by Andy Baquero
Apparently, I managed to convince my wife, who incidentally loves to travel, that going to Italy would be a good idea for a magic tournament and that we could also use this as a family vacation. She — being the awesome person that she is — agreed and said I could go play cards with a bunch of magic degenerates for three days while she hung out with our kids. The journey to the world championships was now going to be a reality so I put on my brewer’s cap and started thinking of what I could bring to the party.
I was a little nervous about bringing power outside of the States so I decided to make my decks unpowered and without Library of Alexandra and Mind Twist as I don’t think those two cards lead to fun games. One deck would be Scryings legal and the other would be both Swedish and ATL legal. I knew my chances of winning the whole thing were obviously slim to none but at least they were giving out a prize on Saturday for highest placing unpowered deck — a City in a Bottle. All I had to do is play my heart out and hope people weren’t used to facing cards they haven’t seen before. The following is a report of what happened…
Scryings Event (Friday)
For the Scryings event I decided to play Jokulhaups. The deck is simple and relies on fast mana in the form of Mana Vault and Orcish Lumberjack to cast a Jokulhaups and creature or Stormbind for the win, assuming the opponent can’t recover in time. Choosing the right creatures is critical. Rukh Egg is probably the best thing you can do — especially if running chain lightning — but has less value without ‘haups or chain. I also chose Balduvian Horde and Wildfire emissary. The former for its nostalgia and the latter for its effectiveness vs Swords to Plowshares and Kjeldoran Outpost. Orgg and Eron rounded out the coolness/creature base.
First round was against Romain Laroche, a Frenchman from Lyons that was playing a signed deck he was quite fond of. It just seemed like a lot of restricted cards and dual lands with artifact creatures like Juggernaut. First game on the draw, he plays LoA turn one. I think to myself, “here we go.” I play Taiga then Mana Vault. Turn two, he draws off LoA and plays Taiga and passes the turn. I play Badlands, stare at my hand, and see Eron the Relentless staring back at me… I tell Eron, “Hey man. He has a Taiga. You’re going to get bolted.” He looks back at me and says, “You let me worry about that.” Well I didn’t come here not to play Eron so I tap out and cast Eron and swing. BOOM! No bolt. Take five! Turn three. No answer. Boom take another five. Game ends soon after that. I manage to win the round but my opponent said he didn’t really use many Scryings cards besides memory lapse. I would have liked to see more.
Second round I was paired against Damien Emmenegger who played a UR counter burn list with Serendib and Blood Moon. Also not many Scryings cards I can remember. Blood Moon is really bad against me and I proceed to show him how Jokulhaups and Rukh Egg work together. He was very nice and, although he lost, he was happy to see new cards in action.
Third round, I played against my absolute worst matchup. My opponent’s name was Andrea Bianconi, a super cool dude from Italy. His deck was based around Land Tax and Ivory Tower to gain life along with reactive blue and white cards to eventually lock down the opponent with Zur’s Weirding. Lat-Nam’s Legacy and possibly Sylvan Library (which I didn’t see but can only assume the forests were for) rounded out a nice prison package. He has Swords to Plowshares to exile anything except Wildfire I may drop after ‘Haups and also has Land Tax to recover if needed. At the end of the day, however, I do love a good Zur’s prison build. In retrospect I should have given up on winning through Tower and just saved my life points to prevent him from drawing his win condition as I believe my library was bigger and I don’t think he had a Feldon’s Cane in hand. I was too tired at this point. I even sideboarded horribly and brought in Blood Moons which was obviously a horrible decision. Ultimately, I doubt I win one out of ten matches here.
Round four I played against Peter Schnidrig on Mask-Naught. This deck is real strong and, if Scryings is explored, I would not be surprised to see it consistently at the top tables. It was all about game one here as I had to Jokulhaups two or three times and Balance just to kill three Phyrexian Dreadnaughts. Unfortunately for me the fourth one got there and I lost.
I was exhausted at this point and decided to drop. Ty was a shoe-in for Top 8 and I really wanted to root him on in person but I was dead tired and wanted to get a good night’s sleep for the main event on Saturday.
