I’ve had a spectacular run since July, making 6 consecutive Top 8’s, until I placed 9th in the Sandusky, Ohio Team Serious open in December. I decided to rectify that failing at the Meandeck Open, but fell short once again. Check out all the details in full technicolor after the jump!
Meandeck Gush Control, 2012, by Stephen Menendian
Some Notes on the Deck
- The core synergy of the deck is the same as East Coast Wins: Gush + Jace. I built this deck to be able to survive the new aggro element by emphasizing Time Vault combo.
- The main technology for this tournament was Misdirection, which was here to combat the Snapcaster menace. Misdirection punishes the aggressive use of Ancestral Recall.
- My sideboard is geared for the typical 6 cards for Dredge, 6 cards for Workshops, then 3 cards for Blue strategies.
Sideboarding planning is fluid, but generally boils down like this against Workshops:
-4 Mental Misstep
+1 Trygon Predator
+2 Lightning Bolt
+1 Volcanic Island
+2 Ingot Chewer
I firmly believed that the key to my tournament was going to be my technical play. This was one of those tournaments were I wasn’t running a new deck. I had technology, but little else would catch opponent’s by surprise. In the week before the tournament, I focused all of my playtesting sessions around tight, careful play.
Round 1 vs. Mark Trogdon playing Snapcaster/Confidant Control
Mark usually plays his own brews, and is fond of Workshops, but has been seen playing mono Red hate, mono Blue Landstill (unless it’s popular), and other innovative decks.
My opening hand looks like:
This was a greedy keep, but I didn’t feel like a mulligan was a safer play. I soon regretted it.
He played turn two Dark Confidant, and I Mindbreak Trapped another. He eventually was able to force through a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, and that put the nail in my grave. I was able to Hurkyl’s him once, but then it finished me soon after. This game was far more complicated than my brief recounting, but I don’t remember all of the details at this point.
We had spent over 35 minutes on the first game. I boarded in Red Blasts for lord knows what at this point, and opened this hand:
Red Elemental Blast
I kept, and led with Ruby, Sapphire, Preordain, and saw: Blightsteel Colossus and Mox Jet, and bottomed both, drawing Merchant Scroll.
I played Strand into Underground Sea into Merchant Scroll, and I walked right into his trap; his Mindbreak Trap, that is. I regretted that play. Had I waited a turn, I could have shielded Scroll with REB.
He played Underground Sea, Mana Crypt, Voltaic Key, which I didn’t hesitate to Misstep, and then cast Dark Confidant. He lost 4 of the next 6 rolls to Mana Crypt, and flipped Thirst for Knowledge. We played back and forth a few turns. I finally drew a real spell in Demonic Tutor, and I cast it for Ancestral Recall. My hand had Force, Misdirection, and 2 Mental Misstep.
On the penultimate turn, he played a Sensei’s Divining Top, and Topped, he flipped Sol Ring, falling to 1 life. He then tapped his Mana Vault to play Thirst. He only had two lands and a Mox in play. If I can stop the Sol Ring, then I win the game. I decided to go all in on this play.
He played Sol Ring. I Mental Misstepped it. He Misstepped me back, playing mana for it. I Misdirected his Mental Misstep to the Sol Ring, and that was game. I ended the game with Force and another Misstep in hand. Apparently, he had two Forces on top of his library.
After two long games to start the match we run out of time, and draw the match.
Round 2 vs. Dredge
My opening hand was:
I played land, Black Lotus, go. He played turn one Bazaar. I cast Mystical for Ancestral, and then Ponder and saw Vampiric Tutor and Fastbond, and I needed both to win, and couldn’t get both. I played Yawgmoth’s Will, and drew a billion cards, but couldn’t get there. He won the next turn.
My opening hand was Land, Land, Vamp, Force, Gush, Mental Misstep, Blightsteel Colossus.
My plan was simple: turn one Vamp for turn two Yixlid Jailer, which worked like a charm. He played Bazaar on turn one, and discarded Darkblast and two Bloodghast. I drew turn three Tormod’s Crypt. I was able to protect the Jailer long enough to get down more Leylines and win from there.
