Winning with UW Serious Bomberman at Xtreme Games Vintage 08/15/10

Jimmy McCarthy of Team Serious and Team Meandeck fame recently won the Xtreme Games Vintage tournament this past weekend with UW Serious Bomberman. He went an awesome 7-0-1 in the event, including 14-0 in games played! Read his report and decklist after the jump!

As a mostly retired (read: lazy) Magic player at this point, I don’t really do much testing anymore. I still try my best to make every Xtreme Games Vintage tournament, as they run easily the best events in the Milwaukee/Chicago area and have done so consistently for a long time. But I think the format is really boring right now and I am really unmotivated to play or test. I haven’t played a Time Vault deck in probably 6 months (and that’s probably underestimating by a lot), so I’ve not been winning a lot of matches lately. I played Dragon one month, Belcher another, MUD another, and so on. Basically, just a different random deck, with no testing, each month, trying to just find something fun to play.

As this month’s tourney approached, I realized (as usual) that I didn’t have a deck. I’ve considered trying the Madness deck from the Bazaar of Moxen Top 8, but it just looked so unplayable that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And remember, I played Belcher recently, and yet that deck looked even worse. I also thought about playing a Meandeck list, but I didn’t want to play Steve’s MUD deck and nothing else was really ready to see tourney play yet, so that was out. I then turned to my main source of decks for the last few months: Team Serious (and in particular, Nat Moes). I’m not sure why, but it seems every month before an Xtreme event, I will browse around the Team Serious boards or chat on the Death Star (the JavaScript-based chat room attached to the forums) and end up interested in whatever Nat’s latest brew is. And so it went this month as well: in the week leading up to the event, I took an interest in Nat’s (and JR Goldman’s) Bomberman list.

In the past I’ve been pretty down on Bomberman. Back when it first enjoyed major success, it was competing in a field with Meandeck Gifts, Control Slaver, and Pitch Long. Not exactly a bunch of underpowered or slow decks, right? But somehow the Canadians were able to consistently put up Top 8 finishes with a deck full of 2 power creatures and toolbox artifacts. This relatively underpowered deck was able to compete with some of the most powerful and versatile Vintage decks ever, and I could never figure out why.

In the last couple years I really haven’t seen the deck around at all. However, Nat had taken an interest and JR had played the deck a lot back in its prime, so he was able to provide a very good starting point and some strong suggestions about things like sideboarding. They went back and forth in a few posts, Nat put up a couple lists after some testing with his NoVa friends, and his last post looked like a pretty strong composition. Plus, it didn’t play Time Vault, which was a big plus for me!

As usual, I waited until the morning of the event to actually do anything about it. I woke up, got ready, and quickly wrote down the list with a couple question marks next to the cards I wasn’t sure about (the third Auriok Salvagers, Gifts Ungiven, and Balance in particular). I was riding to the tourney with Mike Solymossy, Joel Williams, and Mike’s girlfriend, so that would leave me plenty of time to build the actual deck in the car (it’s about an hour drive to Xtreme from my home). Mike and Joel got to town, we went and got some breakfast as this terrific local spot, and we headed down to Xtreme. Mike was set on playing his Doomsday-Jace concoction, and Joel was still undecided between MUD and a Time Vault-Jace deck. Here’s what I played:

Business (35)
4 Force of Will
1 Misdirection
3 Spell Pierce
4 Mana Drain
1 Echoing Truth
1 Balance
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Brainstorm
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Thirst For Knowledge
1 Gifts Ungiven
1 Fact or Fiction
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Auriok Salvagers
4 Trinket Mage
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Pithing Needle
1 AEther Spellbomb
1 Engineered Explosives

Mana Sources (25)
1 Black Lotus
1 Mana Crypt
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Strip Mine
1 Tolarian Academy
4 Flooded Strand
1 Misty Rainforest
4 Tundra
3 Island
1 Snow-Covered Island
1 Plains

Sideboard (15)
3 Honor the Fallen
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
2 Disenchant
3 Energy Flux
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Wrath of God
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Sower of Temptation
1 Pithing Needle

As you can see, I chose to go with 2 Salvagers (cutting the third for a Swords to Plowshares), Balance, and Gifts, with no Time Vault/Key. I figured that with all the creatures around, StP has to be good, and it is usually one of the main reasons to even play white. My sideboard was pretty heavily skewed toward beating workshops and aggro decks, as those tend to be the two deck types I take the most losses against. There’s of course plenty of Dredge hate too, including the maindeck Pithing Needle and Tormod’s Crypt (and Engineered Explosives as well, I guess). The combo sideboard is pretty sketchy, and in the future I’d probably try to find another slot or two for that matchup, but otherwise the sideboard was really good. I don’t think I would change anything in the maindeck either. You could probably put the Tormod’s Crypt in the sideboard and move one of the creatures maindeck, especially if you don’t expect any dredge.

