Bad Beats in Spokompton: A Musical

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Help, I’m stepping into the Twilight Zone

Place is a madhouse

The lyrics of the Golden Earrings hit close to home.  I was on my way to a standard tournament in Spokane and was working on decklists, including a list that didn’t start with four Jace, the Mind Sculptors.

UW CawBlade was built and in my bag, all sleeved and ready to go, but I wanted to play something different.  You couldn’t pay me to play Valakut, I didn’t own any of the relevant cards for either Red Deck Wins or Kuldotha Red, and I didn’t want to bust out UG Wave again, as I hadn’t played it in a tournament since before Besieged was released.  I knew Brian David-Marshall had played it and performed fairly well at a Star City Games open, but I hadn’t played with his list at all and I knew how tricky the sideboarding could be with that deck.  I hadn’t found a RUG list I liked, as I wasn’t good enough to untap with a Lotus Cobra before turn seven.  That left, simply, Jumanji.

Jumanji is a GW beatdown deck that was built to prey on several of CawBlade’s weaknesses.  While the splashes of Black or Red have somewhat solved this, CawBlade is generally weak to an early threat that can do serious business before Day of Judgment comes online.  With a playset of both Fauna Shamans and Lotus Cobras, Jumanji is as well-positioned as any deck can be to take advantage of this.  Where Fauna Shamans go, Vengevines follow, allowing Jumanji to take advantage of another chink in CawBlade’s armor: like all blue decks, it is weak to nigh-uncounterable haste creatures.  The addition of [card Sword of Feast and Famine]protection from green[/card] [card Sword of Body and Mind]swords[/card] and [card Squadron Hawk]more blockers[/card] has made CawBlade less weak to Vengevine than previous blue decks, but it still an inconvenience that can quickly be upgraded to serious threat.

So yeah, I set to work on a list that didn’t include Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

my beacons have been moved

under moon and star

where am I to go, now that I’ve gone to far?

4 Fauna Shaman 4 Vengevine 3  4 2 4 Leatherback Baloth 3 4 3 Birds of Paradise 4 Llanowar Elves 4 Stoneforge Mystic 2 Bonehoard 1 2 Sword of Body and Mind 1 0 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Overwhelming Stampede 6 5 4 Lead the Stampede 4 Squadron Hawk 4 [card Lotus Cobra]Cheats McGee[/card] 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence 1 Primeval Titan—-> 2 Tectonic Edge/Stirring Wildwood
1 Molten-Tail Masticore 1 Stoneforge Mystic 1 Bonehoard

I had initially thought that stock Jumanji lists played with Stoneforge Mystic and a few pieces of equipment and was surprised when the others in the car informed me I was mistaken.  By this time I had been convinced that Bonehoard was criminally underrated and underplayed from my testing with CawBlade, so I decided to add a tutorable Mystic and a Bonehoard.

I flirted with the idea of cutting the Lotus Cobras for a short while.  My thinking was that the deck’s mana curve stopped at three, minus the Vengevines that I didn’t plan on hard casting and the two Overwhelming Stampedes.  With a curve that low it seemed like I would frequently not be able to truly abuse the Cobra, so it would be better as something else.  In the end I decided that I didn’t want to tweak the deck that much without having played it.

Some time later, talk drifted towards Abyssal Persecutor.  When Go for the Throat was spoiled, many people – myself included – thought that the Persecutor was ready for a surge.  A reliable way to kill of the Persecutor that didn’t involve cards that you would never otherwise play (looking at you, Consuming Vapors) seemed like the only thing standing in the way of a real Persecutor deck.

I started brewing as a bassline joined synthesizer.

4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas 4 Abyssal Persecutor

we’ve got each other, and that’s a lot

for love, we’ll give it a shot

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 4 Go for the Throat

we’re halfway there

take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear

“Playsets of [card Everflowing Chalice]Chalice[/card] and [card Sphere of the Suns]Sphere[/card] seem good, right?” I asked the car.

living on a prayer

Taking the words to heart, I decided this was not going anywhere I wanted to be (I hate 4 [card Everflowing Chalice]Chalice[/card] and [card Sphere of the Suns]Sphere[/card] decks) and cut my losses, focusing my attention instead on naming my Squadron Hawks.

