August 18, 2016

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Going Rogue at a Major Event: Jeskai Tempo

Hello and welcome back to Going Rogue, where winning isn’t the goal but it often happens anyway.

This past weekend, though, winning was very much the goal, as I took my favourite pseudo-brew to Syracuse to compete in my first constructed SCG Open event.

I call it a pseudo-brew because almost every card in the 75 is a Modern staple of some form or another, but odds are good that you haven’t seen them mashed together quite like this before.

One part Jeskai Nahiri, one part UR Delver, I present to you the Jeskai Delverless Delver deck that took me closer to Day 2 than I expected to get.

Alex’s Beloved Jeskai Delverless Delver

Creatures: (11)
Grim Lavamancer
Snapcaster Mage
Young Pyromancer
Vendilion Clique
Bedlam Reveler

Spells: (31)
Gitaxian Probe
Serum Visions
Spell Snare
Spell Pierce
Remand
Path to Exile
Vapor Snag
Burst Lightning
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Helix
Electrolyze

Land: (18)
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Hallowed Fountain
Sacred Foundry
Sulfur Falls
Island
Plains
Mountain

Sideboard: (15)
Dispel
Engineered Explosives
Spreading Seas
Surgical Extraction
Celestial Purge
Disdainful Stroke
Echoing Truth
Negate
Twisted Image
Wear // Tear
Vendilion Clique

When I first put this deck together in February, (albeit in a slightly different configuration), it was an absolute beast. It picks smaller creature decks apart, tempos out the larger ones, and has a strong aggro game plan against control.

The obvious missing piece – Delver of Secrets – intentionally absent because it’s simply not reliable enough, even in a deck with 31 spells. A turn two flipped and protected Delver can indeed be lights out versus slow-to-develop opponents, but there are simply less ways to defend against a properly-utilized Young Pyromancer, and spending the first turn to craft your hand or gauge the matchup is far more valuable in my experience. In fact I’m going to go as far as to say that without Brainstorm or other ways of setting Delver up for the flip, it’s simply not a tournament-caliber card. *cue arguments*

As the meta has shifted over the second quarter of the year, the deck admittedly developed some weaknesses. The appearance of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet not only made Jund a harder matchup, but also inflated its presence in the meta. The unbanning of Ancestral Vision gave Grixis and Jeskai Control decks further benefits in the long-game which proved difficult to overcome – later also adding Nahiri, the Harbinger to this list of control concerns. The replacing of Scapeshift decks with Primeval TitanThrough the Breach lists introduced an awkward aggro-versus-control decision dilemma. And most notably the emergence of Dredge decks made counterspells and bolts a pretty losing proposition.

I was discouraged over the summer, and jumped from list to list indecisively in anticipation of this event, but recognized at the end of the day that I could tweak the list I was most comfortable with and learn how to play it optimally to mitigate its newfound weaknesses.

Adapting

The list was always pretty tight, as the Bolt-Remand-Snap-Pyromancer core occupies a lot of slots on its own, but though extensive testing I was able to craft a 75 that seemed to best address the matchups I could expect to wind up in.

Adding a maindeck Path to Exile was the most significant of these concessions, and was a nod to acknowledging that I couldn’t reliably compete in game one without an answer somewhere to bolt-proof life-gaining threats. It had traditionally been a sideboard card for this deck, since it gives up both tempo and card advantage, but Kalitas, Thought-Knot Seer, Wurmcoil Engine and even Tarmogoyf can only be Remanded and Vapor Snagged for so long.

The next was testing Bedlam Reveler, and finding that its windfall of card advantage was more than worth the times I was stuck with it in hand, either because I couldn’t cast it yet, or because I couldn’t afford to discard a crucial Remand against a suspected (or known) bomb. This is a stellar tool for aggressive and tempo-based red decks, and helped both counteract the disadvantage of playing the one Path and also complement it in the decks it was good against. As much as I like the card though, one is the right number here, even though I have won every single game I resolved it in.

