Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Czech Vintage Series #4 - UWR Control

The last event in this year's Czech Vintage Series took place at Najada in Prague. 16 players came for the event. Even several new players came to see how Vintage looks like.

Since I lost to Shops in the finals of the previous series and I also got terribly crushed by Eldrazi I decided to switch from 4c Control to a different kind of control deck or a Delver deck. Since I didn't feel the need to play Delver of Secrets I decided to run Monastery Mentor instead since this card still wins matches very easily. I wanted to have a good matchup with Shops and possibly beat Eldrazi. I also wanted to run less mana rocks if possible to keep my deck consistent. This meant that I couldn't effectively run By Force but it should still be good enough to run Ancient Grudge. I was trying before with just Fragmentize or Shattering Spree and neither of the cards performed well enough. Running Tropical Island in the deck sounded as a really bad idea but in the end while playing with this deck it seemed fine and I was willing to give it a try in paper as well.

I expected some Oath decks to show up since those were always popular in paper and since they are also now in the spotlight thanks to the omnipresent Shops. For that reason I put in 4 Containment Priests which also double as 2/2 bear with Flash being able to deal with some planeswalkers or simply swing. I kept 2 Grafdigger's Cages and also included Wear/Tear which can hit an enchantment (either Moat or Oath mostly). The only card I wasn't sure about was Flusterstorm. I wanted to find a slot for Pyroblast but I didn't want to cut Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares from my deck. I ended up with Flusterstorm since my match up with combo decks would be way worse compared to the matchup of my previous deck vs Storm (which was VERY good).

This is what I sleeved up.

Round 1

I was paired against Martin Vsiansky who since the restriction of Mentor brings a different deck. I didn't know what I was against but I expected a blue deck. After peeking at his hand with Gitaxian Probe I knew I was against a PO deck. He had Ponder, Black Lotus, Volcanic Island, Trinket Mage, Paradoxical Outcome and two fetchlands in his hand. My hand contained only one counterspell and I wanted to keep it for Paradoxical Outcome. I needed to draw a Young Pyromancer or Monastery Mentor so I could in theory win. I did not even have any cantrips and my lands were bad - I kept a hand with Tundra and Tropical Island but I was in a dire need of Volcanic Island so I could play Pyroblast or Young Pyromancer if I'd drew it. Later in the game I was able to stop my opponent's advance but there was one turn in which if my opponent would want to go off I'd in theory need 3 sources of blue in order to cast a counterspell and Snapcaster Mage to flashback the counterspell. Unfortunately I played Library of Alexandria as my third land. The chances of my opponent trying to go off at that moment were relatively low, but it happened and all I could do is silently swear.

I tried to compose myself, remind myself that I'm very sleep deprived and should try really hard to concentrate on the game. I was playing against a blue, mana rock heavy deck that also included Time Vault and Voltaic Key. I boarded in Ancient Grudge, Wear/Tear, Stony Silence and Flusterstorm. I kept a hand with Jace, the Mind Scultor, Force of Will, Force of Will, Flusterstorm and some lands/Moxen. I didn't want to pitch Jace to Force so I did not want Force anything that wouldn't make me lose the game. I let my opponent dig a bit. When he played Merchant Scroll I had to wonder what he'd be looking for. He'd either look for another or missing counterspell or he'd go for Paradoxical Outcome. I was able to counter 3 times at the moment so I decided to let the Scroll resolve and hit the Outcome that I expected later. I drew another Jace, the Mind Sculptor and my opponent tried to draw some cards with the tutored for card. I successfully countered it and then landed Jace on my turn winning me the game.

In game 3 I kept a hand containing Stony Silence. My plan was pretty straightforward. Play Stony Silence, make it resolve, protect it. It resolved and my opponent was looking for a way how to get rid of it. I had only Pyroblast to deal with Chain of Vapor/Echoing Truth or whatever my opponent had in his deck. He played the Chain of Vapor targeting my Stony Silence, I cast my Pyroblast hoping it would resolve even though I honestly didn't expect that. My opponent put his card to his graveyard so I was good! I played Jace and my opponent scooped.

Round 2 - PO Storm
Game 1 I kept a relatively slow hand with a bit of permission. It wasn't good against Storm but had its chances. When it was clear my opponent was indeed on DPS or PO Storm I tried to find Mentor and win as fast as possible. I manage to find what I needed. I still needed to top deck Time Walk or way more spells so I could win in one swing. I managed to get my opponent down to 7 but that was not enough. Without the Time Walk I expected to lose next turn. I died as expected.

Game 2 I boarded in Flusterstorm, Stony Silence and Ancient Grudge. I was actually very glad that I boarded artifact removal in. It was clear that my brain was running on auto-pilot. I couldn't even figure out why I wanted the card in my deck (the reason was primarily Defense Grid, sometimes I hit the Time Vault combo too but very rarely). I also kept a Sword to Plowshares in if by a chance I'd have to face Blightsteel Colossus. Anyway the second game was a rather fast victory for me thanks to the still-over-powered-even-though-now-restricted Monastery Mentor.