In case you missed it, in his last article for SCG, Matt Sperling included a picture of his Squadron Hawks, each bearing the sharpied name of a Seinfeld character.  I try not to ride the trends too hard and generally make my own way, but this was just too cool not to copy, which led to a discussion of possible Hawk-jockings.

Obviously, they had to be famous or else others would miss the joke.  Naming your Hawks after your favorite whatever is all well and good, but it will be far more entertaining if whoever is on the other side of the table can recognize what you are talking about.  The other clear criteria is that they have to be named for a quartet.  Two duos might be fine, but a quartet is really where you’re hoping to be.  You could go with a trio, but then you aren’t playing four Squadron Hawks.  If you’re only playing three Hawks you’re probably playing a deck like Boros or Quest, which means I hate you.  For lols you could go with four members of a famous quintet just to get your opponent scratching their head and getting ready to call the judge the moment you play number five, but I think that having a complete set counts for more.  No Beach Boys or Traveling Wilburys for me.

I ended up going with The Beatles (best band ever, not close – if you disagree, you’re just wrong), Joaquin went with the kids from South Park so there could be plenty of cries of “You killed Kenny!” “You Bastards!,”and my buddy Drew ended up with the Transformers because he wouldn’t know a good movie if it kicked him in the ass; he thinks Michael Bay is a god.

Possible alternatives:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Four great artists (same spelling as above, but more art and less kung-fu).

Other Rock Greats: I guess you could do this if you wanted, but if you go rock and don’t go with the Beatles, I think you’re just doing it wrong.

Classical Greats: Beethoven and Mozart were obvious first and second picks, but I don’t know enough about classical to pick two others that seemed right.  Vivaldi and Bach are the next most famous in my head, but I’m not sure it that’s really because they’re the next two picks or just the next two I know about.  For all I know, there’s a couple of other famous dudes I’m not familiar with that deserve to be grouped with Beethoven and Mozart, and I didn’t want to get called out by someone that actually knew what they were talking about.

Dead Rappers: Eazy-E, Big Pun, The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac.  I know there are a million others, but these guys are head and shoulders above the rest.

White Rappers: Eminem, MC Serch, Vanilla Ice and The Beastie Boys.  Again, there are others, but these are the biggest and deffest.

G-Funk: Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Warren G and (RIP) Nate Dogg.

50 Cent Albums: To help illustrate the diminishing returns involved with casting Squadron Hawk and the steep downward trend in their usefulness, you could go with Get Rich or Die Tryin’, The Massacre, Curtis, and Before I Self Destruct.

Broken Blue Cards That Cost 4: Fact or Fiction, Gifts Ungiven, Mystical Teachings, Cryptic Command, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.  Obviously you’d have to cut one, but I’ll admit I can’t find the weakest link.

A few out of context bits of wisdom from the car ride:

“She flipped me off!  I don’t care if she’s five years old, she’s getting flipped off back!”

“Hot tech to beat Inferno Titan: Liquimetal Coating, Isochron Scepter, Divine Offering, obv.”

“…doesn’t that beat a lot more than just Inferno Titan?”

“Next Level Tech for the Titan decks…Mimic Vat!”

“…”

Josh’s Hierarchy of Meats: Steak>Ham>Chicken.  He spent at least ten minutes talking about this and proving how his hierarchy was correct and proper.  I was laughing too hard to catch most of it, and I don’t think the other two were paying much attention.  Josh didn’t care.

“I got 99 problems, and they all bitches!”

We finally arrived in Spokane, which seemed fairly decent and non-threatening.  How it got nicknamed Spokompton is beyond me, but its too late now.  Despite being lied to both by Google Maps and Wizards, we eventually found a store that was hosting FNM.

