Second Comes Right After Force

Second Place with ANT at GP Sydney Win-a-Mox Legacy

Brandon Owen

GP Sydney wrapped up last weekend, with the Canberra team taking out the main event. Although I’m very proud of Simon, Ivan, and Jim – Limited is for chumps. Fortunately for me, there was a Legacy Win-a-Mox side event on the Sunday.

Sydney is a three-hour drive from Canberra, so Angus, Sylvius, and I drove down at 9pm the night before and slept on the couch of an Airbnb already rented by Lachlan. Lachlan spent his day in a wheelchair due to an ankle injury which was exacerbated by his weekend of judging. He served as a great team mascot for CBR MTG.

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We arrived in Sydney at about 12:40 am, so I was expecting a gruelling day ahead of me.

80 players showed up to battle for a Mox Pearl. An impressive turn out by Australian standards – especially for a GP side event. This was probably aided by the fact that the PTQ Standard event running at the same time was single elimination.

I decided to play Ad Nauseum Tendrils Storm, which I piloted to a 4-3 finish at Eternal Masters two weeks earlier (a large Eternal Weekend in Australia with 90 players for Legacy). I was keen for more practice. This was my list on the day:

1 Badlands
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Island
4 Polluted Delta
2 Scalding Tarn
1 Swamp
2 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island

1 Ad Nauseam
4 Brainstorm
4 Cabal Ritual
1 Dark Petition
4 Dark Ritual

3 Duress
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Infernal Tutor
1 Past in Flames
4 Ponder
2 Preordain
1 Rain of Filth
1 Tendrils of Agony

4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal

SIDEBOARD
1 Cabal Therapy
2 Chain of Vapor
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Fatal Push
1 Flusterstorm
2 Hope of Ghirapur
3 Hurkyl’s Recall
1 Massacre
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Tormod’s Crypt

 

This list is very clearly inspired by the ‘no-green’ ANT decks of MTGO fame, as piloted by players such as Surfinbird19 and Control4Daze. Though it was originally an adaptation of Rodrigo Togores’ GP Prague first place deck.

The rest of the top 8 deck lists can be found here: http://mtgtop8.com/event?e=16010&d=298508&f=LE

N.B. I’d like to encourage any feedback about my sideboarding decisions, lines of play, deck list, or just the article in general.

 

Round 1: Food Chain, Adrian Preston

Game 1. I’m on the play and lead with Gitaxian Probe seeing Bayou, Misty Rainforest, Baleful Strix, Force of Will, Misdirection, Manipulate Fate, and Food Chain. I cantrip looking for a second Cabal Therapy to fight through his permission. My first Therapy is Misdirected back at me, I name ‘Abandon Hope’. The second Therapy meets Force of Will and I go for a clean Ritual, Infernal Tutor, Tendrils kill.

-1 Island
-2 Preordain

+1 Cabal Therapy
+1 Flusterstorm
+1 Empty the Warrens

Game 2. Adrian takes a mulligan and enters the tank, deciding whether to keep the hand. He brings the cards to his nose – “A smelly one” – but he keeps. This game was fairly uneventful, as I keep a slow hand and lose to turn three Leovold beat downs. Not considering that this deck would play Leovold was an oversight. At 11 life I cast Gitaxian Probe and see a bunch of counter magic which I have no chance of beating. I pack it in.

Game 3. I opt to leave out the answers to Leovold. Usually I don’t like Chain of Vapor or Fatal Push in this matchup; however, in hindsight Fatal Push was probably a reasonable include.

Adrian mulligans to six again, and the opening turns involve some cantrips on both sides. I lead with Cabal Therapy, Adrian taps out for Brainstorm, and my Therapy is Misdirected back at me again. Classic Adrian move. I cast my second Therapy and name Force of Will – he has none, but I see Adrian’s hand of Flusterstorm, Trinket Mage, and lands. I cast Ad Nauseum with two black mana floating, and go down to 5 life with access to a very big Empty the Warrens. I Gitaxian Probe twice for extra storm, and the chance to hit an Infernal Tutor for a cleaner kill with Tendrils (given the Trinket Mage, I assume Adrian plays an Engineered Explosives). I Empty for 24 Goblins and flash back my two Therapies, in case Adrian draws the Explosives and I need to go for a Past in Flames later. As it turns out, by casting the second Probe and putting myself to 1 life I gave Adrian a second out which I didn’t consider in Walking Ballista. Fortunately for me, he didn’t draw either of his outs and I bash in for the win.

