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North American Vintage Championship Tournament Report (Part 2)

 

Quarterfinals

{Watch Quarterfinals video here

Hi everyone, welcome back! Okay, top 8 time; onto the quarterfinals against Andy Markiton on Ravager TKS Shops.

I was pretty happy with my opening hand of Wasteland, Tundra, Sol Ring, Crucible of Worlds, Standstill, Swords to Plowshares, Moat; but being the 2nd seed and getting to be on the play was I think what made this hand great. On the draw a turn 1 Sphere is rough for this hand, because I probably don’t get to deploy Crucible if he has any Wastelands of his own. I lead on Wasteland because I wanted to make sure if I needed to I could Swords with my Tundra rather than having it get Wasted if my opponent had a nut draw.  I thought it had a pretty low probability of mattering, but I could see ways it could go bad for me, and I couldn’t find any real downside to showing him Wasteland instead.

For the Thought-Knot Seer – at the time I felt like my opponent had a really tough choice. I’m at least 2 turns away from a Moat and if he can attack me a few turns, I think he’s got a much better chance of dealing me 10 or 8 with Trike down the line, especially if he can keep up the pressure with more creatures. In retrospect, it is so much harder for him to beat a Moat than recurring Mishra’s Factory that I think he made the correct play.  We both missed the leaves play trigger, which was just another example of how nervous I was and how focused I got on other things.

I was a little more confused especially when he turns out to have a Hangerback Walker; I think pressuring my life total was a better plan than trying to play a long game vs. Crucible and Wasteland. The following turn, I played a Factory, and regretted it pretty fast. I’m at a lot of life, I can take a hit or two, and dropping my opponent to just a Sapphire was absolutely the right play.  Plus even if Factory could have pumped itself, giving my opponent 3 Thopters is terrible. It does let me attacking a few turns earlier if I want to, but trading 3 for 2 seems pretty bad; that was just a punt.

Snapcaster Mage a few turns later lets me buy back the Plow and deal with Hangerback Walker, but then my play the turn after was where I had some options that I maybe should have thought more about. My opponent has Sapphire and Eldrazi Temple, so any land non-Workshop land is Thought-Knot. He could have cast Ravager or Rovoker last turn, so those are non issues. My options were to

A) Wasteland and pass, leaving up Drain if things go bad (what I did)

B) Wasteland and Standstill, with shields down if he actually casts a spell

C) Wasteland and Jace, hoping to see Force on the brainstorm to protect against things going bad, but realizing Jace does a great job of protecting himself.

D) Play the Flooded Strand I’ve drawn, fetch an Island, cast Standstill, leaving up Drain and getting to draw 3 cards if things go bad.

I hated B; C seemed aggressive for a game I basically locked up; and to be honest D I didn’t see until I’d passed the turn; but its probably not better than A, but I’m curious what people think is the most correct play.

The next turn, I try and protect my ability to Mana Drain by playing the fetch into a Strip Mine. I know at this point he’s drawing lands and the rest of his hand is not castable, so in some ways I was okay with the idea of him drawing a land and running a spell into Mana Drain as long as he has to tap the Strip Mine, because then I can waste it and start running out a Standstill. I definitely played the wrong lands over the next few turns; and the turn after I wasted Strip Mine I should have played the Fetch and got a Standstill into this game to make sure I had Mana Drain up even though 1 Wasteland. I didn’t but my opponent was kind enough to run a Hangarback Walker into a Drain and at that point I was pretty sure the game was over.

 

final-match-close-up

Joe shuffling his deck getting ready for the next game

 

Game 2 on the draw my opponent was kind enough to shuffle and cut me into a Library of Alexandria, Emrakul, Mana Drain, Island, Wasteland, Swords, Swords. Library is a keep almost no matter what, but having a few lands and some Swords to cast when I find white mana made me like this hand a lot. The choice of Wasteland over Library was to avoid running into a Thought-Knot Seer on turn 2 because I didn’t have white mana, and I think I’d rather do that than draw a card.  Leaving up a fresh Mishra’s Factory a few turns later was just bad however. I should have taken 1 or 2 to draw a card, especially since its a fresh Factory and can’t become a 3/3. I missed another card draw before playing Energy Flux a few turns later, and did the same several turns in a row when there was energy flux in play; but it didn’t matter, my opponent couldn’t find an Ancient Tomb for the one turn he needed it, and I eventually found white mana and that was then end of the game and I was onto the semifinals.