These two changes cost the deck a Grim Lavamancer and a Vendilion Clique.

Burst Lightning, the most unusual card in the main, had actually been a mainstay since the brew was young. While I seldom get to kick it in an 18-mana deck, it’s a boon when I do, and neither Izzet Charm nor Searing Blaze lived up to its performance at any point during testing.

The rest was primarily sideboard work, as the final sideboard looks very little like where I started.

[toggle title=”Initial Sideboard”]

    • 2 Path to Exile
    • 2 Stony Silence
    • 2 Kor Firewalker
    • 2 Dispel
    • 2 Negate
    • 1 Celestial Purge
    • 1 Surgical Extraction
    • 2 Crumble to Dust
    • 1 Ojutai’s Command

[/toggle]

Disdainful Stroke is an unexpected slam-dunk in a world of Nahiris, Kalitases, Tasigurs, Primeval Titans, Cryptic Commands, Scapeshifts, Collected Company, Chord of Calling, Kiki-Resto pieces, and everything in Eldrazi and Tron lists.

Spreading Seas is a huge “keep it simple, stupid” improvement over Crumble to Dust, as efficient tempo spells are the name of the game.

Twisted Image does an incredible amount of work, taking down dorks, Spellskites, Ornithopters, Signal Pests, and even putting Tarmogoyf and Kalitas into bolt range. Since the event, I’ve actually moved it to the main over the one-of Path.

Meanwhile for the rest of the tools I sought versatility (Engineered Explosives wound up being my most-used sideboard card), and gave Dredge the respect it deserves with a second Surgical Extraction. (Nerfing their Bloodghasts while tapped out and getting a Pyromancer token out of it is sweeter than the first day of spring.)

But enough jibber jabber, let’s see how it actually went down.

So How Did I Do?

5-4. Nothing to write an article about (er… I mean…), but a result I was very happy with.

I was happy with this outcome for two main reasons. The first of which is that I’m not a tournament grinder, and all nine of my opponents were, so I felt like the rookie center that wound up leading the second line. The second is that when I went into my final match at 5-3, there was still a good chance that 6-3 would be a day-two-making record, so I spent the whole day in contention, which is more than I expected.

It turned out that 6-2-1 was where the line was drawn (top 64 make day two plus everyone tied in points with 64th position – and 65th was the last 6-2-1), but being able to play my final match with a chance at advancing on the line was a major win in my books.

For my own learning benefit, as well as for those curious about how the deck works, I did my best to take notes during my matches. I would highly advise this to anyone new to a major tournament, as I wound up learning as much about my deck during these nine matches as I did during the 50+ testers that preceded it.

Expand any of these if you’re curious. (Know that if you intend to read them all, get comfortable first.)

[toggle title=”Match One – Merfolk (2-0) | 1-0″]
I lost the die roll, but won the deck roll. Bolts versus fish was a very gentle welcome to the event.

I blindly kept an interaction-heavy seven with two lands, and he went down to six and opened with the ideal Island – Aether Vial. Gee, I wonder.

I cast Serum Visions, leave a third land on top and bottom a Remand. He plays a Silvergill Adept which I can’t Helix on my turn with his Vial on 1 (in case of Cursecatcher), so I pass. Thankfully, he ticks the Vial up to two and flashes in a lord while the Adept attacks, and I get to Helix the lord and net a life.

He plays another Adept and passes, and I get to stick a Young Pyromancer with Vapor Snag up to let my Elemental token trade for one of his adepts, despite him vialing in another lord. The game was looking bad for him, and getting the the Path to Exile he pointed at my Pyromancer hit with a Spell Pierce led him to scoop with 13 life still left.

Sideboard:
In: 2 Engineered Explosives, 1 Wear // Tear, 1 Echoing Truth, 1 Vendilion Clique
Out: 4 Remand, 1 Spell Pierce

In game two I’m blessed with a similarly interactive hand, and am able to effectively spend my first three turns bolt, helix, snap-bolting his threats to untap on turn four with his board reduced to a Mutavault and a Silvergill Adept and my life total kept high at 15.