I apologize to the readers (and my opponents) if I’m a little off on the match accounts. I didn’t keep any of my score sheets and I do not have the remarkable memory that Owen T possesses, but I’ll try to do my best.

Round 1: Alex Franson with Mono-Black
Alex, in recent memory, has played either Mono-Black or Grim Long every month. This month, it seems he opted for the Mono-Black deck.

I go first and have just an Island, and he starts with a Dark Ritual. I could Force of Will it, but I don’t put him on combo so I let it resolve. He casts Thoughtseize and takes something good, and plays a Dark Confidant. He also remarks on the AEther Spellbomb in my hand. I draw for turn and luckily have lots of mana, so I am able to play Spellbomb and bounce his Bob with Mana Drain active. He plays into it (as he sort of has to) and I untap and draw another stupid Drain. I Drain his Hypnotic Specter the next turn, and at some point he Bojuka Bog’s me. He manages to resolve a Hyppie with a Factory in play, but I drop an Auriok Salvagers and declare that I can race. Unfortunately, I hadn’t counted the Factory, so when he plays a second and swings for 5 (and a random card in my hand), I have to stop attacking and keep my dude to block. This goes on for a couple turns, but I manage to draw a Trinket Mage and get Sensei’s Divining Top. I find 2 more Trinket Mages, this time for a Needle and an EE. Needle shuts down his Factories so I can attack, but EE gets Duressed and Extirpated before I can play it out. It doesn’t matter, as I get out enough creatures to win the race, and he has to block with Hyppie. He can’t find anything to stop me and my random bears take it down.

Game 2, he starts a little slower. I manage to play 3 consecutive Trinket Mages, and the 4th about two turns later. He gets out some dudes, including resolving Yawg Will to replay a Bob and Hyppie, but the 4th Mage is too much and eventually just beats him to death (with Needle naming Factory again). Score one for gray ogres!
1-0, 2-0

Round 2: Mike Noble with TPS
Mike is often seen playing Fish (Noble Fish, if you will) so this deck was pretty new to him. It becomes apparent just how unused to combo he is in the first game. I mulligan to 6 on the draw, and he starts with Land, Dark Ritual, Necropotence. I try to Force of Will, but he has his own to match. He has two cards left in hand, so he Necroes for 5 card to refill his hand and passes. He also seems less familiar with the timing, and he checks with me to make sure he is picking up the cards at the right time. I go to my turn and draw a blank so I make the only play available with my relatively unimpressive hand: I lay an island and cast Pithing Needle. Mike hems and haws and asks what I’m naming and I ask if it resolves. He says yes, so I obviously name Necropotence and pass. Now the game is over. Mike’s hand at the time was 6 mana sources and a Darksteel Colossus. We both just play mana and pass for about 5 turns, until he has one card left and like 8 mana in play. I have at least two counters, and I ask him if I win because he looks to be out of action and Necro-locked. He shows me the DSC and it’s on to game 2. Poor Mike.

Game 2, Mike starts with Underground Sea and leads with Thoughtseize. He takes something good (probably a Force?) and passes. However, I am very good at this game, so I draw Strip Mine off the top and blow up his land. He draws and passes. I play an island and send it back. He tries to play Mox Jet and I Spell Pierce it, so he has to Force to keep it. The game goes on a while longer with him drawing no lands, and I play a Jace on about the 4th turn. I just fateseal all his mana to the bottom. He finally gets a land, but at that point I have a ton of cards and counterspells and he has no chance. I use Jace’s ultimate on him, and that’s it.
2-0, 4-0

Round 3: Mike Solymossy with Doomsday Drain Tendrils
Mike is a teammate and one of the guys I rode down with, so we both know each other’s decks. Sadly, as this is a 5 round event, we can’t draw here, so we play and one of us is guaranteed top 8 then. I don’t have a great recollection of these games. I know that I mulligan to 5 in one game and have turn one Ancestral Recall into a turn 2/3 Jace, and hold on from there against his manascrew. Mike and I played twice on the day and all the games were kind of similar. I played a Jace, he tried to build up a combo hand, and I was able to stop him just before he could go off (usually while he waited for another land or something). I managed to take both games despite 2-3 total mulligans.
3-0, 6-0

Round 4: Ryan Forsberg with Faeries
Normally, I’d get to draw here, but Ryan is 2-1 and has to play, so we duke it out. In game one, I have a pretty insane open. I start with Ancestral, and he Wastelands my Tundra. I then play Library of Alexandria and pass and draw. He plays Island, Skullclamp. I draw, play Island, play Mana Crypt, draw with Library, and play Trinket Mage for (probably) Black Lotus. He plays a wasteland and kills my Library and passes. However, I draw Salvagers for the turn, make infinite mana, cast Merchant Scroll and announce Gifts Ungiven and he scoops it up. Nice hand, right?

