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May 15, 2015

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GP Toronto and a PPTQ with Pusheen Junk

I hadn’t played standard in quite some time and I didn’t have a deck. Yet, I was planning on going to GP Toronto. I asked two people with a polar opposite approach to the game what I should play. Canadian Icon Phil Samms recommended Abzan Aggro, because he’s boring and old, and, to my surprise, Ron Mackenzie suggested a sort of Junk Hybrid deck he had been playing on MTGO. Normally Ron plays control, so I figured I had to give the deck some consideration. His reasoning was that all the creatures were essentially spells and it’s not his fault WoTC keeps printing creatures that are so damn good. All the while I had been talking with my friend Dylan about a Sultai Whip deck I might play as well.

In typical fashion, I had not decided what deck to play the night before the GP, and put in literally zero games with any of the decks I was considering. Phil Samms was sick and not playing in the GP (again, old), and I considered just taking his blessing and his Abzan Aggro deck and goin’ in with it. I played a few games and felt horrible with the deck (because I’m bad not because the deck is bad). Still unsure about what to play, Phil said that he knew what I would do: “Adam, you’ll play the stupid do-nothing-durdle-deck because that’s what you always do.” He’s right, so I present to you the list I played at GP Toronto.

Pusheen Junk – Adam Benn

Creatures: (27)
Elvish Mystic
Sylvan Caryatid
Fleecemane Lion
Den Protector
Deathmist Raptor
Courser of Kruphix
Siege Rhino
Whisperwood Elemental

Spells: (9)
Mastery of the Unseen
Abzan Charm
Ultimate Price
Dromoka’s Command

Lands: (24)
Sandsteppe Citadel
Windswept Heath
Temple of Plenty
Llanowar Wastes
Temple of Malady
Caves of Koilos
Mana Confluence

Sideboard: (15)
Dragonlord Dromoka
Elspeth, Pusheen’s Champion
Mastery of the Unseen
Self-Inflicted Wound
Foul-Tongue Invocation
Ultimate Price
Dromoka’s Command

The morning of the GP, I had still never played any games with the deck. I realized I had forgotten Glare of Heresy in the sideboard and just added a Nissa instead, so I was a little worried about Elspeth. During my two byes, I was lucky enough to get some games in with Guy Belley, a local Ottawa player on Abzan Aggro, to get a feel for how my deck would play. Turns out that the deck wasn’t too durdly after all, and could have some very explosive starts. Turn 1 Elvish Mystic is probably one of the best things you can be doing in Standard, and making a turn 2 Raptor or Courser and potentially a turn 3 Rhino can give you a commanding board position. Ron told me that the toughest matchup was RG Dragons (with Atarka), and gave me some other sideboard advice before I started playing in round 3.

My first matchup? RG Dragons against a very nice player from Toronto named Dane. Game one I was on the draw, and after he led on no mana dork into a Draconic Roar (with no dragon revealed), I knew I had a shot. I was able to Dromoka’s Command to sacrifice a Boon Satyr bestowed on Rattleclaw Mystic and fight another guy for some serious blowouts and steal the game. Game 2 is better for my deck, as I bring in Price and Elspeth, and I was able to steal that game on the back of recurred Ultimate Prices from Den Protector.

 My next matchup was against Jacob Wilson playing UW Control, and I was immediately worried about my lack of Glare of Heresy in the sideboard, as I lost a quick game 1 to Ojutai into Elspeth. Luckily, Den Protector would prevent further problems from the Elspeth tokens in games 2 and 3, and I was able to steal the match. At one point, I was stuck on 4 lands, and Jacob was able to pop his Perilous Vault, untap, and play Elspeth. He was at 2 life. I shrugged and played 2 face-up Den Protectors for the win.

My next match was against GP Richmond winner Brian Liu playing the same list that ended up winning the GP. I have seen Brian at PTQs and other tournaments in the past, and he is always a friendly opponent and hopes to play a good game of Magic. I was able to 2-0 this matchup on the back of turn 1 Elvish Mystic into threats + Dromoka’s Command both games. Dromoka’s Command, I should note, is one hell of magic card.

Next round I played Ray Perez, who was playing the same Naya Walkers deck that Adam Jansen, Ben Moir, and the rest of their team had been playing to some decent success at the PT. Our game 1 was absolutely insane. Ray ramped into Xenagos, Sarkhan, and then Elspeth off of a Caryatid, and despite Elspeth ticking up several times, Mastery of the Unseen was enough to put me well above 40 life and steal the game with constant pressure from manifests and Deathmist Raptor recursion. Game 2 was less eventful, as I had a very aggressive start that he was unable to recover from. A lot of the aggressive starts from the deck post-board have been quite punishing, as many players boarded out their Coursers against me, fearing Dromoka’s command, and thus provided little resistance besides an easily fightable Fleecemane Lion early. Don’t get me wrong, though, as boarding out the Courser’s is a must when I will potentially have 4 Commands post-board.