 

Semifinals

{Watch Semifinals video here

Going into top 8, I thought Joe Brennan and his Mentor deck was going to be the toughest opponent, and I’d have rather played the more all in Blue deck with Vault/Key than his. Before I talk about the games we played, I wanted to talk how I view the matchup. During Joe Brennan’s interview on stream (and in talking to him) he talked about always breaking standstill quickly, not worrying about letting me draw 3 cards based on his valuation that a force and a blue card are better than 3 of my random cards. For the most part I think he’s right; but boarding out his force of will’s on that logic seems like a fundamental misevaluation of the matchup.  For the record, I think he’s right; most of his blue cards are pretty good, and on average a lot of my cards are lands or pretty medicore. But the important part is his deck only has a few relevant cards against me. He has 3 Mentor, 1 Clique that can attack, and some planeswalkers that have variable levels of relevancy. Baby Jace is pretty good early game, but with any number of Factories out he looks pretty bad, getting to play one spell at most before dying without some help. Big Jace has a similar problem, but he costs more mana so is less likely to come out early enough where I can’t pressure him. Narset and Dack can generate some card advantage, but again they aren’t threats themselves and wilt to some extent under pressure from factories or Snapcaster Mage.

When I look at the matchup, I think Force of Will is very important for him because it’s how he keeps his relevant cards from getting countered or killed. Sure, Mental Misstep helps counter my Swords to Plowshares, but we have the same number of Missteps, and I have nothing in his deck but Missteps and Ancestral that I’m eager to counter. Having Pithing Needles, Wear//Tear, and Pyroblast are all pretty good or great vs. me; but I think he’d have been better off having more countermagic to protect his very few threats.

 

final-match-in-action

Game action shot.  Things get wild when there are a lot of spells & creatures on the board

 

Onto Game 1! I got to be on the play and knew I would be for the finals if I won, so that felt great. I liked my hand a lot because it had Plains, Mox Sapphire, Standstill, Force of Will, Supreme Verdict, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Flooded Strand. I would have loved a do something land; but Standstill is great because I know he’s going to try and break it. At the time I was pretty happy to have a Baby Jace to counter, but looking back I’m wondering if I should have left it alone. I had Supreme Verdict and Jace, Mindsculptor to disrupt his Jace.  Then next few turns were some bad sequencing plays. I should have cast the Sol Ring first to see if it resolves, and if it didn’t I could have Strip Mined before he got Gush active.  And then following turn I went ahead a stripped into 2 Islands which was terrible. This game got away from me fast after the Sol Ring got countered.

Game 2, I had to mulligan to six, but got a decent hand with only 1 land but got to scry and keep Flooded Strand on top. My hand was Polluted Delta, Force of Will, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Flusterstorm, Standstill, Moat; and this time I let Jace resolved and then cast Standstill; again because I know that Joe Brennan wants to break my Standstill fast and he obliged immediately with a Dack Fayden. The Mox was a great draw to allow Jace which bounced his Jace. He started going off, but liked I talked about so few of his cards actually do anything. We started attacking eachother’s mana bases, but I have the better planeswalker and a Standstill that I can and did resolve.  Again, my opponent breaks Standstill allowing me to draw more cards, but his Pithing Needle resolves when he Mistep’s my Snapcaster Mage Misstep and he starts going off again. He draws a ton of cards, but can’t play another threat that turn. I cast Ethersworn Canonist so that if he does have a threat I get to Force of Will it and he can’t counter back. Instead I think he just completely forgets what Canonist does and casts a Gitaxian Probe as what will be his only non artifact spell for the turn. Getting to Force his Clique was great, and I now have 4 or 6 power worth of creatures. He casts Narset, and I let it resolve because it  lets me disenchant the Needle to get my Jace back, and then I get to attack the Narset for 6. On the following turn, I tried to decide if I should play around a Swords protecting Narset, but rather than attacking with 2 creatures, I just attacked with not the Canonist so if he does have a removal spell he can either save his Narset or get my Canonist.

Game 3 wasn’t pretty for either of us, but its why playing only 16 lands//15 permanent blue sources can bite you. It’s what shops decks and other mana denial strategies prey on. My opener was Sol Ring, Tundra, Strip Mine, Mana Drain, Standstill, Standstill, Force of Will.  I knew as soon as he fetched his basic Island that he was in trouble and needed that land, so I Forced his turn 1 Jace, VP again. I draw a few more lands that do things (Wasteland and Mishra’s Factory) followed by a Force of Will to protect myself from Mentor. He breaks Standstill for a Needle and I Forced to keep the beatdown going, knowing next turn I get to cast Crucible and probably have Mana Drain up. The next turn when I attacked and he cast Swords on my Factory, I had forgotten about the wasteland play. It was a pretty sloppy misplay, and then later that turn I should have just run out the Canonist to lock the game up. One good misplay deserves another.  I liked having a top but could have just had one next turn.  And a third misplay by not just Disenchanting his Pearl, or Wastelanding my own land. Instead I just Disenchanted my own Factory, which if I had no Wasteland would have been fine, but I did, so that was just a waste of a card. He couldn’t find a land for a lot of turns, and eventually fell to the factory beatdown.

