Shattered Alliances brought us plenty of powerful cards, but nothing so over-the-top that it dominates all comers. The field for the opening weekend of KMCs seemed wide open. The results from the ARG Circuit Series in Fort Worth also seemed to support this notion. I really struggled with what I wanted to play for the KMC in Torrington, CT, and the cloudy results of my testing kept pulling me in different directions.
I ground out Haven Control mirror matches. How much ramp is too much? Is [ccProd]Wildstrider Ramnoth[/ccProd] only good in the mirror? Do you need a dedicated Darkness package or can you just splash [ccProd]Twilight Archon[/ccProd]? How do you keep this thing under 50 cards?
I tried all kinds of Rush variants. Red, Yellow, Red/Yellow, Yellow/Blue, Red/Blue, LWF-- you name it. [ccProd]Blitzer-Mech Falkora[/ccProd] is a fantastic card, but I never felt completely comfortable with my chances in a 7 round event.
Making [ccProd]Queen Kalima[/ccProd] work is a pet project of mine that I haven't given up on yet, but again, the results were too inconsistent to inspire any faith.
In a last minute audible, we (my brother Tyler, Brian Durkin, and I) all decided to sleeve up the old standby, but with some new twists.
Next Level Greed[ccDeck]3 Infernus the Awakened: 3 Andromeda of the Citadel: 2 Crimson Wyvern: 1 Heretic Prince Var-rakka: 1 Shadeblaze the Corruptor: 2 Serpens, the Spirit Shifter: 1 General Skycrusher: 3 Terror Pit: 3 Lyra, the Blazing Sun: 3 General Finbarr: 3 Stormspark Blast: 3 Herald of Infernus: 3 Bottle of Wishes: 3 Bone Blades: 3 Piercing Judgment: 3 Nix: 3 Lux: 2 Umbra[/ccDeck]
Round 1: Robert Mannion playing Greed Dragons
Given the 78 player turnout, additional tables needed to be set up outside. Luckily, it was a nice day out. Robert was my first opponent, piloting a Greed Dragon deck packed to the gills with tech choices. I remember his deck count being somewhere around 55 cards when I pile shuffled it. He made sure to include the necessities, but also added [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd], [ccProd]Blade Barrier[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Deep Mind Probe[/ccProd], among others. He definitely had tricks up his sleeve to help in the mirror, but I had faith that my more streamlined version would prevail. Game one was a tug of war, and I was able to stabilize after an early Herald play on his part, but I was eventually done in by [ccProd]Heretic Prince Var-rakka[/ccProd] when I failed to find my 2nd and 3rd copies of Andromeda. Game two thankfully shifted in my favor pretty quickly, as I was able to hit [ccProd]Nix[/ccProd] unopposed.
Game three was a marathon. I took on the role of aggressor when I was able to juice up my hand thanks to [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd] and a slew of Fire Birds, but it took forever to actually seal the deal. Robert calmly amassed his forces and set me back with late-game [ccProd]Blade Barrier[/ccProd] / Herald plays, while I sat tight with 11 shields, waiting for my opening. My own Heretic Prince was able to break all of Robert's shields without being killed, so I was able to continually threaten game as long as Robert didn't have any way to regenerate shields. Shadeblaze also put in some work for me, allowing me to shrink his tapped Lyra and then bash over it with Herald. Robert shifted roles to the aggressor, as he summoned his own [ccProd]Serpens, the Spirit Shifter[/ccProd] and sent everyone in! He also controlled a [ccProd]Lux[/ccProd], and I audibly groaned when my first three shield breaks were two [ccProd]Terror Pit[/ccProd]s and a [ccProd]Bone Blades[/ccProd]. He had enough dudes to game me if I didn't hit [ccProd]Stormspark Blast[/ccProd] or multiple [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd]s, and I couldn't afford to give him a shield since Var-rakka was my surefire ticket to victory. He continued mowing down my shields, until finally I revealed a timely [ccProd]Stormspark Blast[/ccProd] and exhausted his board, and then slammed the Heretic Prince once more.
