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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Car Shops - Vintage Daily and European Vintage League

All my Shops experience comes from playing against this deck often and I tried hard to figure out how to beat the deck and beat different kinds of players piloting it. I put the deck together in paper so I could test against it and my flatmate was usually my opponent. He's a Shops player so I knew the deck was in good hands. From time to time I brought the deck with me to other events and between rounds I played with it myself. I already new the basics because I know what my blue decks do not like seeing but I learned that there are many decision trees that I need to navigate through and it was very difficult for me to figure out which decision tree is the correct one. So while I was trying to figure out how to make the game miserable for my opponent and not kill myself in the process I was totally ignoring what creatures like Arcbound Ravager can do. I've won games with sending 20ish counters my opponent's face with Triskelion's ability but that is just one thing one can do with Arcbound Ravager. When playing against players like Thiim, K0de and other good Shops pilots I learned that every damage counts and that counting is crucial when playing this deck. This is obvious since the deck kills with its creatures. It was one of the things I was afraid of when picking this deck up, because I'm not really that good at this kind of math. But when playing at few PPTQs with BG Delirium it seemed I can still count relatively well because many players just couldn't figure out how much damage I can deal with my Spiders, Ishkanah and other creatures on the battlefield in 2-3 turns.

Do you wonder what made me snap and just buy Shops? Well, after the last Power Nine Challenge last year I was rather disgusted by Paradoxical Storms and Mentor decks. I was wondering what kind of deck could beat those and thrive in that kind of metagame. I was trying my luck with White Eldrazi but the deck did not seem good to me. It had mana issues and often it dictated what I should do and that is something I can't live with. I can't play such decks. I need options and it has to be me doing those decisions. If I lose it's because I was the one who made a bad decision. So after trying MUD Eldrazi and White Eldrazi I was tempted to explore Shops more. But I did not really have Shops on Magic Online. Some of you know that in order to be able to play on MODO I had to fulfill one condition - I couldn't put any money into it except the very first investment of buying the account and few tix in order to play my first draft (at that time I stopped playing paper because I couldn't afford the participation fees). I had to cash out few times in order to be able to function in the real world because I had to pay the rent, other bills and have something to eat. And without a job it's not that easy to do. So I was glad that Magic Online allowed me to live an ordinary life for some periods of time. I'm not entirely sure how but I played a lot on Magic Online during the first year. I was very motivated to get all the cards I need and something I expected happened. I wasn't satisfied with just one deck for each format and that is how I started getting all the cards I could possibly need for decks I was willing to play in events.

For Vintage it meant that I was trying to get cards for pet decks let's say. That being Blue Moon and Landstill. I was also tempted to try Nahiri Control. For quite some time I was trying to make these decks work and I came back to them after my last fiasco at P9C. These decks weren't faring well though. I put Monastery Mentor in each of the decks in 1 or 2 copies. After another two weeks of playing with those decks and seeing that Mentor always got priority over anything else I gave up on those decks. They are fun to play, but not good at winning (in my hands since all the games are uphill battles).

On February 5th I wrote this status 'I was trying to figure out whether to stick with Mentor or play Moat. Even with all those Ballistas around, Mentor was singlehandedly winning matches while Moat wouldn't do a thing. I don't think Mentor is needed in the deck (Landstill), but it performed 'way too good'. :-('. Few more similar games followed and I just snapped and I made an order at MTGOTraders. When I was clicking through the actual trade it looked horrifying. Seeing all those tix and trading it for well Shops, I could pay the rent with that money and still have something to eat. At that time I didn't care about that amount of tix involved but I wasn't sure if I wouldn't regret this decision later. Soon though, I realized that it's not going to happen. I was glad I bought the deck. It was tix I was amassing for different reason - 4 Rishadan Ports - but I think that buying Shops instead wasn't bad at all.

