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By: stsung, Ren Stefanek
Jun 21 2016 8:11pm
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This weekend the first World Magic Cup Qualifiers took place all around the world. Our country wasn't an exception. Since I was qualified for the Qualifier I wanted to participate but I expected to rather show up for the Modern ones, and ignore the Standard one. I'm a Vintage player and playing Standard means that I would need to learn what the new cards do. I wasn't willing to pay over 20 bucks to participate in a tournament in a format I do not play and a format I do not know at all. But I found out that I can sell the promo and kind of participate for free. Participating for free in any tournament actually sounds good no matter the format.  A change from time to time is always good. All I needed was a Standard legal deck. Since I sold most of my Type 2 cards so I could buy a few pieces of Power I did not expect to have enough cards for a deck (ignoring Shadows over Innistrad completely). I also had a few requirements for my deck. I'm not really good in situations when there are creatures on both sides of the table so the deck should be control if possible, midrange at most (or rather not play too many creatures or token generating cards). I expected to end up playing Esper Dragons. After few matches in the TP room with the deck it usually ended up with me winning the first game and my opponent timing out in game 2 or 3 I wasn't really sure if I want to pilot that in a paper tournament. It actually seemed that I was the player taking ages to play a turn even though my timer did not suggest that. But since I misplayed more often than not the games took way longer than they were supposed to take. I expected my opponents to be more skilled than me (or at least have more experience playing the format). I had some fun moments with the deck though (against Fevered Visions).

On Thursday many people started bombarding me with messages if I had a deck I could let them play with. After writing for about tenth time that I probably don't have a single deck for the format (except Esper Dragons) I decided to actually check.  I continued working (since I was at work) and then someone sent me a Grixis Control list. That list sounded promising so I went through the decklist a bit more closely. It caught my interest. Not only did it look like I would possibly be able to play that and not swear during every single match but it also contained cards I actually owned - Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Chandra, Flamecaller. Some of the cards like Ruinous Path and Radiant Flames and Goblin Dark-Dwellers were printed as promos so I knew I had to have them somewhere since I receive those. I had a plan for the night.

I imported the list that was sent to me and after clicking on 'Update Version' a few times I found out that the only cards I was missing were 3 Wandering Fumarole and 1 Smoldering Marsh. I bought those for 10 tix or so and waited for my first opponent hoping I wouldn't time out since I did not know my own cards nor probably my opponents' cards. I would play in rules enforced environment so I knew I wouldn't be able to do something illegal, but I wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing. I played few matches just to figure out how to play the deck before trying to play a bit more seriously. I encountered Junk Eldrazi, The Great Aurora deck and Red-Black midrange. It did not really look competitive to me but couldn't really judge since I did not know the overal power level of the format. After a few fiascos in which I tried to destroy Indestructible planeswalker, target Reality Smasher with Ultimate Price and forgetting to fetch with Evolving Wilds I was ready to level up a bit.

A little bit of preparation

I decided I would try to play few more matches on Magic Online to at least figure out a what the deck does (and what I could possibly encounter) after I figured out (partly) what the cards in my deck do.

It was already pretty late when I clicked on the 'Play' button (or what it states). During the night I usually encounter less competitive decks than during the day for some reason. This is true for Legacy and Modern but not sure if that applies to Standard. I hoped to play against competitive decks but I wasn't sure what is actually competitive anyway.

