Sunday, February 22, 2015

YCS Tacoma Recap + PPTQ Top 8 Report

I was actually going to post a Tacoma recap last Sunday but it was covered and talked about so much on Youtube that I felt that it would be kind of redundant. The big takeaway from the event was obviously Nekroz, as they took an overwhelming 22 out of the top 32 spots with Shaddolls and Satellas nowhere to be seen in the top 32. My guess that Qlis would be the 2nd most represented deck was correct; I thought BA would do a little better but Nekroz proved to be too bad of a match-up for them. What I was actually most surprised about was there being so many people with complete Nekroz decks due to the absurdly low pull rates of Brionac, Valkyrus and Trishula. I figured most people wouldn't have been able to complete them but I guess if you throw enough money at something it'll work out in the end. I'm glad I'm not in it anymore to have to shell out that kind of money if I wanted to play the best deck. Two local players from my area ended up making day 2 but unfortunately no one on the team did and no one locally managed to top 32. Moving forward I envision the era of Nekroz domination to continue over the next several months since chances are slim the upcoming March list will do anything to the deck. The interesting thing about tier 0 formats is the tech that will inevitably come out of them, an aspect that still excites me where I get to be like "wow I never thought that card would see play".

Yesterday I played in a local Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier (PPTQ) for Magic and managed to make top 8. I think this was only like my 3rd or 4th tournament back into the game so I was very proud of my accomplishment even though I'm still kicking myself over the sub-optimal plays I made which cost me my top 8 match. Rather than doing a whole elaborate tournament report I'll go over the events leading up to the event, what I played at the event, and moving forward.

So the 3 tournaments I played in prior to the PPTQ were 2 FNMs and 1 Tuesday tournament. Besides some playtesting that's all the Magic I've been able to play. My first FNM was with Mardu where I went 2-2 and promptly sold the deck off. The next tournament I played Abzan Aggro and went a terrible 1-3. Now at this point I'm sure you could feel my frustration; I have won a 200+ man regional (albiet that was 8 years ago now) and at one time was ranked 4th in the entire state. I felt like I shouldn't be doing this terrible and began questioning my deck choice, if I was even playing Magic correctly, should I just go back to YGO, etc. Admittedly I haven't been able to put in a lot of time testing but I felt like I had a decent enough understanding of the deck and playing Magic in general that I shouldn't be doing this bad. I contemplated playing Abzan Midrange since midrange has always been my favorite sort of deck to play (not too aggressive but not entirely control-based) and bought the stuff I needed to build that deck. But after testing a bit on Virtual Playtable (basically Magic Workstation) I thought the deck was entirely too slow vs Red-White unless it could stick out a Courser and drop land over a few turns to gain some life or something like double Rhino. End Hostilities was just too slow vs the deck, which is when I realized that there's a world of difference between a 4-cost Wrath and a 5-cost Wrath. The extra turn of potential damage really does add up. I made the switch back to Abzan Aggro (which is kind of poorly named now that I think about it, I will talk about that later), and playtested with it online some more while also doing some research on Jeskai and Mono Red.

Flash forward to like a week or 2 later and I played in the Tuesday tournament last Tuesday when I finally got to play in a tourney with Danny, Corey, Senior, and Shiggs all present. It was nice playing in a tourney with a good chunk of the team there. Shiggs and Danny ended up going 4-1 and I ended up going 3-2. I was actually very content with this performance because my losses were to Jeskai Ascendancy combo and Esper Control. The combo deck ended up winning the tourney where no one could stop it from going off on like turn 2 or 3 and it was just whatever. No one takes losing to that deck into much consideration since it isn't concerned with actually interacting with you. As for my loss vs Esper, it was against someone that is highly regarded in the community both as a judge and player (and all-around good guy) and I did give him a hell of a run in our game 2. If it weren't for his Angel that put him back to 20 life I should've been able to take a game. I was still able to make top 8 due to awesome tie-breakers and it reaffirmed me that I did indeed know how to play Magic and I wasn't playing a deck that just wasn't for me. I think my past results stemmed from poor mulligan choices where I'd keep poor hands just because of being afraid to go down a card.

As for the PPTQ, there were 38 players. I was surprised at the low turnout because the PTQ the week prior had about 80. I guess the change in qualifying structure turned a lot of people off or they just didn't want to shell out another $20 to play after coming off a PTQ the week before.

