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By: NVOtosReborn, John Mayer
Feb 22 2014 12:00pm
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Hey there! My name is John Mayer, and I'm from Virginia Beach. I've been playing competitive magic for what I would like to say a few months, but I started getting more into the game back when Lorwyn was the most recent set. I've played in numerous PTQs and have improved my skills over time and experience. I'm the kind of person who learns from mistakes, and I'm always a good sport, no matter what. Even if I win, I still feel like there's something I could have done better.

One of my major problems is that I play decks that are "cutesy" or make innovations that just turn out to be garbage. Rarely does it ever work out for me, and as a result, I always end up doing poorly at events. I finally came to the realization that I just needed to stop thinking outside the box (to an extent) and start playing decks that put up positive results. My first deck of choice with this new understanding was at a StarCityGames Classic Series where I played UWR Control. The deck was crushing mono black devotion and had a fair matchup against mono blue as well. Naturally, I played against a series of burn decks and other aggressive strategies and ended up finishing 4-4. I knew that UWR was a good deck, because Shaheen Soorani had posted an article about it sometime before the event. What was the problem? Well, clearly, if the deck was good, it would have more top 8 finishes at open series and MTGO daily events, but it wasn't. From then on, I told myself that if I wanted to win, I needed to play a deck that was established as a competitive strategy. So, I quickly picked up UW Control and began playing it online. I was fascinated with the deck, and I continued winning with it over the course of a couple weeks, and knew that's probably what I wanted to play at the upcoming PTQ.

Once Born of the Gods was released, I eagerly awaited the results of the first big event: The SCG Open Series. I was a little surprised to see that there were zero copies of UW in the top 8. I began to question myself and my deck choice, and strongly considered making a last minute switch. I took a peek at the Top 16, and noticed UW was EVERYWHERE. The difference between top 8 and top 16 can sometimes just be one match, or even just some poor tiebreakers. I knew the deck was good, and I was excited to play it.

Here's the 75 that I sleeved up for the event:

UW Control
As played by John Mayer
Creatures
1 Aetherling
1 cards

Other Spells
1 Elixir of Immortality
1 Syncopate
1 Fated Retribution
2 Last Breath
2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
4 Sphinx's Revelation
4 Azorius Charm
4 Supreme Verdict
4 Dissolve
4 Detention Sphere
1 Quicken

32 cards
Lands
4 Island
2 Plains
2 Godless Shrine
3 Temple of Deceit
1 Temple of Silence
3 Mutavault
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Azorius Guildgate
4 Temple of Enlightenment
27 cards

Elspeth, Sun's Champion


This was a deck that I threw together in about 15 minutes. I took some elements from Alex Hayne's GP winning list, and some elements from Brad Nelson's lists that he had been working with, but ultimately decided to put my own twist on things. I loved how Doom Blade was a purely unexpected card that killed everything in GR Monsters, other aggressive decks, and also killed Mutavault. Blood Baron was going to be for Mono Black, and the other BW Midrange decks that have been picking up in popularity, and is a fine threat to play against other control strategies, since it's very difficult to remove once it's resolved.

Round 1 - Mike Marushia playing Mono Black Devotion


I recognized his name from Facebook, but never really met the guy. He was a nice guy though, and said he was only there to have fun. He informed me that he was gaming without any BotG cards in his deck as well. In game 1, he kept a shaky hand with no discard, and a good chunk of removal. A Dissolve took out his first play of a demon, and a few turns later, I hit him with an Aetherling and he had no outs.

In: 2 Revoke Existance, 2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa

Out: 1 Quicken, 1 Fated Retribution, 2 Azorius Charm

In game two, I took some early damage from a Mutavault before he played a Nightveil Specter. I put it on the top of his deck twice with my remaining Azorius Charms while continuing to take damage from his manland. I spent a turn casting Supreme Verdict to clear the board, then followed up with a Blood Baron of Vizkopa. He responded with a pair of Desecration Demons over the next two turns, and I was forced to wrath again to survive, having taken so much damage from Mutavault. A turn later, I found a second Baron and rode it to victory.

1-0 (2-0)

Round 2 - James Ready playing Mono Blue Devotion

He kicked the first game off with a Cloudfin Raptor, then added a second one to the board and cast a Judge's Familiar to attack me for 1 with his evolved creature. After some contemplation, I decided to use a Detention Sphere to take out the pair of Raptors, and sure enough a Thassa was resolved on his turn. I knew I didn't have an answer for it, but I did have a Jace, which I ticked up to make sure his Raptor couldn't attack. On his turn, he scry'd to the bottom, and added a Frostburn Weird to the board before passing. Supreme Verdict followed by Elspeth ended the game in quick fashion.