I mulled into:
Leyline of the Void
I dropped turn zero Leyline, and he played a land and passed the turn. At the right moment, I fired off Ancestral, drawing Force and Misstep, and took over the game. He cast a Meddling Mage on something other than Jace, which I played, and then was able to Vamp for Tinker, and win the game.
Round 3 vs. Jonathan Medina (@MTGMedina) playing Salvagers
I mulliganed into:
I played Trop into Preordain, seeing Jet and Polluted Delta, and bottomed both, drawing a land. He played turn one Library of Alexandria, and that card annihilated me. He played turn two Sea, Nihil Spellbomb. I tried to resolve turn three Trygon Predator, which he Forced, and I Forced back, leaving me with nothing but 4 lands in hand (post-Gush).
I drew Time Walk and Demonic Tutor, but was afraid to play them until I could protect them because he had Mana Drain mana up. The turn before I was going to try something he resolved Auriok Salvagers and went infinite with Black Lotus.
He mulliganed to 6. My opening hand was Pyroblast, Land, Merchant Scroll, Scroll, Force of Will, Gush, Preordain, Hurkyl’s Recall.
I cast Preordain, saw a land, and took it.
He played Plains, Sol Ring. I played a second land, after drawing yet another.
He drew a fetchland, and played it, and cast Trinket Mage, which I Red Blasted. The following turn he played Auriok Salvgers, and I Forced it pitching Gush. In the meantime, I Scrolled for Ancestral, and it resolved, but drew more lands. I Pondered into Mindbreak Trap and double Misstep. He played Mystical for Tinker. I let it resolve, then Hurkyl’s his BSC, and then Mindbreak Trapped a post-Tinker Salvagers. Finally, I drew Mystical Tutor, and won with my own Tinker into Blightsteel.
I fan open the following seven: Black Lotus, Mox Ruby, Land, Red Elemental Blast, Mystical Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Mental Misstep, and kept.
He played turn one Land, Lotus.
I drew Gush, and played, Land, Ruby, Lotus.
He played end of turn Vampiric Tutor, then drew something, played a land, and passed the turn. Then I played end of turn Vamp for Ancestral. We had almost identical opening sequences.
I played a second land, and with some circumspection, cast Ancestral, which he let it resolve. I then played Gush, he Drain it, which I REB. I played DT, and he responded with Brainstorm, which I Misstepped. Demonic resolved, and I found Fastbond, and went bonkers. I cast Yawg Will and replayed all the goods. I was able to Demonic again for Tinker, and Vamp for Time Walk, and win right there.
Round 4 vs. Nat Moes playing Wizards
I played turn one Fetchland, Mox Ruby, Preordain, and I see Mox and a land, and I put the Mox on the bottom. He played turn one land, Aether Vial, Chalice of the Void at zero. Unfortunately, I draw another Mox on my second turn. I Preordain again, and see Black Lotus and Yawgmoth’s Will, and because of Chalice I bottom them both.
I Mystical for Tinker, and he Vials in Stormscape Apprentice, and he plays Flooded Strand, and taps my Colossus until he wins the game. I couldn’t ever find a Jace.
My opening hand was:
Fastbond, Mox Emerald, Land, Land, Land, Trygon Predator, Tinker
I cast turn one Fastbond, and he Forced my Trygon Predator.
He played Flooded Strand, and I drew turn two Lightning Bolt, and cast Tinker, which won the game.
He played turn one land, I played fetchland, go. He played Wasteland, Dark Confidant. My hand had Ancestral Recall, Red Elemental Blast, Mental Misstep, Time Walk, Gush, and Lightning Bolt. I broke the fetchland and Bolted his Bob, and my Bolt resolved. I played Tropical Island, and Time Walk, which resolved. Then I untapped and cast Ancestral with Red Elemental Blast protection. A turn or two later I Preordained into Fastbond with two Gush in hand, and just went bonkers. I was able to Tinker + Time Walk within a Yawgmoth’s Will to win the game.