Main Event (Saturday)
For the main event, I decided to play a mostly green deck that splashes white and red. The deck runs a slightly higher mana curve than traditional mono-green builds. It incorporates Ifh Biff Efreet as a top end creature with the ability to kill all flying creatures and deal extra damage to potentially end games quickly. It eschews the mono-green weenie tactic for direct damage from red and Spirit link, Disenchant, and Balance in white. Spirit link adds some game vs anyone still using Serendib Efreet and vs burn in the form of a few valuable life points. Finally, the deck runs Jacques le Vert, a new Legends card that works great with my green creatures while being big enough to survive bolt.
Round one I played José Antonio Cuevas from Spain on red burn. I should’ve expected Blood Moon game 2 as he saw a bunch of dual lands and I forgot to side tranquillities and/or disenchants for game two. This lead to a game 2 loss but I managed to win game 3.
Round two was against eventual top 8 competitor Simone Merlo on lion dib bolt. We each took one game and went into game three with five minutes left. The last game was intense and ended up going to turns. I guess the intensity was real and Simone (who I’m told is usually a great Chaos Orb flipper) ended up missing his flip to destroy my Spirit Link on his Serendib. After some quick math, this allowed me to ride my Ifh Biff to victory on turn five just in time for the match win. Whew! Every point counts!
Round three I ended up playing Åland (Mikael Johansson) in a much-anticipated match. Earlier that weekend Åland reminded me that the last time we played was on a WebCam tournament years ago and that I was running a Living Artifact deck. He was excited to see what I brought to the tournament and I was eager to show him my brew. Turns out he was running Simon Christie’s 12 bolt list from the most recent derby (yawn lol). After the first few turns I realized what he was on and was pretty confident I could tell what he had in his hand at all times. Although he may deny it, I believe I had the soul read throughout the match.
Unfortunately, knowing what the opponent has is no good if his cards are really good against you, lol. Serra Angel is a real problem and she came out to play both games. That combined with a bunch of restricted cards quickly gave me my first loss. Åland is an awesome guy and I think he appreciated the little bit of spice that I brought. Until we meet next time Åland!
Round four had me up against Andrea Tavella who was playing probably the most interesting deck I played against up to that point. Game one, turn one, he plays land then casts Candelabra of Tawnos! I had not play-tested against this but I immediately started to try and figure out how much damage I would be able to do with my Ifh Biff after his eventual Mana Flare hit the table. Good news was that I was correct and he was indeed on Candle-Flare. Bad news was that I drew no Ifh Biff. Worse news was that turn four he tapped out for a Demonic Tutor and then forked it so he got to look for two cards in his deck. It was over soon afterwards as I got disintegrated into oblivion.
Game two I was able to inflict enough damage and “Hurricane” for ten to finish him off. Game three I don’t think he ever got the Mana Flare and I was able to close out the match without being burned out.
Round five had me up against Dave Anko who had played my friend Ty the previous round. Ty told me he was on Esper using Nevinyrral’s Disk and splashing red for Sedge Trolls. Regenerators are a real problem and I was going to have to use some luck in game one and then sideboard in Armageddons and more artifact removal for his disks. Unfortunately, the luck I got game one was bad instead of good. I got Mind Twisted for my hand and the game was over soon after that (sigh). Game two is much closer and had complicated board states due to Disk and Trolls. I was able to resolve a regrowth’d Armageddon and Spirit Link his lonely troll after he blew up his disk but my life was too low to matter.
Round six I was paired up against Francesco Roversi piloting a white and red creature deck with Ironclaw Orcs, Savanna Lions, burn, Swords to Plowshares, Uthden Trolls, and Granite Gargoyles. Although I appreciate the Granite Gargoyles and Uthden Trolls, regeneration is really annoying. My opponent had to mulligan down to four but it was actually a close match and a fun game that I eventually won. Going into game two I mis-sideboard and should’ve expected Blood Moon to come in from his sideboard. Shame on me! He has Blood Moon which made it extremely difficult and I eventually lost. Game three was over as soon as his bigger creatures hit the table.