Round 1: Mardu L 1-2
Game 1 he gets stuck on 3 land and I'm able to overtake him with board presence.
Game 2 is pretty back and forth but I can't keep his fliers in check and he takes it.
Game 3 I keep a 6-card hand that has Forest, Plains, 3 double-black cards (2 Blight 1 Sorrow), and a Siege Rhino. In all honesty this was my mistake and for some reason I thought I could either draw into an Urborg to make my double-black cards live or draw 2 lands to drop a Rhino. Neither of those things happened and I quickly lost the game.
This is exactly what I am talking about when it comes to my poor mulligan choices and I should have gone to 5. I have an inherent fear of going down to 5 cards, but what I need to remember is that losing with a crappy 6 is the same result as losing due to having to go to 5. But with a good 5 you still have the chance to win (hell I have won with going down to 4 before) so it's better to just take that chance. I was also disappointed losing to this person because I could tell he wasn't very good and he made it apparent when he told me something along the lines of "I hope to see you in the finals but I've never finished very well even at locals". At the end of the day he ended up going 3-3, so yea, felt like I got YGO'd there.

Round 2: Sultai W 2-1
Game 1 he drops an early Kiora that I'm unable to deal with and in a few turns gets her ultimate off. I try to play for a few more turns but I can't deal with free 9/9's that come down every turn and scoop it up.
Game 2 he doesn't get much going and I end the game at 40 life between Rhinos, Courser, and Sorin.
Game 3 he had sided into a more aggro-ish build using Deathdealers and makes a crucial misplay by Bile Blight'ing my Deathdealer when he is attacking with his. We go back and forth but I outlast him and draw removal for his things while he doesn't.

Round 3: Mardu W 2-1
Game 1 he gets stuck on 2 land and I curve out pretty much perfectly.
Game 2 I keep a slow hand and don't get anything going as he spot removals my guys while also churning out a board.
Game 3 I'm able to keep his Rabblemasters in check and he doesn't get much going so I take the game fairly easily.

Round 4: Black-White Tokens W 2-1
Game 1 is fairly back and forth but he makes a big board with Monastery Mentor and plays the instant that does X damage and he gains X life where X is the number of creatures he has in play.
Game 2 a lot of "you take life I gain life" shifts between my Sorin and Wingmate, and his creature where I take 1 for each attacking creature while he gains that life. Eventually I out-resource him though and Bile Blight/Drown in Sorrow are just too good vs token decks.
Game 3 Similar to game 2 but he makes a crucial misplay of tapping out for Mentor when he knew I had Drown in hand (revealed off Courser). This puts me ahead in advantage while he's topdecking.
This was definitely my hardest Swiss match of the day and it especially sucked since I had to go pee like halfway through game 1 and by the end of game 3 I was scrambling to put my stuff away and go lol.

Round 5: Mardu W 2-0
Game 1 he gets stuck on 2 land (this has been a recurring thing with my Mardu matches lol) and doesn't get anything going.
Game 2 I'm able to deal with his guys as he plays them and I out resource him.
This guy had top 8'd the previous PTQ so this win was great for me.

At this point they post the standings and I was 7th. All of the 4-1's that were paired against each other would be able to split and make top 8, so I thought I was good, but I was the 4-1 that got the downpair so I had to play and chances were if I lost I wouldn't make it (didn't help that my 1 loss was way down toward the last tables).

Round 6: Blue Black W 2-0
Before we started I asked the guy if he could even top if he won and naturally his buddy next to him was all like "Yup! He would definitely top because he has the highest tie-breaker at this point!" From what I've experienced through years of card games is it doesn't always work like that and was fairly sure that even if he had won he would've gotten like 10th, so in my mind I was thinking it would've been nice if he had just given me the win but he didn't seem to have any sort of inclination of doing so so we just went for it.
Game 1 I stick an early Fleecemane out that goes unchecked for a few turns and I bait his counters out with disposable cards while resolving my better threats and take the game fairly swiftly.
Game 2 we both mull to 5 which I am perfectly fine with since Blue needs its cards more than Aggro does. This game ends up going fairly long but I basically end up resolving all 4 Rhinos (last one tutored off Liliana and resolves for game).
I think that I, as someone that played in the Mono Blue Meloku/Kamigawa days, have enough experience against counterspell decks that I can bait stuff out and play stuff when they're tapped out appropriately. I see so many players play Dig in their Main Phase, just to add more instants that I think playing against Blue in this era is just so much easier compared to a format where you had Spell Snare, Mana Leak, Remand, Hinder, Rewind, etc all present.

So having to play in the 6th round put me at 15 points and I finished 2nd in Swiss. At this point I was just beyond happy to make top 8 and to get prizing that was worth more than my entry fee. I was starting to think that I could take the whole damn thing.