Next round I played against RG Dragons piloted by Dave Goldfarb, who was a fun opponent to play against and a really friendly guy throughout the rest of the weekend when we spoke. Game 1 he absolutely kicked my teeth in. An early Xenagos ramped him into a Stormbreath and then a Dragonlord Atarka and that was all she wrote. Game 2 he kept a sketcher and I conceded on his turn 4 after playing lands and nothing else. Game 3 was close, but I was able to race a Stormbreath Dragon for exactly lethal thanks to a lucky Siege Rhino off the top when I was dead on board otherwise.

In round 8, I played against Atarka Red. I did not know what my opponent was playing, and I was on the draw. I kept Forest, Windswept Heath, Elvish Mystic, Courser, Courser, Deathmist Raptor, Mastery of the Unseen, and could not have been happier with my keep when my opponent played a turn 1 Foundry Street Denizen. My Elvish Mystic did not immediately die to a Wildslash, and I was off to the races. Despite getting triple Atarka’s Commanded, I was able to secure the win. Game 2 played out similarly, except that Dromoka’s Command was able to prevent Stoke the Flames on my Courser and fight a Zurgo, making it much less competitive. 

In round 9, I played against Brad Nelson on Abzan Aggro. I was able to tempo him out game 1, despite a really bad block on my behalf. Game 2 was a blowout and I got nut curved into threats backed up with removal. Game 3 was interesting, and I had a few lines that I am not sure were the best, but I tried to set up lethal hoping he was holding nothing. He was, in fact, but then he ripped a Self-Inflicted Wound into a Den Protector to deal me exactly lethal.
I was pretty bummed to not 9-0 Day 1 after being so close, but I was off to a good start at 8-1 with excellent breakers.

Day 2 started off okay, as I was paired against Atarka Red and was able to win both games on the draw. My opponent this round was a player from Montreal who was very fun to play against, and we both lucked out by sitting next to Andrew Noworaj, who played a turn 2 Fleecemane Lion against his Bant Heroic opponents turn 1 Lagona Band Trailblazer and asked if his opponent would now like to concede. It was tough to keep a straight face as we played the rest of our match. By the way, if you are looking to beat Atarka Red, Pusheen Junk has a very good matchup against it, as most of your creatures cost 3 or less (besides 6 of them, but 4 of those are Rhino so whatever), and are generally more powerful than anything Atarka Red is doing.

My next round was against a grinder from Tennessee named Jack Fogle, who absolutely ranched me with turn 5 Ojutai’s both games. I drew the Foul-Tongue too late in game 2, and he had the counter for it and that was it. I smiled and shook his hand, and we chatted a bit about school and how tough it is to play in a lot of tournaments while in University. I was a bit sad to be x-2 at this point, but my opponent played very well and was pleasant to play against. A friend of mine actually thought I had won the match after the handshake, seeing how I was smiling, and said I took the loss well. I admit I can get salty just like anyone else, but for whatever reason I find it a much easier pill to swallow when you lose to a good player who is friendly about their victory.

Next, I was paired against Christian Calcano, whose 4 Perilous Vaults post-board were able to completely nullify my grindier gameplan with the third mastery. What a hater. (Calcano is actually the nicest, he just didn’t want to lose to Risen Executioners in the mirror apparently).

Out of top 8 contention at x-3, I was still hoping to have a decent finish. I played Ottawa veteran Matt Lapiere next, who took advantage of my stumble on mana in game 3 to crush me with Abzan Aggro. X-4. What a fall from grace. Hoping to at least top 64 for a decent cash finish, I was resolved to win my next 2 matches.

In round 14, I was paired against literally the saltiest opponent of all time, who seemed to personally offended about the construction of my deck, and whined incessantly as I ground him into the dirt both games with Mastery of the Unseen. I get that people can have bad days playing tournament magic, but I still feel like that is no reason to be unreasonably rude to an opponent you don’t know. I imagine if this was my first GP I would never play in one again after having to play this guy, and would resolve myself to playing Hearthstone only. It is such a disservice to the community to act like this, and I don’t see what it does to help any new players want to continue playing in the tournament scene. Ron said it was because the guy was an SCG Grinder, and typically speaking many of the lower-to-mid tier guys feel entitled. Makes sense, but my god is that a toxic approach to the game.

