Well, I didn’t expect this win at all.
I was up the night before with Steve Tomik wondering what to play. After we got home from FNM at Untouchables, we remembered that the PT started on Friday and there would be some deck techs available. Interested in playing something fresh and new, Steve and I turned on his iPad 2 and started looking at the 4 available decks on the mother-ship website.
First we saw Wolf-Run Ramp with Eric Froehlich. The deck looked amazing but we unfortunately didn’t have enough cards for the deck. We were lacking playsets of Huntmaster of the Fells, ramps newest answer to Delver of Secrets. Having two copies of this deck in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour really shows how insane the titan cycle still is.
Since Ramp was a no-go and I had already been testing Tokens, I opened up Black-White Tokens with Rob Dougherty. We saw something that could do well and it had a favourable match up against Delver. Plus, we had all the cards! I then looked at the sideboards of all the other decks and saw at least 2-3 Ratchet Bombs each. This brought the Token plan to an end.
Next up the was Mono-Green with Todd Anderson. This deck looked like so much fun to play and when Tomik saw it, he “shot-gunned” it for himself.
Last was Gaudenis Vidugiris’s Birthing Pod. The deck looked fine, as Pod (when in play) is very powerful and resilient. Although, it’s kinda like when you wanna play Heartless Summoning but don’t draw the enchantment: It isn’t very consistent and has a hard time winning without the namesake card. I’m very glad to see a Pod list in the PT top 8 as it shows the power level of the card itself and helps to keep the format as diverse as possible.
After, we switched back to the page with all the lists. A new one was up while we were surfing, Mono-Black with Jasper Johnson-Epstein. This deck looked so terrible – it had to be good! The fact that we had most of the cards and it being 3 AM was good enough for me to just have fun and accept defeat come morning. That didn’t end up being the case.
Mono Black Aggro
This deck performed amazingly. It wasn’t until I started playing the deck that I discovered all of it’s crazy plays and little interactions. Round 1 was a bit of a blow out as Mirran Crusader and Geist of Saint Traft flying over with Angelic Destiny both games on turn 4 was rough. I managed to 5-0-1 from there to finish in 8th place heading into the Top 8. I had a little help with a concession from a friend in round 5 as I got paired down, which was awesome of him. We played it out after the fact and his Humans deck won in a close three games because Mirran Crusader is one hell of a drug against Zombies.
There were a couple of things about the list that I came to realize over the course of the tournament:
This card is what pushes the deck into the competitive brackets. This made me 5/5 Demons 7 times on turn 3 and was the main reason for winning this event. With all the decks cheap removal and utility spells, High Priest on turn 2 is usually game over if left unanswered.
These cards in this deck are absolutely insane. This deck can kill on turn 4 if you follow up multiple one drops with a Messenger. This happened 3 times including once in the semi finals against Sammy. With all the Slagstorms running around these days, Geralf’s Messenger could be the way to go if you want to achieve victory. A sweet little interaction with the Messenger is removing his undying counter with Fume Spitter in response to sweepers. Just to note, Fume Spitter adds -1/-1 counters which removes the +1/+1 undying counter so the Messenger can live to see another day.
I think until the next set is released, Porcelain Legionnaire is a necessary evil. Whipflare is becoming more and more popular which takes a lot of pressure off this deck when wanting to curve out. It holds down the fort while keeping Geist and Mirran Crusader under control while you develop a board position. If you don’t feel comfortable playing this card, feel free to cut it as it is the only replaceable card I can see at the moment. Just remember this is an aggro deck, so if you’re cutting a 2 drop creature, replace it with a 2 drop creature. Game 1 is all about creating explosive starts to try and overwhelm your opponent by developing a faster board position.
This is another card I fell in love with over the weekend. Like Geralf’s Messenger, Gravecrawler is very strong at generating card advantage when playing against decks with sweepers. It also has a cute little “machine-gun” synergy with Mortarpod, giving the deck a great mid-late game. When sideboarding, remember that the main deck only has 13 Zombies so don’t side out too many.
