Someday I Will Win It All: Provincials Top 4 – Part 1
by Kar Yung Tom
Between managing Mana Deprived and getting Channel Fireball as a sponsor, KYT has been way too busy to provide the site with his own written content. However, with a Top 4 performance this past weekend, he has decided to put himself back into the role of a writer. Should he keep writing? Let him know! Name-drops include Flores, GerryT and Osyp Lebedowicz.
The day? Friday. The time? 10:00 pm. I had just walked my girlfriend home. In less than a dozen hours, the registration time for Provincials would be open and I still had not finalized my deck choice. What to do?
Thankfully, Face a Face, the #1 Magic: the Gathering store in Canada (plug plug plug), closes extremely late (as in past midnight), so I decided to tell my faithful driver to bring me there as fast as he could. Upon my arrival, I saw my Mana Deprived receptionist, Alexander Hayne, playtesting against Viet Dang. Nothing out of the ordinary as Hayne refuses to playtest with anyone other than Dang. Like two peas in a pod…
Although I had not made my final deck choice decision, I certainly had a deck on me. It was a list that my sensei, Michael J Flores, sent to me via Facebook. For those who have not read my Master's article on the deck yet, you would do well to go here. The list is shown below.
2 Ravenous Trap
4 Archive Trap
1 Call to Mind
4 Into the Roil
4 Mana Leak
4 See Beyond
4 Trapmaker's Snare
3 Treasure Hunt
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Pyromancer Ascension
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Halimar Depths
Sexy-looking list right? With Time Warp rotated out of the format, Master Flores decided to replace the five mana sorcery with a five mana instant: good old Archive Trap. I was drawn to the list because with Oblivion Ring gone, the Pyromancer Ascension strategy just seemed extremely well-positioned to blow away the metagame. A turn 2 Ascension in game 1 essentially spells game over for your opponents.
I had to pull Hayne physically away from playtesting with Dang in order to get him to test the Flores list with me. After a few games, I could feel the power of the list, but there were a few things that bothered me about it. Obviously, Ravenous Trap jumped out as the sketchiest card in the deck, but it is sadly a necessity in order to be able to win against the Mono Green Eldrazi deck.
Treasure Hunt also kept having me exclaim out loud that I wish Ponder was still around. Ascension decks have a low land count, so during the games I played that night with the deck, it was almost always a two-mana cantrip that threatened to reveal my plans. Play Treasure Hunt, reveal… Archive Trap?! Ummm, now the jig is certainly up. Hayne was playing around with Chapin's UWR Control list and he would play around my mill plan to perfection (not cracking fetchlands, Jace-ing them away).
All of a sudden, I felt my phone vibrate. I opened it up and saw my good friend GerryT message me. I had asked him earlier in the day if he thought the Flores deck would work.
Possibly. Looks VERY interesting. Having to play Ravenous Trap is kind of depressing though.
I'll try it out next chance I get.
Gerry did not know that I needed his assessment of the deck immediately. I desperately wanted to have someone else's opinion on the deck. Luckily, Osyp came to save the day with the following Tweet:
OsypL Osyp Lebedowicz
Good enough for me. At that point, the time was 1:00 am. I decided to head back to the Mana Deprived headquarters. Due to not "feeling" the Flores deck as much as I wanted to, I made the decision to seek other options. I do want to mention that after reading about the list, Chapin has now claimed to have "broken it" once again by improving upon Flores's list. Look out for his article this week!
As I scanned through the many decklists on my supercomputer, the only one that really jumped out at me was Chapin's UWR Control list. It just seemed really strong and Hayne would tell me multiple times during our test games that he felt Venser was the nuts. I was about to call my butler to find me two copies of Venser, the Sojourner until I spotted a package on my desk. It was from GerryT. Maybe he would come to my rescue after all.
I opened the package and as I expected, a deck was inside. This better not have Hedron Crab in its 75, I thought. As I spread the cards on my desk, this is what I saw:
4 Frost Titan
4 Jace Beleren
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Jace’s Ingenuity
4 Mana Leak
2 Spell Pierce
1 Stoic Rebuttal
4 Burst Lightning
2 Flame Slash
2 Into the Roil
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Terramorphic Expanse
2 Tectonic Edge
1 Mystifying Maze
1 Volition Reins
1 Into the Roil
1 Tectonic Edge
It was an update to the deck Jason Ford piloted to a TCG 5k top 8 merely a week ago. As I looked inside the package again, I was able to find a sideboarding guide and the following note from Gerry:
If you expect a lot of U/W and Eldrazi decks, this is probably the control deck you want to play.
That was exactly what I expected the metagame to consist of in Montreal. The fact that a sideboarding guide was included pushed the decision to choose this as my deck over the top. After sleeving up the deck and writing down my decklist, I went to bed.
The next morning, I got up and took the elevator down to the lobby (I live on the 32nd floor). I told Hayne he could have the day off to play at Provincials and he responded by jumping up in the air like a schoolgirl. He could not wait to be able to Blink Sea-Gate Oracles away for maximum value. My driver took us to the tournament scene where 60 other players were there to fight for the title of Provincial Champion.
Because I have learned not to write the same old-fashioned tournament reports, I will list the results of my Swiss rounds right here.
Round 1: 2-0 vs. UW
Round 2: 2-1 vs. UW
Round 3: 2-1 vs. Mono Green Eldrazi
Round 4: 0-2 vs. WW Affinity
Round 5: 2-0 vs. Valakut
Round 6: 2-1 vs. UW
I will end this part of the article with my thoughts on the UW matchup. Despite my results (I actually go on to 2-1 another UW pilot in the top 8), it is really hard for me to say which deck is actually favored as most of my opponents were making signficant mistakes.
My round 1 adversary opted to race me by attacking me with Celestial Colonnade instead of my Jace Beleren. My top 8 opponent would play a turn 2 Wall Omens followed by a turn 3 Wall of Omens. I untapped, played Jace Beleren and proceeded to win the game without much difficulty.
If I were to play UW right now, I would be playing 0 copies of Wall of Omens. It is simply a non-factor in most of the major matchups. I have to concede to the fact that Mono Red is always a presence in Montreal though (it was the 2nd most popular deck at Provincials behind UW). Against me, however, using up 2 mana to play a Wall of Omens is just asking to be blown out by either my Spell Pierce or my Dispel.
I would like to mention that I felt like such a pro when doing a particular play. Most of the UW players I faced packed a full set of Spreading Seas. Gerry advocated siding out all the red spells in the matchup for games 2 and 3, but since my opponents did not have a clue about my deck, they were obviously jumping at the chance to use their Spreading Seas on my Mountains. In order to protect the Mystifying Maze and the Tectonic Edges that were in my hand, I would try to bait my opponents by fetching for a Mountain early in the game. It worked!
Some players thought I was playing Destructive Force, while others believed I was playing Pyromancer Ascenscion. Why Pyromancer Ascension? I actually played the deck at FNM the night before. Funny thing was that it actually allowed one opponent to Revoke Existence my miser's copy of Volition Reins post-board. The only legal target in my deck!
This whole Pyromancer Ascension business makes me wonder if anyone of us would ever try to mindtrick their opponent in game 1 with this deck. Play Preordain and say something like "Damn, I can't draw Pyromancer Ascension for the life of me!".
Like I said, I do not have a clue as to which deck should have the actual edge in this matchup, but Justin Richardson (the eventual Provincials champion) has agreed to have a match against me this week, so maybe I can provide deeper insights on this matchup after that has taken place.