1-0-0

 

Round 2: BUG Delver, Edward Nurse

Game 1 my opponent mulligans to a miserable four cards on the play, and passes the turn with no land drop. I Ponder and pass the turn. He slams a land from the top of his deck into play and casts Ponder off an Underground Sea. I cast Dark Ritual into Cabal Therapy to play around Daze, as the rest of my hand gets there this turn if I can strip a Force. Edward concedes to conceal information.

-2 Preordain

+1 Empty the Warrens
+1 Flusterstorm

With very little information, I sideboard conservatively. Underground Sea into Ponder can mean a lot of things. Empty is good if they’re on BUG Midrange or Grixis Delver. Flusterstorm isn’t too bad against those decks, but importantly gives me some game against ANT or UB Reanimator, where Empty is not great, but playable in combination with Cabal Therapy.

Game 2. Thoughtseize is followed by Hymn to Tourach, and eventually a Deathrite Shaman. I don’t recover before being beaten into the dirt. At least I know what I’m up against.

-1 Flusterstorm
-1 Rain of Filth

+2 Hope of Ghirapur

Game 3 I mulligan and land an early Hope of Ghirpur which gets in for a bit of damage while I recover from two Hymn to Tourach’s. The Hope is eventually taken out by a Golgari Charm. I grin at an Empty the Warrens in my hand. I end up casting Therapy to deal with some lingering pieces of permission and make 6 Goblins to buy me some time. Very lacklustre in the face of a single Deathrite Shaman. My opponent opts to gain life with the Shaman while I’m beating him down, instead of attacking my graveyard – which is likely my only avenue to victory after my hand has been decimated. Eventually I sacrifice the remaining two of my Goblin Attack Force to flash back some Therapies, and go for a mini Tendrils with Past in Flames to finish him off.

2-0-0

 

Round 3: Czech Pile, Alessio Mezzetti

The BUG decks keep coming.

My game 1 hand is absolutely perfect, with a sure thing Infernal Tutor plus Past in Flames win through Force of Will, as well as a Gitaxian Probe just in case. Sorry Alessio. He shrugs it off.

+1 Empty the Warrens
+1 Flusterstorm

-1 Island
-1 Preordain

I wasn’t 100% on this board plan, and probably should have brought in the additional Cabal Therapy as Czech Pile is more control than aggro. Again, an answer to Leovold might have been correct as well.

Game 2 is more interesting, as Allessio manages to resolve an early Leovold. Fortunately for me this particular Leovold had no text, as I didn’t need to draw extra cards and Allessio missed his triggers to draw cards from my discard spells. I play into the Flusterstorm he has, and use Past in Flames to rebuy a Tutor for Tendrils.

3-0-0

 

Round 4: UR Control, Tim Evers

Tim is another one of the Canberra crew, and I’ve played this matchup many times. That doesn’t make it any better for me. Mainboard Flusterstorms and a fast clock mean he is extremely favoured.

Game 1 I look for as much discard as I can find and end up miscounting mana while casting two discard spells which means I have to go for a Tendrils line which doesn’t kill him, but puts me to back up to 28 life. My hope is that it buys me enough time for a Past in Flames mini Tendrils. It doesn’t and I lose to Delver beats.

-2 Preordain

+1 Cabal Therapy
+1 Flusterstorm

Game 2. Tim has an insanely redundant hand of Vendilion Clique, Force of Will, Invasive Surgery, Surgical Extraction, Snapcaster Mage. Tim gets down a clock and I try to set up a line where Tim needs to sequence his answers poorly through discard and a Past in Flames, but he’s far too good at Magic and I concede after he Snapcaster Surgical’s my Past in Flames.

Tim ended up in Top 8 as the number one seed after winning his next match and comfortably double IDing in the final two rounds.

3-1-0

 

Round 5: Dead Guy Ale, Chris

Chris was a super nice guy and we spoke a bit about the struggle of wanting to be competitive in Australian Legacy. A conversation I’ve had a lot recently.

Game 1 I lead with Gitaxian Probe* seeing Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach, Stoneforge Mystic, Dark Confidant, BW lands. Dead Guy Ale – sweet! I get to hide cards from Thoughtseize and Hymn with Brainstorm. Chris casts Dark Confidant instead of Hymn to Tourach on his turn two, and I get to go for a Ritual, LED, Tutor, Past in Flames line on my turn 3 instead of giving him more time.

* Gitaxian Probe was easily the most crucial part of my deck throughout this tournament.

-3 Duress
-1 Rain of Filth
-1 Preordain

+1 Fatal Push
+1 Massacre
+1 Empty the Warrens
+2 Chain of Vapor

In game 2 Chris’ hand is slow, containing Liliana of the Veil, Umezawa’s Jitte, Dark Confidant, along with two very relevant Bears – Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Ethersworn Canonist. He leads with Thalia, before I get to cast a Therapy, which ends up taking the Canonist. I eventually find an answer to the Thalia and go for a very bad Ad Nauseum from 9 life. I hit Dark Petition in the top three and It doesn’t pan out.

