Monday, 23 August 2010

Tournament Report - 15 Card Highlander

By Wagz

Hi all, my exit from nationals was fairly swift this year after drawing terribly against a good matchup and facing 2 of the 5 pyromancer ascension decks in the room to go 1-3 into draft 1. A risky strategy and a loss later and I packed them up. This left me a lot of time to (immediately let off steam and) check out the side events. I borrowed a combo elves deck for the Vintage championship the next morning and after handily beating Dredge round 1 I faced 3 workshop decks who made turn 1 chalice of the void for 1 every game. After such tedium I decided I wanted to get involved with a much more fun format - 15 card Highlander.

The premise of it is similar to 100 card Highlander, your deck can have only 1 of any card which is not a basic land. However, you must have precisely 15 cards in your deck, a sideboard of 3 cards, and you don't lose the game to drawing from an empty library. It immediately became apparent that you will often draw nearly every card in your deck and if you have the right number of lands then your draws will be very smooth. Additionally, you want as many cards which interact with your opponent as possible - manlands are much better than other lands, preordain and ponder should only be played for a very particular reason or you are playing with a deck with less than 15 cards that do anything.

My first attempt at a deck was as follows:

Halimar Depths
2 Mountain
Scalding Tarn
Tome Scour
Hedron Crab
Elixir of Immortality
Lightning Bolt
Flame Slash
Relic of Progenitus
Howling Mine
Mana Leak

The deck was a bit degenerate - it had Tome Scour and Hedron Crab to immediately mill away the opponent's deck and Mana Leak, Flame Slash and Lightning Bolt to deal with the threats they try to play. Ponder and Preordain are basically Demonic Tutor in the deck to find the answers it needs. Having eliminated the opponents threats it can set up its own graveyard to be rid of the mill spells, then the mana leak and later the ponder, preordain and flame slash so that using the howling mine it can use its 4 mana-producing lands to draw lightning bolt and elixir of immortality every turn, dealing the opponent 3 and taking 5.

I ran to tell Jason Howlett, Tim Willoughby and Rich Hagon about my deck and soon enough Tome Scour, Hedron Crab and Elixir of Immortality formed the banned list. Mark Glenister suggested they add Mind Funeral as well and we were all set to play a much fairer format. Since my deck was banned, Seb Parker and I audibled to a deck built by Mick Edwards:

Ancient Ziggurat
Seaside Citadel
Stirring Wildwood
2 Forest
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Qasali Pridemage
Garruk's Companion
Jenara, Asura of War
Rhox War Monk
Leatherback Baloth
Rafiq of the Many
Vines of Vastwood
Oblivion Ring
Path to Exile
White Leyline
Elspeth, Knight-Errant

We weren't quite sure what to prepare for in the board and took a gamble with the Elspeth but the other 2 cards seemed pretty good. We have a nice array of abilities on our creatures and some which are really hard to answer so hopefully we'd always have something to do to beat our opponent.

Round 1 I play against a mono-black deck with some nice vampires. He gets Guul Draz Assassin down turn 1 every game but I always use my removal spell on it. My mana guys are fuel for his Gatekeeper of Malakir and after boarding my other removal spell takes care of his Grave Titan. He has Reassembling Skeleton and Malakir Bloodwitch which threaten to stem my beats but the Garruk's Companion's Trample is super relevant. He has a Royal Assassin but it was too slow and my Vines of Vastwood would provide 1 turn of safety if I need it. I take the match due to Trample and Rafiq.

Round 2 was against a Burn deck and it becomes immediately obvious that if I can set up Rhox War Monk and Vines of Vastwood then I probably win because he only has so much damage he can deal and spending 2 cards twice to deal with a War Monk plus the 3 life I gain is likely to negate his entire deck. My Path over my O-Ring in boarding kills a Ball Lightning or a Hell's Thunder which significantly reduces the damage he can deal. I win the match.

Round 3 comes and I am paired against Seb Parker in the mirror. We agree a prize split and he wins the roll and then game 1. I mull to 5 game 2 after drawing only Forests for mana and so lose that one as well, the deck is 4-0 at this point though.