The last match of Saturday’s tournament had me playing against Gwen De Schampelare. I don’t remember exactly what he was playing but I do remember that I managed to get him so obsessed with killing my Ifh Biff Efreet that he cast a psionic blast to kill my Efreet enabling me to cast avoid fate and win the game. I think if he targeted me I would’ve probably lost. Gotta love the Jedi mind tricks. The match was filled with critical decisions and we both had a great time.
I did not place high enough to get the City in a Bottle but my main goal was to have fun and meet new people which I certainly did.
Atlantic Cup (Sunday)
By Sunday, I was tired of taking notes and pictures and don’t remember too many specifics. I ran the same deck as I did the day before. I was comfortable playing it and was reasonably confident about my matchups.
Round one was against a very nice Frenchman named Messina Julien. I don’t remember much of the match but I managed to win 2–0.
Round two was against his countryman Romain that I had played in the Scryings event on Friday. He was basically running the same deck but without any Memory Lapses. First game was just a bunch of restricted cards and an early Abyss which without Whirling Dervish and extra enchantment removal from the sideboard is very difficult. After side boarding in Whirling Dervish, Tranquillity, and Disenchant, I was in better position. I don’t think that his deck was optimally built as he used Juggernauts instead of Su-Chi but I believe that is because he has a thing for autographs and his Juggernauts were signed, so I understand. Fortunately for me, I could dispatch any Juggernauts with a bolt rather than two for one myself vs a 4/4. Game two started off with him looking at his hand, saying “definitely keep,” then proceeding to quickly show his neighbor and smile. I realized he probably had a first turn draw seven or LoA in hand (or at worse both). I played a Plateau and passed with the intention of bolting to at least get 3 damage before he Time Twister’d. Sure enough, it was worse. He played library of Alexandria, Mox, Lotus, Time Twister. I shrugged it off and drew my next seven cards. Luck was on my side as I drew into a Strip Mine for his LoA. After some early creature damage, Chaos Orbing his Abyss and disenchanting Sylvan Library, I was able to establish a decent board presence with Ifh Biff. Turns later he had a Su-Chi, Mishra’s factory, versus my Llanowar elf, Ifh Biff and Jacques le Vert. He decided to use all his green mana and “hurricane” for 5 using Ifh Biff’s ability. Before damage I was at about 14 and he was 10. Math time! I tapped my untapped City of Brass to make it 6 “hurricane” points total, swung with my three attackers getting in for one damage with the elf and bolting for the win. He admitted he was a bit too aggressive but thought he would be able to win with the burn he had in his hand next turn. Lucky for me there was no next turn.
Game three the universe decided to give me back some luck and I saw no power on turn one. He played land and then factory but for some reason attacked into my open red source. I bolted and he proceeded to miss a land drop. I saw this and used my chaos orb on this land and he never recovered.
Take home point: Don’t count yourself out even if your opponent has a great opening hand.
Round three I have no memory of but lost 0–2 to Iván Hernández Chiva.
As for round four, I managed to win 2–1 vs Luigi Miotti. He was playing an RGb Ponza deck. Mana dorks and Nether Void and Bartel Runeaxe as a finisher. During one of the games we had a pretty even board state that he was slightly ahead with more mana sources and he decided to cast Nether Void into my Chaos Orb. Only reason he would do that is if he had a second one or he had a huge threat in hand. I decided to save the orb and try to play with it on the board as all I needed was one land to make my elves and bolts live. Unfortunately, I didn’t draw land for several turns and was forced to use the orb on the void clearing the way for his Bartel. I can never be mad at being beaten by Bartel so I took the loss and went to sideboard for game two. I decided to beat him at his own game and in came the Armageddons. I really think maybe one Armageddon should be in the main. Games two and three were mine.
For round five I got paired up versus undefeated friend Jason Schwartz. We were chosen to play on stream I was happy to play somebody that I knew. Jason had one previous stream match yesterday against fellow Sister Emily so I guess he was the seasoned veteran. I assumed Jason was playing the same deck that he played on Saturday so I was expecting RUG with burn, 1/1 flyers, and probably Serendibs. I liked my chances and was hoping to dodge any broken powered opening hands.