Game 3 we both mulligan. I keep 5, Chris keeps 6. His hand leans heavily on a Rest in Peace which does nothing against the 12 Goblins I make on turn 1. He shows me that he boarded out the Zealous Persecution, which would have likely been his only answer.

4-1-0

 

Round 6: Miracles, Jitesh Raniga

I had seen Jitesh playing in previous matches, and am excited to play my first match against the new miracles deck. The excitement was dulled by the nervousness of losing this win and in for top 8.

Game 1 is drawn out as I cantrip looking for discard spells, and resilient storm lines. Jitesh plays very carefully this game and jams an early Snapcaster to apply some pressure. It ends up poking me to death, as I try and fail to break apart his wall of counter magic.

-2 Preordain
-1 Rain of Filth
-1 Island

+2 Hope of Ghirapur
+1 Cabal Therapy
+1 Flusterstorm

Apparently I haven’t been paying very close attention to the Miracles decks which have been putting up results recently, because I neglected to bring in permanent based hate for the Ethersworn Canonists (or more recently, Leyline of Sancitity). Chain of Vapor should have made the cut. I also don’t like that I took out the Island over a Petal.

Game 2 I lead with a turn 1 Hope of Ghirapur which resolves. Jitesh scrambles to find an answer to the Hope, or presumably a quick kill. Most likely looking for an Entreat the Angels, which does both those things. The Hope lands 3 hits before being sacrificed, which was relevant due to the lacklustre storm line I had available, being relatively low on mana sources. I get there on the back of Hope.

Game 3. I was still ignorant of the Canonist which now lurked in Jitesh’s deck. I have another hand with Hope of Ghirapur, but have to throw some resources into counter spells before I am willing to cast it. When I finally do, it sticks, but is promptly answered by an Engineered Explosives for 1. This left Jitesh tapped low, and without the resources to stop me through a final Therapy. The coast is clear and I kill him with Past in Flames through the Surgical Extraction he had in hand.

Jitesh is a very tight player, and was unlucky in not managing to find a Canonist in either game 2 or 3.

5-1-0

 

Round 7: ID

X-1-1 is a lock for top 8, and a single X-2 even makes it in.

It was also around this time that the top 4 of the main event was announced, including the Canberran Team, The Experience. Congratulations to Jim, Ivan, and Simon for defeating the Japanese team, headed by Yuuya Watanabe, and taking out first place.

5-1-1

 

Quarter Finals: ANT, Thomas Koch

Thomas is the higher seed and takes the play. I mulligan to 6, which is particularly bad in the discard heavy mirror. He leads with Duress and takes an Infernal Tutor. I draw for turn, and cast Ponder which finds a Probe to go along with my Therapy. In my next turn, the Probe sees a clunky hand of Infernal Tutor, Cabal Ritual, Tendrils, Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal. I Therapy his Tutor and spend the next turn setting up, before playing an Ad Nauseum with mana floating from 18 life. I find plenty of action and get him with Tendrils.

-1 Island
-1 Preordain

+1 Cabal Therapy
+1 Flusterstorm

In Game 2 we both keep our opening 7, and Thomas starts things off with Duress again. He opts to take my action spells, instead of a Cabal Therapy – as I have no way of knowing the contents of his hand. I draw Gitaxian probe, and hit two Brainstorms with the Therapy. Leaving him with an Infernal Tutor and lands. In my next turn I Brainstorm, fetch, Cabal Therapy, taking the Tutor. I cast a few more cantrips to set up a simple Past in Flames kill on the back of Rain of Filth plus Cabal Ritual, not giving Thomas any time to get back in the game.

6-1-1

Unfortunately, Tim is knocked out in the quarters by Allessio, my round 3 opponent who made the top cut as the only X-2.

 

Semi Finals: Czech Pile, Alessio Mezzetti

Allessio is excited to have made it to the Top 8, and regales me with stories of his time in the Czech Republic playing against Tomas Mar, the creator of Czech Pile.

Game 1 is probably my most interesting game of the day. I am on the play and lead with Gitaxian Probe, seeing a relatively strong hand of Force of Will, Force of Will, Baleful Strix, Leovold, Lands. I Ponder and find a Cabal Therapy to start doing some work. Allessio plays a land and passes back. My first Therapy is Forced pitching Strix, but he allows the second to resolve which I use to take Leovold. Allessio was surprised that I didn’t name force, but taking Leovold allowed me to spend the next 5 or so turns hitting land drops and waiting to find Past in Flames plus discard for a very resilient win.

