My First Canadian Nationals (29th)
Hey there everybody, Mathew Stein here to describe to you all about my preparation and experiences at one of my new favourite tournaments: Canadian Nationals! This was my first ever Canadian Nationals which was held in Toronto and it was definitely an exciting tournament for me. Besides the Pro Tours and higher level events, there just aren’t a lot of multi-format tournaments throughout the year. Even though it required a lot more time testing for both formats, being able to compete in a multi-format event was definitely something I wasn’t going to pass up.
Leading up to the tournament, I knew that the Standard metagame was going to copy the World Championships for the most part, with a few exception break-out decks. Temur Energy, Mono Red, and UB Control were definitely on my radar from Worlds, and partially different versions of the new tokens deck appearing a lot online the week before.
After studying how I felt the metagame would adapt, I decided to play a local PPTQ with UW Approach of the Second Sun. It seemed like you were able to not get overran by Mono Red or Temur Energy with Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate, and you could play a better late game than UB Control in most spots. I started 2-0 beating two Temur Energy decks, and then lost to a RB aggro deck, UB Control and 4c Energy with The Scarab God.
The deck still felt favoured against Temur Energy, but it was very clear that UB control had the edge in the control mirror and can easily run away with games against Temur Energy because of The Scarab God. At this point, I was pretty much set on playing UB control and trying to go over the top rather than trying to play Mono Red or Temur Energy mirrors that mostly came down to huge tempo swings and winning die rolls.
As far as draft preparation goes, it was very clear on social media and in practice that sometimes in Ixalan limited, you just don’t end up with a lot of playables. Now don’t get me wrong, if you read your seat correctly you can definitely end up with a great deck with good sideboard options, but some decks end up a few playables short and have to play sub-par cards.
After settling on UB Control and knowing that the tournament is 6 rounds of Booster Draft and 6 rounds of Standard (hopefully will be 8 rounds of Standard next year), I decided it was better value to spam drafts rather than perfect one of the slots in my Standard deck.
This led me to do about 10 drafts the week before, and never ending up with a horrible train wreck. I never 3-0ed any of my drafts, but a lot of the RW dinosaur decks I drafted felt like I got a bit unlucky to lose (You should probably take that Charging Monstrosaur). UG Merfolk was a close second for me, and definitely something I would be happy to end up in.
After getting a random PED day at school, it turned out that I wasn’t even skipping any classes (always lucky). The car ride going to Toronto with Dave x2 (David Schnayer and David Laskar) featured a lot of coffee, classic rock and discussions on why each Standard deck sucks. After a relaxing 6 hour drive chilling in the backseat to myself, we finally get to our Air BnB on the outskirts of Toronto that was only 15-20 mins away from the venue.
Since both David Schnayer and I were set on UB Control, we figured the best way to refine the list was to jam 20+ games against both Mono Red and Temur Energy. This was the list I eventually settled on (about 3 cards different than his):
UB Control – Mathew Stein 29th place Canadian Nationals
Unorthodox Choices: I felt that one of the bigger edges I would get from playing UB Control is playing 1 ofs that people didn’t really expect, and it worked out amazingly. I was very happy with Liliana, Death’s Majesty being able to act as an additional threat, Yahenni’s Expertise blowing out Temur Energy whenever they extended, and Consign // Oblivion as a catch all.
The rest of the list was pretty stock, same concept being applied to the sideboard. Gifted Aetherborn felt like the best way to get ahead early against Mono Red and Temur Energy, and having other great 1 ofs in the sideboard felt necessary. The 2nd Yahenni’s Expertise and River’s Rebuke were to hedge against the breakout token decks, and having Duress/Negate felt like a no-brainer.
We eventually filled up the Air BnB with 9 magic players from Montreal/South Shore by the night, and just having an environment like that was really fun and definitely something to repeat moving forward at out of town tournaments. It was also great having everyone try to draft a UB pirates deck at 1am, that I eventually went 0-1 with online. Oh well.
While it makes sense to start with Standard due to byes, starting a dual format tournament without Booster Draft first did feel a bit weird.
Standard Day 1:
Round 1 Temur Energy: Win
Round 2 UW Approach of the Second Sun: Win
Round 3: Mono Red: Win
Round 4: Esper Tokens: Draw
Interesting Situations/Tips and Tricks:
Round 1, Game 1 against Temur Energy, I counter and kill 2 threats in the early game and then jammed The Scarab God on turn 5. If they don’t have the Confiscation Coup right away, you basically win the game on the spot, and you should feel even better going for it if you have Vraska’s Contempt. My opponent didn’t have it, and I easily won.
Against UW Approach of the Second Sun and UB Control, it basically comes down to resolving and flipping Search for Azcanta uncontested. Always make sure you have equal to or at least 1 more Field of Ruin in play than they do, so you can kill all of theirs before flipping your Search. Also if they play an early Search with a Field of Ruin in play and you only have 1 Field of Ruin in your hand, keep yours in your hand rather than play it and wait until they flip their Search and destroy it right away. Round 2 I always had Field of Ruin advantage, and caught my opponent off-guard by keeping it in my hand and blowing him out when he flipped his Search.
Game 3 against Esper Tokens with very little time left, I ripped my 1-of River’s Rebuke and was able to bounce all of his permanent’s including an Ixalan’s Binding on Torrential Gearhulk and Cast Out on his Treasure Map that I got off of Gonti, Lord of Luxury. We both basically forget that the Treasure Cove would go back to him and had a 15 minute judge call as time ran out. Even though both of The Scarab God’s got taken by Lost Legacy and Ixalan’s Binding was on Torrential Gearhulk, if I had 15-20 more minutes, I believe I was going to win with Liliana, Death’s Majesty, so neither player conceded and we took a draw.