Top 8: Jeskai L 1-2
Game 1 I get stuck on 3 land while he's burning me and swinging at me with Mantis Riders and stuff. I'm at 6 life and discard a Thoughtseize I drew into at my end phase and he literally scoffs and shakes his head. I'm just like "what, I play Thoughtseize so you can Stoke me for game?" His turn he attacks and Stokes me. In my mind I call him a faggot.
Game 2 He gets stuck on 3 land and I'm able to spot removal whatever he plays.
Game 3 I get over-zealous with my Abzan Charms (they aren't just Pot of Greeds) and I eat a Sarkhan hit rather than using Charm to exile it. Since I had a Downfall in hand, my thought process was I should use the Charm to draw into stuff since I could Downfall the Sarkhan on my turn while hoping to draw into a Rhino or Sorin to re-stabilize my life. He was low on cards since he had been using his cards to burn me and didn't have board presence while I had a Deathdealer and a Lion. On the last turn he was at 9 life with 1 card in hand, while I'm at 3 life and had Deathdealer and Lion on the board, and like 4 cards in hand. I swing and pump my Dealer to 6 for lethal but he has Jeskai Charm to Wing Blast my Dealer to the top. Due to the pumps I only had 4 mana open so I couldn't cast Wingmate Roc and I was holding a Downfall I believe because I was scared of Mantis Rider. He topdecks Dig Through Time and my heart sunk a bit but I had a little hope that his top 7 would be blanks, but sure enough he revealed a Lightning Strike for game.
What I should have done is spare myself the 6 life by Charm'ing his Sarkhan and drop a Raided Wingmate Roc to try and gain life that way, instead of holding mana free for removal on a potential Mantis Rider (cuz the Roc can just block the Rider after all) which he never drew into anyway. This was a hard lesson learned but still a lesson learned so it is something I will never forget about moving forward.

I get 12 packs for prizing but have no intention of opening them because I'm on that 4 or 5-year plan with hopes of selling the packs at $13+ each, instead of hoping to be lucky to pull like 2 fetches at most which is unlikely in itself.

Moving forward I'm not entirely sure on what I'll be playing although I think I'm getting the swing of things with Abzan "Aggro". When I think of aggro in the typical sense, I think of Jeskai, Red-White, Mono-Red and those kinds of decks. Abzan Aggro is not like those and is much more controlling in nature. Typically "aggro" decks don't run 4 or 5 mana cost creatures unless they have haste while Abzan runs the full gamut of Rhinos and Rocs. I also incorporated 2 Coursers into my build which I absolutely love since they potentially help me in the life department and put me further in cards and smooth out my mana. I actually think Abzan Aggro should be called Abzan Midrange, and the Midrange deck should be called Control. But you pretty much have to be Blue and be running counterspells to be considered Control in this game. I guess the builds with Warden could be "aggro" since at least it's a 1-drop. I might try Heir of the Wilds in the future since the Deathtouch aspect of it seems pretty decent on paper. I just didn't want to make their Wild Slashes too live but again I'm not entirely sure yet. I'm also slowly building Mono Red as a trolly "idgaf" deck but with the rise in popularity of Jeskai/Red-White I'm not sure how that will pan out. Ideally Mono Red would be good in a field with a lot of midrange, at least I think, I'm not even entirely sure lol. I just know it has the potential to do a lot of damage really quickly and is basically the cost of 3 YGO structure decks.

