By Rob Catton
Hi everyone, this is the first article I've written for this blog, and hopefully it wont be the last! For those of you who don't know me, my name is Rob Catton, a Leeds WNM regular. I started playing Magic back in Morningtide (not too long ago!) and have played in multiple PTQs and GPTs since, with a single top 8 at Coventry last year.
A couple of weeks back, I ran Pat Chapin's UW control deck at the Newcastle nationals qualifier; the first of the season. I knew the deck to beat was Jund, and as such I knew my deck had to have a decent game, and a hopefully positive postboard matchup. With a few amendments to the sideboard, including the somewhat 'janky' Telemin Performance for the mirror, I was set. In the second last round, where I had to win out, me and my Polymorph opponent came to a stalemate after extra turns where he had me dead on board, with me having few outs. Completely forgetting there was another round after this, I caved in to his pressuring and gave him the 2-1 win. I was later informed that I could have still made it with a draw and a win.
I decided to take a postive mindset after this disaster; my deck had performed pretty well up until the later stages of the tournament, where my concentration had took a turn for the worst, and I had effectively crapped out. This was later to be known as 'doing a Catton'.
Not happy with how slow my list was, I scoured the internet for a better list, more ideas. GP Brussels saved me here, as hiding in the undefeated decklists for day 1 was a neat UW list. This list was a mere 5-6 cards away from my prior list and I was comfortable with trying this out. For reference, here is the deck list.
3 Day of Judgement
2 Martial Coup
2 Mind Spring
1 Path To Exile
2 Essence Scatter
4 Treasure Hunt
4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Oblivion Ring
4 Everflowing Chalice
4 Celestial Collonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Halimar Depths
4 Tectonic Edge
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Marsh Flats
1 Arid Mesa
4 Kor Firewalker
2 Elspeth, Knight Errant
2 Celestial Purge
1 Mind Control
1 Perimeter Captain
After a lot of intensive testing against Jund, piloted by Rob Wagner, I was confident the matchup wasn't terrible, which therefore made the deck a lot more viable for the metagame, as the only decks I think I lose to are Mill and Time Sieve. But that is a small price to pay as those decks lose to Jund (despite all this editor's efforts).
Me, Andy Devine, Kier Teasdale and John Ingham drove up to Manchester early on the Saturday morning, sharing fruitful stories as ever; you who know Andy will know what I'm talking about (editor: 'fraid so :p)!
Round 1 : Esper Control
I haven't seen this guy around tournaments before and he says he has just recently started again, which makes sense; you never quit magic really. Game one takes quite a while, going back and forth as 3 of my Baneslayers get path'ed. Sadface. I end up taking the first, after a Treasure Hunt for 7 (!), and the help of my Celestial Collonnades and Jace keeping him from drawing anything relevent. We have about ten minutes left, and the option of playing defensively goes through my mind, to end up with the 1-0 win, but i dont think I have that option as he starts beating down with Creeping Tar Pits quite quickly. Unable to find a Tectonic Edge, despite Jace's best efforts, I decide I have to race him with my Collonnades too. I eventually get overwhelmed by his army of creatures which I can't Oblivion Ring. Game 3 goes to time and I'm relatively OK with the draw - it's not a loss!
Round 2: RW Jundkiller
My opponent complains about not being paired against Jund round 1 and losing to UW control. I mental fist-pump, and start the match. He gets a fairly good start going with Stoneforge Mystic and Kor Firewalker beating me down, but he cant dodge the DoJ, and I clean up easily with a Baneslayer Angel, helped along by a Cancel for his Path to Exile. I sideboard in 3 Kor Firewalkers as I saw some burn in game 1, and manage to draw all three (how lucky) against him. I beat him to death with a pair of them and Jace makes sure he draws lands every turn.
Round 3: UW tap-out control
I ask my opponent what his record is, and he tells me he's 2-0, which is surprising as I was paired down last round. I figure this is good for me as my tiebreakers will be better if I beat him. Anyway, the game starts as I would like - him doing nothing for ages and me having counterspells in hand. He Paths something like 3 of my Baneslayers and I slowly start to run out of gas. He goes for a huge Mind Spring, for 8 I believe, and my Essence Scatters in hand feel stupid. That just about ends game 1, as he Martial Coups my Martial Coup soldiers for 9 and I can't find an answer. I bring in 3 Negates and 2 Elspeth. I ponder over bringing in a Mind Control, but figure his Jaces can just bounce the creature back to his hand anyway. I feel like I'm about to win in this game, as I manage to win a counter war over my Mind Spring for 7. The 7 I drew were 6 land and an Everflowing Chalice... Wish I had a Treasure Hunt right there. He gets a little nervous about my 6 card hand to his 3 cards, but his Iona totally caught me off guard, and the Negate for my Jace sealed the game. Should have brought in that Mind Control.
By this point, Team Leeds are doing exceptionally well, with Andy Edwards on 3-0, and hardly anyone else with more than 1 loss.
Round 4: Naya Allies
I don't know what my opponent is playing, but I put him on allies because of the seemingly casual appearence of him... OK he flashed me an Oran-Rief Survivalist during shuffling. I feel good about this matchup as a Day of Judgement wrecks them and they have only a few outs to Baneslayer. Game one he gets the ball rolling with turn 2 Hada Freeblade turn 3 Akoum Battlesinger, but then walks right into my Wrath, even though I revealed it to him with my Treasure Hunt. Awkward (editor: love the 1-1-1 bracket). Baneslayer comes down a few turns later meaning he can't attack with his Bloodbraid and pals. He looks happy when I attack with my Angel, perhaps he had a sick turn to pump all his allies or suchlike. He wasn't happy to see the second Baneslayer. Game 2 was a little anti-climatic, as i got a turn 3 Jace and stopped him from drawing his third land.