The full match can be found here starting at 4:35:08 — https://youtu.be/0zhOQGf6nI0
Apparently, Jason was still riding his winning streak and totally dismantled me game one. My keep was slightly greedy as I had only two sources of green (land and elf) against burn and Jason made me pay dearly. Game two was more interesting but a timely Wheel of Fortune had me discarding three bolts to Jason’s three extra lands. We all know every point of damage is critical when racing library and losing those nine points really hurt. On the bright side Jacques made it on camera much to the excitement of the commentators. I love it when people have to go familiarize themselves with cards they haven’t seen. However, I couldn’t quite finish it off. Although I was disappointed, at least I lost to a buddy.
Top 8 (Quarterfinals)
Apparently, the Magic gods said I wasn’t done for the day and gave me great breakers to sneak into the quarter finals. Unfortunately, they destined me to play against End Boss Danny Friedman. I didn’t know what he was on but my guess was The Deck or some Twiddle Vault insanity neither of which I was excited about.
Game one I had enough creatures to force Danny to balance twice just to get parity. Unfortunately, parity is not where you want to be in this match up and Danny slowly took control.
Game two saw Ifh Biff after Ifh Biff get killed without swords to plowshares as Danny was unable to draw them but I don’t really think it was close at all. I needed early damage and threats to put pressure on his life not one four-drop a turn. Danny beat me convincingly and even mind twisted me for my last card before his win. I jokingly scooped refusing to show him what he would have twisted away and wished him luck going forward.
Overall, the experience at WinCon was great. Big tournament. Streaming. Food. Drink. Friends. Check, check, check, check, check. I was able to pilot my deck during the Atlantic portion of the weekend to a top 8 finish which was cool. A lot of people really liked Jacques Le Vert and Ifh Biff. Both were all stars. Åland and Mitja (the main dealer for the event) were so impressed they managed to buy all the copies of Jacques le Vert available at the event from every other dealer. I’m happy I could show people this new Legends spoiler card and hope he sees play at future old school meetups.
Unexpectedly, I was rewarded a Nice Beta Two-Headed Giant of Foriys for highest finish as an unpowered deck. It was a nice surprise to top off the weekend.
My ATL/SWE deck is fun to play and has some game vs most decks currently out there. Obviously Ifh Biffs come out vs mono green but, fortunately, I saw very little green (ie. was never paired against DFB) so the efreets got to do their thing. In fact, outside of mono green, I did not see much green anywhere. Given people have turned away from Erhnams, the only card most people splash for is Regrowth. Opponents rarely have enough green to kill the Efreet and sometimes even forget that they have that option. I think people are hesitant to use them because they think they are too susceptible to bolt. However, given the deck is very creature heavy, I found that bolts are usually used up on smaller creatures such as elves, scavenger folk, or pixies which are also valid targets. My opponents did not expect the efreet and by turn four or five they are out of bolts and only have psionic blasts or swords left. Giant growths are frequently used defensively and avoid fates are also nice to have as a backup. Knowing what deck you’re playing against and what they run as removal is very important. I always tried to sequence my creatures so as to bait out some removal from their hand prior to dropping my bombs.
Jacques is just a house. Four casting cost 3/4 that gets better the more creatures you have is not bad at all. He enables Ifh Biffs to block Serras and he is amazing in mono green match up as he only buffs your guys. The deck matchup is difficult even after sideboard. Shops matchup is not terrible given three scavenger folk and four Argothian pixies main deck. Post board it gets much better with more removal. Lion dib bolt matchup is also not bad especially if they run dibs. Two maindeck spirit links really shine here and even if you don’t have them racing a serendib with an Ifh Biff is something I would do all day if I could.
The deck’s weakness is Serra Angel, Blood Moon, and Maze of Ith (more people should be playing this card). Games become difficult but not impossible.
Changes I would make probably include finding a way to fit in Armageddon and Moxes plus Lotus. Another Giant Growth or probably a just the Mana base to fight Blood Moon better are other considerations. If one really wanted to “sharpen this spoon” I could fit in a Mind Twist main deck and Library of Alexandria likely in the sideboard on the play.
There were four Sisters of the Flame at Wincon (Me, Paul, Ty, Emily). We had a Sister in each of the top 8’s of every tournament on the weekend in addition to the fact that Emily placed ninth at the Main Event on Saturday. We all did great and I’m proud that we represented the New York/New Jersey area.