Round 2: Ryan Valentino playing LWN Haven Ramp Control
Ryan Valentino is a friend of mine, so I was a bit disappointed to have to face him so early in the tournament. He's also a better player than I am, so I knew I needed a little luck on my side. Game one saw Ryan ramping hard, but I was able to unlock my colors and hit the requisite Birds in the meantime. [ccProd]Crimson Wyvern[/ccProd] was an MVP for me in this one, taking out a Haven, and Archon, and a Lemon in one fell swoop. Ryan battled back, but I was able to amass my board with Birds, meaning I was threatening game with Lyra/Var-rakka on the same turn at any time. Ryan realized he was losing the race, and he pressed the advantage with his two Lyras and an Archon. I dropped [ccProd]Serpens, the Spirit Shifter[/ccProd] and rammed enough of my Birds to get me out of kill range, but I screwed up by not revenging one of his Lyras thanks to [ccProd]Umbra[/ccProd]. I was close to decking out, so I just had to send everyone and pray I had a Stormspark in shields. Of course, I did, so I navigated the murky waters of game one successfully, much to Ryan's chagrin. Game two was an absolute scraping. I opened with a glut of 9 drops and proceeded to get creamed. Game three was defined by an early Bottle popping into [ccProd]Infernus the Awakened[/ccProd], allowing me to snatch the win before Ryan was set up. I felt bad about winning that way, but that's how it goes sometimes.
Round 3: Connor Bazil playing Mono Light Enforcer Rush
The motto for every KMC: "Dodge rush." Of course, I wouldn't be so lucky. I saw Connor playing Enforcers in an earlier round, so I knew I was in for a tough duel. We joked about how I blew him out with Spellbane breaking Bottle into Bottle into random spell way back in Poughkeepsie, and he was ready for his revenge. Game one: my opening hand was all split cards. Connor hit Magris on one and curved out perfectly. Game two: I'm on the play, I drop two [ccProd]Lux[/ccProd], Connor misses Magris, and I'm able to Herald + Lyra into Andromeda. Game three goes exactly like game one. I have a slight chance at holding on with a [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd] in shields hitting a Serpens, but Connor back-to-back BB Primes me and gets it in. The rush matchup is very straightforward. It's certainly winnable with this deck, but it isn't ideal. Either you draw your Herald progression or you don't. [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd]s and Bottles in shields don't hurt either.
Round 4: Shermine Ciancido playing Mono Fire Drakon Rush
Shermine won the roll and enthusiastically summoned [ccProd]Blaze Belcher[/ccProd], remarking that it was the first time she had done so all day. Tears for me. I thankfully had a [ccProd]Lux[/ccProd], which ate the Belcher, but was quickly dispatched by Shermine's forces. [ccProd]Laser-Arm Drakon[/ccProd] broke two non-shield blasts, and [ccProd]Gilaflame the Assaulter[/ccProd] closed it out from there. Game two was thankfully much better, and although Shermine still hit the Belcher, her level 2 guy was met with a first shield [ccProd]Bone Blades[/ccProd]. [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd] impeded her progress on turn 4, and then attacked over the tapped Belcher, dropping [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd]. Game three saw Shermine whiff on her 1 drop, and while my hand was not spectacular, it did include a necessary [ccProd]Lux[/ccProd]. [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd] popped from shields twice in this one! Neither hit a backbreaking 9 drop, but an extra Bird and a Serpens were more than enough to withstand the beats.
Round 5: Luis Ortiz playing LFN Megabugs
My deck fired on all cylinders in this one. I curved out perfectly, and crashed in with three of my guys on turn 6 thanks to the confidence that [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd] allows for. Luis screwed up twice in critical moments in this one, first by rowing a multiciv card and not realizing he needed one extra mana to play both [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fullmetal Lemon[/ccProd], and then again by thinking his [ccProd]Steamtank Kryon[/ccProd] had Fast Attack when it didn't. Luis played all his mana tapped in an effort to take up less vertical space on the mat, but it ended up costing him. Game two was a similar story. His [ccProd]Tatsurion the Champion[/ccProd] whiffed, and he was never able to summon [ccProd]The Hive Queen[/ccProd]. [ccProd]Shadeblaze the Corruptor[/ccProd] sealed the deal in this one. I got aggressive whenever I saw an opening, knowing that Luis couldn't possibly be playing too many high impact shield blasts, and it paid off immensely.