For game 2, we have a slightly more fair battle. Oh, and I mulliganed to 5 again. Anyway, he starts out kind of slowly as well, but on turn 3 he has a Trinket Mage (for Skullclamp). He also has a Pithing Needle out naming Jace. I have my Explosives, so I try to play it on one but he has a Force. I resolve a Salvagers and spend my next turn returning and replaying EE, only to get it countered by Spellstutter Sprite. Honestly, it’s starting to get kind of old. He takes his turn, attacks (putting me to like 6), and Clamps the Sprite. I draw and finally land EE for 1 and blow up his artifacts. This also stops his Trinket Mage attacks, as I can now block without giving him two cards. He plays a Waterfront Bouncer and passes. I draw for turn and, lucky me, it’s a Jace. I play Jace and bounce his Bouncer. My only card left in hand at this point is Wrath of God. He draws, replays Bouncer, and ships it. This time, I bounce my Salvagers and pretend I’m playing standard and Wrath his dudes away. He doesn’t have a creature to follow it up and can’t recover against Jace + Salvagers + EE (I also had access to my Spellbomb) and so I just fateseal him to death. I mulliganed twice this game and didn’t resolve any actual draw spells, but was able to use good old fashioned removal to get a couple 2-for-1’s to climb back into the game and force through a Jace. It was almost like playing a real game of magic, something that doesn’t happen often in Vintage.
4-0, 8-0

Round 5: Jeff with Ad Nauseam Tendrils
Jeff and I are both in, so we ID and I go watch other people play.
4-0-1, 8-0

Top 8: Brian Lark with UGW Fish
I watched Brian squeak out of a very tough matchup last round (against Red-Green Kavu Beats of all things), so I know that he has Daze and Spell Pierce. I am pretty sure he is Stifle-less as well, because I don’t think he can fit all three.
In game one, I am able to Ancestral myself on turn one, and play Jace with 3 mana open and a Force active on turn two. He does not even try to fight Jace. I Brainstorm a bunch and assemble my combo, and manage to give him an extra turn to draw his Null Rod when I cast my Lotus with no mana up BEFORE I Jacestorm (which would have found me a Misdirection), but it all works out and he doesn’t have it. I go to my turn, make a very large amount of mana, and draw all but 5 of my cards. I then pass the turn with all my creatures in play (a total of 10 power, since one Trinket Mage had died chump blocking for Jace earlier), a hand of Drain Drain Drain Drain Force Force Force, and all my artifacts in the deck in play except Mana Crypt. He has 2 cards and a land on top thanks to my Jace. I attack a couple times and he dies.

In game 2, he starts out slow again. He doesn’t play any creatures for the first 3 or so turns. I have Recall in hand (after another mull to either 5 or 6) but have been waiting to play it in response to something. I decide to just go for it, and I force it through without much resistance. From there I get a Jace in play (I think?) and just fateseal him to death. I could be wrong about it, but I know that he never really got anything going and I just resolved pretty much every spell.
5-0-1, 10-0

Top 4: Mike Solymossy (again) with Doomsday Drain Tendrils
I get Mike again, while Jerome (5C Stax) and Jeff (Ad Naus) play in the other bracket. I am pulling pretty heavily for the Workshop deck, as Ad Naus scares the crap out of me.

