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By: stsung, Ren Stefanek
Sep 30 2016 11:00am
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For Vintage players, the last Saturday of a month means that there is a Power Nine Challenge, a premier event where part of the prize pool is the Power Nine. This month I expected lower attendance because it is hard to find a match lately. Some players left Magic Online, some just took a break. The reason is Conspiracy 2 cards are not available for us on Magic Online and that makes it hard to test for Eternal Weekend.

Not so long time ago we had a local Vintage tournament that I decided to attend because I needed some practice before Eternal Weekend. Unfortunately due to the WMCQ (that I planned to attend originally) that was also attended by other qualified Vintage players, the attendance of our bi-monthly Vintage event was low. After my last experience with a Mentor deck that I tried to pilot at one of the Power Nine Challenges I decided to play a deck that I like and had lots of fun with it in the past (definitely NOT Mentor). I would either play Blue Moon or Grixis Therapy. In the end I brought Grixis Therapy. Even though my record wasn't good (2-2) I had lots of fun with the deck (I was actually rather unlucky that day) and had the unique opportunity to play against Salvager Oath. Even though the whole tournament was simply overrun by the White Eldrazi deck that I expected to be  played a lot I decided to stick with Grixis Therapy.  This was what I was going to play in the upcoming Magic Online events and Eternal Weekend - a highlight of the year for a Vintage player. I just hope that the metagame won't change completely during the following month.


Even with turn 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor I struggled to get rid of Thought-Knot Seer and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Without an extremely lucky brainstorm into Cabal Therapy, fetch land and Snuff Out I would most probably lose.

Grixis Therapy is not a new deck nor my invention but it is a potent deck and I like it. Equipped with it I entered Power Nine Challenge. 52 players participated. When the tournament began my client stopped responding and I frantically tried to kill it and restart so I could play my match. After a few minutes of trying to close the client while not dropping, I managed to connect back. I joined my game and saw my opponent start with Plains and Mox Sapphire. I wasn't particularly glad to see because it meant I would most probably face some Thalia tribe. This is a tricky and very annoying deck I expected to beat me, meaning that this would be yet another P9C in which I would lose the first round resulting in bad tiebreakers.

Round 1 - White Eldrazi
Mental Misstep, Underground Sea, Gush, Ponder, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Cabal Therapy, Mental Misstep seemed as a keep even though I wouldn't really like the hand if I were to play against Eldrazi/Shops and being on the draw.

I played Ponder to look for Force of Will, land or Mox. I found Misty Rainforest, Mox Ruby and Preordain which looked good. I played the Mox if I would face some Thorn effect and pass the turn. As I said earlier my opponent started with Plains and Mox Sapphire. I expected Thalia, Guardian of Thraben to come next but my opponent passed the turn and in my upkeep Anselan played Containment Priest. I did not want Thalia, Heretic Cathar to come next. I played Preordain to draw the land on top of my library and played Cabal Therapy naming the new Thalia. I saw Caves of Koilos, Lodestone Golem, Plains, Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer. I had one turn to draw something that could help me. Since I had two Islands in play and Gush in hand I could possibly find something. I was lucky to top deck Force of Will, I played Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Gush then. I drew Misty Rainforest and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Then I just played a fetch land even though my opponent wouldn't use Wasteland on my land anyway since he needed 4 mana to play his cards. As expected Thought-Knot Seer appeared on the stack so I countered it pitching Mental Misstep. It was time to flip my Jace and get rid of Reality Smasher. I drew yet another Force of Will though so I changed my plans and just made Containment Priest smaller. My opponent had 3 Plains and Mox Sapphire in play so there was no way he could play uncounterable Reality Smasher. Anselan tried playing it, so I countered it pitching Treasure Cruise which might not have been the best idea to do. Prior to that I played Dig Through Time so I did not expect to play Treasure Cruise in the following 2 turns but I could have pitched Jace, the Mind Sculptor that I did not have any use for (due to the Planeswalker rule). No matter what, I felt safe. I top decked Young Pyromancer so I played it, followed by Demonic Tutor to look for Snuff Out to deal with Lodestone Golem and one more creature. For some unknown reason I did not flashback Cabal Therapy to deal with the Lodestone Golem even though that was my plan at first (I played the Tutor so I could have a creature to sacrifice). My opponent played Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and the Golem on his turn making my Snuff Out cost 2 mana and 4 life. I was fine with that. I dealt with the Golem and played Cabal Therapy naming Reality Smasher, discarding it. I made Thalia smaller and my opponent conceded after drawing his card for the turn.