My turn four Young Pyromancer quickly ate a Gut Shot, but not before making a token off a Gitaxian Probe. Seeing a hand still ripe with two-mana lords, I cast an Engineered Explosives on two and passed the turn back.

This put us in a favorable lock for the next few turns, as he wouldn’t swing his 2/1 into my 1/1, nor would he take his Vial off two until I cracked the Explosives. I could handle his three-drops and Mutavaults with removal, as I continued to craft my hand, and a low-devotion Master of Waves isn’t something I’m scared of.

Eventually I played another Pyromancer and had enough ammunition to make a small token army, and he was forced to play multiple bodies on defense, giving me enough reason to crack the explosives.

The tables were almost turned with an aggressive sequence though, where he cast a Lord of Atlantis and then flashed in Master of Waves on my end step (and I immediately Pathed the latter), and then next turn cast a Kira, Great Glass-Spinner and a vialed in a second Master of Waves on his own turn, making five tokens to equal my own.

I couldn’t actually deal with the second Master without first killing Kira, as despite having two Snapcasters in hand, I only get one shot at Snap-Path in my one-Path deck. I awkwardly couldn’t Helix-Snap-Bolt it because my only remaining land would be a fetch which I’d need to Spell Snare his Negate I’d seen twelve or so turns ago – but I’d just put a Vapor Snag on top of my library as another way to deal with Masters, and I couldn’t afford to shuffle it away.

Had I not thought this through thoroughly, I could have misstepped here and cost myself the game, but thankfully it was early in the day and my wits were still sharp.

I untapped, drew the Snag, used it to hit Kira’s shield, then Helixed her, Snap-Pathed the Master, Spell Snared the Negate, swung to bring him to three, and sat back happily with Snap-Bolt up next turn as he optimistically cast yet another token-making four-drop.
[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Eldrazi Death & Taxes (aka Death and Tentacles – make the name stick!!) (2-0) | 2-0″]
Generally speaking, the more four-plus toughness creatures my opponent has, the worse I am. Make them uncounterable with Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls, and the situation quickly gets worse. Despite him going down to six on the play, I wasn’t feeling good about my odds when he curved a Vial into a Tidehollow Sculler, taking my Lightning Helix.

I played a Young Pyromancer, hoping to Electrolyze the Sculler and get my bolt back, but a second Sculler stripped me of that option, and a follow-up pair of Thought-Knot Seers (thankfully one of which I got to Remand for a turn) kept me low on removal.

However I was rich in cantrips, and was able to frustrate his offense enough with chump blockers for the 4/4s that he came in with the 2/2s as well and forced me to trade off my Pyromancer to avoid death. This proved to be a huge mistake, as reclaiming my Electrolyze was the catalyst to a sequence of events where I also got back the helix, Snap-block-helixed one Thought-Knot and survived the other at two life, and quickly took the game back over with a second Pyromancer and a little luck not sending a Reality Smasher my way.

Sideboard:
Out: 2 Spell Pierce, 2 Remand
In: 2 Spreading Seas, 1 Wear // Tear, 1 Echoing Truth

Match two was less dramatic by far. I kept a seven with a Pyro, Spell Snare for his Sculler, a bolt, and several draw spells.

He didn’t lead with a vial, and his turn two and three Leonin Arbiters ate removal rather than the Snare, and I effortlessly overwhelmed him with elemental tokens and Vapor Snags to keep the board clear and my Pyro safe from attempted Wasteland Strangler takedowns.

He didn’t hit me once, and I took myself down to 14, then back up to 19.

We exchanged sideboard swaps after the match and he showed me that he removed all three Reality Smashers, presumably playing around the countermagic I lightened up on. With eight-plus disruption spells, this seemed like a massive miscalculation. Never do this.
[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Grixis Control, feat. a 10-spell stack (0-2) | 2-1″]
I dread this matchup, but thankfully my opponent has a delightful Southern drawl that somehow eases the suffering. It’s a tough match to win in the first place, and it became immediately apparent that he also knew his deck extremely well, as he made a lot of very smart control decisions.