In round 4 my opponent is Stuart Wright and I knew he had a Grixis Titans deck he was brewing up. It is a good idea as they are the most powerful creatures you can hardcast in the format, but you immediately have to play a lot of lands to cast them so you lose some card advantage straight away when you draw all those lands. I make a few punty errors like trampling over a 2/1 for 1 with my 3/2 and not tapping a noble hierarch for green mana when it gets pyroclasmed so I am unable to save my Rafiq from a Lightning Bolt. Despite my retardedness I take the match as my deck has too many threats for him to answer and I am able to throw away excess mana to his Blightning and Liliana's Specter.

My final opponent had a cool Naya Destructive Force deck which abused Garruk, Sun Titan and Dauntless Escort to be really one-sided. Unfortunately for him I, as Seb had the round before me, figured out that I had 1 4-mana spell and 7 mana sources in my deck so if I only played out half my mana before the Force I would easily negate it. Plus my Oblivion Ring would deal with the Sun Titan and I could attack the Garruk with an evasive creature so his card quality was then worse than mine.

I ended up going 4-1 and Seb went undefeated with the same deck, so we took 1st and 2nd places in the 20-odd man event. It was a really excellent format as every card counts and you have to save cards for very particular roles. There is very little variance to decks so you should only play as many lands as you need and having cards which do more than 1 thing will significantly increase the amount of play you have. I'm probably going to run the format as the 5th Wednesday event next month in Leeds and might even show up to WNM with a few decks for people to pick up between rounds and have a go. Give it a try - it's very rewarding!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Tournament Report - Win a Mox Pearl in Fanboy3

By Wagz

Hi all! I come fresh from another foray into Lejacy Magic at the always-fun Fanboy3 in Manchester. 37 players came with their favourite deck sleeved up, resulting in 6 rounds before top 8. The prizes? A very good looking Mox Pearl to the winner, with store credit to the top 4 and 5 boosters for each of the losing quarter finalists. Legacy has undergone a lot of changes recently with the StarCityGames Open Series forcing people to make better decks than the classic Team America Control, Goblins and so on. The buzz was that the format would be Zoo, Merfolk, Goblins and New Horizons this weekend, so I picked a deck which would be good against those 4 and forsaked my usual protection against silly combo decks, since with a 9 round tournament I might only have to face it once or twice and I can afford one loss in the swiss easily. I brewed up the following, borrowing many cards from the always-excellent Rik Powell:

4 Goblin Guide
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Qasali Pridemage
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
1 Swords to Plowshares
2 Lightning Helix
4 Price of Progress
1 Forest
1 Plains
1 Mountain
3 Plateau
2 Taiga
1 Savannah
3 Horizon Canopy
1 Raging Ravine
1 Karakas
3 Arid Mesa
4 Wooded Foothills
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Ravenous Trap
2 Tormod's Crypt
2 Umezawa's Jitte
3 Baneslayer Angel
1 Stirring Wildwood
3 Krosan Grip

Which is similar to my Madrid deck but has subbed the Mindbreak Traps for the mirror tech of Baneslayers :D. The Karakas was a last-minute addition I borrowed from Matt Light in lieu of the presence of many Emrakuls in the room.

Round 1 vs Phil Smith with Bridge-Naught

His deck is one of the new Emrakul ones. It is based on the old Stifle-Naught decks which used Stifle to cheat Phyrexian Dreadnaught into play. Using Mosswort Bridge they can hide away a good card and with the Dreadnaught in play and trigger on the stack can activate the Bridge to cast something good. They also have Show and Tell to directly cheat stuff into play. I have only a few answers for this sort of deck but I have a lot of aggression so it might not be too terrible. Game 1 he chose to not counter my Knight of the Reliquary as he wasn't sure if Zoo was playing Karakas still (most don't) so when he Show and Telled Emrakul into play I was able to tutor up my land to bounce the Spaghetti Monster. Game 2 he countered my Knight but I'd already drawn the Karakas. In any event his countering my Knight put enough card types into graveyards to power up my Goyfs for a lethal attack so it was Catch 22 really.


Round 2 vs Tomas Sukaitis with Bant

Tom brought Bant but had given up on Counterbalance-Top for a straightforward aggro-control version of the deck. My Baneslayers came in for this creature mirror and it was mostly back and forth with life totals only he has War Monks. Game 1 I played around Stifle (quite common in current Bant Decks) only to get blown out by Wasteland (far less common). Game 3 had an unusual situation: on 4 life with a Jitte versus War Monk and Qasali Pridemage I rip a Baneslayer Angel. He rips Noble Hierarch and the Exalted means I actually have to chump block :o.