I sided in removal for creatures (Baleful Strix counts as removal) and artifacts replacing all those Mental Missteps and Pyroblast. I kept a hand without disruption - Preordain, Baleful Strix, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Volcanic Island, Gitaxian Probe, Misty Rainforest, Preordain. My opponent started with Cavern of Souls naming Human and a Mox. Fortunately for me he just played Phyrexian Revoker meaning that I would face Thalia, Heretic Cathar next. I checked his hand with Gitaxian Probe to see the aforementioned Thalia, Swords to Plowshares and Reality Smasher. With a bit of luck my opponent wouldn't draw a mana source next turn. I decided to play Volcanic Island because my land would be safe for at least one turn but still hoped my opponent wouldn't draw a land because that would mess up my mana very badly. I played Preordain and found Young Pyromancer. My opponent drew Wasteland and played Thalia. Next Mana Crypt and Reality Smasher followed so it was time to scoop.

In game 2 my first hand was very risky even though it could have possibly worked under very special circumstances. I took a mulligan and kept Ancestral Recall, Dig Through Time, Baleful Strix, Volcanic Island, Time Walk, Young Pyromancer. I played the blue piece of Power and drew Volcanic Island, Scalding Tarn and Snuff Out which I was happy about. My opponent started with 2 Moxen, Plains and Thalia, Heretic Cathar. I drew Brainstorm and wondered if I should play it, hitting an Underground Sea would allow me to deal with Thalia immediately. I went for it and missed. I exchanged my two lands for Force of Will and Cabal Therapy though (I did not need a fourth land). Thorn of Amethyst was my opponent's next play. I wanted to prepare my board with Pyromancer if possible next turn so I countered it, letting Anselan play another cmc2 card - Phyrexian Revoker naming Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. I fetched into tapped Underground Sea, destroyed Thalia with Snuff Out and played Time Walk. This way I could play Young Pyromancer and Cabal Therapy next turn and avoid Reality Smasher. I discarded both Smasher and Sword to Plowshares. My opponent being in top deck mode could just stare at my Pyromancer and Elementals and hope for a land and Reality Smasher. But I had Strix for that scenario and did not fear anything else as my life total was high enough (10). I also had Force of Will and six mana sources in play (Thorn on the other side of the table) so I felt safe. To wreck my opponents game even more I destroyed his only colorless source. The game was over in few minutes because it took some time for my 1/1s to deal lethal damage.


After I won the round I just couldn't believe that I actually won. It was the first time I was put in a good position and could possibly top 8 even with 4-2 record (and did not lose to the winner of Power Nine Challenge). I needed to play well anyway, I had 5 more rounds to play. But my tiebreakers would be good this time. This helped me concentrate but it was round 2 in which I made the most mistakes.

Round 2 - Blue Moon (1-0)

Next round I was paired against JdPhoenix, a player that can often be seen playing Blue Moon. I kept a hand with 2 fetchlands, Underground Sea, Underground Sea, Preordain, Force of Will, Preordain. I won the die roll so I started and hoped not to hit any more land. I fetched for an Island if by a chance I would have to face Blood Moon and played Preordain. I found Gitaxian Probe (Force of Will fodder) and Young Pyromancer. I played the Pyromancer and pitched the Probe into Force of Will trying to counter Mana Drain. JdPhoenix had Force of Will of his own removing Dig Through Time from the game. On his turn, he played Ancestral Recall and I hoped he wouldn't play Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Instead he played Library of Alexandria and passed. I played Preordain (hitting Treasure Cruise) and Time Walk so nothing bad would happen to me (since my opponent's hand was full of cards) and played the Cruise next turn. I drew Baleful Strix, Ancestral Recall and Mental Misstep. I played the Strix because I wanted a creature in play and I could possibly lose the possibility to play the Strix later to a Blood Moon. JdPhoenix passed wanting to be able to get his Library of Alexandria online. I played Cabal Therapy naming Jace, the Mind Sculptor and was shown a hand full of mana sources, Dismember and Sudden Shock. I could safely play Ancestral Recall. Brainstorm and Pyroblast, Mental Misstep were draws I welcomed. Next I drew Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and decided to play it into both of the removal spells. This way I could still keep the Strix and attack and I doubted that my opponent would want to play Dismember on Jace since I could possibly counter that letting him lose 4 life in the process. My opponent then played Blood Moon. I already had my two Islands in play so I didn't really care that much. I played Brainstorm though so I could get rid of my Mental Missteps that are pretty bad against a deck running Chalice of the Void. I fetched for a future Mountain to shuffle my library and let Blood Moon resolve. My opponent played a Mox and Black Lotus suggesting that he has Force of Will in his hand. I played Jace, the Mind Sculptor into the Force of Will countering it with Pyroblast (keeping FoW in hand). I fatesealed and let my opponent draw Mountain next turn. Next turn, I fatesealed again but this time I had no idea if keeping the card on top was a good idea. Actually fatesealing was probably a bad idea. The card I was unsure about was Trinket Mage. I was fairly sure it would find Chalice of the Void and decided to keep it there. But my opponent also had that Dismember meaning I wouldn't be able to reach ultimate with Jace. JdPhoenix played the Mage and found Chalice and cast it with X being 1. Next turn I brainstormed (with Jace, not the actual card). I saw Gitaxian Probe, Mox Sapphire and Gush, meaning I would draw those cards with Gush not being able to deal with anything my opponent would top deck. He drew Dack Fayden and I was screwed. He stole my Strix as expected and I put all my faith in Jace and the 3 new cards I would see. After seeing two Mental Missteps, I conceded.