 

Finals

{Watch Finals Part 2 video here

{Watch Finals Part 1 video here

 

final-match-up

It has come down this final match-up between a Blue deck & Shops.  

Classic match-up on live stream with thousands of viewers.

 

 

I was really pumped for the finals, and felt like I had a great matchup. The Stax/Prison shops decks match up is worse for me than other flavors of Workshops especially because he has 3 Crucible of Worlds, but I knew if I could resolve Energy Flux I would win those games. I also knew that having Mana Drain makes it much more likely for me to be able to have enough mana to cast Energy Flux against the prison cards.

 

final-match-feature

2016 Vintage Champs {North America} Finalists – Joe Bogaard (left) & Jacob Kory (Right)

 

Game 1, my opening 7 was okay – Flusterstorm, Dig Through Time, Mishra’s Factory, Time Walk, Sensei’s Divining Top, Swords to Plowshares, Polluted Delta. I knew Top was going to be pretty good as long as there wasn’t a Null Rod around, and since Null Rod shuts off his mana too that was okay by me either way.  I dealt with his Lodestone Golem with Swords to Plowshares. Next turn he drops a Revoker and a Null Rod, and I had a few really dead cards (Top, Flusterstorm). A few turns later he gets a Smokestack down the turn before I find Mana Drain; and I have to start gaming out how I’m gonna beat this Smokestack. At this point I need a few things to go right. First he needs to start drawing things he can’t cast and second he needs to ramp up Smokestack to 2 so I can try to eat most of his board at the same time as he eats all of mine.

I Dig for a Swords and a Wasteland and cast my Top to have something to eat next turn and the next turn Swords his damage source. But when he ramps the Stax to 2 I felt really good because I’d drawn a fetch and I still had cards left in my hand. He finds a Factory himself and I sacrifice two lands. Next turn cycle he eats 2 Moxen, finds another Null Rod and plays it. I forget there was a Thorn in play and try to Sapphire, which is obviously a GRV; but the goal was to try and trade one of my permanents for 2 of his. A lot of people didn’t like playing something into a Smokestack, but this is a Smokestack on 2, which means eating only 1 of my permanents costs him 2 and I was happy to make that trade; so I play a fetch land to bait him to keep the Smokestack an extra turn. He obliges but his Smokestack did enough to get him eventually with his own man lands. and that was the end of the game quickly.

Game 2 my hand was great it was a smorgasbord of restricted cards my opponent shuffled and cut me to – Tundra, Ancestral Recall, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Crucible of Worlds, Emrakul, Time Walk, Brainstorm.  A lot of people didn’t like that Emrakul was still in the deck, but I like leaving it in because the game is so slow, I have 3 Mana Drains, and I want another way to win the game through Moat.  Ancestral Recall finds Swords to Plowshares, Flooded Strand, and Mishra’s Factory; and my opponent plays a Thorn and passes. I play Factory and pass and discard Emrakul to hand size because I have a Jace and a Crucible, I don’t think I’m going to need Emrakul this game.  Obviously that ends up not being the case and I wish I could have that one back. I brainstorm in response to Lodestone Golem on my opponent’s next turn to use my mana effectively, and find Moat, another Swords, and a Wasteland.  I put the Standstill I’d drawn last turn back on top and then the Wasteland on top of that (although since I’m going to draw it during my draw step it didn’t matter what the top card was I put back). Untap, play a land and Swords the Lodestone Golem. I could have shuffled away the Standstill, but I have a 4th land so I liked maybe being able to lock him under Standstill. If I knew he had a Second Factory I’d have shipped the Standstill.  I play the 4th land, Time Walk, and find Hurkyl’s on my next draw step and pass. I was surprised on my next turn when he just cast Smokestack and didn’t attack, playing around the 1 Hurkyl’s seems questionable, but I suppose he could also be playing around a swords and he is kind of permanent light. In either case I bounce the resistors and the Smokestack on his end step and get to untap and resolve a Crucible of Worlds, Wastelanding both his Mishra’s Workshops.

