath target to handle.  While the Oath player can use Vampiric Tutor to set up the top of his library, if he doesn't have that card then there is an element of randomness to it.

The best way is to never let him get a trigger, of course.  I was able to fight off Oath with countermagic, and once I resolved a Trygon Predator I could blow up any further copies of Oath before he can untap with them.  I won the match to get to 4-1 and hopefully lock up Top 8.  2-0 (4-1)

Round 6 Intentional Draw: Unlike the qualifier, I avoided being paired down on this occasion.  Montolio and I drew into Top 8. (4-1-1)


The Top 8 was an interesting lineup.  Here's the contenders:

2x Ravager Affinity

2x Workshop Stax

1x Noble Fish

1x GWB Hate Bears

1x Oath

1x .....I have no idea what to call this, just look for yourself:

That's 50% of the Top 8 sporting a full set of Mishra's Workshop.  But interestingly, all four Workshop decks LOST in the Top 8 round.  Shops continue to look like a powerful strategy, but it looks like everybody else has adapted to them and learned to succeed in the Shop-heavy environment.  Still, there were only 2 Affinity decks in the whole event and both made Top 8, and that speaks to the superior power of that deck over the course of several rounds of Swiss.

Top 8 vs Calvera Workshop Stax: Calavera was playing a version close to enderfall's version from the previous qualifier.  It's the version I think is the hardest for my deck to play against, with a higher threat count -- THREE Wurmcoil Engine! -- and no Metalworkers.  In Game 1, I mulled to 6 on the play.  I kept a hand with 2 Noble Hierarchs and a way to fetch basic Forest, but no other threats aside from Sword of Fire and Ice.  I also had a Force of Will stranded in a hand without other blue cards.  Nonetheless, I thought this hand was pretty good on the play against Shops, since it gave me tons of room to work around his tax effects.  Or so I thought, as a Phyrexian Revoker shut down my Noble Hierarchs for most of the game.  Thankfully a Goyf provided solid beats, and the Noble Hierarchs' exalted triggers did some real work despite being useless for mana. 

You can see the replay in this video, with my audio commentary:



I went on to win the match 2-0.

Top 4 vs duranoth GWB Hatebears:  duranoth styles his deck "Classic Zenith" and it has many similarities to the Maverick and Junk decks in Legacy that use Green Sun's Zenith to great effect.  I thought this matchup was an absolute nightmare for me on paper.  This was the only deck I faced all day where BOTH the Selkies AND the Trygon Predators were weak.  Abrupt Decay is a house against me.  He has so many creatures that can completely own the board against me, and I have only 4 StP to throw at them.

Game 1 was exciting and came down to a complex board state of the sort you are more likely to see in Limited than in a Constructed format, let alone Classic!  Watch me narrowly pull it out in this video:



He won game 2 handily.

Game 3 is very frustrating for me to go back and watch.  You'll hear me talk about it in the video, but the short version is that I totally punted by missing a line of play that should have put the game away by blowing up his lands and leaving me well ahead on board.  That isn't to take away from my opponent at all.  My mistake was nearly bailed out, as duranoth made a land drop mistake in the midgame that allowed me to attack him all the way down to 1 before he could stabilize.  But he thereafter played masterfully, using Quirion Ranger in conjunction with his numerous utility creatures to scratch and claw his way to victory after being down 20-1 in life totals with his back against the wall.



It's frustrating to lose like this.  I think that I would have had a very good matchup against the Oath player in the finals.  The difference between 4th and 2nd was 75 tix.  The difference between 4th and 1st was 225 tix, an absolutely enormous haul.  That 300 ticket prize might have been enough by itself to finance my transition into Vintage when it hits MTGO later this year.  It's hard to look back at such a pricey mistake, but I can definitely say that I learned something from it.  Still, it was a very expensive lesson.

In the end, I feel that I acquitted myself very well in this event by making Top 4.  I feel embarrassed by the strategic mistake, but honestly I've seen much worse on camera in the Top 8 of Legacy 5K's.  These past two months getting into Classic have been exciting, and overall I'm thrilled to have done very well and earned some excellent prizes.  I'm looking forward to keeping up with Classic, building and learning more decks, and being part of the Classic community.

Now we have a break before the next season of Classic starts up, and some time to experiment with other archetypes and play a bit of Legacy.  So join me next time, when Eternal Warrior takes a short break from Classic to do a bit of Legacy brewing! 


Good job on this by the way. by TennieCamp at Sat, 08/03/2013 - 18:32
TennieCamp's picture

Good job on this by the way. I learned a lot from this. - YOR Health