SCG Kansas City, The Two Sides of the Same Coin

I'm not going to lie to you, playing Delver is wearing on me. I've had fairly good success with the deck, topped a few Opens, won my first Pro Tour invite in my two years of playing, and made me easily thousands of dollars in the process between real life and Magic Online. Unfortunately, every loss I take with that deck I take very personally. You see, I've put more hours into playing that deck than dollars I've won with it, and that is a sobering fact. The deck is the best deck in standard by far, it has all the things we look for in an amazing deck, fast, resilient, flexible, amazing nut hands, forces your opponents into a "greater of two evils" situations so many times, etc etc. Sadly, there is only so much a player can do with a deck, and fighting against a plethora of contenders is a taxing job. This weekend in Kansas City I started out 1-3 in standard, and there was nothing I could do about it. I'll talk a little about that, and then talk about legacy and a bit more about Stoneblade, since there will never be enough said about that deck!

I sat down to round one of this standard event, brimming with confidence. I lose the die roll, but I pick up my opener and see this: Delver, Ponder, Snag, Geist, Glacial, 2x Island. Things are looking up already! I snap keep, and die in five turns. My opponent is playing R/B Zombies and has one of those draws, you know, where they play a Gravecrawler, slip your Delver and have another one drop followed by a Messenger, and when you play the Geist to attempt a race, they slam down and Aristocrat and you're just dead! Luckily, that didn't happen game two, but Aristocrat, backed by Tragic Slips and Brimstone Volleys cleared me out quickly without a Celestial Purge in sight.

Luckily, thats why we play swiss! One loss should never be an end to your tournament, and if you think it is, then it likely will be. A good friend of mine, Peter Tragos, lost round one of SCG Cincinnati before battling back through nine rounds of swiss and three rounds of top eight to die for a second time to the hands of future invitational champion Lauren Nolen in the finals. Going into my next round with this thought, I played U/W Grand Architect and won handily, my deck preformed like it normally does, just like last round, and I won against an opponent lacking double white for Day of Judgment.

Third round I sat down against RUG Ramp. Whenever I see my opponent cast a rampant growth, no lie, I get a little giddy inside. You see, Ramp can never win with their opening 7 cards. It is nearly impossible, and as such they have to draw well with little manipulation to win, while I get all sorts of card draw and interaction!  Game one I died to an early ponder into a miracle Temporal Mastery with a Primeval Titan the same turn, and that was all she wrote.  Game two, we went long and Day of Judgment cleared out two Frost Titans before I came in with Geists and the like for game.  Three went exceptionally long, but my opponent had not gained any life yet, so a Primeval Titan would stabilize him since I had gotten him so low.  It got to a point where I attacked him with a Snapcaster to four, and had to deploy a Geist and a Delver to try to win next turn through his only card in hand, Primeval Titan, and the four life it would bring.  At this point, flipping Delver, drawing Vapor Snag (goes along with flipping quite well), or drawing another Snapcaster to Snag his Titan would be game.  My opponent had different plans, drawing a Ponder, seeing a Whipflare, and casually ending my tournament life.

While I was dead, I stuck it out, thinking that I could play for 100$ and boy was I wrong!  Round four I kept this: Delver, Ponder, Geist, Geist, Gut Shot, 2x Island in the dark.  Again, very acceptable hand, strong even, just missing a white source.  Well, my Delver didn't flip, my Ponder shuffled, and I didn't find a white source but I did find some more Geists and Restoration Angels.  Second game, I keep on six and my opponent goes down to five and I mentally fist pump because, lets be realistic, although we all love to play the game, in a tournament we come to win and opponents mulliganing always helps that.  The ritualistic mental fist bump didn't work though, as my R/G aggro opponent had three Strangleroot Geists on the board on turn four and made short work of me.  I stayed around, trying to win back my 50$ and get some open points, and although I won five in a row in the x-3 bracket, I finished outside of top 64.

On another note about this event, we see some fairly standard results.  The top 8 consisted of three Delver decks, including the winning build running Talrand in the main, Zombie Pod which had its breakout performance here yet being around for a while, R/G Aggro, Naya Pod, Wolf Run Blue, and Infect.  Infect you say?  Nick Marriot piloted mono-green infect all the way to a finals appearance, going undefeated up until that point including his very unfortunate dream crush at 7-0 round eight of my good friend Joe Bernal, but seeding within the tournament is important, and Nick was very smart to value having the play through the finals with his combo deck.  For reference, here is the 75 I registered:

2 Runechanter's Pike

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Restoration Angel
4 Snapcaster Mage

4 Geist of Saint Traft

1 Dismember
4 Gut Shot
2 Mana Leak
3 Thought Scour
4 Vapor Snag

4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Ponder

4 Glacial Fortress

2 Moorland Haunt

4 Seachrome Coast
9 Island
1 Plains
2 Phantasmal Image
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Spectral Flight
3 Celestial Purge
1 Dismember
1 Dissipate
1 Divine Offering
1 Mental Misstep
1 Negate
1 Talrand, Sky Summoner
1 Day of Judgment

Having gotten crushed mercilessly on Saturday, I had to rally back for Sunday, right?  We left, found food and got some sleep.  I woke up Sunday morning, changed two cards from from the list I ran in St Louis (reference link for list), removing a Terminus and Zealous Persecution for two Path to Exile to help fight decks such as Merfolk that had begun to pick up, where either of the other two cards are too slow or not efficient enough.  I saw down for my round one against...