Round 3 vs Thomas Robinson with Goblins

I may be mixing up rounds 3 and 4 here as I don't have any notes to go on but I definitely played these 2 matches. Goblins is a good matchup for Zoo as they lean fairly heavily on turn 1 Goblin Lackey (how lackey!) or Aether Vial, but Lackey is a 1/1 versus my 21 1 mana answers and Vial doesn't affect the board very quickly. I draw a bit of gash while he nuts off a Ringleader but his deck is set up to do that so fair enough. Game 2 I establish control of the board but only draw 3 creatures the entire game, 2 Guides and a Nacatl - Jitte helps a lot with this. Game 3 he didn't have a very explosive start and played out 2 Vials in the first two turns before Edicting me when I had a Nacatl and a Pridemage in play. I sacced the Nacatl as I was fairly sure his hand had something like Goblin Warchief, Ringleader, Siege-Gang so I kept the Pridemage to kill his 2 counter vial in his next upkeep with the trigger on the stack. This turned out to Time Walk him just enough for my guys and burn to get in before he could develope a board presence.


Round 4 vs Jason Christie with Enchantress

Another good matchup for Zoo. I was lucky enough to know what my opponents were playing every round today - having good friends at tournaments has a lot of benefits and you should always help out the people you know if you can because they often return the favour. I kept my hand despite being slow because it had a Qasali Pridemage in. I got some damage in and kept him off the right cards until he raw-dogged a Moat when he was going to tutor for it with the Sterling Grove he had in play. I'd rather he'd tutored for it as I'd been sandbagging my Pridemage in hand. I ran it out to kill the Grove as he had a card which prevented players from casting spells and activating abilities in opponents turns and had to hope to draw another Pridemage to win. Luckily I did and was able to attack in in time. My hand for game 2 had no 1 drop or 2 drop again but 2 Krosan Grips so I kept. My draws were Wild Nacatl, Gaddock Teeg, Qasali Pridemage, Qasali Pridemage; proving that it is, in fact, very nice being me.


Round 5 vs Alex Shoemark with Iggy-Pop

This is not a good matchup for me as I have to have one of my Teegs or Canonists to win, but at least if he's leaning on Ill-Gotten Gains rather than Ad Nauseam my sideboard graveyard hate has room to do something. Game 1 I mull a hand without Teeg into another one without Teeg but some aggression. I cast 2 spells before I lose (Goblin Guide and Lightning Helix) and start sideboarding. Games 2 and 3 I get a hate bear and some aggression plus a Tormod's Crypt so I am able to put him under pressure. Luckily for me his draws are terrible and I sneak the victory. Game 3 his keep was because he had Lotus Petal, Crystal Vein and Dark Confidant, which seems fair but he failed to draw any more lands. I'm not convinced Bob comes in against Zoo because he just gives me extra Lightning Bolts on my opponent but perhaps his testing revealed that he wanted more cards more than he wanted his life total - I think Bob is more for mirror matches. Ah well, no complaints as I can ID into the top 8 with Matt Light in round 6.

4-1-1, 4th after the Swiss

Quarterfinals vs Matt Light with Hypergenesis

Matt is playing another one of those Emrakul decks, only using Hypergenesis alongside Show and Tell to put Kul and the gang into play. I literally have only my main deck Karakas and my sideboard Ethersworn Canonist to interact and sure enough Matt kills me with gigantic monsters. 1 at a time, a la Reanimator I can deal with but 5 or 6 at once is too much. He kept a dog of a hand game 2, with 1 land, a cascade spell and 5 monsters on the draw, but he only needs 2 mana sources to plain win the game, against a deck with Goblin Guide, up a game and in a match where he is the heavy favourite so I think it's defensible.

Lose in the Quarters

I pack wars my 5 M11 boosters and manage to get a Fauna Shaman and am fairly happy with top 8 when I hadn't played Legacy in a while and couldn't list peoples' decklists by heart any more. I've got a new version of Zoo brewed up with a bit more metagaming involved but I'm saving it for Rik or myself to run in the Legacy event at Nats in a few weeks time - probably not me, I'll be busy being National Champion obv.