After a little while trading and being entertained by local tech (pro tip: your Harrow, Cultivate, Praetor’s Counsel, Skinrender deck does not have an 80% win vs CawBlade, I promise), it was time to start.  I saw a lot of green decks and very little CawBlade, so I decided to play my CawBlade instead of trying out the Jumanji list.  I wasn’t sure how Jumanji would perform against other decks with creatures, I knew Day of Judgment beat those pretty well, and I didn’t want to throw the tournament away.

Here’s what I was packing:

1 [cardSword of Feast and Famine]Old Meat[/card] 1 [cardSword of Body and Mind]Old Cheese[/card] 1 [cardBonehoard]Phallic Jokes Waiting to Happen[/card] 2 [cardBaneslayer Angel]Power Creep[/card] 4 [cardStoneforge Mystic]Squire[/card] 4 [card Mana Leak]Fatal Flaw[/card] 1 each: [card Squadron Hawk]George, Paul, John, and Ringo[/card] 4 [card Preordain]Bad Brainstorm[/card] 2 [card Journey to Nowhere]Montana[/card] 1 [card Tumble Magnet]Better Nickname Needed[/card] 4 [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Better Than Your Deck[/card] 3 [card Gideon Jura]Party Animal[/card] 3 [card Day of Judgment]Finals[/card]

SB

3 [card Oust]…or GTFO![/card] 3 [card Divine Offering]Goat Killing[/card] 2 [card Journey to Nowhere]Montana[/card] 1 [card Baneslayer Angel]Power Creep[/card] 3 [card Flashfreeze]Counter the Bad Cards[/card] 1 [card Linvala, Keeper of Silence]Elf Wrecker[/card] 1 [card Volition Reins]Thanks![/card] 1 [card Day of Judgment]Finals[/card]

I’ll assume that by now you are familiar with the stock list and how it works, so I’ll just cover my deviations.

Bonehoard: I like having my late game Stoneforge Mystics be more than Squires, so I wanted a third piece of equipment.  Having a tutorable Lhurgoyf is rather strong, as it allows you even more card advantage and gives you pseudo-Vigilance.  At +2/+2 it is equal to a Sword, and at +3/+3 or better it lets your creatures fight with their sworded guys.  You can also give it to a Hawk and bash, then move it to a defender.  This lets you have them beat in combat on both offense and defense.  In many late games it is a significant threat, granting +5/+5 or better.

Baneslayer Angel: Pretty much every article mentions how KRed is a pretend deck, and for good reason.  If you can interact with the deck in a meaningful way before turn four you have them over a barrel.  Given that the world at large is aware that KRed is a joke and of Sullivan’s win with Red at a recent SCG Open, I felt many aggressive players would be playing either Red or Boros, either of which is basically dead to a BSA+untap phase.  She is also good against the other decks that are supposed to be good against CawBlade, such as Jumanji.  A 5/5 with Lifelink and First Strike goes a long way towards solving the Vengevine problem.

Journey to Nowhere: I had seen several people talking about Jumanji here and there, and similar Fauna Shaman + Vengevine decks.  The Journey lets you have a real answer to either Lotus Cobra or Fauna Shaman before they become active, even if you are on the draw.  It also answers Vengevine in the later game, or singleton Titans of various colors in the mirror without forcing a Day of Judgment.  In my testing, many games in the mirror see one player come ahead on the board, then see a Titan of some kind resolve on the other side of the board.  A [card Day of Judgment]Day[/card] there gives up their advantage on the board, while a spot removal spell like [card Journey to Nowhere]Journey[/card] allows them to continue pressing their advantage.

Volition Reins: Many CawBlade players are skimping on their counters, and planning on sideboarding their counters out for games two and three.  This pushes the game into Battlecruiser mode as each player tries to go over the top of the other with ever more impressive champions.  The Volition Reins can take advantage of that by two-for-one’ing an opponent the turn after they tap out for a Grave Titan or some other monstrosity, while not being dead if they have not drawn/played their Titan yet.  Taking a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Gideon Jura, or even a Sword of Feast and Famine could be back-breaking.  It also has possible applications against Valakut or UG Wave.