My first match was against Esper Control. That was a deck I did not expect anyone to play at the WMCQ. I lost terribly, my deck might have 'control' in its name but it isn't a control deck. Next round I encountered the very same deck and it did not go as planned either. After this I started to feel terrible and I took a lot of time playing those matches. It was late and I should have been asleep already, but I decided to play another match. This time my opponent started with Highland Lake, followed by Mountain and Tormenting Voice. I suspected some kind of mill to which I would terribly die once again. I couldn't imagine beating a Sphinx's Tutelage deck. Instead of facing Sphinx's Tutelage on turn 3 though my opponent played Fevered Vision so it was time to zoom in on the card and read what it does. I had to reread the card few times until I finally understood what it does. It looked cool, but I also knew that it would kill me. After this my opponent indeed played Sphinx's Tutelage and another Fevered Vision and the game was quickly over. They milled my remaining 26 cards in one single turn. My next matched looked similar but I faced a different deck obviously. The colors were the same and Fevered Vision also tried to kill me but unlike my previous opponent this one played creatures. He started with some Eldrazi 2/1 Flyer followed by some 2/1 Spirit Flyer and then he hit me with Reality Smasher. That certainly surprised me. The second and third games were not even close. I had to face Thought-Knot Seers, Reality Smashers and my creatures got Roasted. I died to Fevered Vision though since I could deal with their creatures but not the enchantment and I couldn't produce a fast enough clock to win the game. In the last match my opponent started with Wandering Fumarole and bunch of lands. I tried to play some spells and they ended up countered with Clash of Wills or Spell Shrivel. Jace, Unraveler of Secrets hit the board bouncing my only resolved creature. I had to read what the card does when my flatmate entered my room wondering what card I played if I have to read the cards. My opponent then played two Hedron Archives in their two consecutive turns but I destroyed them with Kolaghan's Command while dealing 2 damage to the Jace that I couldn't deal with. When doing that I did not want them to draw 2 cards off it. I did not realize that I could possibly face Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Chandra, Flamecaller for example. I then finally drew Wandering Fumarole, played it and hoped to deal with Jace. I drew Transgress the Mind and checked my opponent's hand. There were two Chandras waiting for me along with some 6 mana Eldrazi I did not really care about since I could kill that. Obviously I was lucky that my opponent did not get to use their Archives or mana nor drew a sixth land after all the Scries. I won the game. In the following game though they played Fevered Vision on turn three and five and I was done for. Last game was similar even though I tried to discard or counter the enchantments.

After all these games I tweaked my deck a bit so at least it would have 2 Negates in the sideboard and I added the 4th Transgress to the sideboard as well.  I cut Painful Truths because for some reason Read the Bones seemed like a better choice. I moved a few cards around so it would suit me more and decided to try playing with the deck the following day. These 5 matches were a really horrible experience but I did not expect to encounter such decks at the tournament since I heard that the meta is full of GW tokens, Bant Humans and Eldrazi. I was willing to ignore this 5 round failure. Here many players go to WMCQs and PTQs with the most proactive deck they can play in order to have the biggest chance to win.

The next day I had a day off. I had to work a bit but then I could open Magic Online and try a few more matches. After a not so successful Legacy League I decided to give Standard a second chance. These five matches actually went totally different. I dodged blue decks. In Round 1 I played against GW tokens. I discarded as many Nissas and Gideons as I could and I tried to avoid Secure the Wastes. I played Radiant Flames on the creatures already in play and then was just waiting for Avacyn to show up so I could play Grasp of Darkness and swing with Kalitas. Next I faced Bant Humans. The games were similar to the previous ones. I killed some creatures, discarded CoCo and then won. This was the first time I managed to play Dark-Dwellers and I finally saw what the card does and I liked it! Post-board my two Goblins were hit by Declaration in Stone so I tried to make a mental note about that card and not run into it once again. I won anyway but having the same creature in play in more copies was obviously wrong against a deck running white. Next I played against Mono White Humans (probably not that mono-white since it ran Reckless Bushwacker?) that showed me how powerful Thalia's Lieutenant can be but I still managed to win. The following player was on some kind of Junk Eldrazi. At first I thought that they had Caves of Koilos in the deck just to produce colorless mana but later I faced Eldrazi Displacer so the land wasn't there just for the colorless mana. In the last round I played against some Red-Black deck with all the removal there probably is, Kalitas and Goblin Dark-Dwellers. I even discarded Dragonlord Kolaghan in one of the games not entirely sure if that was a replacement for something better or it belonged to the deck. At first I thought it was some kind of Dragon deck but I haven't seen a single dragon (except the Dragonlord) till game 2. In game two I pretty much saw just Dragons. My opponent played 3 (Thuderbreak Regent)s and it did not look good since I had to target the dragons in order to kill them. I had to race back and couldn't deal with the remaining Regent because its awesome triggered ability (awesome because it seems to be bugged on MTGO) would kill me. I won but I was rather lucky that my Goblins were not discarded/killed. Game 3 I once again faced some Dragons but this time I was a bit more prepared for them.