Round 1 vs Mono-Red Burn (Austin Yost)

The one burn player that anyone doesn't want to sit down against, because where-as most burn players are inexperienced in the format and/or play the deck due to card availability, Austin just plays it because hes a master with the deck.  Fortunately, I had early Batterskull/Jitte both games which forced him into awkward positions.  Game two he had to Fireblast and sacrifice two of his three mountains to kill my germ token, and having not drawn Smash to Smithereens, I eventually got the Batterskull back online and won.
Round 2 vs Mono-Blue...Jaces Phantasam deck!

This one was a bit weird, it focused around Thought Scouring me in order to turn his Phantasms online, backed up bySpellstutter Sprites and counter spells to trade cards before attacking through the air with a 5/5 Phantasm and flipped Delvers.  The games were surprisingly close, but I won game one with a Jitte and game two with a Batterskull and a Jitte when I was down to one life and dead to any of his Vapor Snags.

Round 3 vs Goblins (Anthony Eason)

Unfortunately I had to play a friend here and we were on camera, so I'll opt not to talk about this and suggest you watch the feed!

Round 4 vs High Tide

I have played this opponent before at Grand Prix Indianapolis and figured that he was playing the same deck since he seemed to be fairly adept with it the first time.  I kept an otherwise unexciting opener containing two Force of Will, a Stoneforge Mystic, a Snapcaster and some lands and was rewarded greatly with a fast clock and double Force protection when he attempted to combo off on me.  Game two I again drew Stoneforge and drew into two Force of Will after I resolved a turn four Jace (Sidenote: it helps to run good).  After I disrupted his combo and equipped the Mystic with a Feast and Famine, the game came to a swift conclusion.

Round 5 vs Elves

This was a fake feature match, but it really didn't last long.  Stoneblade has an exceptional Elves matchup given that post-board we have so many sweepers that they just cant handle backed by counter spells plus Swords and Paths that don't lose you any mana efficiency versus their dorks.  Plus you have Umezawa's Jitte, the one card win.  Game one I swept my opponent out with an Engineered Explosives versus his developed board before equipping a Jitte to a Vendilion Clique and killing all subsequent creatures he resolved.  Game two unfortunately my opponent kept a Cavern of Souls plus Gaea's Cradle hand, and after he deployed all his one mana guys and I swept them away, he never resolved another spell again.

Round 6 vs UW Stoneblade/Countertop (Kobie Spaeth)

Kobie took mulligans in both games and they were unfortunately not very close.  We both used Sensei's Divining Top a bunch game one, but him being down cards caused my Stoneforge which resolved to be fairly lethal, while I countered the Stoneforges he attempted to cast.  Game two he stuck Counterbalance plus Top on two occasions, but fortunately for me Kobie made a few mistakes and spun himself down to zero untapped mana where I just Disenchanted his Counterbalance and then killed him with the Snapcaster that brought back the second Disenchant.

Round 7 and 8 vs Draws, the perks of 6-0ing were that I got to get Chipotle, but unfortunately this caused me to be sixth seed and not have the play in top eight.

Top 8 vs RUG (Stephan Hink)

I've known Stephan for a while from events in the past and know him to be an adept player so it was awesome that I got to play him, especially considering we all split the top eight prize pool.  Game one I resolved a Jace that went unmolested for a number of turns and fatesealed him out of the game while we were still above 15 life.  Game two I died especially quickly as he had a number Geese and Goyfs that beat my face in.  Game three was probably my most interesting game of the tournament.  I stalled on no play at one point and Stephan decided to upkeep use the Ice mode of Fire//Ice to tap down my plains, locking me out of a Stoneforge Mystic for the turn.  This was incorrect as he could have just Fired the Stoneforge if it resolved (it wasn't in my hand at that point) and it caused me to win a close game, stabilizing and winning at five life.  Another awesome play within this game was I activated Dust Bowl on his Volcanic Island when he just had it and a Tropical Island untapped end of turn with Ancient Grudge in hand.  I untapped and played Umezawa's Jitte, killed his Grim Lavamancer and gained two points of life which put me out of Bolt ranger.

Top 4 vs UW Counterblade?  (Kobie Spaeth)

Again, this was on camera so it is watchable and likely better than what I will tell you about it.  This time I was on the losing side of mulligans, going down to five game two on the play (while he also did!) but I got locked out by a Counterbalance Top combo while my Stoneforge Mystics were countered and that ended my tournament.

While I lost in top 4, it felt awesome to top 8 back to back legacy events as I just wholeheartedly love the format and am glad to see the greatest format in Magic thriving like it is.  It's really sad that card availability limits entry to the format for most people, as it truly does have the most depth of any format in the game and deserves to be played by all.  Well that's it for my tournament report for this week, next week I'll be back talking strategy and hopefully discussing a new Delver list that a friend of mine stumbled upon if it pans out!  Have a good one, feel free to contact me on facebook or Magic Online at "Hoey07" and keep on slinging spells!