Game one I’m on the draw yet again, and despite a good seven, it’s a value blowout in his favour. I try to be the aggressor, but there’s only so much of a board I can develop through Kolaghan’s Command before he plays a T4 Kalitas. I have the Vapor Snag for it, and a Snapcaster and Remand in hand too, but I can only play that game so long. Instead though, he doesn’t replay it, and goes for a Tasigur with mana up instead, which I can only afford to Remand once because of the Kalitas I can’t let resolve. I don’t have enough tokens to swing through the 4/5, and he Cryptic Commands my attempt to take it down on defense with blocks + bolt, and it’s all downhill from there.

Sideboard:
In: 2 Dispel, 1 Surgical Extraction, 1 Negate, 1 Disdainful Stroke, 1 Vendilion Clique, 1 Celestial Purge
Out: 2 Lightning Helix, 2 Electrolyze, 2 Spell Pierce, 1 Vapor Snag

Sideboarding here is awkward, because on the play I certainly have a chance at winning aggressively, but I also need to plan for the likelihood of the game going long. For example, I’d like to keep my Spell Pierces to protect an early Pyromancer, but it’s effectively card disadvantage after turn 4-5, outside of picking off a greedy Cryptic Command.

I did manage to come out of the gate hot with a Grim Lavamancer and a Young Pyro that made a few tokens before eating a Terminate, but he stabilized at seven life with enough mana up that I couldn’t just aggressively throw bolts at him. He had resolved two Ancestral Visions, so if I was going to win any counter wars, it would be on efficiency rather than attrition.
After getting him down to four, and sitting at eight myself, I bolted him at the end of his turn, trying to commit his resources to a counter war I thought I might win and see if I could topdeck another point of burn FTW. It was a bit of a longshot, but I was losing soon if I didn’t try.

My hand was bolt, Surgical Extraction, Spell Snare, Dispel, and Gitaxian Probe.

What resulted was the largest stack I’ve ever been involved in while playing Modern.

      1. I bolted him.
      2. He cast Snapcaster Mage, which I let resolve, targeting his Countersquall.
      3. I cast Surgical Extraction, targeting Countersquall, going down to a critical six in doing so.
      4. Before that resolved, he bolted me, which I let resolve and went down to three.
      5. He cast another Snapcaster Mage, which I Spell Snared.
      6. He cast another Snapcaster Mage, which I let resolve, targeting his Lightning Bolt.
      7. He flashed back his second Bolt for lethal, which I dispelled.

Ten spells later, everything else resolved, leaving him with two Snapcasters on the board, at one life, a deck stripped of Countersqualls, and tapped out with a revealed hand of Kolaghan’s Command and Tasigur, and me at three with an empty board and only a Gitaxian Probe in hand. On one hand, I’m now dead if I draw blank, but on the other, him having a board also makes a Vapor Snag lethal.

I untapped and drew a promising Serum Visions, cast it drawing a land and seeing two more, cast the Probe, drawing another, and casting that to draw a Remand and extend the handshake.

The kicker is that early in this game, I had trouble calculating what to do with my Lavamancer – attack for one or shock for two – and naturally there was at least one instance in which attacking was the wrong call. As has been the case in testing with this deck, tight decisions around single points of damage often wind up mattering.

Frankly though, I was okay not going to a third game, as my odds were low, and this was a taxing match.
[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Affinity (2-0) | 3-1″]
Yet again, I’m on the draw, but yet again I get to keep a decent seven. Still, a decent seven is little match for a turn two 7/1 Vault Skirge.

To make matters worse, he plays a turn three Ornithopter and Arcbound Ravager which I point a bolt at as soon as he attacks, leaving up a fetch for the emergency Vapor Snag.