In:  3 Doom Blade, 4 Gainsay

Out: 1 Syncopate, 1 Dissolve, 1 Quicken, 1 Fated Retribution, 3 Azorius Charm

Gainsay is a strict upgrade from Dissolve, so boarding one out is fine. I don't like Revoke Existence that much against them, as there are very few targets that matter, and you have oodles of countermagic for them anyways. In game two, he started off with a Judge's Familiar, and then added nothing on turn 2, just an Island and an attack. He missed his 3rd land drop for 3 or 4 turns and I was able to easily resolve a Jace and an Aetherling to finish him off.

2-0 (4-0)

Round 3 - John Davis playing BWR Midrange

My opponent had been talking to me about how he hoped his deck was registered correctly, and I had a gut feeling as the head judge was looming around. I began to shuffle, and then we got deck checked. My opponent was awarded a game loss, and chose to play for game "2". I saw a Sacred Foundry as he was shuffling and immediately assumed he was playing an aggressive deck, most likely RW Devotion. When I was Thoughtseized on turn 2 after a scry land, I knew this would be a tough match. Thankfully for me, I have a good matchup against his deck game 1, before all the hand disruption comes in out of the sideboard to wreck me in games 2 and 3. I never let him resolve a scary spell (aside from Rakdos's Return) and won with an Aetherling after he killed both of my Elspeths. I didn't feel well-deserved in winning this match. I made a handful of loose or just downright wrong plays because I was too engaged in friendly banter and the surrounding crowd to take in what was actually happening. I guess his game loss was good fortune for me. (Sorry John)

3-0 (6-0)

Round 4 - Mikael Conrow playing Mono Black Devotion

Uh-oh. A player that I recognize to be a very skilled pilot. I figured it would be this match that I'd lose, and then slowly drift away from having any hopes of making top 8. Oh well, I thought, at least I have a shot, right? I knew he was playing mono black, so I figured this would be over quickly. I believe his first spell was a Pack Rat, which I had no answer for. He made a token and hit me for two on his turn, until I found a Detention Sphere. He played an Underworld Connections, which resolved on one of his swamps. I can't remember all of the details, but I remember him Thoughtseizing me quite a few times, and us playing a back and forth game of attrition filled with Connections activations, Revelations, Nightveil Specters (which stole a Hallowed Fountain from me), Grey Merchants, and so on. Supreme Verdict cleared his board, followed by a Detention Sphere for his connections. Elspeth ate a Hero's Downfall, and her tokens were hit with Bile Blight. Without his connections in play, he immediately scooped when I cast Revelation for X=9.

In: 2 Jace, Memory Adept, 2 Revoke Existance

Out: 1 Syncopate, 1 Fated Retribution, 2 Azorius Charm

I didn't want Barons against him. I tried to "next-level" him by keeping them out, so he would be forced to leave in his Devour Flesh (he knew what I was playing and that I had Blood Baron for Mono Black). I figured Jace was another way to keep up with Connections and serve as a win condition. I don't remember much from game 2, but I cast a Jace and milled his deck over a few turns. I feel like I got a little lucky in game 1 to continue drawing good spells after being hit with multiple discards.

4-0 (8-0)

Round 5 - Unknown playing UW Control

In game 1, I proceeded to get smashed by 3 Mutavaults while I had none of my own. I tried a Fated Retribution on his attack, but it was Dissolved. This allowed me to cast and resolve Aetherling with 2 blue sources up. A Detention Sphere and a Supreme Verdict pre-combat over the next two turns let his Mutavaults finish me off.

In:  4 Gainsay, 3 Doom Blade, 2 Jace, Memory Adept, 2 Revoke Existance, 1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa

Out: 1 Quicken, 2 Last Breath, 1 Fated Retribution, 2 Supreme Verdict, 1 Syncopate, 4 Azorius Charm