Game 2, I kept Gitaxian Probe, Polluted Delta, Brainstorm, Dig Through Time, Preordain, Gitaxian Probe, Demonic Tutor. I played Probe wanting to draw a land or Mox or Cabal Therapy or Force of Will. I wrote down my opponent's hand - Ancient Tomb, Flusterstorm, Island, Island, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Scalding Tarn, Sudden Shock. I drew Volcanic Island and played it since I would most probably want to play the Demonic Tutor so I could get rid of Flusterstorm if the conditions would be right. I played Preordain finding Force of Will and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy that both I decided to keep. I played Jace wanting to get rid of Sudden Shock and Flusterstorm but I'm not sure if that was the best approach. It was a plan that my opponent would decide to get rid of Jace. Being in my opponent's situation I would play that Sudden Shock tapping myself out. I played Probe seeing more or less the same hand except it contained Mana Drain and 1 less Island. I Brainstorm'ed to get rid of Snuff Out and Island that I wanted to fetch for and tutored Cabal Therapy to get rid of Flusterstorm so I could counter my opponent's Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He played it on his turn and passed. I played Dig Through Time putting Ancestral Recall and Cabal Therapy in my hand. I played both cards. I got rid of Sudden Shock so my Pyromancers or Jace could stay in play. My opponent played Trinket Mage that got Pyroblast'ed. Sometime later when I totally forgot about my opponent's Mana Drain I played Jace right into it. I facepalmed myself and played Treasure Cruise next. I was lucky and drew Gush and Pyroblast that came handy next turn, it countered Consecrated Sphinx. Then I played Jace, the Mind Sculptor which my opponent tried to counter so I countered back and Time Walk'ed. This time it was going to be all 'Brainstorms' for me till I would find something that would make me win fast. Fortunately, the very first Brainstorm showed two Young Pyromancers and Cabal Therapy (and I drew Gush). Since my timer was down to 9 minutes I just played the Pyromancers, discarded all cards in my opponent's hand, drew several cards, created some tokens etc. A minute later I had 10 creatures in play and attacked with them. I just hoped nothing like Rolling Earthquake for 1 would happen. It did not and I was left with 8 minutes to win game 3.

I quickly kept Brainstorm, Polluted Delta, Force of Will, Black Lotus, Pyroblast, Gitaxian Probe, Gush. My opponent started with turn 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor that I countered with Force of Will. I checked my opponent's hand seeing Dack Fayden, Slice and Dice (uncouterable way how to deal with my Elementals), Time Walk and Tolarian Academy that couldn't produce any mana. Everything looked good so far. I played my own Black Lotus, Cabal Therapy on Dack Fayden knowing that I would need to deal with Slice and Dice later and passed. My opponent played Trinket Mage that I really did not want to find Chalice of the Void this time so I decided to crack my Lotus and Pyroblast it. I wasn't particularly happy about it but I still had Brainstorm to help me out if it would come down to 'needing something fast'. I drew Treasure Cruise though that I could play safely since my opponent just had Slice and Dice in his hand. I drew a much needed land, Mox Ruby and Gitaxian Probe. I turned the Probe into Time Walk and played it. Next turn I played both Gush and Brainstorm to find something and I had 3 minutes to win the game. I found Therapy that I needed to get rid of the red spell and Dig Through Time to find a win condition. I found Baleful Strix that I played and drew Jace, Vryn's Prodigy that could replay some 8 mana spell. Dig Through Time showed me all I needed - Young Pyromancer and Ancestral Recall. I needed two more turns to 'flashback' Time Walk and create some tokens but in those turns my opponent just played Consecrated Sphinx that I could counter in 3 different ways. I was over 20 cards ahead so that was understandable but still I feared that something bad would happen and I did not want to time out in a game I should win.