-2 Preordain
-1 Island
-2 Duress

+1 Empty the Warrens
+1 Flusterstorm
+1 Cabal Therapy
+2 Hope of Ghirapur

For some reason I try to ‘get him’ by boarding in the Hope’s, thinking he might board out Strix. I regretted this decision. Allessio was bound to have way too many cards like Fatal Push coming out for Strix’s not to stay in.

Game 2 Allessio leads with Thoughtseize, and takes a crucial Infernal Tutor. I draw hope of Ghirapur and slam it down. I get in one hit, which doesn’t lead to a win, before Allessio plays his first Baleful Strix and I feel very foolish. He follows up with Leovold, which proves to be too good a clock for my cantrip heavy hand to beat.

I rip the Hope’s out of my deck and replace them with Chain of Vapor.

Game 3. Allessio mulligans to a very middling 6, which I see with Gitaxian Probe. Brainstorm, Red Elemental Blast, Baleful Strix, Polluted Delta, Scalding Tarn, Tropical Island. Allessio plays a land and passes. I Brainstorm and put Empty the Warrens back on top, so that I can Gitaxian Probe and crack LED for red with Probe on the stack, drawing the Empty and making some Goblins. I cast dark ritual into Cabal Therapy, Allessio Brainstorms in response, tapping out. I name Force of Will and hit. Allessio seems shocked, as I didn’t know about the Force. His hand is now another Brainstorm, and lands. I make 14 Goblins, sacrificing one to Therapy his Brainstorm, and the top two cards of his deck are Baleful Strix, Red Elemental Blast. He gets one chance to find an out after playing the Strix – he finds nothing, and shakes my hand.

7-1-1

 

Finals: Infect, Kallon Ward

We made it.

Game 1 is unsurprisingly fast. I lead with a cantrip, and Kallon leads with a Glistener Elf. I cast Duress and see an un-interactive hand of Noble Hierarch, Vines of Vastwood, Ponder, Wooded Foothills, Berserk – I take a Brainstorm. Kallon casts Ponder, shuffles, then plays a Tropical Island. This turned out to be crucial in my turn, as I knew he drew the Trop, either for turn or off the ponder. With no other blue cards in hand, the only interaction he can have is Daze. I go for an Ad Nauseum, playing around Daze, and hit multiple LED’s, Past in Flames, and a Tutor.

-1 Island
-2 Preordain
-1 Rain of Filth

+1 Flusterstorm
+2 Hope of Ghirapur
+1 Fatal Push

Game 2 Kallon mulligans to 5, and leads with Glistener Elf – good start. I lead with Gitaxian Probe and see Crop Rotation, Berserk, Forest. I pass the turn back. Kallon slams the top card of his deck into play, Brainstorm. He then casts Gitaxian Probe, Invigorate, Berserk, attack, Dead

Game 3 I keep a one land hand of Polluted Delta, LED, LED, Ad Nauseum, Flusterstorm, Dark Ritual, Brainstorm. I play my land and pass the turn. Kallon kept 6 cards and leads with Ponder. I draw Dark Ritual for turn, and cast Brainstorm. Kallon thinks, but lets it resolve. I see Infernal Tutor, Infernal Tutor, Past in Flames. I put back both of the Tutors, and pass the turn. Kallon quickly plays Blighted Agent and passes back. My plan is to play Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Ad Nauseum. Then if it is forced, I can play the LEDs to cast past in Flames and win.

My sequencing was probably incorrect, in that I cast the LEDs first. I cast Dark Ritual, and it meets a Daze. I consider my options. If I crack and LED to pay for the Daze, I discard my hand and lose to a Force of Will on the Past in Flames. If I stop here and pass the turn, I have a dead draw in Infernal Tutor, but can go for Dark Ritual, LED, LED, Infernal Tutor. If the Infernal Tutor is Forced I can then cast Past in Flames with the mana from LED’s, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor, Tendrils. This line is stopped in the same way by a Daze, plus my opponent can have mana open on my turn, and an extra draw.

The alternate line is to hold my breath and keep up Flusterstorm, hoping I draw a discard spell after the Infernal Tutor.

In the end I decided to bite the bullet and go for it and crack LED in response to pay for the Daze. My reasoning was that I didn’t want to give my opponent multiple draw steps and open mana. Dark Ritual resolves, and I crack the other LED and cast Past in Flames from the graveyard. Kallon has Force of Will and I pass the turn. He attacks for 1, then attacks with Invigorate, Invigorate on the following turn for the kill.

7-2-1

 

It was a long day and I was happy with my second place finish, and first interstate Legacy event Top 8 finish.

Please leave some feedback about the final play, or any others. I hope this at least serves as a cautionary tale – second comes right after Force.

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