On his turn I didn’t counter the Thorn because I know he has another one and he has a Smokestack in hand that I want to be able to stop.  I’m also happy to lock him under his own Sphere effects if I can. I drop Standstill to do something with my mana, but I think that was too ambitious. I have a Wasteland for his Academy and could just sit back on Force pitching Standstill for the next relevant spell. I knew his draw had to be the Mox, so I decided to Wasteland to deny him 1 mana thinking he’d at worst be able to play a creature I could deal with, but instead he has Metamorph that I just completely forgot to consider.  The game starts to run away when I spend a lot of cards dealing with Phyrexian Revoker and then Karn; but I’m fortunate my opponent doesn’t have a Wasteland, and I can keep playing lands out of my graveyard, which includes fetches and a Wasteland to eventually get up to 6+ mana. I Force his Smokestack and pitch the Snapcaster Mage because it doesn’t win through Moat and I thought with him empty handed I had a good shot once I start Fatesealing.  I screw up really badly a few turns later putting a Wasteland on the bottom and let him find an Inventor’s Fair which gets Phyrexian Revoker. The next several turns are just hoping to try and find another Snapcaster Mage or Energy Flux.  Eventually I realize that I can Wasteland him and gain on his mana base as he uses Inventor’s Fair over and over.  This sets up for the Energy Flux I find to put this game away.

Game 3 I liked my hand a lot again with Time Walk, Black Lotus, Mana Drain, Wasteland, Strip Mine, Emrakul, Sensei’s Divining Top. He has a turn 1 Sphere off an Ancient Tomb which tells me a few things. First, it means he has no Workshop because otherwise there’s no reason to take the pain and second it means he probably doesn’t have a Thorn, otherwise he’d have played that.  That reduces the odds of a second Sphere effect some.  So I choose to Wasteland the Ancient Tomb to try and lock him out for a few turns. Next turn when he plays a Wasteland it tells me he has no other tap for multiple mana lands and I feel comfortable getting my Black Lotus down off the Strip Mine. Next turn I have the option to Strip Mine or play Top. I liked the idea of locking him under his Sphere, but he has easy outs to Workshop if I get rid of my Strip Mine, and I don’t have a ton of lands myself.  So I plan to play Time Walk and then have 6 mana, maybe 7 after the Time Walk turn to start finding threats.  I find a 4th land and then decide to start going to work on his mana base. He eats my Tundra and I get an Island, which seems okay given I’ve reduced my opponent to 1 land and he clearly doesn’t have any other cards that produce mana. Ancestral Recall finds Energy Flux and Standstill, but I don’t want to tap out without Force of Will just in case. I forget Force of Will is on top after Mana Draining and should have Drawn with Top to have it just in case. But in either case, I end up with enough mana for Emrakul and take his opponents turn, with Hurkyl’s and Energy Flux just in case. Because Metamorph is an artifact I can Hurkyl’s it before attacking and he doesn’t have Duplicant in his deck so I felt good about closing the game out with a 13/13 instead of an Energy Flux. And that was it, and I’d won Vintage Champs.  It was a pretty surreal feeling, I had just been trying to play better and make fewer mistakes, but it had all come together!

 

 

joe-with-a-fan

Joe with a fan holding the prize for the 2016 Vintage Championship –

“Mox” Sapphire Original Artwork by Raoul Vitale 

 

To some extent winning some of these top 8 games on the back of opponents without a lot of lands feels like a validation of how the deck is supposed to work. Workshop decks would love to win games where they win without letting opponents play spells, and I think Landstill is squarely in that camp as well. My deck choice, and those of the White Eldrazi and Workshop players, is based around people not having enough mana sources in their deck to fight through Wastelands and Resistors. Landstill sits in the happy middle of seeing extra cards unlike the other Wasteland decks in the format and still being very happy to play the mana denial strategy and just win games on the back of opposing mana screws, often helped by a well timed Wasteland or Strip Mine. Unfortunately it doesn’t feel like a good way to lose games when your on the losing end; but if you look at the metagame over half of people were playing decks where that was their strategy; not letting you play spells in an “unfair” game of magic.

I don’t know that anything else needs to be restricted from Shops decks or Eldrazi decks. I think if people want to show up and beat Eldrazi and Workshops they can; play more basics, play more lands in general; and bring the right cards in your 75.  We have for so long tried to shove as many Flusterstorms and Mental Misstep’s in our deck as we can to beat the blue mirrors and what we need to realize is there aren’t a lot of blue decks running around.  I played vs. 2/3 non blue decks which is crazy. I’m not even sure I should have had all the Mental Misstep’s in the main, or just had zero Flusterstorm’s main. But that was my hedge; have a better game 1 vs Blue because Energy Flux and Kataki are soo good vs Shops. There is a huge portion of the metagame where Misstep is just a dead card, and if we want to bring blue decks to fight the horde of Eldrazi and Shops that are showing up to prey on the Blue decks then blue mages need to examine their base assumptions and determine if they are making the right choices about their maindeck and sideboard.

In the next few months, I’m going to be recording me playing in some Magic Online Vintage Events that’ll be posted up on the Vintagemagic.com You Tube Channel.  Please let me know what you think of this article and what decks you’d like to see me play either in the comments section below or by reaching out on social media.

Thanks for reading,

Joseph Bogaard

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