Mike and I get underway, and game one starts out pretty slow. He gets out a couple of lands, including a Tolarian Academy which killed mine (I had 4 artifacts out). I get a Pithing Needle on Jace (he has 3, I have 2) which, of course, backfires when I draw one two turns later. I Strip Mine a land, but we just kind of sit around doing nothing. I have Needle, Top, Ruby, Jet, and Island against his 3 land and Lotus Petal. However, I do have double Force active (and have a Pierce for when he tries an end-of-turn Gifts) so I’m not too scared. I finally draw my Lotus and decide to make things more fair, since I have only 4 cards and he has a full grip. I crack my lotus for white and play Balance. He responds with a Gush (because he wanted the lands in hand to replay, as he had missed his last land drop) and I let it resolve, which was probably a mistake. I think I should have used a Force to drop my hand size even lower, and I knew my top card was a Trinket Mage which would put me miles ahead against his board of Island. He discards down to 4 and I pass with Trinket Mage, Ancestral, and a land floating on my top. He draws for his turn and plays a land and plays Merchant Scroll for Recall. I’m not too worried, since I do have double FoW after all. I reorder my top 3 at the end of his turn, and I draw my own Recall and immediately run it out. He has a Misdirection to try and blow me out, but I Force. He thinks for a while, and decides that he is going to really go for it, and pitches his own Recall to his Force of Will (last cards in hand). Luckily, I am a master (that is mostly sarcasm) and I laugh and play my second Force. I draw 3, his board is 2 lands and no cards cards in hand, and from there the game is just over. We both agree afterwards that pitching Recall is fine. If mine resolves, and he misses a Blue card, then he is still dead, but if he gets my recall he is in way better shape than if we both resolve it. He just got unlucky that I happened to have Force, Force, two Blue cards as my hand.

In game 2, I have to mull to 5 and decide to gamble and keep Force, Recall, Trinket Mage, Spell Pierce, and Jace (Editor’s Note: NO LANDS). He has Lotus, Emerald, Merchant Scroll Recall (which I force, but he defends with his own). He then passes with no land. I hit the top of my deck and slowly draw the card face down. I flip it up and it’s Tundra! Yes! So I play Tundra, play Recall (he complains of course but lets it resolve), and we have a game! I am able to get some lands into play and he’s only able to get 2 moxes and a Swamp. I think I counter another spell of his and then get to my turn. He has 7 cards, and only Emerald Pearl Swamp in play. He’s missed at least 2 land drops. I have Jace, Drain, MisD, some other irrrelevant Blue card as my grip. I decide to try and lock out the game right now, and tap out for Jace. He Forces, and I fight back with my own, which leaves me tapped out with only a Drain in hand. Jace resolves, and I fateseal and see a Polluted Delta. Hit! I ship it to the bottom and pass and hope he doesn’t have two in a row. Unfortunately, I can only be so lucky on the day, and he draws and immediately puts a Misty Rainforest into play. Now things are beginning to look bad for our hero, as he starts counting under his breath and shuffling cards around and tapping the table thinking. He fetches, and goes for Dark Ritual into Doomsday. He has Island, 2 off-color Moxes untapped and two cards in hand, and the storm count is 3 against my 19 life. Mike thinks for a while, but he just can’t come up with a stack to make the 10th storm and win the game. His hand only had Brainstorm and a second Doomsday in it to work with. After generating 9 storm he concedes and I get to go to the finals. Later on, at dinner, we talk it over and I suggest Lotus Petal, Meditate, Black Lotus, Yawg Will, and Tendrils. I talk to the Team Serious guys Monday and Jerry Yang also comes up with a very clever Chain of Vapor based pile.
6-0-1, 12-0

Top 2: Jerome Yanchick with 5C Stax
Jerome has been playing his deck for a very long time. Unless I am horribly mistaken, he also made top 8 at Vintage Champs this year with it. So, he’s been on a pretty good run. We shuffle up and play with no talk of a split. I had already agreed to one with Mike since he was a teammate, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jerome and Jeff had a similar arrangement. So, it was just pure action!

In game 1, Jerome plays first but keeps a slow hand. He just has Mishra’s Workshop into Crucible to start. I play an Island and pass the turn after mulling to 6 and keeping probably my worst hand of the day. Jerome plays a Wasteland and a Lodestone Golem. However, I draw a mox and am able to play Tundra, Mox, Balance, which functions exactly as Disenchant since we are even on lands and cards. He draws and plays a Mox Monkey (off City of Brass) and eats my Mox with his Wasteland. I get to draw, play a second Tundra, and cast a Trinket Mage for Black Lotus which will set up the Jace in my hand very nicely. He Wastelands a Tundra and casts a Smokestack, which I Force. I resolve Jace and start doin’ work, fatesealing him. I leave mana on top of his deck most turns and send away a Karn at one point, and Jace is getting pretty big and imposing. I also draw another Force and a Spell pierce with two Islands in play, so I’m not scared of whatever he can muster. He sees the writing on the wall and goes for one last try, hardcasting a Sundering Titan to empty his hand, but my second Force handles that and he dies to Jace Ultimate. I think he could have been slightly more aggressive with the Wastelands and kept me from resolving my Trinket Mage, which would have stopped Jace and left me with nothing, but as I look back on it now I’m not really sure where the opening would have been to kill an extra mana source.