After this experience I realized that there are certainly matchups I can easily win but I can't just sit back and watch my opponent play spells. Obviously cards costing six mana are a thing in Standard and even more expensive cards see play. So I had to accept the fact that I would have to be rather proactive in the matchups no matter how 'control' the deck might look like. This is something very important I needed to know for the upcoming tournament. Against decks running blue I would probably be screwed unless I would become even more aggressive. It seemed that I can do fine against all the human decks in theory so I decided to stick with the deck for the WMCQ and started looking for the cards. I was considering running some Edict effects but I 'facepalmed' myself and had to tell me that I have to discard what I don't want to see in play or counter it. And if it enters play I need to race back and I knew that the deck can do that. No need for cards that would slow me down (but in the Esper Control I would play some or even MANY).

After pondering about how the deck works and behaves in certain matchups I could possibly encounter I started looking for the cards. Finding Jaces and Chandra was easy since they were in my Vintage decks but finding cards like Grasp of Darkness, Ultimate Price or Read the Bones was more tricky. I did not even know where the cards were printed except Scars of Mirrodin, Return to Ravnica and Theros (and players were actually asking me what cards I play when I cast Grasp of Darkness or Ultimate Price). I found a majority of the cards and made a list of cards I was missing. A friend of mine was capable to get them somewhere and let me use them so I hoped he would bring them with him the following day. He did for which I am very grateful because the shops weren't didn't have any copies of those cards.

World Magic Cup Qualifier

Round 1

I was paired against a French player whom I did not know. He started with Highland Lake. On turn 3 he played Fevered Vision. I wanted to get rid of some cards from my hand but was told that I cannot target a player with them (in a rather hostile way). So after being shown what an idiot I am I rather kept the cards in my hand since there was already no way I could go down to 3 or less cards in my hand. I lost relatively soon after. I sided in all the discard I had and everything that could attack. In the following game, my opponent played Rattlechains on t2. I discarded his Fevered Vision then but he top decked another one and played it. He played few more small creatures that I managed to deal with, I started attacking with Kalitas. Kalitas got Roasted though and then I had to stare at Goldnight Castigator. I did not manage to deal with it and it killed me. I thought that this deck was more of a homebrew until I saw more of Goldnight Castigators later that day.

Round 2

I played against a player I know and complained about playing against Fevered Vision in round 1. I expected my opponent to play Bant Humans or similar deck so it was a surprise when he played Highland Lake on turn 1. Sad story. After I was overrun by Reality Smashers game 1 I sided some cards and wondered if I could possibly win the second game. I was down to six, my opponent was down to 3. I had Goblin Dark-Dwellers in play. I had to survive just one more turn and attack. Since my Goblins had Menace my opponent needed to play two creatures or just Roast my creature. He played Thought-Knot Seer checking my hand and Goldnight Castigator. He attacked though with the Angel meaning I could swing for lethal next turn. He realized this but late and I thus won. I still had a chance to win the match. I somehow...not entirely sure how...managed that. But I guess this is not the best matchup Grixis Control can have. Without my opponent screwing up I would certainly lose.