If he wanted to maintain decent stats on the swinging Skirge, his choices were nothing, a 4/4 Ravager, or a 3/5 Ornithopter. Given that I looked like a Path-rich deck at this point, he wisely went the Thopter way, and I snagged it and went down to 8 from the Skirge, Snap-bolting it the next turn while he couldn’t afford the BB to move the Plating over to a Blinkmoth.

I gradually let him peck me down to five, and tested his one-land hand for Galvanic Blast by fetching myself down to four but with Lightning Helix mana up. It worked like a charm, and I got to Snap-Helix my way back up to six before taking the game over with the Bedlam Reveler that had been weighing my hand down for a long time.

Sideboard:
Out: 4 Remand, 1 Bedlam Reveler (but thank you for your hard work), 1 Spell Pierce
In: 2 Engineered Explosives, 2 Spreading Seas, 1 Wear // Tear, 1 Twisted Image

Game two was a different affair, as I Vapor Snagged the early 6/1 Vault Skirge again, which he couldn’t immediately replay. That was the perfect window for me to stick a Pyromancer and go off with tokens, comfortably taking 4-5 damage per turn from a Signal Pest and some Nexii, and outracing him down to zero on turn six.

As an aside, this was the third consecutive match in which I’d been asked “… what deck are you playing?!?”. Ooooooooh that tickles me in a very special way.
[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Burn (1-2) | 3-2″]
I roll a twelve, he rolls a twelve. I roll a ten, he rolls a twelve. That’s magic, I guess.

Leading with a tapped Sacred Foundry, I’m misled to believe I’m facing Jeskai Control, but thankfully don’t have the Serum Visions to prompt a fetch-shock start. Instead he sticks a turn-two Eidolon of the Great Revel, which I get to fetch a basic and bolt, going down to 17.

I play a Young Pyromancer as a defensive investment, and he follows up with a second Eidolon and a Lava Spike to the dome. I untap, lead with a Lightning Helix, and start enacting Plan A, winning the game at 10 life a few turns later.

Sideboard:
Out: 4 Gitaxian Probe, 2 Remand, 1 Vendilion Clique
In: 2 Dispel, 2 Engineered Explosives, 1 Celestial Purge, 1 Echoing Truth, 1 Wear // Tear

He leads with a Monastery Swiftspear and starts chipping away. My early Grim Lavamancer is met with a Searing Blaze, and my 18-land deck is failing exactly how you would expect it to versus a pair of Goblin Guides.

I manage to stabilize the board with an Engineered Explosives and Dispel mana up, but I can’t counter the Lava Spike and he outwaits me with his Skullcrack versus my Helix.

Sideboard:
Out: 1 Remand
In: 1 Spreading Seas

I’m tempted with just a Steam Vents for land with two bolts and a Burst Lightning, but I can’t take that risk. Top two cards are land of course, but so it goes.

Instead I keep a questionable six with two Snapcasters and only a Vapor Snag for removal, but it’s playable enough.

He doesn’t have any early threats, and I get to Spell Snare a turn two Eidolon, but I’m drawing bolts and so is he, and that doesn’t bode well for me. I stick a Snapcaster just to have presence on board and it’s quickly met with a predictable Searing Blaze.

I don’t damage him once until I double-bolt him on the stack of my own impending death.

I learned an interesting thing from my opponent while discussing sideboards, as he told me that he boarded out a lot of his creatures against me in game three, realizing that he was better suited to trade spells for damage than spells for spells. Pretty clever, for a burn player. *cue arguments*

On the plus side, I improved to four consecutive “What are you playing” comments, so in my own special way I’m 4-1, not 3-2.
[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Burn (2-0) | 4-2″]
Ideally I don’t want a third loss, so I’m now faced with the challenge to win four straight. Opening with a Sacred Foundry into a Grim Lavamancer (him, not me) – I’m not entirely sure what I’m up against, but quickly feel a pit in my stomach as the Goblin Guides come out.

Burn is actually a half-decent matchup for me though, so despite my recent loss, I’m confident that I can Helix my way out of this one. Indeed I do, and coast my way to victory on the back of a Snapcaster and my own Lavamancer clearing the way.