First Steps
After I bought the deck it was time to see if I can play with it. I knew that I can pilot the deck to some extent but I was also sure I would totally mess something up because I didn't know what would Magic Online want from me when playing with the deck. As I expected the first thing I totally messed up was Arcbound Ravager's ability. I killed my two only creatures in play making a total fool out of myself. I still won the match but I could have easily lost it. In the following match I tried to read the messages Magic Online was providing me with and answering correctly with YES or NO and everything went fine till I played my first Tangle Wire. I don't usually need to stack my triggers so when there were 9 Tangle Wires triggers triggering I wasn't really sure where to click first. I stacked my first Wire incorrectly which cost me one turn but fortunately it was never an issue later. Using artifact mana and colorless mana is still something that confuses me and playing Hangarback Walker is something that takes quite a big chunk of time but I usually manage to cast it how I want.

I usually played a mirror match with Shops or against Mentor or Delver so I was looking forward to playing against other decks. Unfortunately for me majority of the games I played on Magic Online were mirror matches. I played some games against different variants of Oath and I learned how powerful Vehicles are in that matchup. I also played some games against Dredge which went well even when I tried hard to lose all those matches. When I got fairly familiar with the deck not to do something I don't want to do (like sacrificing my own Ravager) I was ready to play in the European Vintage League.

European Vintage League season 2
I wanted to enter the first season with a new deck already. I wanted to play either Blue Moon, Landstill or Nahiri Control. But I did not decide on the 75 cards I wanted to play and entered with Delver instead. This resulted in ending up 3rd. That was nice (got crushed by Mentor that won the whole thing) but it did not really do what I wanted. I wanted to meet new players with whom I could possibly play and try something new in a tournament environment. URw Delver was not a deck I needed to test. EVL season 2 came soon though and none of my other blue decks was ready. I considered entering with Mentor but I recently bought Shops and entered with it. Unfortunately during the whole EVL my body was acting seriously up. I'm glad that this happens once per 3 months now but when it happens it hits even harder. Hopefully I'll be fine during next season!

My record in the EVL season 2 wasn't a good one. But I did my best and learned few things. In the first round I faced a mirror match. Thanks to the fact that my opponent couldn't draw a single Walking Ballista I was able to come back from a really bad situation and win thanks to my own Walking Ballistas. The games were nice but it didn't seem likely that I would be the one to win.

In round 2 I faced an Oath player. So far I just played few games against Islandswamp. In those games I really appreciated the fact that I have some Vehicles in the deck. Fleetwheel Cruiser is just an insane card against Oath if you can crew it with Mishra's Factory. I won few games/matches like this already and not only against Oath. When I saw both of these cards in my opener I kept and hoped that I would be able to deal those 20 damage. First the Cruiser had to resolve, it did. My opponent played Oath of Druids on turn 1 so my plan with following up with some creatures wouldn't really work so I played Factory, crewed the Cruiser and hoped. Unfortunately for me when my opponent was supposed to die on my turn he managed to deal with the situation and won the game. In the second game I tried really hard to win somehow but Magus of the Moat was standing in my way. I had Dismember and Walking Ballistas in my deck for it. I just needed to avoid Jace, the Mind Sculptor somehow. Everything looked still promising till Dack Fayden showed up on the table followed by the Jace, the Mind Sculptor. My chances to win became suddenly very low and I lost few minutes later. It was a very long game, but fun one.

In the last round I played against Dredge. I had quite some graveyard hate in my sideboard and I also learned that the game 1 does not need to be bad either. I have Wastelands/Strip Mine, Arcbound Ravager, Walking Ballista and Hangerback Walker that all help a ton against Dredge. I won one game, lost another one. The deciding game I decided to keep Foundry Inspector, a Sphere, Relic of Progenitus and some lands. Relic of Progenitus was the worst graveyard hate I boarded it in but I was relatively sure that the odds I'd die on turn 2 were low. But well it's exactly what happened. When I saw Dragonlord Kolaghan fall into the graveyard I was sure my opponent would hit some Bridges and Dread Return as well. An army of 9 Zombies led by Dragonlord Kolaghan decided the match and I was quite sad about it.

Vintage Daily
During one of the weekends Thiim sent me a short message on Magic Online: 'Daily?'. After I read it I headed to Scheduled Events and tried to find the currently open Vintage Daily. I expected it to be showed under 'active' events but it was somewhere in the middle of the scheduled ones. I couldn't find it at first thus, but when I finally did there were still few players missing.