Round 3

I was paired against one player who decided to get better in playing Magic and to qualify for PT. He tried hard to become a better player so he certainly is a better player now. He won a PPTQ in May with GW Tokens. I expected him to play the same deck. I won the first game even though I managed to forget about Declaration in Stone. If my Goblins would get removed from the game I still had Chandra to deal the remaining damage. I took a very risky path and shouldn't have. In the second game I had to face Nissa, 2 Gideons and Archangel Avacyn. His creatures got out of range of my Radiant Flames fast. Even though I tried hard killing the tokens one by one I died to them in the end (I still had to deal with the planeswalker so it was a never ending story). In game three I kept a hand with Radiant Flames, Fiery Impulse, Duress, Transgress the Mind, Evolving Wilds, Land, Land. I played Duress on t1 discarding Quarantine Field because that was a card I couldn't discard with Transgress the Mind nor deal with it in any other way. I fetched on turn 2 and on turn 3 I removed Nissa from the game with Transgress. Knowing my opponent would play Hangarback Walker or a card he would top deck. I had Kalitas as a follow up so I didn't mind about that card yet. But for some reason I decided to play Fiery Impulse on Hangarback Walker not realizing that Kalitas would remove the creature from the game (I had Radiant Flames in hand to deal with smaller creatures). My opponent played some creatures and I played the Flames then. But I already lost one card that I would certainly need later. My opponent had 3 Forests in hand and Archangel Avacyn. I did not have removal for her. Only another Radiant Flames. So I knew that my misplay could cost me the game, it was a very bad feeling. I was swinging with Kalitas and trying to draw something. Some things happened meanwhile. My Kalitas got 'quarantined', I had to deal with Secure the Waste tokens and I still had to deal with Avacyn swinging each turn. Then my opponent drew Westvale Abbey and later Den Protector and I knew I'm screwed. Den Protector returned Secure the Wastes from the graveyard. I was forced to attack with everything - 4/4 awakened land and Kalitas - so I would possibly deal with the tokens but I already knew that the math did not add up. My opponent chumped, kept his 5 tokens and created Ormendahl. I had only one out for that creature - Dragonlord Silumgar. I did not draw the card either and lost the match due to my awesome misplay.

I was very discouraged after this game but the match was actually pretty nice I felt I played against someone who knows what to do, the games were interesting and nothing strange happened in them (except for me messing up). This loss also meant that my chances being in top 8 were zero so I could either drop or continue playing for fun. I came there to discover the field and have some fun in a different format than Vintage or Legacy so I continued.

Round 4

This round is one I would rather forget about. I was paired against a player with whom there are always some problems. This time he certainly was the more experienced player though since he actually plays Standard. Since we talked for a little bit before the tournament we knew we would play a mirror match. My first discard hit his Goblin Dark-Dwellers leaving him with Fiery Impulse, Languish, Grasp of Darkness and some lands. He discarded my Goblin Dark-Dwellers as well and we were staring at each other. I realized that Wandering Fumarole is rather 'bolt' proof (unless I would be too dumb to let the creature die) so I started swinging with it when my opponent did not have access to BB. I had Kalitas in my hand but it would die immediately so I kept it in my hand. I did not draw any other creature except Jace, I played the and it died to the Fiery Impulse I knew about. In game 2 I extracted my opponent's Dark-Dwellers (that seemed as a good thing to do since the card advantage kills). The game was a battle of discard spells and Dark Petitions. Even though I got rid of all threats except Fumarole I died because I did not draw a single creature. In game 3 it was my Dark-Dwellers being removed from the game. Once again we discarded what we could and were swinging with creaturelands. My opponent managed to play 2 Dark Petitions tutoring something. The tutored card wasn't a land so he could Grasp my land nor other removal for my land. I discarded his tutored card since he couldn't play it that turn and attacked for 4. Next turn he tutored something again and played Kalitas. So I killed Kalitas with Ruinous Path awakening a land so I could safely deal the remaining 2 points of damage I needed to deal next turn. My opponent played Ob Nixilis, killed my awoken land and then died to my land. He claimed he didn't know that he was down to 2 life even though he let my Fumarole swing for 4 last time thus acknowledging that he took the damage. I did not realize that he did not write that down. After a while of him trying to explain to me that he would have won the game I tried to tell him that I had BB open, Grasp of Darkness in hand for his Wandering Fumarole and I had another Ruinous Path that I could have played with awaken swinging with 2 4/4s on that turn anyway. He had a single card in hand (Grasp of Darkness). I could imagine him winning the game but the last 4 turns would have had taken a different turn. So after listening to his rant for few more minutes he signed the match slip and left. I was wondering if I should drop after this experience but decided to stay. Something like this should have no effect on me if I want to still be able to play well (and I had a lot of stuff to follow since everything was rather new to me)

