Thursday, 14 January 2010

Guest Article: A Standard Tournament Report

By Andy Pemberton

Well, I played my first FNM with the deck (Finally) last night, after getting everything together the week before. I played the following list;

23 Lands:
5 Forest
4 Plains
2 Swamp
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Marsh Flats
3 Sunpetal Grove
1 Gargoyle Castle

26 Creatures:
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Lotus Cobra
3 Putrid Leech
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Borderland Ranger
3 Emeria Angel
4 Baneslayer Angel
2 Thornling

11 Other Spells:
4 Path to Exile
4 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Behemoth Sledge
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

15 Sideboard:
2 Acidic Slime
2 Celestial Purge
2 Deathmark
2 Duress
3 Great Sable Stag
2 Qasali Pridemage
2 Zealous Persecution

Keeping in mind this was my first Standard tournament since Mirrodin / Kamigawa / 8th Standard, I was looking forward to a change and see how Standard has evolved since I was last involved. I went with a deck that I thought would have a good shot at the field, with the tried and true method of dropping huge threats and beating face.

R1: Vs. Mirror Match. This was against a guy I discussed the deck with before Christmas, and we realised we were both aiming to build the same deck . He plays a slightly different variation to me, with no leeches, but main boarded Stags, Garruk and an extra Sledge or two.
G1: I kept a decent hand with a Cobra and Hierarch as well as a Leech and Elspeth, but a turn 3 Garruk followed by turn 4 Stag and Cobra with a double Oran-Rief the Vastwood pump and me not able to keep a threat on the table meant we were on to game 2.

Sideboard: -1 PtE; -1 Cobra; +2 Deathmark

G2: He kept a dicey hand, and I kept a hand with 5 lands, a Pulse and a Leech. He was able to take away 2 of my Pulses (1 drawn) with 2 Tidehollow Sculler that he boarded in. He was mana screwed for the longest time, but a Path on his Sculler after I blocked it meant he was able to get green mana for his own three Pulses. Unfortunately, I couldn't race his top decked threats with mine.

0-2; 0-1

Round 2: I played against a hybrid GWrb Cascade deck that did silly things with Enlisted Wurm and Bloodbraid Elf.

G1: I kept a nice hand of ramp and threats, but his 4th turn Ajani Vengeant kept my Forest tapped, and as I was trying to get rid of it, he was busy playing Enlisted Wurm into Bloodbraid Elf into Lightning Bolt, then the same into Harrow. He kept gaining life through Ajani and Sledged threats, and I couldn't race him.

Sideboard: -2 PtE; -1 Cobra; -1 Leech; +2 Deathmark; +2 Acidic Slime

G2: I went in hoping I could deny him off mana with the Slimes, though I didn't draw any this game. It came down to a race of his two Knights against Mine, and we ended up going into a war of attrition until I could finally sit a Baneslayer down without it being tapped down or Pathed. Same old Wurm-Elf antics, but luckily he hit Harrow and not removal, and we were onto game 3.

G3: He kept a dicey hand, and didn't a land drop after 3. An Acidic Slime on his lone Swamp left him with 2 mountains, and he promptly conceded.

2-3; 1-1

R3: I played yet again against a GW deck, but this time it was a Bant variant of the Junk deck, running Rhox War Monk.

G1: I kept down a Sledge and Baneslayer, and from the life gain from it and the loss from my opponent, we were onto Game 2. I got a lot of removal for his threats, though a late Conquerer's Pledge tried to keep my Elspeth from going Ultimate with success. Luckily she was still alive to pump BSA for the win.

Sideboard: -1 PtE; -1 Cobra; +2 Deathmark

G2: We raced for a lot of the game, trading threats with Paths. Eventually, I got him to 6, but couldn't draw a big enough threat to finish him off, and we went to Game 3.

G3: Baneslayer absolutely rocked in this game. By mid-game, I was top decking BSA, and with Sledge and Elspeth pumps I was doing 10 damage a turn. He was keeping afloat with a Sledged Elspeth, and falling for a Brave the Elements, he was able to gain more life off of my blocked Baneslayer. Eventually, the onslaught was too much, and Baneslayer took the game. I ended at 69 life.

4-4; 2-1

R4: I played against my first round opponent's friend, playing Bushwhacker. Unfortunately, we got kicked out of the venue at 10, so we were only able to have 1 game.

G1: He kept a 1-landed with four 1-drops, whereas I tried to build a board ready to block against his alpha strike. I managed to dig a Marsh Flats off of the top each time his Goblin Guide swung in, and as he swung in with a Skyfisher, Guide and Lynx, I blocked and double-Pathed his creatures to stay safe. This gave him the mana for Ranger of Eos, and some careful blocks left me at 4, with him having another Bushwhacker in hand. I managed to clear his doubly Lynx with a Pulse, then drop a Baneslayer. I was able to drop an Elspeth and make some Soldiers to hold the ground, and I promptly took him down a few turns later from 19-10-4-0 after a couple of Elspeth pumps and Exalted

I ended 2-1, since they didn't count the last match results due to the time constraints. Still, I felt the deck performed very well. Some changes I'm contemplating:

-1 Less Path to Exile: I found I was siding one or two out most of the time for the Sideboard removal specific for the decks I faced (Usually Deathmark). It's good removal, in that it trades threats for land, but it sometimes has the ill effect of getting your opponent out of mana screw. In it's place, I'd probably put in an extra 4-drop. I found my deck was a little convoluted at 3, and an extra Elspeth / Garruk / Emeria Angel would probably even the curve a little, and at 7 removal slots main deck, you should in theory have enough for Game 1, and board in Purge / Deathmark / Persecution from the board to up the count if need be.

-Behemoth Sledge: It's nice when it happens early or late, making it invaluable when you're trying to stay in the game against aggro opponents. I'm running one at the moment, but I may find space for a second if I can find the room.

-I love the Toolbox idea of the Sideboard. It helped to just extend my removal range in case I needed it. With 4 Maelstrom Pulse and 3 / 4 Paths, you should have enough Game 1, and be able to synch your removal for games 2/3. It also allows for removal of your creature removal in the face of USA / Grixis control in favour of Stags to up the threat count.

-I'm contemplating an Oran-Rief, the Vastwood as a target for Knight, just as a one-of. When I played against it in the Mirror match, it ended up making very powerful Stags, and even something like a Cobra becomes a threat, especially with a Garruk Wildspeaker out. Certainly worth testing, I feel.

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed playing and writing up. We'll see if Draft brings me anything good next week :)

Andy P.

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