I was pretty hyped for the Metagame Masters in their 15th iteration since the last bigger tournament for me took place eight weeks ago. In fact, I was so hyped that I even used a national holiday and drove several hours to spontaneously meet up for a test session with Florian and some good guys from Dortmund to get some more hours in before leaving to Berlin the next day.
Of course I played Mono Blue Control there, because at that point I really wanted to bring it to Berlin, testing against 4 color tempo (no green), Esper Midrange and Elves combo. Let’s just say it went pretty mediocre overall: If nothing board-related happens during the first two, better three turns, you’re pretty much set and have a good chance of winning the game. By “nothing” I mean they either have to play literally nothing or you have to counter everything relevant, though, because it’s not uncommon to take 10+ points of combat damage from a T1 1/1 creature while you counter all following spells.
In games where a lot of stuff happens during the first turns (read: pretty much always), you’re forced to find your very few silver bullets like Engulf the Shore or Vedalken Shackles or lose horribly if you can’t counter much at all. In addition, most decks are either fast enough to overwhelm you early or play disruption themselves that is a lot cheaper than yours to force through the one single card they need to take over the game (True-Name Nemesis, Teferi, Time Raveler or almost any other CMC 3 Planeswalker, Bitterblossom, etc.).
So I made the last minute switch to Izzet the following night. I still think non-basic hate is not as strong as it was few months ago because people play four to six (snow-covered) basic lands in their multicolor decks nowadays. But red burn spells as a cheap form of removal for both creatures and Planeswalkers have become so important that it warrants red as a secondary color to blue almost on its own. And while we’re at it, we can run the non-basic hate package for random wins while gaining access to the recently printed Izzet Planeswalkers.
I know Nils pretty well because I played him several times, recently when he defeated me in the win-and-in-game for Top 8 during last year’s Continental Cup (sad memories).
I was pretty sure he hadn’t switched decks and thus kept a smooth seven for this match-up in Game 1 (which was the only first game of all matches I won the die roll; more related to this topic later in the conclusions). I try to miscalculate his T2 Stoneforge Mystic, but he has the Daze, so he gets to tutor for Sword of Fire and Ice. This is not optimal, but still fine, because I plan to take out his two non-basic lands with Back to Basics in my T3. Unfortunately, that one meets his Force of Will and that’s where I thought I’d lose the game.
However, the free counterspells set him back so much that I can resolve a Chandra, Torch of Defiance in my fourth turn. That one kills Stoneforge Mystic and he can only flash in the equipment in response. From that point on, I generate a lot of card advantage with Chandra while killing all the creatures he tries to put Sword of Fire and Ice on. Few turns later he concedes.
The second game he has a T2 Stoneforge Mystic again, but in response to its activation a turn later I have the Vendilion Clique to take the Sword of Fire and Ice out of his hand. We trade cards back and forth until he topdecks Batterskull, which resolves. I use Chain of Vapor to bounce it and later my Cryptic Serpent starts beating. Again we play the game of “kill every creature in response to your equipment activation” until I finally come out on top.
He said we had played each other a few years ago during a Highlander Cup, but I can’t remember, which I’m very sorry for.
He starts pretty explosive on the play with T1 mana elf into T3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar followed up by a T4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I can only react with T1 Cantrip into T2 Thing in the Ice and feel pretty much dead when I resolve my T4 Ral, Storm Conduit—which is almost true because he drops me to exactly 1 live with his alpha strike. I get to untap with my Ral, so I chain and copy spells like a madman, flip my Thing in the Ice and almost make a comeback. Few turns later I still die because I can’t stabilize (#nolifegain.dec) and the mix of threats (cheap creatures and Planeswalkers) gets in the last point of damage.
Game two we both mull to five and he’s pretty aggressive with a fast growing Tarmoygoyf followed up by Gideon of the Trials. Too much to handle with my limited resources.
I played Paul in Frankfurt last year, battling for Top8. I somehow felt like he was on his famous 30-land-tempo-homebrew he shared with our community last year—and I was right.
Both games are very close but end exactly the same way: We trade resources back and forth, both stuck with 2-3 cards in hand. He then resolves Pyroblast targeting my Cryptic Serpent and reanimating it the same turn. A huge tempo swing for two mana that ends both games quickly in his favor. A vanilla 6/5 is often too much for Izzet to handle.