Sword of Body and Mind: This was a last minute change.  I had originally been playing with a Sylvok Lifestaff in this slot, but I saw almost no Red and a lot of Green, so the change was made.  I have seen many lists moving towards two Sword of Feast and Famines and no Sword of Body and Minds to ensure they have a Feast/Famine to search up, even after an opposing Inquisition of Kozilek, but I think I disagree with that.  I won several games because I was able to make Wolf tokens for additional pressure, milling ten cards is often a quicker clock than three damage, Jace protection is nice, and the fact that CawBlades are now running fewer counterspells than they did at PT Paris makes the untap effect of the Sword of Feast and Famine less relevant, which makes Body/Mind better in relation.  The original appeal of Feast/Famine was that it let you tap out for threats while still holding up counter mana.

More days to come

New places to go

I’ve got to leave

it’s time for a show!

Round 1:
Mono Green Poison.
Bye

Here I am

Round 2: Jumanji…
…but without the white mana for Squadron Hawk or Stirring WildwoodObstinate Baloth just seems better, doesn’t it?
Bye

Rock you like a Hurricane

Round 3: Sparkblade, competent opponent.  I make the dumbest mistake I’ve made in a long time in this match-I have a Jace, the Mind Sculptor with one counter on it and five lands.  I have an unequipped Sword of Body and Mind and two Squadron Hawks.  He has two Stoneforge Mystics, but nothing that can block my fliers, and an untapped Cunning Sparkmage.  By not killing off my Jace before passing the turn he was clearly signaling he had a Lightning Bolt in hand, and was planning on killing both my Hawks to keep me from connecting with the Sword.  If he didn’t have a Bolt his Sparkmage would only be able to kill one Hawk, which means he would still get hit by the Sword, which means it would have been better for him to just kill my Jace.  Having read him for the Bolt, I untap and draw a Mana Leak, which will be good enough to counter his Bolt.  I decide to kill off the Sparkmage with a Journey to Nowhere I am holding, then equip and bash with my Hawks, counter his Bolt, and make my Wolf token.  I tap two mana and play the Journey.

when the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone

Did you catch it?  Did you see where I punted?

when you’re sure you’ve had enough…

I got ahead of myself and didn’t use Jace before playing the Journey.  I could have +2ed him to get out of danger of the Sparkmage, but I didn’t.  I could have brainstomed to give myself more options for the following turns, but I didn’t.  I just played my Journey and let my opponent shoot Jace in response.  Having tapped two mana for the Journey I now had only three mana untapped, not enough to equip a Hawk with the Sword, forcing his Bolt, and still Leak it.

I just about cried.

…well hang on.

Don’t let yourself go, everybody cries

I still won 2-0, but I didn’t feel I deserved it.

After three rounds there were three undefeated players, which meant we should have at least one more round.  Unfortunately, the store had to close, so they called it done as it was.  Despite going 6-0 in games I was in third place on tie-breakers, so I didn’t even get a draft set.

and everybody hurts, sometimes

The next morning was the main event.  It had a total of 54 players, which meant a soft six rounds before the cut to top eight.  Talking with my buddies before the event began, we agreed that 4-0-2 was definitely in, 4-1-1 was almost a lock, and 4-2 was possible but not likely.  4-0 double draw here I come!

Round One: Kibler’s UB Infect deck.
I am only really worried about three cards in this deck: Phyrexian Crusader, Tumble Magnet, and Contagion Clasp.  All of their creatures suck except for the unblockable Crusader and are easily chumped by Hawks until I can get control of the game, Magnet is basically a triple Time Walk against Sword decks, and the Clasp puts me on a clock that I can’t Day of Judgment away.