Sideboard:
Out: 4 Gitaxian Probe, 2 Remand, 1 Vendilion Clique
In: 2 Dispel, 2 Engineered Explosives, 1 Celestial Purge, 1 Echoing Truth, 1 Wear // Tear

Despite what I learned from the last match, there isn’t really a different sideboarding angle I can take, so I repeat the same and cross my fingers for success.

I don’t draw any way to gain life this time, but a hand with red and blue spells does the trick just as well too sometimes. I luck into my Lavamancer again and control his board at little cost, and get some absurd value off Dispel and Spell Pierce as he tries to go for the Searing Blaze twice.

An Electrolyze goes upstairs because the board is empty, and I bolt-snap-bolt him out of the game in no time, surviving with ten life.

This guy doesn’t seem to care what it is I’m playing, so I’m now 4-2 either way you want to look at it.
[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Jund feat. Game 1 Punting like a n00b (1-2) | 4-3″]
This deck specializes in efficiently dealing with smaller threats. Tarmogoyfs, Liliana of the Veil, and Kalitas are a bit of a different story, and Scavenging Ooze is no walk in the park either.

It’s not the worst matchup in the world, but a third Spell Snare was a contender for the sideboard for this matchup alone, to give you a idea of the challenge. It’s certainly possible to tempo Jund out, but it requires some early offense before focusing on interacting, as going 1-for-1 all game is a losing proposal.

Game one delivered as expected. A turn one Inquisition of Kozilek grabbed an Electrolyze, and with my turn two Young Pyromancer getting hit with a Terminate, I was behind early and found it difficult to catch up. Similar to my Eldrazi D&T matchup, I did manage to very effectively use Snapcaster Mage on defense, though, with the block-bolt approach, taking down Kalitas without going down a card. In doing so, I was holding on better than expected.

Eventually, though, I was overrun by Raging Ravines. This was likely going to happen eventually either way, but it’s worth noting that I made the massive gaffe here of letting the Ravine get a +1/+1 counter and move itself out of bolt range. I didn’t leave up enough mana to flashback a bolt for the first one, and had to rely on Snap-Block-Bolt the turn after instead. The impact of being down the extra 2/1 body was devastating, as the second Ravine also got to grow to 4/4, definitively out of range at that point.

Played correctly, there’s a 33% chance I’d turn that game around. Whoops.

Sideboard:
Out: 2 Gitaxian Probe, 1 Lightning Helix, 1 Electrolyze, 1 Spell Pierce
In: 2 Spreading Seas, 1 Celestial Purge, 1 Engineered Explosives, 1 Negate

Game two started strong for me, as I resolved a Young Pyro on turn two with a follow up Gitaxian Probe for the token. It immediately met its Terminate fate, but that effectively put me ahead a turn, and I’d gotten to see that my opponent only had a third land in hand, so Spreading Seas was about to do some work.

I had the Spell Pierce for Liliana, so I decided to limit his green rather than his black, and was happy to lock down a Raging Ravine at the same time. With Vapor Snags and Remands at the ready, I gave his Tarmogoyf a ride to bounceytown, and slowly chipped away at him until I had him down to five and he’d stabilized the board. I cast Bedlam Reveler into its immediate Terminate-ion, but its effect drew me a bolt, so I was just waiting on another burn spell or a Snapcaster to seal the deal.

And I waited, and I waited as the lands flooded in. His board quickly outsized mine, and he took me down to two after I’d drawn land three turns in a row. I threw my bolt at him to take him to two at his end step because why not, and shrugged as I flipped over my top card: Burst Lightning. Playing with flair achievement unlocked.

Sideboard:
Out: 1 Gitaxian Probe
In: 1 Spell Pierce

Game three was unfortunately far less interesting. I had to mulligan down to six, and had an average-at-best hand greeted with Inquisition-Tarmogoyf-Inquisition-Inquisition.