I wasn't sure if he was on the Brimaz plan. At worst, Doom Blade kills Mutavault. It was my turn in game 2 to start hammering him with a pair of Mutavaults while he was casting Divination and tapped lands. When he assembled a pair of them to block, we fought over my Doom Blades with Dissolves and Gainsays. He stuck a Jace, Memory Adept, but I had an Elixir in play. I let him get me down to 5 cards in deck before finding a Detention Sphere for his Jace. I simply drew for my turns and attacked with my remaining Mutavault, leaving up lots of countermagic. He had a Glare of Heresy for my Sphere, but I had another one, as he was using his Jace to draw cards rather than mill me. A shuffle with Elixir on 0 cards, and more attacks with Mutavault and he was dead. In game 3, things went back and forth forever, I had gotten him to 3 life while I was at 40 something thanks to Blood Baron, but he had a Disperse for the Baron and a counterspell for when I cast him again, with no responses from me, which earned a subtle "Yes!" from my opponent. We ended up with time called, forcing us to draw. I asked for the concession, but he wouldn't give it to me, even though I was 4-0 and he was 3-0-1. Oh well, a draw was fine, I just needed to win next round to secure my spot in the top 8.

4-0-1 (9-1-1)

Round 6 - Joshua Cross playing UW Control

I don't remember a whole lot about our match. I cast a turn 2 Elixir after a scry land, and he had a maindeck Revoke Existance for it. I pretty much figured I was in deep trouble right from the start, and that threw me way off. Nevertheless, I stuck an Aetherling after he tapped low to counter an end step Revelation and beat him to death.

Sideboarding: See Round 5

I can't remember much from game 2, but we played draw-go for quite some time, casting the occasional Jace, Architect of Thought, and so on. He had an Elixir, so when I stuck a Jace, Memory Adept, I simply began to draw extra cards. He had a Detention Sphere, and I didn't have a Revoke, so I cast another Jace, Memory Adept from my hand. Still drawing cards, I found some Mutavaults and began to attack with a trio of them. Aetherling wasn't going to help me in this game, because he had a Debtor's Pulpit in play on one of his lands. He tapped one of my vaults each combat, but had no other action. He cast a Jace, AoT and ticked down, finding another Jace, AoT, which he cast and ticked up to take less damage. My Jace, Memory Adept drew me another card and milled a Revelation sitting on top of his deck. Eventually, he was at 3 life, and I decided to go for the kill. I cast Revoke Existence on his Pulpit and crashed in with 3 Mutavaults. He used his Elixir to stay alive at 2, but had no answer to the assault coming next turn.

5-0-1 (11-1-1)

I was a lock! How exciting. I drew with Joey Page playing RG Monsters to end up 5-0-2, having only lost one game the entire day! It was a good feeling, and it was my first PTQ top 8.

Quarterfinals - Brendan McKay playing RW Burn

Oh great. This was going to be REAL tough for me to win. I was incredibly focused in these matches, so I don't remember everything, so I'll try to recap some key points. In game 1, I had the play, being the higher seed. I had a Mutavault, which I attacked with, using Azorius Charm to give lifelink, and then Last Breathing it to gain 4 more. A Revelation put me high enough so that I could cast another one without worry, and was able to steal game 1 while killing some useless Satyrs and Young Pyromancers. Aetherling + Azorius Charm Lifelink = Sad Burn Player

In:  2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa, 2 Doom Blade

Out:  1 Fated Retribution, 1 Supreme Verdict, 1 Quicken, 1 Dissolve

In game 2, he Troubled me for 5, and had a slew of other burn spells to get me low very quickly. I tried the Azorius Charm + Mutavault, but he had a Skullcrack. I had no other option than to tap out for Aetherling (with another Azorius Charm in hand to threaten a gain 8), and an end step Warleader's Helix killed me.

In game 3, I had to mulligan a two land hand with a Blood Baron and kept a pretty shaky hand with a Dissolve, Elspeth, and a Revelation. I was able to stop a burn spell with the Dissolve, and cast a Revelation for 2. I was at 11 life against his two cards, but I was feeling pretty confidant. He put me to 4 with a Lightning Strike and a Boros Charm on the turn I cast Blood Baron (I announced that I was casting Batterskull, haha), and I had nothing. I told him very calmly that I would be very upset if he topdecked a Boros Charm or a Helix. He didn't, and I drew a Dissolve and cast my second copy of "Batterskull" and was able to protect my life total with a backup counterspell. 6-0-2 (13-2-1)

Semifinals - Shaheen "Shawn" Soorani playing (none other than) Esper Control

I knew this was over. He's probably one of the best players in the area, and he wrecks the control mirror like no one else I've ever seen. In game 1 I was able to get some early beats on with a Mutavault and resolved a few Aetherlings while countering all of his important spell attempts. I drew 4 out of my 5 maindeck counterspells, but had nothing for his Aetherling. I had an Aetherling of my own, but I was at a much higher life total thanks to Revelations resolving on my side, while dealing early damage with Mutavault, plus him taking shockland damage for spells and Thoughtseizes.