Round 6: Bill Swanson playing LFN Blitz
Bill was a really nice guy that told me that he just wanted to have fun playing something different in this KMC, and was shocked that the deck was performing so well. I recognized it instantly as Carl Miciotto's "Naya Blitz" deck, and lamented the fact that I was going to be playing my third rush deck of the day in the penultimate round. In a shocker (compared to the other rush duels of the day), I was actually able to take down game one. Bill's creatures were all enormous, but playing nothing on turn 1 game me some serious breathing room to be able to cast Herald. I was feeling pretty good, but sadly for me, a back 2 creaming was looming on the horizon. I was getting beaten down seriously in game two, but on my turn 5, thanks to a Stormspark in shields, I was able to summon a Lyra, freeze his [ccProd]Weaponized Razorcat[/ccProd], swing [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd] over his tapped [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd], drop another Lyra, and freeze his [ccProd]Metal Max[/ccProd]. I was on zero shields, but if I could survive another turn, I allowed myself to draw into a huge Dragon that I could drop for free with Herald, or simply going in for game with Heretic Prince if need be. Bill was way down on cards, drew for turn, and calmly laid a [ccProd]Blitzer-Mech Falkora[/ccProd] on the table, sealing my fate. In game three I opened with 3 [ccProd]Infernus the Awakened[/ccProd] and was barely able to interact with his giant dudes at all. A sad end.
Round 7: Howard Hakulin playing Blurple
I was pretty sure I couldn't top at this point, but there was a lot of confusion at the top tables about who needed to play it out and who could draw in. My brother was paired against Bill Swanson, but he was likely the X-1-1 on the chopping block if he ID'd, so he and Bill played it out. I figured it was win-win: if Tyler beat Bill, then great, he's in the top 8. If Tyler loses to Bill, Bill now becomes the one seed at 6-1, and as long as Connor wins his last round I had a chance at sneaking into the 8th spot if another group in the top tables played it out for some reason.
Howard definitely gave Blurple a good showing. The [ccProd]Emperor Neuron[/ccProd]s were hitting the battle zone early and often. Thankfully, Blurple doesn't bring the beats fast enough to completely take you out of the game, so you just need a reasonable curve with Greed to be able to have a shot. If Blurple doesn't win by turn 6 or 7, it's usually downhill from there, since they're probably leaving the Fire Birds in play. Or, if they're hardcasting [ccProd]Bone Blades[/ccProd], that means you'll probably have three shields going into turn 5 at worst. Blurple actually has a lot more game in the waning turns against control decks, since it can keep bouncing Andromeda. It doesn't do well when your midrange Dragons kill at its offense, though. The games played out exactly in this fashion. [ccProd]Cyber Scamp[/ccProd] made casting spells unfavorable, so I only did it when absolutely necessary. [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd] did a lot of heavy lifting, and when [ccProd]Infernus the Awakened[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] hit the board, Blurple is just done. One of the games had Howard cracking a Bottle into an Andromeda, followed by me summoning a 2nd copy on the following turn. That's simply too many free turns to come back from.
Record: 5-2 on the day
Sadly, Tyler lost to Bill, eliminating himself from top 8 contention. I held out hope that I could squeak in, but we came in at 9th and 10th place. It was unfortunate to come so close and fall flat, but I didn't blame the deck choice at all. Dragons always have game against the field in a wide open environment, so you just have to hope you dodge rush as much as possible, or get a little shield luck in the games where you do play against it. Running into 4 aggressive decks in a 7 round tournament was not what I wanted to happen, but going 2-2 in those matches was about the best I could hope for.
On the bright side, Tyler and I cleared out the rush decks for Brian Durkin, who double drew into the top 8 in the last couple rounds. Bill Swanson became the one seed, and then was dispatched by Jonah Acosta, meaning Durkin had a clear path to the championship. He was able to eke out a close one against an Esper Control deck in the first round of the playoffs, then won two straight Greed mirrors (against Tom Rogers and Jonah Acosta) to take home the crown! Congratulations to Brian Durkin for his 3rd KMC top and 2nd KMC win!
If you're unsure of what to play for your KMC, give our new version of Greed Dragons a shot. I was very pleased with how it drew all day, and it definitely helped me out of some sticky situations where I may not have made the optimal play. If you can catch fire and avoid the hyper-aggressive decks, you have a great chance to win.
Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!