Round 5: UW tap-out control
I know my opponent is playing UW tap-out as I saw one of his earlier games. I think this matchup varies on draws, as it is usually going to be decided on Celestial Collonnades or one of the X spells in the deck. His turn 2 Spreading Seas on my Collonnade was awkward, I kinda needed that blocker as he proceeded to later in the game beat me down with his Collonnade while ignoring my Jace. I went right down to 6 life from the Serra Angel beats, only to land my third Baneslayer unopposed. Needless to say, Baneslayer wins when it is unopposed. I end this game with 21 mana on the table, I drew all 4 of my Everflowing Chalices, and wonder if Banefire and a Mountain should be in my sideboard... Anyway, I learn from my past sideboarding against UW tap-out, and bring in the Mind Control. This game was pretty nuts, and in my favour. All I have written on the notepad is that I go to 19 from a fetchland, and he goes 20 to 12 to 0. Thats 2 attack steps ladies and gentlemen. I manage to land an early Jace again, as he taps out for a turn 3 Borderpost (hard cast). My Jace stops him from drawing any land, which was my plan in this matchup. I Tectonic Edge him off his second blue mana, and resolve an Elspeth, which is usually good enough. This leaves him a small window to resolve his Baneslayer, and from the look on his face it might be his last out, as the Knight of the White Orchid he got down earlier is just getting chumped every turn. I end the game with a Baneslayer of my own, and Mind control on his Baneslayer.
It's around about now I get a text from Fu, as is customary during events. "Ornithopter?" was all the text said. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out what code Fu was talking in; Ornithopter is a 0/2. So the question was, am I 0-2? I send back "Goblin Deathraiders.. and a draw!" It's funny 'cos it's Fu (editor: :D).
Round 6: Naya (Andy Devine)
It's always going to happen, playing a fellow Leeds player. I think this is like the 6th time I've played Andy in a non-WNM sanctioned tournament. Anyway, got to treat it like any other matchup, and I get my game face on. Andy wins the die roll, and starts with a Raging Ravine, a good card vs control. I match his man-land with one of my own and pass the turn. He gets to land a Trace of Abundance here and I worry that will cause me trouble later in the game. See, a manland that gets incrementally larger every time it attacks and I can't Tectonic Edge it because it has shroud? Awkward. Anyway, I play an Everflowing Chalice for 1 and pass. He doesn't draw a land, characteristic of playing against me; Andy usually gets mana screwed. Anyway, he gets a Knight of the Reliquary down and gives the turn back to me. Oblivion Ring takes care of the Knight and Halimar Depths sorts out my next draws. The game goes quite long, and Andy starts attacking me with the Raging Ravine. It gets to a point where the only creature he has is the ravine, and I'm on 4 life. I can't play baneslayer and block, the Ravine will be a 6/6 by then. So I do some maths, and calculate that if I play Everflowing Chalice for 2 and chump block with my Celestial Collonnade, I will have 10 mana next turn for double Baneslayer. Unfortunatly, I don't factor in that I will lose a land in this process and end up with 9 mana! I have to turn to the Jace I have in play and Brainstorm up a Martial Coup, which buys me enough time to win this close game. I don't have many cards in my sideboard for Naya, but I decide that the Perimeter Captain, Perry Metre (ed: yays!), will match his Wild Nacatls quite nicely,and bring in just him. I land good ol' Perry turn 1 and he did a good job fending off the Cats and Bloodbraids that could potentially come my way. Again, Andy got the turn 2 Trace of Abundane on Raging Ravine, but you just can't race Baneslayer.
Round 7: RB Burn
This is it, final round; win and in. My opponent seems calm about the match, but I think it's more because he doesn't mind either way, win or lose. He also flashes me a Hellspark Elemental during shuffling, and I feel good about this; I have 9 cards to bring in! Game one I lose to a very quick draw, Turn 1 Goblin Guide, T2 Hellspark Elemental, T3 Ball Lightning, T4 and T5 Hell's Thunder. I bring in 4 Kor Firewalker, 1 Perimeter Captain, 2 Flashfreeze, and 2 Celestial Purge. I ditch all the slow cards, like Day of Judgement, Martial Coup, Essence Scatters and 2 of the OblivionRrings. I mulligan to 6 in game 2 and keep a somewhat dodgy hand of Misty Rainforest, Tectonic Edge, Treasure Hunt, Baneslayer Angel, Flashfreeze, Everflowing Chalice. Luckily, my Treasure Hunting was good on turn 2, finding me 3 white lands and a Perry Metre. The Perimeter Captain blanks my opponent's Goblin Guide and he has no plays for a while, allowing me to land double Baneslayer. He plays an unkicked Goblin Ruinblaster, despite having the mana to kick it. After I block, he happily plays Searing Blaze on my Baneslayer that blocked. I announce I'll take the 3 damage from the searing blaze and he looks confused as to why my Baneslayer is still alive; first strike? Game 3, my opening hand looks pretty sweet, with Perry Metre staring back at me yet again. He ends up only playing Goblin Guide, as my turn 3 Jace stops him from drawing his third land, and I end up ultimating him with 3 counter spells in backup.
And that's it! After a lot of pats on the back and collecting my £25 store credit prize, I've qualified for Great British Nationals. I feel pretty good about this and that my work in testing has paid off.
To Kier for driving all the way there and refusing payment for doing so!
Andy Edwards to playing despite being on crutches.
To the +80 points I'll get to my rating.
The staff at Fanboy3, Manchester.
Nothing (editor: how lame, he'll learn)