4 Fleecemane
4 Deathdealer
3 Anafenza
2 Courser
4 Rhino
4 Wingmate
1 Tasigur

2 Thoughtseize
3 Bile Blight
3 Abzan Charm
3 Hero's Downfall

2 Sorin

4 Citadel
4 Heath
4 Temple of Malady
2 Temple of Silence
3 Caves
2 Llanowar
2 Urborg
2 Forest
2 Plains

2 Thoughtseize
2 Back to Nature
1 Bile Blight
3 Glare
3 Sorrow
2 Nissa
1 Ajani
1 Liliana

Friday, February 13, 2015

YCS Tacoma/Seattle Primer

Originally I was going to write a recap of ARG Ft Worth but I figured it being the event before Nekroz was released made it rather irrelevant. It was so irrelevant that I didn't even really bother following it, at least to the extent that I have for previous events. I saw that Satellars won, which just made me chuckle as I know I've hated on that deck for the past few months now. I think with the recent trend of decks basically running no back row that Satellars were able to capitalize on this so they wouldn't get blown out by Fire Lake. I mean if BA only plays like 2 Emptiness 2 Fire Lake as their backrow line-up, basically MST'ing something is a fairly safe move. If you hit the 1 down and it's Fire Lake then as long as you have an Alpha or something you're free to set your entire backrow without fear of getting blown out. I think Satellars winning was more of a "right place at the right time" instance rather than being the actual best deck. Over the weekend I actually ended up following the Magic Pro Tour instead. Now my interest for the Modern format is rather minimal because financially it's not as accessible as Standard is and I didn't know too much about the format or what the decks did but it was still great watching some of Magic's greatest pros go head to head. The quality of coverage just blew me away, I knew it was basically how Magic has always done it but after watching Yugioh "coverage" for so long I had forgotten what good coverage looks like. All of the commentators knew what they were talking about and what the cards did as they were played, they discussed sidedeck and draft strategies, conducted player interviews, commentators acted and dressed professionally, the list goes on. Yugioh simply still has such a long ways to go, which is sad as the game is certainly not new or anything. Anyways, the problem with Modern, at least from what I can tell, is it reminds me of Yugioh. The top 8 was 2 Bloom, 2 Twin, 2 Burn, and 2 Abzan. So basically 4 combo decks, 2 burn decks, and 2 decks that wanted to actually play Magic. I say it reminds me of Yugioh because those combo decks have the potential to OTK out of nowhere and burn is the same degenerate strategy as it is in any other game. I didn't get away from one self-touch game just to play in another. Furthermore the finals was Twin vs Bloom. I watched the first 2 games where game 1 Bloom combo'd off, and game 2 Twin dropped Blood Moon which made it so the Bloom player couldn't play. At that point I stopped watching because Twin could just Blood Moon the Bloom player out of the rest of the games and sure enough Twin won. Blood Moon is essentially a floodgate that says "you can't play Magic". Again, I've dealt with enough floodgate shit in Yugioh that I just wouldn't be interested in having to deal with that in Magic as well. Luckily those cards either aren't in Standard or just no one plays them.

The big talk in the Yugioh world, for what has felt like the past few months now but is really starting to ramp up, is Nekroz. Tacoma will be the first event that they are legal (inconveniently only a day after release) and I for one am quite interested to see the impact they will have. I know they will do well, I just want to see how well. The pull rates for the good cards is reportedly absurdly low, in the realm of 1 Trish/Brio out of 6 boxes. Seeing this is frustrating as I felt that Konami could've made the deck really accessible to a larger player base by making essentially a Hidden Arsenal set for them. I remember in Hidden Arsenal 1 you could buy 1 box and for the most part be sure to pull 1 each of Catastor, Brio, and Mist Wurm (which were pretty much the only cards people actually wanted). Now you have to buy a case just for the chance to pull 2 of something? In a 60-card set? My God that is absolutely ridiculous. It is just yet another slap in the face to the players that have still stuck around with this game and wanted some possibility or hope of being able to play a tier deck that would be budget. I got to the point where I was finally done with it and I know a lot of other players have as well. I'm guessing Nekroz will be the most expensive deck in the format and if the hype correlates with the results, it will end up being the best deck as well. Going into the event I know there will be a lot of BA, Qliphort, Shaddoll, and Satellars as Nekroz just isn't accessible as it should or could be to the player base. This puts players into an awkward position of "how much should I be siding for this match-up?" Theoretically you might not need to because the odds of running into it (especially in the earlier rounds) would be low, but if you do well and end up seeing a lot of Nekroz in the later rounds you wouldn't wanted to be ill-prepared as well. I remember at the previous Tacoma/Seattle YCS it was when Mermails had just come out and I remember a lot of us wondering how much we should be siding for it. My guess is the upper echelon of pros will be playing Nekroz since they will have easier access to the deck through their sponsor or their network of other pros/friends. I'm not saying everyone that will be playing Nekroz will be good, cuz who knows maybe they just have money but haven't bothered learning the deck, but my guess is that the guys like those in the ARG crew will be running the deck and will be very up-to-speed with it. I think the event will ultimately boil down to "Nekroz vs anti-Nekroz strategies" where the non-Nekroz decks will try to flood Nekroz out of the game and Nekroz will have to out-draw those floodgates. Kinda reminds me of Dragons vs Anti-Dragons. I haven't done a whole lot of testing but I think Qliphorts are the best non-Nekroz deck in a meta with Nekroz. The match-up for Burning Abyss is so skewed in favor of the Nekroz player that I honestly wouldn't even consider playing BA if I were playing the game. Now I might be totally wrong, and I'm not saying that we won't see BA top. I'm sure we will, I just think as the format progresses we will definitely see less of it than we used to and it will evolve into Nekroz and Qliphs being the 2 best decks. I'm not sure where Satellas fits into all this and Shaddolls have shown themselves to be straggling in the race to keep up. The water fusion is not going to cut it when Cross Souls comes out. I think as people increase their anti-search cards to deal with Nekroz this will have a negative impact on Satellas.

I have a few friends that are going to the event so I just wanted to wish them good luck! I hope to God they are prepared for Nekroz. The Seattle ARG was a disappointing event for them so hopefully this event will turn out better. I will not be going since a) I don't have a deck and b) it's Valentine's weekend and I'm married. Originally I was actually going to judge the event and got accepted to do it, but had to opt out of the event due to my general lack of interest in the game, not feeling comfortable with rulings related to the newer cards, and again Valentine's day. Hopefully the event goes well for everyone, players and staff included!