Round 3 - White Eldrazi (2-0)
Next turn I played against Boin and I hoped that I could beat those White Eldrazi this time. I lost the die roll though and I kept a hand without disruption - Island, Island, Underground Sea, Gitaxian Probe, Preordain, Time Walk, Young Pyromancer. Boin played Thorn of Amethyst on his first turn, so I could only play Gitaxian Probe on my turn. It showed me a hand full of lands including Cavern of Souls, Wasteland and Vryn Wingmare. Next turn another Thorn followed. I played Mox Ruby so I could get to play one mana spells since Wingmare awaited me. Next I needed to play Young Pyromancer so next turn I would be able to start creating some tokens and I hoped my opponent wouldn't draw anything relevant. He played Chalice of the Void for one which I did not care about, later he conceded.

In game two I kept 2 lands, Young Pyromancer, Force of Will, Gush hoping it would be enough. My opponent played Thorn of Amethyst on turn 1, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben on turn 2 and Eldrazi Displacer on turn 3. In the meantime he destroyed a land of mine so I couldn't cast Gush. I lost quickly.

Game 3 I kept a good hand. I played Cabal Therapy naming Thalia, Heretic Cathar because this card and Reality Smasher were the only cards that would wreck my game. My opponent top decked Mana Crypt that allowed him to play Reality Smasher turn 1. I played Demonic Tutor finding Snuff Out to kill the Smasher. The rest of the game I do not need to describe, just look at the following screenshot. I named this screenshot 'Average Turn 2'.

Round 4 - Pitch Dredge (2-1)

My opponent started with taking few mulligans and Bazaar of Baghdad. My hand did not look like it could deal with Dredge. I played Gitaxian Probe to see that I'm facing Pitch Dredge that did not have any dredger available but the first activation of Bazaar fixed that with a Golgari Grave-Troll. Since I did not draw Black Lotus nor Mox on my turn there wasn't much I could do and I conceded.

Next hand was capable of racing so I kept it. I played Young Pyromancer and Gitaxian Probe turn 1. On turn 2 I played Ponder and Grafdigger's Cage. My opponent had Nature's Claim in his hand but I had 2 Mental Missteps for that.

In the deciding game I kept a similar hand but first I had to play Grafdigger's Cage and Tormod's Crypt if I wanted to have a chance of winning the game. I was already facing a Zombie token created when Ichorid was sacrificed to Cabal Therapy (naming Rest in Peace). Tormod's Crypt did not resolve but Grafdigger's Cage did. After casting Gush I had abundance of Mental Missteps but I wouldn't be able to deal with Ingot Chewer so I hoped it wouldn't show up. But then I had Young Pyromancer in play and tried to attack as well while being dealt damage by that Zombie that I could later double block. Another Pyromancer came to help along with Jace and the match was over in my favor.


Round 5 - Pitch Dredge (3-1)

Next round I faced oddseidank. I talked to him during the P9C so I knew he was on Dredge, most probably with Dark Depths in his sideboard. I kept my hand with Pyromancers but did not expect to win game 1. I conceded quickly when my opponent was trying to figure out what to name with Cabal Therapy. This time I sided in Echoing Truth and Pyroblast because I really needed to deal with Marit Lage.

My opener contained both Grafdigger's Cage and Echoing Truth so I was good to go. My opponent did not counter the cage and started with Library of Alexandria. I played Baleful Strix, followed by Dack Fayden and Jace, while Odd played Thespian's Stage, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Bazaar of Baghdad. Petrified Field came into play meaning I would face Marit Lage next turn. At that time I finally drew Young Pyromancer that could be a better clock than Baleful Strix. I bounced Marit Lage while having Force of Will and Strip Mine in my hand and won later thanks to Striges that were capable of flying over Zombie tokens from Bridge from Below.

I kept a hand with Moxen, Grafdigger's Cage, Demonic Tutor and few cantrips. I played Young Pyromancer and created a few tokens. I had to top deck (or find) a black source on my next turn though, otherwise I would die to Marit Lage. Fortunately for me I found Polluted Delta so I could tutor for Echoing Truth. I Brainstorm'ed into counterspell and Probed my opponent. This confirmed my assumption that he had a Force of Will in his hand (and Narcomoeba). He conceded then, meaning that I could still end up in top 8 even if I would lose the following round.