In:  3 Gainsay,  2 Jace, Memory Adept,  2 Revoke Existance

Out:  2 Last Breath, 1 Quicken, 1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion, 1 Syncopate, 2 Azorius Charm

I only wanted 3 Gainsay, since most of his problematic spells were black and/or white. I wanted to keep Retribution as another way to kill his Blood Barons/Obzedat and potentially his Elspeth or Jace. I don't know why I didn't bring in my own Barons. In hindsight, probably a mistake. I didn't like Elspeth at the time because he has counterspells and Hero's Downfall. Again, probably a mistake. In game 2, Thoughtseizes and Sin Collectors ripped my hand apart, and when he had two collectors on the board, I was forced to hit them with a Detention Sphere to keep my life total up. This let him stick an Elspeth and start generating tokens. I found another Sphere for his Elspeth when he had 9 tokens in play, but his attack dropped me to 4. With no answer in sight, I scooped them up.

I brought Elspeth back in, taking out a Supreme Verdict. I kept a 2-lander and found my 3rd land, which was a temple, and I scry'd a spell to the bottom. His Sin Collector, after much thought, saw that I had no 4th land, and I chose not to cycle my Azorius Charm in response. He said he felt like being greedy and took the charm from my hand. I found a 4th land, and cast a Jace, ticking down to find some more lands, even though he died to the Sin Collector on the next attack. It all came down to this situation.

This was my hand:

Detention SphereDissolveSphinx's RevelationElspeth, Sun's ChampionIslandRevoke Existence

And I had 5 untapped lands, with a tapped guildgate in play. He cast a Blood Baron, and my life total was around 14. I opted to cast Sphinx's Revelation for 2, and then untapped and played Elspeth and used her second ability to kill the Baron, but she died to the Sin Collector. He cast an Obzedat, and I drew a pair of Detention Spheres and another Dissolve off the top and died. I graciously shook his hand and said "good match!" but couldn't help but feel like I did something wrong. It took a good night's sleep to remember the situation, and how if I just countered the Blood Baron, Elspeth would still resolve, and making 3 tokens would provide blockers for the Sin Collector, AND the Obzedat. Not to mention, I would have been able to scry a useless Detention Sphere to the bottom in hopes of finding something else to deal with the Obzedat. It's not for sure if I would have won there, but I would have had many chances to draw an answer to Obzedat before he drained me to death, or just made an Elspeth emblem and killed him. He also would have needed a Downfall to kill Elspeth, as I had a Revoke in my hand to deal with a Sphere. Even though the decision haunts me even now, I know that I have the potential to make the top 8 once again, and hopefully learn from my mistakes and take home the whole thing!

I had lots of fun though, and it was interesting to watch Shaheen get demolished by Pack Rats in both games against Zach Jesse playing BW. He just drew exceptionally awfully and never found an answer. In game 2, he kept a 5 land hand with some temples and an Elspeth. He got his only spell Thoughtseized after scrying a land to the bottom, and drew 3 more lands before dying to Pack Rats. That's Magic for you.

Props:

Max Thomas for lending me most of the deck, having never even met me and just being a trustworthy guy, asking for updates over Facebook after every round.
Patrick Dansey for lending me the remaining cards and cheering me on throughout the tournament.
Mark Costantini for bringing me the deck from Max and being supportive and just an awesome guy.
Paul Telkamp, John Davis, Charles League for assuring me I could draw into top 8.
Brian... A total stranger who lent me a Quicken at the last minute, but left before I could give it back.
Atlantis for hosting the event.
Shawn Soorani, for giving me tips and helping me improve.
Daryl Ayers for lending me a Jace, Memory Adept.
Eric Dustin Brown and the judge staff for being a great group of people.
Marius Cholewa who I finally got to meet in person and talk a bit about life and magic.
And all of my opponents who were fun to play against, and were never poor sports.
And most of all, my fiance Angela, who was supporting me and following on Facebook the entire time!

Slops:

Me, for playing bad and being stupid twice during the day.
Anyone who may have cheated or acted like a degenerate upon losing. (Not saying it happened, but I don't know everything!)

Questions? Comments? nvotosreborn (at) gmail (dot) com _eNVious_ on MTGO