He’s a nice guy from the Halle community, which I appreciate a lot.
In game one my countermagic gets blanked because of a turn one Aether Vial. My list runs a lot of additional burn to the usual “fire package”, though, so cards like Lightning Strike, Incinerate, Searing Spear, Magma Jet really pay off here. I burn everything and can stabilize on five lifepoints when a Back to Basics cuts him off of four of his six lands. Also being a mono-colored decks with a lot of basics, White Wheenie runs a lot of utility lands that punished him this game.
Game two his deck does what it should do: Curve out until turn for with a T2 Silver Knight (protection from red—oh god…) and two anthem effects putting everything out of burn reach. I’m dead turn six without much resistance.
Game three is a very close one again. The new Ranger-Captain of Eos and all the pesky utility creatures like Selfless Spirit and Topplegeist turn out to be pretty disruptive and force me to make unfavorable trades. A big hit for eleven damage from my Crackling Drake puts him into lethal range for a Price of Progress for 10, though.
Game one I stick a T2 Thing in the Ice that finally flips over. I’m able to protect it so I get in two swings for 14 damage before he unfortunately gets to resolve a Swords to Plowshares on it. I can use those seven points of live to buy some necessary time, though, resolving some card draw while he overwhelms me on board. Wit the power of red I can throw some burn to the dome for the last five points of damage (he fetched one time).
Game two is pretty decisive in his favor because I get nothing done. Stoneforge Mystic into Sword of protection from Izzet that finally gets to equip a creature – I concede at ten lifepoints to save time for the final third game.
That one is a pretty grindy one and I have to mull to five what is somewhat disheartening. He draws the reactive party of the deck, which is good in that he doesn’t have a lot of early pressure except for a Seeker of the Way. On the other hand, that means I don’t get to resolve pretty much anything, which I realize when I cast Gitaxian Probe that reveals Mana Drain, Counterspell, Lightning Bolt, Spell Pierce and Cryptic Command on his hand. I finally need to go all-in, though, because his Seeker of the Way is slowly killing me. I lose the all-important counterwar about my Chandra, Torch of the Defiance with a Force of Will in hand but no blue card to pitch to it.
He puts me on Izzet pretty early and starts fetching for basics in game one. That prevents him from playing multiple spells a turn in the early to midgame (he told me so after the game) so I get to resolve a Chandra, Torch of Defiance. I get to untap with it in play and that pretty much seals the game because he can’t build up any board presence and I can counter his Council’s Judgment to protect the game-winning Planeswalker.
In game two he’s going for basics only again and there’s not much going on the first two turns except for some cantripping on both sides of the table. I have a pretty pro-active hand with three planeswalkers and nothing else to do. Since I’ve played Esper myself for ages and know the deck randomly falters to “brave” plays, I tap out for Narset, Parter of Veils. That one eats his Spell Pierce and he resolves his own Narset, Parter of Veils the turn after, netting him a Tithe.
I then get to resolve my second Planeswalker, which is Ral, Storm Conduit, which ticks up to six. I get to untap with it and that’s where shit’s going down for him: Ral pings his Narset to death and I get to draw six cards with a copied Treasure cruise (that draws me six lands; holy shit). I add a Chandra, Torch of Defiance and a Ral, Izzet Viceroy the turn after while he only has Vendilion Clique and some other creature I burn down to prevent them from damaging my precious Planeswalker army. The UR superfriends squad ends the game few turns later with only Ral pings to his face and two triggers of Ral, Izzet Viceroy’s emblem.
Final Score: 3-3
This was one of the very best play experiences of my recent MGM attendances in ages. I think it is because I only played what I consider to be fair decks. Friendly opponents and a lot of fun, interactive magic, demanding tough decisions and offering exciting comebacks and big plays.
It’s also been a tournament where I felt the importance of the die-roll a lot. I don’t have the feeling that matches are always decided by it, but it feels bad to often be that one step behind that finally lets the game tip over when it could very well be you having the tempo advantage to win it.
With the new mulligan rule (London mulligan only) I’m pretty sure this will change, which in my eyes is the most important argument in favor of the London mulligan without a free seven in between. I’m not sure if this is the right way to go, though, because this might cause more non-games to happen. The next few big tournaments will be pretty interesting regarding the new mulligan.