Here are the match ups I played each round:
1. UW Humans 0-2
2. UW Delver 2-0
3. UB Control 2-0
4. Esper Heartless Summoning 2-1
5. UW Humans Concession from a pair down
6. Zombies 2-1 (feature match with Kyle Smith)
7. Draw into Top 8 (5-1-1)
Top 8: GR Wolf Run 2-1
Top 4: UGr Wolf Run 2-1
Finals: GR Wolf Run 2-0
How I sideboarded:
IN: 1 Sword of War and Peace, 2 Black Sun’s Zenith
OUT: 1 Lashwrithe, 2 Geth’s Verdict
This match up is probably the hardest for Mono Black. Both Mirran Crusader and Geist of Saint Traft are scary things to fight through and race especially when Humans have the book ends of Champion of the Parish and Hero of Bladehold. In Round 1, I went 0-2 but if I had won the game 1 die roll, I would have won and sent it to at least a game 3. Round 5 was again rough, but I managed to win a game. I’m sure there’s something out there that could make this matchup better. With Ramp and sweepers becoming popular again, Humans may see a dip in numbers which makes it a much better environment for Zombies.
IN: 1 Sword of War and Peace, 1 Nihil Spellbomb, 2 Mental Misstep, 3 Distress
OUT: 1 Lashwrithe, 1 Mortarpod, 1 Geth’s Verdict, 1 Tragic Slip, 3 Porcelain Legionnaire
This match up is seriously a bye. All my guys kept slipping under counter magic and my removal kept dealing with the low number of guys they had. I boarded out the Legionnaires anticipating additional Gut Shots.
UB Control/Heartless Summoning
IN: 1 Nihil Spellbomb, 3 Distress
OUT: 1 Skinrender, 1 Tragic Slip, 2 Geth’s Verdict
These matchups are also a bye. The only removal in the deck for Messenger is Tragic Slip and that’s only if it has already traded with a Snapcaster Mage or something else. The Heartless Summoning deck won a game when I stumbled on my 3rd land for a turn and got there with a turn 2 Summoning on the play. The other 2 games weren’t very close.
IN: 3 Phyrexian Obliterator, 1 Nihil Spellbomb
OUT: 4 Geth’s Verdict
Despite winning game 1 with a last point Geth’s Verdict, it is really bad in the mirror due to Mortarpod, Gravecrawler and Messenger. This match up was interesting as our decklists were very different. My opponent had some noticeable maindeck differences including Black Sun’s Zenith and no High Priest. Obliterator is insane in the mirror. I felt like my inclusion of Skirsdag High Priest gave me the advantage in the matchup.
GR Wolf Run
IN: 1 Sword of War and Peace, 3 Phyrexian Obliterator, 3 Distress
OUT: 4 Geth’s Verdict, 1 Skinrender, 1 Bloodline Keeper, 1 Tragic Slip
To be fair, I did draw Distress a lot in all 3 rounds of the top 8. I lost both game 1s in the first 2 rounds but managed to have consistently fast Distress draws for the rest to get to the Finals. The Finals was a little different as Kyle didn’t draw enough removal and I ran him over 2-0 with some more quick Distress draws.
I feel like this deck benefits good play skill as it offers a lot of different lines of play and I had a lot of fun playing it. Piloting a new archetype had my opponents guessing how to fight the strategy until they were already dead which definitely helped. The deck also mulliganed only twice and I still managed to win both those games.
If I were to change anything after knowing the results from the Pro Tour? Nothing. Why change something that isn’t broken? I would like 1 Obliterator in the main deck with Wolf Run being big again. But with Vapor Snags still being popular, I’d rather have the catch-all Skinrender.
Raymond Li for the pair down concession. Very classy of you.
Face a Face games for hosting.
All of our amazing Canadian judges. We all appreciate the grunt work needed to make these events possible.
Having the sickest top 8 in a while!
Nothing! I won!
Until the CMT in Quebec City,
Play tight, keep it real and take care.