Getting out of Standard without a loss at 3-0-1 felt great, looking forward to draft.
My first draft started out by slamming a Hostage Taker and staying open in both Black and Blue in case I needed to splash either. I knew Blue Black was open due to getting a 5th pick Deadeye Plunderer’s pack 1 and rolled with it. I eventually get passed every single gold card in my colors including an Admiral Becket Brass, and my deck turned out fantastic.
In round 1, I felt the most uncomfortable I ever felt at a table playing Magic. My opponent drafted a somewhat good RW Dinosaur deck and was falling a bit behind on board game 1. He blocked his flying Pterodon Knight on my Siren’s Lookout with a +1/+1 counter on it without realizing that I had Admiral Becket Brass in play. He proceeds to take his sideboard out his box and absolutely destroys his deck box with his hands, and throws it under the table.
Between games he was riffle shuffling my deck very hard and I was very close to calling a judge. Game 2 he slams Sunbird’s Invocation on turn 6 with 1 card left in hand, and I fortunately had Deadeye Tormentor to make him discard his 6 drop. He breaks the pen he was using, throws it under the table, signs the match slip furiously, gets up, and kicks his water bottle across the floor.
I talked to the judge after the round and I believe he got disqualified for unsportsmanlike behaviour. He did come up after and apologize to me, and the whole situation felt very strange because he was 3-0-1 before the round and still live for top 8. Needless to say, don’t rage at the table kids, it is not healthy.
I eventually get my first 3-0 in Ixalan Draft and none of the games felt close. I only lost 1 game due to mana screw but it happens sometimes when you are running 3 colors. The power level of my deck just felt insane and it really shows to prioritize taking the most powerful card in this format.
I finish Day 1 as one of the 4 undefeated records at 6-0-1!
Draft 2 began, and there was a familiar face looking at me at the back of the pack: Hostage Taker. I slam this again, and hope to end up with something similar to draft 1. In my first draft, I only ended up with 5 spells, one of which was on the splash so I prioritized taking spells over creatures pack 1. This ended up punishing me, because after pack 2 I think I only had like 9 creatures. I end up getting great removal as well as River’s Rebuke, but only had 13 creatures that didn’t really attack well. Splashing Vona, Butcher of Magan also felt necessary, since I needed ways of ending games.
In round 7, I got a feature match against Adam Ragsdale who was 7-0 at this point on a somewhat mediocre RW Dinosaur deck. The games felt very close, and I was a heavy favourite game 1 where I had 2 flyers and he was at 2 life. I could have made a riskier attack and put him to 1 the turn before, but felt it was safer to just put him at 2 and even if he got a removal spell, I still had lethal in 2 turns. On his last turn to topdeck, he drew Cobbled Wings and I could put him to 1, but could never kill him. I lose the match, and just wanted to say that it was tough seeing him go 9-0 and losing a triple win and in to get 11th. Great run regardless.
Round 8 was against Morgan McLaughlin playing BW Vampires (Ended up being first seed in the tournament and losing in the semi-finals). His deck was very solid with good creatures but not a lot of removal or tricks. It was definitely an understatement to say that I flooded that round, but we were still joking around and having a great time. He eventually puts a Mark of the Vampire on a Skyblade of the Legion with a Duskborne Skymarcher pumping it every turn, and probably attacked me with it around 8 times while I couldn’t find an answer for it and kept chump blocking.
After starting 0-2 in this draft, I run into my good friend and captain of Team Canada Eduardo Sajgalik who was also in pod 1 to start the day. He unfortunately went 0-2 also with a very solid deck, and was out of contention at X-3 while I still had a backdoor chance at top 8 at X-2-1. He graciously decided to scoop to me the last round of the draft, and told me to go and get lunch and just focus on playing Standard. Thanks Eduardo, you really are the best!
Standard Day 2:
Round 11: UW Approach of the Second Sun: Loss
Round 12: Temur Energy: Win
Unfortunately, my luck started to fade as I had to mulligan to 6 both games against UW and drew 3 Fatal Pushes game 1. Game 2 a very similar situation occurred as round 2 but the opposite, where my opponent had his only 2 Field of Ruins for my 2 Field of Ruins and flipped his Search for Azcanta to victory.
I end up winning my last round against Temur Energy to finish 8-3-1 to get 29th place. My day 2 curse continues, hopefully with be broken soon. It turned out that both of my other car mates on the way back also made top 32, with David Schnayer losing his win and in during the last round. Also shout-outs to my good friend Maxime Auger for losing in the semi-fnals, and Philippe Gareau for coming out of retirement and making top 8. Big congrats to those who made the team as well!
I still believe UB Control is a good deck going into the Pro Tour and it showed by Oliver Tomajko winning US Nationals with it. It seems like UW Approach of the Second Sun is picking up steam online, even though I believe UB is a better control deck at the moment. If I were to play an event next weekend, with changes, this is what I would run:
I really liked having Liliana, Death’s Majesty as a threat nobody expected, but I did feel like my deck was a bit short on card draw. This is why I would go up to 3 Search for Azacantas, and the playset of Hieroglyphic Illumination over any Glimmer of Genius. For the sideboard, Jace’s Defeat is a great addition as it is a hard counter in the control mirrors and great against Temur. You could play a full set of Glint-Sleeve Siphoner in the sideboard, but I feel Arguel’s Blood Fast and Search for Azcanta is the best way to win the mirror.
As bonus, here is Owen’s prophecy, which is funny because I opened 2 Hostage Takers at Nats and didn’t top 8.
Thanks everyone for reading, and hopefully Team Canada does well this year at the World Magic Cup!