Round 5

My next opponent played Mardu Planeswalkers. It was a deck full of removal and planeswalkers. I expected the game to be similar to the one I played against the Red-Black deck I faced the day before online. Since I had many discard spells I knew I could deal with those expensive planeswalkers and then I needed to deal 20 damage with my creatureland(s) since my other creatures would most probably just die. Some planeswalkers could possibly resolve since I played Ruinous Path and Dragonlord Silumgar. So I discarded my opponent's threads leaving him 2 Anguished Unmaking, Languish, Radiant Flames and Ultimate Price. I then started attacking with Wandering Fumarole. It dealt all the damage alone.

Next game I discarded his Painful Truths because he was light on lands and his hand consisted of 2 Ultimate Price, Ob Nixilis Reignited and Sorin, Grim Nemesis I could possibly deal with later. He missed some land drops so I started swinging with my Fumarole. I had Ultimate Price, Kalitas, Goblin Dark-Dwellers and Dragonlord Silumgar in my hand not really doing anything but my opponent also did not have anything. He managed to produce Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and create a token. I killed that with some removal I had in my hand already and played Silumgar stealing Gideon and used his ultimate ability. I got an Emblem, yay! My opponent played Sorin killing my Silumgar but since I had Gideon's emblem Sorin died in the process as well which meant that my opponent was left with 2 Ultimate Price in his hand (I killed Ob Nixilis earlier). After I killed my opponent with Wandering Fumarole (getting through Needle Spires thanks to the emblem) again he asked me if I even play Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet or Goblin Dark-Dwellers. I showed him my hand full of these creatures telling him that it was rather useless to play the cards since I needed to attack rather than let my creatures die and give my opponent a choice to either attack for 4 or draw something relevant.

Round 6

My opponent lost one card during the tournament so he called a judge for that. He was given a Basic Land since no one could provide him with the card. We proceeded on. I called another judge because my opponent had 'marked sleeves' but I wouldn't accuse him of cheating or anything similar. He was told to change his sleeves but we were allowed to proceed in our match. Since I partly saw some of his cards I knew I would face some kind of Red Deck Wins. I wasn't really sure if the deck could win against me. What does such deck do with Kalitas? Anyway I had my answer relatively soon even though I could have probably figured that out on my own since I've seen all those cards that day already. My opponent played Exquisite Firecraft, Roast and Fiery Impulse as removal. Otherwise he played a bunch of Vampires/Werewolves and Thunderbreak Regents. I removed the Regents from the game since all the other creatures would die to Radiant Flames. I played those later even though Lightning Berserker did quite some damage already taking me to Firecraft and another spell range. After that I played Kalitas and hoped it would survive. My opponent played a creature though and then tried to kill my Kalitas, so I killed his creature and sacrificed my Zombie token making Kalitas bigger (a miracle that I realized that Kalitas has another ability!). My opponent tried killing him a second time later but I also managed to produce a Zombie and put more counters on Kalitas. Then the card just won me the game. The second game was actually pretty close. I did not expect my opponent to side in Act of Treason (I wasn't aware it was Standard legal) so my life total went down to 3 and I was forced to kill the stolen creatures in order not to die. I hoped I wouldn't die to Exquisite Firecraft but I could deal with creatures since I had instant removal for them. In the end I managed to deal the remaining 6 damage with my manland.