In round 15, I played against GW devotion, and was able to get recur removal off of Den Protectors to win out both games, giving me an 11-4 finish at 37th place.

After the GP finished, I immediately decided to cut the Foul-Tongue and 1 Self-Inflicted wound for Merciless Executioner in the Esper Matchup. Because we leave in mana dorks (or we have trouble casting our black spells in particular), Merciless Executioner is a good way to get value out of them late and make them sacrifice an Ojutai or Silumgar.

Having made these changes to the list, I played in Standard PPTQ this weekend where I was able to x-0 and double-draw into Top8. I played some Frisbee outside with some of the others that drew in, which is a sweet thing to be doing while others are still fighting for position, and went back in just in time for top8. Looking around the room, it was great to see the top8: all friends and acquaintances! I was happy to see familiar faces doing well, but unfortunately I would have to play against them. In the quarters, I played against Peter Tossello on Abzan aggro. I lost game one due to keeping an insanely sketchy hand, but won a tight game 2 and game 3 in a blowout where Peter unfortunately mulled to 5.

In the semis, I played against Evan Berry on Jeskai Tokens. His deck is absurdly powerful, but Dromoka’s Command is such a beating that the 4th copy post-board makes the matchup tough to lose. Game 3 he got me with the control plan by playing a turn 5 Ojutai, but the game was still close thanks to some poor tournament etiquette. At one point, I had cast a Siege Rhino and passed the turn. The following turn, Evan Treasure Cruised and drew 3. At this point, the judge looked back to our match, having been watching the other semis match, and, while looking directly at Evan’s hand, loudly asked if “Siege Rhino was on the stack?” This immediately gave away that Evan had drawn Disdainful Stroke, and gave me an out to play around it. Instead of casting another Rhino that was in my hand, I chose to resolve the Courser in my hand, hit a land off the top, and was able to play Deathmist Raptor. I don’t take this line under any other circumstances, because I don’t know if I have the 6th land on top, and get completely blown out by Disdainful Stroke when I try and cast the other Rhino in my hand. While I know he might have Stroke post-board, Courser is just too low-impact and an inefficient use of my mana at that point to justify playing around it, whereas a second resolved Rhino will put enough pressure on the board to win.

In the finals, I played against my buddy Brad Young, who was able to win in game 3 on the back of turn 3 Whisperwood, turn 4 Polukranos, Turn 5 Ugin (Elvish Mystic confirmed OP). I am never beating that draw. I was pretty bummed, but it was another good run for Pusheen Junk and I am still happy with the deck.
Having played enough games with the deck, I can say that our toughest matchups seem to be not RG Dragons but rather Abzan Aggro (it’s very close), and anything with Ugin and Perilous Vaults. Exiling permanents can be very tough for us. Vault is the worst, but Ugin is beatable if it doesn’t came down early and you are able to get some manifests going. 

I made some changes to the deck recently, as well, by cutting 2 thoughtseizes from the board for two Nissas to hopefully help with the Vault and Ugin matches, and changing the Ultimate Price in the main to a Murderous Cut, so as to not be a completely dead card in some game 1 matches.

I’d like to give a shoutout to Ron Mackenzie for giving me the list, and to my buddy Payne Dunn from Kingston, who won a PPTQ this last weekend with the deck after I shipped him the list just a few days before! I really think the deck is great, and before I go I’ll provide some quick SB suggestions for popular matchups (feel free to disagree in the comments! Of note, Ron has also cut the Coursers for the third Caryatid, the other Junk Charm, and something else I can’t remember).

Atarka Red:

In: Dromoka’s Command, 2 Ult Price, Duress.
Out: 3 Abzan Charm, 1 Whisperwood Elemental.

Esper Dragons:

In: 2 Thoughtseize, 1 Duress, 1 Mastery of the Unseen, 1 Dragonlord Dromoka, 2 Nissa, Worldwalker, 1 Elspeth, Pusheen’s Champion, 2 Merciless Executioner.
Out: 3 Dromoka’s Command, 3 Abzan Charm, 3 Courser of Kruphix, 1 Murderous Cut

Abzan Aggro: 

In: 2 Elspeth, 1 Self-Inflicted Wound, 1 Glare of Heresy
Out: 3 Courser of Kruhpix, 1 Caryatid (on the play) or 1 Whisperwood (on the draw)

Abzan Midrange:

In: 2 Elspeth, 1 Glare, 1 Mastery.
Out: 3 Courser, 1 Murderous Cut

Sidisi Whip:

In: Dromoka’s Command, Mastery of the Unseen.
Out: 2 Coursers

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about the deck just ask in the comments!