I entered and chose a deck I have named 'Ravager Shops' which should rather be named Car Shops. I played the European Vintage League with it and I'm considering to play this at Czech Vintage Series. I think that I know the deck fairly well but I don't know if I can play in an event with it and not swear. The deck sometimes gets to a situation I can't really do much with and that feels really bad. But even blue decks can get into such a situation. I just usually feel more secure playing blue. Shops is not a blue deck obviously but it is a very powerful deck and not easy to pilot even many people think so. It is even way more resilient than I have thought. Creatures like Arcbound Ravager or Walking Ballista are very versatile and good in ways one does not necessarily need to immediately see.

Few minutes later the round has started and I was paired against my friend Thiim. I wasn't really sure what deck he'd be playing but my hand was good against any deck. Thiim started with a Workshop so it was clear I would face some kind of Shops. I was actually glad to see that because I played more mirror matches with Shops than anything else. On the other hand I entered the Daily in hope to play against decks I don't have much experience with. The games we played were very nice and intense. Unfortunately I was rather tired and I was struggling with Magic Online. I missed combat during one of the turns and I got hit by Revoker equipped with Sword of Fire and Ice. I knew that I still have game 3 but I really wanted to know how the previous game would have ended if I wouldn't have misclicked. After I took a mulligan in game 3 I kept the best hand I possibly could against mirror. It featured Arcbound Ravager, Hangarback Walker and Walking Ballista. Again though I managed to lose the game because I played Hangarback Walker for 0 instead of 2 and lost. I wasn't in a particularly good mood afterwards but the games were good, worth those 12 tix already.

Next round I was paired against Montolio. He was on play and started with a land and Mox. Next turn I played Trinisphere hoping it would give me time to help me draw something good. My opponent played another land and a Mox. Next turn I played a Sphere but I had to face Moat then. My thought was: 'if I will see Jace, the Mind Sculptor next turn, I'll concede'. Montolio played Jace and I conceded.

The second game wasn't any better. I played Thorn of Amethyst that got countered. Nothing unusual. When Ancestral Recall followed on my opponent's turn 1 I felt more uneasy. Next turn I played Walking Ballista thinking that this creature could do the most damage and that I could still play Tangle Wire next turn. There is just one card I did not really think of. My opponent fetched for an Island and played Engineered Explosives for 0. GG. I wanted to drop but there was still a chance I could play some nice games.

Next round my opponent started with Mishra's Workshop while I did not have it in my hand. My opponent was on Ravager Shops that featured some amount of Steel Overseers. I could either use Revoker on that or kill it with Walking Ballista. But well my opponent was also playing Phyrexian Revoker and Ballista was the first named card, followed by Arcbound Ravager. I won one game and in the second one I needed Walking Ballista to at least give me a chance to win. In order to make Ballista do something I needed to get rid of Phyrexian Revoker. That cost me a lot of life and when I finally destroyed the Revoker my opponent played his own Ballista killing me. In the deciding game I destroyed my opponents lands thanks to Wasteland and Crucible. They had Steel Overseer in play that would soon be big enough to block any of my creatures. So I tried to deal as much damage as I could to get my opponent in Walking Ballista range which was one of the ways I could win (the other possibility being Tangle Wire or Ravager + Hangarback Walker, or Wurmcoil Engine/Duplicant)

Last round I played against Paradoxical Outcome Tezzerator. Well, I knew that it's either me playing some Spheres and winning in time or just terribly dying thanks to Hurkyl's Recall dealing with everything I would have on the table. I was lucky in this match because once my opponent was forced to play Hurkyl's Recall in order to even survive but was unable to lock me. So I played Null Rod and destroyed all his blue sources. In the previous game I won thanks to Arcbound Ravager/Walking Ballista on the turn my opponent managed to get everything and prepared to kill me next turn.

I haven't played much with Shops yet but after those matches I played and two events I participated in I know that this deck is very good and very complex. Certainly it's not a deck for everyone (probably not for me) but the deck is solid and gives enough options during the games and also can be tweaked in many ways. The aggressive approach seems to be the best one but that doesn't mean you can't play Kuldotha Forgemaster package. Now I can even imagine someone wanting to play a full set of Fleetwheel Cruisers (not that I would want to play that). This deck really seems to be the best option to fight the two most dominant decks online, but unfortunately any fight against Mentor is a tough one no matter what deck you'll be playing.