I felt very strangely because I wanted oddseidank to top 8 once again. Winning this match though meant he wouldn't be able to reach the top 8 and it would be up to me to end up in it. I hoped not to screw up and win the next round knowing that the most critical time of the night/morning just came (so far I always lost the last rounds due to not being able to play well).


Round 6 - Nahiri OddOath (4-1)
Next round I was paired against Montolio. I hoped he would be on Shops because I would have a chance to win. He wasn't on Shops though as I found out on my turn 1. I played Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Ancestral Recall over which we fought with Missteps and Force of Will. I let my opponent's Force of Will resolve so I could counter something he would play. Since Jace resolved immediately it seemed to me that he would be on Oath. He played Nahiri, the Harbinger on his turn 1 so I countered it, hoping to replay Ancestral Recall next turn. I drew Young Pyromancer, Gitaxian Probe and a land which wasn't really any good against Oath. Montolio played Forbidden Orchard and Oath of Druids next turn. I wanted him to Oath twice to see what his deck looks like. He Oathed into Void Winnower and Griselbrand and the only card I needed to make a mental note about was Pernicious Deed.

Game 2 I kept 3 cantrips, Mox Sapphire, Island, cabal Therapy and Demonic Tutor. I hoped to find a fetchland so I could if possibly discard Oath on turn 1. But I only found Volcanic Island. I passed and my opponent played Oath of Druids on turn 1. He didn't have Forbidden Orchard in his hand but he top decked it next turn. I tried my luck with Time Walk still trying to find a black source or Grafdigger's Cage. Neither showed so I wished Montolio good luck in the top 8. He wished me the same and I conceded.

Top 8 - UR Delver (4-2)

I placed seventh after the swiss part so I managed to avoid the White Eldrazi that went 6:0. I was paired against BalloonBrigade, a player I never heard of or seen before. I had no idea what he would be playing. My opener did not have any mana sources so I took a mulligan. The next 6 cards were the same. I kept Mental Misstep, Cabal Therapy, Force of Will, Force of Will, Underground Sea. Land and Black Lotus from my opponent did not look good since most probably I would have to play Force of Will. To my surprise my opponent played Delver of Secrets. I tried to Misstep it but my opponent had a Misstep of his own. I tried playing Force of Will and hoped the Delver would end up countered. Unfortunately for me my opponent cast his own Force of Will and I was left with Cabal Therapy in my hand and being in top deck mode. I played the Therapy seeing Mountain and Mox Ruby which wasn't awesome for my opponent but he had Delver of Secrets in play that flipped next turn. My draws were Black Lotus, Strip Mine, Misty Rainforest and Dig Through Time. I played Dig Through Time hoping for a miracle. There were two cantrips and nothing else. Both Brainstorm and Preordain showed 2 lands, but I drew Baleful Strix. So I played knowing that that the Strix was not bound to survive a single turn due to Sudden Shock. My following draws drew were Mental Misstep and Scalding Tarn so I died.

Next game while I was taking a mulligan I realized that in this match it was the first time my deck provided me with totally unplayable hands. I kept Underground Sea, Snuff Out, Cabal Therapy and a cantrip. This would stop an aggressive hand but my opponent kept a total opposite of aggressive hand. On turn 4 he played Jace, the Mind Sculptor (knowing that I only have Snuff out in hand) and fatesealed. At that moment I knew that I would be eliminated from the tournament most probably ending 8th in it. I was allowed to draw Jace, the Mind Sculptor and play it. But I conceded because I doubted that I would draw Pyroblast and Black Lotus. The top cards of my library were Force of Will, Polluted Delta and Brainstorm, neither being able to deal with JTMS with 13 counters.

When the tournament was over for me I spent the rest of the tournament chatting with BalloonBrigade. I was very glad I could talk to a nice person. After we received our prizes - Time Walk for me and Mox Sapphire for him - I had to go offline and get some sleep because the Kaladesh Prerelease was awaiting me in few hours.



THIS! by neckfire at Fri, 09/30/2016 - 15:29
neckfire's picture

Thanks for the article, There is a severe lack of vintage content on the web

Thank you for the comment. I by stsung at Fri, 09/30/2016 - 17:01
stsung's picture

Thank you for the comment. I wonder what kind of Vintage content people would like to read about. What would speak to you if you don't mind me asking?

Personally I enjoy just by neckfire at Thu, 10/06/2016 - 18:26
neckfire's picture

Personally I enjoy just reading about brews in the format. We all know what the meta is but seeing new cards interact is always fun.

Nice article by MichelleWong at Sat, 10/01/2016 - 18:45
MichelleWong's picture

Nice article, and well done on your result.