For game 2, I get to really use my sideboard for the first time, so I board in all 8 anti-Workshop cards (that would be: 3 Energy Flux, 2 Disenchant, 1 Hurkyl’s Recall, 1 Pithing Needle, 1 Swords to Plowshares). He starts out a little slower again and I start on the beatdown route. He resolves a Mox monkey, but doesn’t get any real lock pieces out. He also gets his Time Vault in play, but without a Key I don’t care. He plays a Vamp on one of my endsteps and tries Key, but I have the counter to stop it. I beat him down to maybe 8 with a Salvagers and a Trinket Mage (I also have my Lotus, so I have infinite mana on my turns but not much to do with it). However, he draws a Goblin Welder in the turn I give him without counter mana up! Suddenly things are looking bad. I draw Strip Mine and attack him to 3, but have no way to kill his Welder or Key-Wault. However, I don’t scoop right away and study the board. I finally realize he barely has any artifacts! His board was Monkey, Welder, Time Vault, Mox Jet, City of Brass, Gemstone Mine with 1 counter, and Bazaar. I strip his City, so that he can only take about 3 extra turns without finding more mana. He does just this, using welder to bring in Voltaic Key for Mox Jet (floating a mana to activate Key + Vault for a free turn) and digging with Bazaar. He draws Lotus on his second last extra turn but I have a Force for it, so he has to go to his last turn. He actually messed this up, and he ended one of his turns with another Time Walk on the stack, Welder untapped, and Key + Vault both in play. He could have Welded out Key there for Jet, untapped, and then floated a mana and Welded back Key to take one more turn and get to see 3 more cards with his Bazaar. However, he has to pass again, this time without time walking, and I get another turn. Of course, he first Welds in a Sundering Titan for his key to put me down to 2 Islands. If you’ve been reading this report carefully, I’m sure you’d know by now that I am bound to draw the best card in the deck here, and of course I do: Swords to Plowshares. I drop my Mox Pearl in hand and send his Welder farming (putting Jerome to 4 life), and pass the turn back. He draws, Bazaars, and discards 2 blanks and a Chalice. He plays a Sapphire, which is his only mana source but he can’t attack (because my counterattack would kill him) so he has to pass back to me. I draw and, of course, draw a card that instantly wins the game: Energy Flux. I play Lotus, make a bunch of mana, play Energy Flux, and ship it to him. He tries to pay for his Titan, but I remind him Flux is two (it was a proxy Energy Flux) and all his things die, leaving his board as Gorilla Shaman and Bazaar. There’s nothing he can do and my bears crash in for the win and the Time Walk.
7-0-1, 14-0

So, what can we take away from this? Is Bomberman obviously the unbeatable best deck in the format and a strong choice going forward? Honestly, I have no idea (about the second part; the first part is definitely not the case). I know that I resolved Jace in almost every game, I know that only once was he attacked and he was never damaged or left play. I know that I mulliganed a lot (I mulled to 5 three times and 6 about 4-5 more) looking for strong hands and my deck rewarded that aggressive strategy handsomely. I know that Trinket Mage was very good with Jace, because he gets your Lotus on turn 2/3 for a Jace with Drain Back up on the following turn, and he then blocks for Jace as well. And I know that playing a deck which can capitalize on your opponent’s small mistakes and just playing solidly is a very good way to win Vintage tournaments.

I can’t really do props and slops because I don’t have any of the latter, so I’ll just thank all my teammates on Meandeck and Team Serious, especially Nat Moes and JR Goldman, Mike for driving down, Eric and Shannon at Xtreme for being the best TO’s and having the best store in the Midwest, and WotC for printing a card as fun and unfair as Jace. Also, I’ll thank whatever gods gave me the luck to never have an opponent cast Jace against me and never have anyone prevent my Jaces from entering play. That was pretty helpful too. Also, big thanks to Jaco for showing up and taking pictures, videos, notes, etc. about the event to write up what I’m sure is an awesome report about the whole thing. Also, for punting his way out of top 8 (Editor’s Note: Jaco is a fool, and after resolving Gifts Ungiven on opponent’s end step that would give him the win he screwed it up on his turn by forgetting about a floating mana). Oath is probably a bad matchup for me!

Thanks a lot for reading.
-Jimmy McCarthy
Team Meandeck, Team Serious
LordHomerCat on TheManaDrain and elsewhere.