In game two, he attacks with his Necropede into my Squadron Hawk after playing a first main phase Phyrexian Crusader.  I snap block, and he starts groaning to himself.  While not the best trade in terms of card advantage, I don’t think the exchange was that bad for him so I’m confused by his reaction for a minute until I realize he must think that the ‘Pede’s trigger is a must, not a may.  I don’t say a word and after thirty seconds or so of groaning and muttering he puts a counter on his Crusader and says go.  After I untap, draw, and am searching my deck for an equipment to stick on my freshly summoned Stoneforge Mystic he realizes his mistake and asks for a takeback.  No sir.

That was the game I lost.

1-0 Matches, 2-1 Games

Lesson learned: Gideon Jura > creatures with infect.  I don’t think poison will become a tier one strategy until they get fast enough to successfully race Gideon or he rotates out.  Gideon is just too widely played to be ignored and all the creatures with infect suck against planeswalkers.

Round Two: Black Swan.
Game one sees us trade haymakers for a while until I start connecting with a Sword of Body and Mind.  He has more Hawks than I do and can chump for a while, which only becomes worrisome when he rips a Sword of Feast and Famine.  We trade hits for a while, both sure we are winning the race.  I know I am winning based on damage, as I am getting an additional attacker every time I connect.  I am also milling him, which means his life can be measured as four Sword connections, rather than in life, which I don’t think he was considering until quite a ways into the race.  The fact he is attempting to race me when I am dealing more damage tips me off that he is holding at least one removal spell.  I figure he is going to try to get me to swing for lethal and leave myself open to a lethal backswing, then Doom Blade my Sword’d Hawk to survive.  On the last turn he is at one life to my six and has one Hawk to block against my two wolves and Sworded Hawk and possible Celestial Colonnade.  He has enough tapped Hawks and Swords that if I swing but don’t kill him I am dead to the backswing, but only two cards in hand.  With only two cards in hand he can possibly kill two attackers, probably the Hawk and the Colonnade, block one Wolf, and…still die?  I am puzzling over what he could have in hand to not die when he says that he messed up and concedes the game.  I hadn’t decided yet that I was going to go for it and could easily have decided to force his Doom Blade on my Wolves, leaving the Hawk and Colonnade on defense, but it became a moot issue when he scooped up his cards.

Game two is also interesting.  He accidentally puts a Doom Blade into play instead of a land on turn three or so, letting me play around it for the rest of the game.  He had a small deformity in his hands and I am not sure if he played the wrong card because he was distracted and playing too fast or if the deformity had a role.  I would like to think it didn’t because he was shuffling his own deck with no problems and doing everything else in the game just fine, and I would much rather win a game by outplaying my opponent than because their hands played the wrong card.  Regardless, I avoid playing my Baneslayer Angels that game when I otherwise would have because I knew he was holding the kill spell and didn’t want to donate him a Time Walk.

2-0 Matches, 4-1 Games

Lesson learned: Sword of Body and Mind is good.  I would have much rather had that than Feast/Famine in our games.  However good you think Gideon Jura is in the CawBlade mirror, you are wrong.  He is better than that.  Don’t concede before its over.

Round Three: Grixis Tezzeret.
Game one I get him down to four life when he resolves his first meaningful spell of the game, a Kuldotha Forgemaster.  I have two Squadron Hawks and a Baneslayer Angel in play, along with a Sword and a Celestial Colonnade and enough mana to activate it.  I am holding a Day of Judgment but decide to let him have the Forgemaster because I can’t think of anything that will let him live.  If I play the DOJ then I am all in on my Colonnade the next turn and will probably lose if he has a Galvanic Blast or other kill spell off the top.  If I hold the DOJ and let him have the Forgemaster he can search something up, but I can’t think of anything that will let him deal with my offense.  He spends his last cards in hand pooping out a few meaningless artifacts, then activates the Forgemaster for a Mindslaver and activates it.  Now that he has no cards in hand I like my chances, even though he will obviously [card Day of Judgment]Day[/card] away my team, because he is still forced to topdeck an answer to my Celestial Colonnade or lose.

He puts his Mindslaver in the graveyard and says go.