Game 3 I kept a hand with a Mox Ruby, land, 2 Stony Silence and wondered if that is ok to keep. I had no disruption, I was on the draw and I played against Storm. I wanted to ship that hand but then I asked myself if I'd done that on Magic Online. I wouldn't so I kept and spectacularly lost. My opponent killed me on his turn 1 while even being able to sneak in Defense Grid (actually I conceded to Time Vault combo, it doesn't matter if I die to lethal Tendrils on turn 1 or on turn 10). I was pretty sad and wondered about my keep.

Round 3 - Inferno Oath

In game 1 I simply had Monastery Mentor and could go through either Griselbrand or Emrakul. My opponent was running Inferno Titans though. Fortunately for me I managed to avoid this creature and won.

Game 2 my opponent played some Moxen on turn 1 but didn't cast either Jace, the Mind Sculptor nor Oath of Druids which I feared. He cast Demonic Tutor though looking for something. I tried to find an answer to Oath but didn't find it. I managed to find Force of Will though. Next turn my opponent played Thrun, the Last Troll which didn't really seem as a threat against a deck that can produce lots of tokens. I didn't have either Young Pyromancer nor Monastery Mentor in my hand so I started digging for it. I had two Containment Priests that I could cast though and chump block in the worst case scenario. I also knew that my opponent played Sudden Shock in his deck. When my life total was getting very low (8) I cast Containment Priest so I could chump block. The Priest got bounced though and I had to take the damage since I couldn't recast it. My opponent then played Oath of Druids to my surprise and there was a chance I could win thanks to the card. I had a singleton Lightning Bolt in my hand so I could destroy a Spirit token my opponent would most probably give me. Casting the Bolt in the end was not necessary since my opponent passed the turn. I just used his Oath hoping to hit Young Pyromancer or Monastery Mentor (there were still two Priests in my deck, hitting a Priest would be pretty bad but Oathing would get me closer to what I needed). I hit Young Pyromancer! I cast Gush, some cantrips and also destroyed Oath of Druids. I had enough tokens to start attacking into Thrun. All I needed was to avoid a hard cast Inferno Titan. I started swinging with my Elemental tokens, later countered Inferno Titan and won the match.

Round 4 - Punishing Oath
I knew I was against another Oath player and this time I also knew that he was running Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows in his deck. When I play against Punishing Oath I often find myself in a situation in which I can't win since all my win conditions die to Punishing Fire (or several of them). I played Gitaxian Probe targeting my opponent and seeing Force of Will, Black Lotus, Force of Will, Brainstorm, Dig Through Time , Mox Ruby and Volcanic Island. I hoped to draw Mental Misstep because I had Force of Will in my hand already. I didn't draw it and hoped my opponent wouldn't find Oath of Druids or Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He found Oath of Druids and it resolved. Now all I could do was to find Monastery Mentor create some tokens and win through Emrakul. I actually managed to find both Monastery Mentor, Young Pyromancer and Time Walk. I could deal 15 damage (my opponent's life total) but I needed a Lightning Bolt in order to kill my creature that would end up blocked by Griselbrand. Next turn I drew the Bolt but the math didn't work with just that card. I needed one more spell to cast because of additional blocker (Emrakul). (I had Dack Fayden in play to look for the spell). Anyway this game was hilarious. If you ever face Oath, know that sometimes you can win through Emrakul and Griselbrand. It happens more often than you may expect. While it may not end up in your victory all the time, sometimes happens.

In game 2 I played Young Pyromancer and starting hitting my opponent. When my opponent played Oath of Druids I needed to do something. I had Containment Priest in my hand already but I didn't have a counterspell to make it resolve or protect it. I drew Merchant Scroll though so I played it and looked for Force of Will. I played the Priest, it resolved and my opponent let his Emrakul get exiled (probably didn't read what Containment Priest does?). I simply started swinging with my creatures, while trying to find an answer to Oath of Druids (which I found). My opponent wasn't really able to do much, I countered several Punishing Fires and won the match somehow (I don't remember really how).

Round 5 - Oath
I wanted to win but I faced turn 1 Oath of Druids and there was no Monastery Mentor to save me this time.

In game 2 I mulled to oblivion keeping a really bad hand featuring Mental Misstep and Flusterstorm as my only spells. I actually managed to resolve Containment Priest when my opponent cast Show and Tell but I swiftly lost a bit later.

My performance at the event wasn't the best one. My record wasn't what I expected either (came up 4th in the end) but the event was lots of fun and I hope that the other players that came enjoyed the event as much as I did. It was really good to be able to sling some spells IRL. I played some awesome games even though it may not look like so from my report. There was also a Modern event going on during our event so some of the Modern players were coming to check up on us. It was quite fun to observe them when they were watching some of our games. One of the Modern players asked another one what Vintage game he was watching. He replied with 'Merfolk vs Death's Shadow'. Well, everyone had a good laugh.

Thanks for reading
S'Tsung (follow me on Twitter @stsungjp or hit me up on MODO if you want to play some games - stsung)