Round 7

This round utter defeat awaited me. The numbers on my life pad showed 15, 10, 5, 0. I think you can divine what I faced. I played against some UR Eldrazi and Reality Smasher just crushed me. In game 2 I had to deal with few Thought-Knot Seers, one Reality Smasher and Vile Aggregate. Unfortunately I did not decide to run Languish in my deck and I did not have enough removal for 5 toughness creatures (since Ultimate Price was kind of useless). I destroyed TKSs and one Smasher but another Smasher and Vile Aggregate was something I couldn't stop even though I tried to survive for as long as I could. My opponent could kill me in few different ways anyway so my chances were very slim. I still did not check 'DROP' on the result slip I signed.

I stayed at the table having nothing to do for 30 minutes pondering whether I should not go to the judge station and drop but I was saved by a friend of mine and we played some Vintage. I played URw Delver and he was on Eldrazi. For some reason I actually managed to win more games than lose. While we where playing some players started to gather around us wondering what format we played. At first they thought we played Modern but noticed original dual lands and then figured out that Ancestral Recall, Moxen and Mana Crypt aren't probably Legacy legal either. Listening to the players figuring out what is going on was quite funny as well. Some players were terribly wrong and did not even manage to see that I was actually beating the Eldrazi deck (I was surprised as well). At least people had something to think about - since they had hard time understanding why I have Sulfur Elemental and Stony Silence main deck. Some players also noted that it is unfair that they are there playing Type 2 while we play Vintage between rounds. It brought some of the judges to our table as well. I guess they did not come to check on us during End of Round procedure. Hope they had some fun as well.

Round 8

With 4:3 there wasn't anything I could win even if I would win the following round. It was the last round and I hoped to win anyway. I was matched against a player that usually dies against me. He certainly wasn't lucky this time either. He was on Bant CoCo. I checked his hand and discarded one of his Collected Companies. Then I tried to deal with his creatures one by one, since they were too big for my Radiant Flames. Languish would do but still I wouldn't really have time to look for it and play it. When I destroyed all the creatures his only two cards in hand were Thalia's Lieutenant and Collected Company. He played CoCo hitting Reflector Mage and Duskwatch Recruiter. I played Kalitas, killed the Recruiter and then started swinging since my Kalitas could get 5/6 and the opposing creatures were 3/4 and 1/1. In game two my opponent was stuck at two land. He had Dromoka's Command, Declaration in Stone, Thalia's Lieutenant, Collected Company and Lambholt Pacifist. He played the Pacifist. Next he played Dromoka's Command on it and started swinging for 4. I killed it later and already had mana for Goblin Dark-Dwellers. I played one after another not realizing that my opponent still had Declaration in Stone in his hand that I could have discarded. He already had mana for CoCo and any creature would kill me. I still had some removal though but I was down to 1 life when my Goblins got removed from the game. I sacrificed some clues finding Wandering Fumarole and hoped to kill my opponent with it. He was drawing only land after he exiled my creatures so I won. I *facepalmed* myself and wondered how many times I would run into Declaration in Stone once again. I went to play some more Vintage then.

Even though I wasn't really sure if going to the tournament would be a good idea, I went and I did not regret it. It was fun which I certainly did not expect from this format. I played some really nice games and most of the time my opponents were nice. It did not feel like a Competitive REL tournament, but rather a very pleasant and casual event. The competition was high though especially at the higher tables and we all had favorite players that we would like to represent our country. I stayed to watch the top 8 and have to say that I enjoyed watching it. The tense atmosphere reminded me that our country has a pride.

Thank you for reading and if you'd want to show me how to play Standard just hit me up on MTGO- my screen name is stsung.

Note: I had to actually look majority of the cards up!

1 Comments

This, as well as all of by JXClaytor at Tue, 06/21/2016 - 20:12
JXClaytor's picture

This, as well as all of stsungs articles have been put back up after the author requested time to fix images due to a snafu with image hosting.