Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Guest Article - A Newbie’s Story Part 1: Manchester Game Day

By Sam Fryman

Rob mentioned a couple of weeks ago on the blog that he wouldn’t mind having a guest writer, and I have dutifully volunteered. The superficial reason that I am writing is that a lot of magic articles are written by the winners, covering their good plays and any small (but often rare) mistakes they make. I am approaching this from the other angle: I am not a particularly good player, I make many mistakes, and I’m not helping by attempting to play one of the most difficult archetypes to master: UW Control.

(The real reason I’m writing is due to the vague hope that if I write down my mistakes I will actually remember them.)

Anyway, a quick background: I started playing around about the release of Rise. After several months casual pestering from Rob I joined in and, at his suggestion, bought the UW Worldwake Intro Pack. The only card I distinctively remember was the foil rare, the Archon of Redemption: a rubbish rare by all accounts, but I liked it... not least because I also picked up a Rite of Replication at some point and wanted the ability to gain 90 life. Aside from the odd deck – a borrowed Goblins deck, an extremely flawed RW lifegain, and possibly a white-knight-weenie - I’ve mostly stuck with UW Control.

Along the way I’ve borrowed heavily – Elspeth, Baneslayers, and Martial Coup spring to mind – and it has only been with the introduction of Scars and the loss of the Shards of Alara block that I’ve managed to get the cards.

Here’s the deck I took to the Manchester Game Day that Rob wrote about in his last post:

4 Celestial Colonnade
2 Seachrome Coast
4 Tectonic Edge
1 Mystifying Maze
4 Glacial Fortress
5 Plains
5 Island
4 Mana Leak
2 Stoic Rebuttal
4 Spreading Seas
3 Day of Judgement
3 Condemn
3 Journey to Nowhere
4 Wall of Omens
3 Baneslayer Angel
2 Frost Titan
1 Sun Titan
1 Sunblast Angel
3 Jace Beleren
1 Elspeth Tierl
1 Venser
2 Negate
3 Celestial Purge
2 Revoke Existence
2 Spell Pierce
4 Flashfreeze
1 Sun Titan
1 Volition Reins

Overall, in my mind, quite a good deck. No Jace the Mind Sculptor because... well, for a start, I’m working on a budget. Plenty of anti-aggro, plenty of anti-ramp (especially Valakut), enough card draw... my main worry was the control mirrors, hence the extra Sun Titan in the sideboard (for bringing back Jace to kill my opponent’s Jace 2.0) and the Volition Reins for stealing anything nice, such as Gideon.

Round 1 I initially had a Bye, but then another player arrived and we started late. I recognised Kat from the Altrincham PTQ... and as she was sleeving up, recognised what I hoped was a fairly standard Eldrazi Ramp deck (editor's note: I was sat next to their match and she was sleeving up face-up..). I can’t remember it exactly but it went something like this: Kat played Game 1 and I think got a little mana screwed for a couple of turns (which wasn’t helped by a pair of Spreading Seas). A few small creatures and then a DOJ on my part later and she cast Ulamog (I think), which I successfully countered. A few turns of bashing with a Baneslayer (I managed to cast 2) and I was 1-0 up. We sideboarded for the second game, and within two turns heard time being called. Kat insisted we keep playing (extra time for being late). I cast a Baneslayer with no counter in hand (with the mana open for the bluff, obviously). Kat played Summoning Trap and I waited with baited breath for something big and stompy... but fortunately she drew nothing. I managed 3 turns of bashing with the Baneslayer before our 5 rounds were up and we called the game a draw. 1-1-0 for the Round (this is a win for Sam. Wagz).

Round 2 I played Elliot Coen and his copy of Rob’s deck (though with Dispels instead of Spell Pierce in the sideboard). I successfully countered a couple of things (and even killed his Jace with mine), but eventually lost Game 1 to bashings from Oracle of Mul Daya and Lotus Cobra. I sideboarded for Game 2, but stupidly didn’t counter his turn 2 Lotus Cobra and went down to Avenger of Zendikar, having failed to draw a Day of Judgement.

Round 3 was against Goblins. I kept a 2-land hand (Island and Tectonic Edge) with a mana leak and 2 wall of omens. He played, and cast Goblin Guide. I revealed Jace, which I drew and dropped a land before passing the Turn. A second Goblin Guide (though still only 1 mountain) and I was down another 4 life... revealing another Island and the Mystifying Maze. I eventually drew a Colonnade and fended off with my walls for a couple of turns but some extra goblins and lightning bolts wiped me out. We sideboarded and I won games 2 and 3 fairly quickly with Baneslayer Angels.

During playtesting with Alex Gershaw and Andy Pemberton I had constantly been tapping out (a bad move for control decks, apparently). I had been doing the same against the goblins, saving my Baneslayer for turn 7 instead of casting him on turn 5. Alex mused that I could safely cast the Baneslayer without much fear of repercussion.

Round 4 went up against an Elves deck. The first game I successfully countered an Elvish Archdruid and Joraga Warcaller but couldn’t counter an Eldrazi Monument and took millions of damage to the face. Game 2 started slightly better: I opened with a Revoke Existence for his Eldrazi Monument, but it then went downhill. I failed to draw a single blocker or DOJ. As a last ditch attempt I brought out Elspeth and her tokens, and immediately lost them all. My one last hope was to draw my Sunblast Angel... which didn’t happen, and I scooped for a very infuriated 2-0 loss.

Round 5 I faced Aaron Copping and his mono-black deck. Neither of us could make top 8 (though Aaron had the better chance). His deck had Duress, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Mind Sludge as well as Liliana’s Specter. First game he brought out a Mimic Vat and Doom Bladed my Baneslayer, bashing me with Baneslayer tokens from the Vat. Second game he Mind Sludged me without a single counter in my hand, so I was forced to draw from the top. I did manage to get a Volition Reins on his Grave Titan, but that was about it. Overall an annoying loss, especially as I had been expecting Vampires or Infect, both decks I knew I could fairly easily beat.

Overall the day was slightly disappointing. I had expected to do better but had obviously underestimated one thing: my ability to make stupid plays. My deck had plenty of threats and solutions but not enough secure ways of drawing them.

I’d best make some changes then...


  1. Tapping out with control is very dangerous as you're giving your opponent the freedom to make dangerous plays that leave you considerably weakened. I'm not saying that tapping out should never happen, you just need to pick your moments. If your opponent has low card advantage, tapping out becomes more viable.

  2. more importantly depending upon the time you tap-out, you give the opponent a "read" that either a) you have no counter-magic in hand or b)-far less likely, whatever play they make you have a non-counter answer for.....unless you're tapping out for a BSA or a titan which are game altering plays you should always bluff action if playing control.

    And vs Red, any kind except perhaps machine-red, always play a turn 5 BSA, it's very unlikely they will have a satisfactory answer for it, even 2 burn spells to kill it is a bad trade-off for them....and if it does stick until you can untap and have counter protection for it, you probably just won the game...likely it'll take a couple more turns/attempts to kill it, but you have already won.