Round 5 vs. Gilberto Rivera playing Dredge
In the first game, Dredge does what Dredge does. I lose promptly.
In the second game, I mulligan into: Leyline, Leyline, Mox Jet, Gush, and Force of Will. I deploy two Leylines. Unfortunately, I don’t see mana sources for many turns. He plays turn two Black Lotus, Nether Shadow, and turn three Bloodghast, and turn four attempts to cast Flame-Kin Zealot, which I Force, pitching a Mental Misstep instead of Gush. I’m very upset with myself because my plan is Tinker, and when I got to Tinker, he is just able to find one of his only two Chain of Vapors after a Cabal Therapy on my new Force in hand. This was a stupid blunder, and I lose my first round of the day.
I had been pleased with my play all day, but now the train was coming off the tracks.
Round 6 vs. Doug Linn playing Remora Grow
Doug is playing the Meandeck version of this deck (which means no Dark Confidant).
I play turn one land, Preordain, Mox, Voltaic Key. Doug has turn one Mystic Remora, which I Mental Misstep, but that only causes him to play another on turn two. He pays for his Remora, and I cast turn three Jace, which to my astonishment resolves. I decide to Fateseal him rather than Brainstorm because he missed his second land drop. I should have known that my Jace would draw him the land he needed. I put a Sol Ring on the bottom. He played a Tropical Island, and cast Tarmogoyf. I untapped, and bounced the Tarmogoyf. He paid for the Remora. I Jacestormed, and my hand becomes: Trygon Predator, Jace, Mana Crypt, Mox Pearl, Fastbond, Time Vault, and Yawg Will.
What would you do? I decide the safest play is just to cast Predator and pass. Of course, I could not only play Predator, but I could cast Mox Pearl, Mana Crypt, and Time Vault here. He’d draw a bunch of cards. The Predator resolved, and I pass the turn. My cowardice is punished when he Gushes, finds Fastbond, Gushes twice more, and then wins with Yawgmoth’s Will.
I mulliganed into:
Red Elemental Blast
In what was surely a moment of incredible stupidity, I played Fetchland, Preordain. My rationale at the time was that I wanted to play Preordain now, and then another next turn. Yet, that prevented me from having Red Elemental Blast up. My Preordain saw Mindbreak Trap and Lotus, and I put Lotus on the bottom.
Doug played turn one Ancestral, and I was almost out of this game before it had begun. He was also on the draw, so that meant he was +5 cards on me already after my mulligan.
He played turn two Tarmogoyf, and I cast Gush + Brainstorm. I tried to cast Jace the following turn, and he Forced it. Had Mindbreak Trap been Misdirection or Flusterstorm, I probably win this game. After this loss I am knocked out.
Top 8 decklists can be seen here, including Gilberto and Doug’s decks.
I can think of few things more frustrating than falling short in the areas in one works hardest. If you are a football coach, and you emphasize defense, then it would be most frustrating to fall short on defense.
The most devastating aspect of this tournament was falling short in the one area I had worked hardest: playing tightly. I played well up until the fifth round, and then I made a major blunder, and then compounded the mistake by making more in the following round.
There is little I would have changed about my deck. The only thing I can think of is cutting the Mindbreak Trap for a Flusterstorm. Since I no longer run Remora, Mindbreak Trap isn’t as good. But the thing that concerns me about Flusterstorm is that I’ll have too many cards to sideboard out in the Workshop matchup. Mindbreak Trap is at least a playable tactic in that matchup, especially if it is in your opening hand.
In my experience, the one place where people – including myself – are most likely to make play mistakes is in late rounds, and especially at the climactic moment of a match. I have excellent focus, but no longer have the same stamina. Since I don’t practice as much I used to be able to do nor play as much Magic as I used to be able to play, I no longer have the same capacity to keep a heightened focus for round after round. The exception is leading up to major tournaments, but I didn’t expect to have to play a full six rounds of Swiss at the Meandeck Open.
Recently, I’ve been brewing and testing a bunch of Cage decks. I’m working on a lengthy primer for Vintage Aggro decks in the post-Dark Ascension metagame. Look for it soon!
Until next time,