I stalled the game out a bit with Snapcasters and managed to peck him down to ten, but this was a quick one.
[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Scapeshift (2-0) | 5-3″]
All of my Valakut-based testing had been against Prime Time variants, so I wasn’t sure what to expect against the traditional spell-based approach, but this turned out to be a walk in the park. In part, it was because tempoing out Scapeshift and Cryptic Command is easy, but it was made even easier by drawing five Young Pyromancers over the first five turns of both games combined.

Game one I went first against his mull to six and resolved Pyros on turns two and three, and with a glut of Gitaxian Probes at the ready, I managed to get the elusive turn four kill. (Shocked himself for three, three pyro attacks for six, five elemental attacks for five, and a pair of bolts for the final six.)

Noteworthy observation was seeing him play a Prismatic Omen.

Sideboard:
Out: 1 Path to Exile, 1 Electrolyze, 1 Bedlam Reveler, 2 Vapor Snag
In: 1 Vendilion Clique, 1 Negate, 1 Disdainful Stroke, 1 Wear // Tear, 1 Twisted Image

Yes, I forgot to bring in my Dispels against a blue control deck. I’m not accustomed to playing eight rounds of Magic, so my head was a bit scrambled at this point. (Note: Don’t eat the convention centre food – it doesn’t help!)

Thankfully, my opponent decided his best odds were to shave down his countermagic game and focus on getting his lands online as early as possible, as he later showed me he pulled out a pair of Cryptics, among other cards.

I had a slow but keepable start, and did my first four-five points of damage with an attacking Lavamancer while attacking his ramp spells and Prismatic Omen with counters.

I chopped him down to seven with a helix at he end of his turn, putting myself up to 19 and out of range should he survive to make his seventh land drop and Scapeshift me. He wouldn’t though, as I had Bolt-Bolt-Burst Lightning up next turn, and got to do the fun Remand-your-own-spell thing against his counter-lethal Negate, recasting my burn for the easy win.

He got his revenge during side events the next day though, where I got stuck on three lands without white (and three helices in hand), and then two lands, as he threw mountains at me without any resistance.
[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Affinity (1-2) feat. 35 minute game two | 5-4″]
As I mentioned before, I went into this match knowing that odds were reasonable for me to make day two if I won it, so a lot was riding on it and I did my best to pull what remaining mental faculties I had together.

I won the draw and shocked myself to cast a Serum Visions, filling my hand up with bolt effects. I was pretty happy when his first turn was just a land, a Mox Opal, a Springleaf Drum, and a Vault Skirge, as I had blindly crafted a strong anti-affinity start.

The Skirge died immediately, but what I didn’t anticipate happening was him following it up with three consecutive Etched Champions. I couldn’t turn off Metalcraft, thanks to his other artifacts being noncreature, and my offensive game was hiding elsewhere in my deck, so I quickly died while doing almost nothing.

Sideboard:
Out: 4 Remand, 2 Gitaxian Probe
In: 2 Engineered Explosives, 2 Spreading Seas, 1 Wear // Tear, 1 Twisted Image

I don’t recall my rationale for sideboading slightly differently this time, but I know I’d become more careful with Probes as the day went on.

Game two can only be described as epic. It was the longest game I’d played against affinity ever, and there were multiple turns where one of us couldn’t kill the other because of one something – damage, blocker, or mana.

The beginning didn’t go overly well for me, as he had an early Cranial Plating on an Ornithopter, but I was able to Wear // Tear the Plating and keep his board under control… atleast until he drew into back-to-back Etched Champions again, demonstrating the rare scenario in which Remand can matter against Affinity.

I responded with back to back Pyromancer-Snap-Helix-Pyromancer, though, and amassed a defense which was adequate to stop his attacks by having him dead on the crackback if he attacked with anything at all, if I had any playable, even though I couldn’t block anything. The trouble was, the same was true in reverse.

His board was two Etched Champions, an Inkmoth Nexus, a Blinkmoth Nexus, a Memnite and an Ornithopter. He was at five. Mine was two Young Pyros, a Snapcaster, and one elemental token, and soon-to-be more. I was at eleven.