I know it aches

I topdeck a Tectonic Edge.

and your heart, it breaks

He DoJs my team, Tecs my Colonnade, and says go.

you can only take so much

He draws a Preordain, turns it into a Jace Beleren, draws a card, and attacks with his Inkmoth Nexus.

I draw an island.

walk on

He draws two cards and bashes with the Nexus.

I draw a plains.

walk on

He’s able to turn his Jace into a game win.

leave it behind

you’ve got to leave it behind

Games two and three I resolve a Baneslayer Angel that never dies.  BSA>Tezzeret decks.

3-0 Matches, 6-2 Games

Lesson learned: Sometimes they have the nuts.

Round Four: Valakut…
and he keeps loose hands.  Bye.

4-0 matches, 8-2 Games

Lesson learned: Lol Valakut Lol.  I have Jace and Tectonic Edges.

Round Five: ID.
Defeat Lunch 2-0.  Pita Pit is no match for me.

Round Six: ID.
Defeat Cinnabon 2-1. (I’m counting my teeth, arteries, etc. as the one lost game).

Quarterfinals: KRed.
I had been expecting more Boros and Red than KRed, so I had no dedicated sideboard hate here, making it easily the worst matchup.

Game one, I’m dead on turn three, game two he is slow and I land a Baneslayer.

Game three is the interesting one.  He has an early Kuldotha Rebirth and Memnite, which are followed by a Spikeshot Elder.  I mulliganed to six and kept two Stoneforge Mystics and four land.  He has two Galvanic Blasts to clear the way for his attackers, but its ok because I have a third Mystic off the top.

“Declare attacks,” he says.

“No responses.”

He turns his Memnite and Spikeshot Elder sideways.

“Blockers?” I ask, a little surprised.

“Yeah.”

I push my Mystic in front of his Elder.

“Take one to nine?” I ask, pointing at the Memnite.

“Well, obviously my tokens are attacking.”

help, I’m steppin’ into the Twilight Zone

I go into shock for a minute.  Surely this guy doesn’t think his Rebirth tokens are “obviously” attacking without having been declared, does he?  Not in the top eight.

place is a madhouse

We go back and forth for a minute or two.  I point out that on previous turns he had both moved his dice forward when attacking and specifically declared them as attackers and had not mentioned the tokens or touched them this turn.

He says that it was obvious he wanted to attack with his tokens, because there was no reason he wouldn’t want to attack with everything.  He is playing KRed, after all.

my beacons have been moved

under moon and star

where am I to go

The judge walks over, filling me with hope.  Surely he will inform my opponent that nothing like attackers is “obvious” and that if he didn’t specifically declare his tokens as attackers they are not attacking.

I’m falling down a spiral

destination unknown

“Let’s back it up to the beginning of combat.”

a double-crossed messenger

all alone

I’ve had some bad judge calls before, including being DQ’d from a PTQ, but I think this was the worst.  The judge didn’t ask myself or my opponent for our sides of the story.  He didn’t ask anyone watching the match if they had seen my opponent touch the dice to indicate they were attacking, or if they had heard him declare they were attacking as he had on previous turns.  The first thing the judge said to either of us was his ruling.

My opponent proceeded to rip Signal Pest followed by Contested Warzone, while I ripped my last Mystic, a land and a meaningless Journey to Nowhere, so I don’t think it actually impacted the end of the game.  If I had drawn any card that mattered during the entire game, or if my opponent hadn’t drawn back to back Glorious Anthem effects, the three damage could have easily changed the game’s outcome.

Final Score: 4-1-2 Matches.

5-8th.

Not first.

someday girl we’ll get to that place

No byes.

where we really want to be

No significant cash.

and we’ll walk into the sun

Next month I have a plethora of significant tournaments to attend.  There’s a Nationals Qualifier giving away eight spots on April 16th, with a Nationals Qualifier one spot the next two weekends after.

but till then baby

I plan on going to all of them, until I have a trophy.

tramps like us,

baby we were born to run

Brook Gardner-Durbin
@BGardnerDurbin on twitter

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