My plan was to simply hold back until I could make another pair of tokens, but I’d drawn two consecutive Spell Pierces and had no targets to cast them. I’d have Pierced my own bolt at this point (and paid for it), just for the extra bodies.

Before I could draw something relevant though, I was that interrupted by his one perfect draw: Cranial Plating. With a Springleaf Drum in play, he could equip and deal twelve to send me packing. Except that he only had eight mana available, and would need to activate at least one of his X-Moth Nexii in order to get the required 11 power. So I Spell Pierced it once, and he paid it, and then again, and had him realize that paying for the second and the equip cost would leave him short the mana to make the lands into an artifact for the full pump and would leave me at one, and that actually paying for the Spell Pierce at all would leave him dead thanks to tapping a blocker for the Springleaf (no longer a maybe, thanks to the new elementals). So the late game Spell Pierces somehow mattered, and I got to untap unscathed, now with five elementals.

I drew an Electrolyze, and started doing the math. Any way I sliced it though, I was one off too. I could attack in and get two through, and burn him down to one. I could kill either the Thopter or one of the manlands (the Inkmoth made them both effectively 2/2), get in for three, and have him down to two. Further damage on top would do it, but I didn’t want to chance it. Similarly, though, I didn’t want to chance another Plating situation, so I needed to cut down his artifact numbers either way, so I attacked with everything. He blocked the Pyros with his Champions, the Snapcaster with the Memnite, and three of the five elementals with the rest.

I needed to cast the Electrolyze before the Pyros died, but I gambled that he’d give me a good opportunity to do so, and he did by pumping the Blinkmoth. In response, I Electrolyzed it for one and him for one, leaving him with only the Champions and the Thopter and at two life, and myself with only four elemental tokens (still one too few), and praying for a bolt on top.

I got a fetch. But at least he was now attacking for a maximum of nine, and was dead if he attacked with anything.

I played the fetch and cracked it to go down to ten at his end of turn, and asked him to topdeck me something nice. It was a bit of a convoluted finish, but it worked out. I drew a Bedlam Reveler, cast it for two, drew two lands and an Engineered Explosives, set it on three, blew it up, and swung through for lethal.

PHEW.

No addition sideboarding for game three (As we had five minutes on the clock and neither of us would survive a draw.)

I was worried about speed on this one, so I happily accepted a hand of seven with two Pyromancers and some cantrips, hoping to go on early offense.

He started, though, and did the thing everyone hates Affinity for: He dumped his entire hand of seven cards on the table, and said go. Land, Mox Opal, Ornithopter, Two Memnites, Springleaf Drum, and Vault Skirge. Thankfully none of these were immediately threatening, but suddenly my Pyromancer plan didn’t look so hot.

I drew a timely bolt, and hoped to stifle his life gaining plans at the very least.

But everything fell apart when he topdecks and played an Arcbound Ravager. I bolted the Skirge, knowing I could bluff the Vapor Snag to prevent him from wrecking me with the Ravager.

It worked, but the only problem now is that I needed to hold blue mana up until I could deliver on the promise. He drew another Skirge, and a Plating the turn after it, and my plan fell to pieces. My bluff lasted long enough to take us to turn five or six, but there were still two minutes left in the round when I died with him above thirty.

Not a ton I could have done about that one.
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So despite missing day two, I come away from my first SCG event pleased enough with my performance, and certainly proud that I was able to get as far as I did with an offbeat deck that no one else plays and whose design I can claim partial credit for. (The general idea was a Brian Braun-Duin brew that no one ran with, sadly.)

It’s a very fun deck for anyone who used to enjoy the post-board gameplay of Splinter Twin decks, and I’d highly suggest giving it a try.

After almost 6000 words of typing though, I’m done for this week. I hope you enjoyed this different edition of Going Rogue. Tune in against next week when I finally get around to talking about this Simic-based combo deck that I’ve been promising for a while. It’s a silly one, so come prepared for nonsense.

Until then, have fun, and may the force be with brew.