- REFLECTION ON THE WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS (PART 1) - by Graeme McIntyre (Views: 374)Wednesday 18th July 2012
- Last time I wrote something for this site was a reflective piece in February discussing how my year in magic had gone, the testing I did for the Modern PTQ I’d played in Manchester, and some speculation about how the format might develop from that point. I had planned to write more about modern, in a series of articles detailing the testing for and results of each PTQ I played. This was curtailed somewhat partially by a lack of testing (I played, but not as much as I would have liked for various reasons) but mostly by a complete and utter absence of success. My results for that season were 0-3 drop in Manchester with Zoo, 0-3 drop in Dublin with U/B Delver and 1-2 drop with U/B Delver in Glasgow (that win is a bye, incidentally). As a result, I didn’t write because I expect it wouldn’t have been particularly informative. Modern is a very complicated format and I suggest a large testing group for it, purely because it will be very difficult to get through enough games with a small group. The intent of this article is to provide a similar account of my standard season up to this point, along with a consideration of World Cup Qualifiers in comparison to Nationals.
The first World Cup Qualifier was in Dundee. For this event, Ross Jenkins, Bradley Barclay and I began working with Red Green Aggro, U/W Delver, U/B control, Zombies, R/G Ramp and B/W Humans. Results around the time indicated (as they would continue to) that Delver was the deck to beat in the format, and that R/G was the most obvious choice for accomplishing that. Having been destroyed throughout Modern Season with U/B Delver, I was reluctant to play Delver, Bradley was keen (as always) on playing U/B control, and Ross intended to play either R/G aggro or Delver. We played a bit, and after a week both Starcity events and magic online daily events were continuing to demonstrate the same results – Red Green and Delver were the most obvious choices. With two weeks to prepare for the event I felt pressure to choose something and begin working on it, with the intent of having both a good main deck and a good sideboard, with adequate games under my belt in each of the match ups I thought would be important for the event.
We had a U/W/B Control deck built although it was rough at best, playing Lingering Souls, Sun Titans, Snapcasters, Mana Leaks, removal spells and Liliana of the Veil. The results were middling, and after a break in the middle of the second days testing of the second week, I concluded I would play Delver, and devote enough time to testing the mirror to work out how best to play it, as well as any nice sideboard cards I could squeeze into the main. 3 games later, I had drawn enough untimely Vapor Snags to life tilt for a couple of minutes and write the deck off as an option, opting to play the U/W/B deck above, which was about as good as it’s description is precise. The next day we would test would be the Sunday of that week, and on the Saturday I checked the results of the magic online events, only to find a list of Solar Flare which had gone 4-0. (An aside, I think it has become in recent times increasingly important to keep the testing gauntlet up to date. With so many events in the contemporary tournament scene, not doing so will certainly damage the results you generate. I update on a weekly basis.)
This list had Thought Scour, Elesh Norn,
Unburial Rites, Curse of Death’s Holdand … Phantasmal Image. Phantasmal Image is phenomenal in this deck, killing legends, gaining undying, copying Sun Titan and generally being amazing in so many circumstances. Needless to say, the deck got substantially better with its inclusion.
Over the next two weeks, we worked on this deck, with the intention of beating Delver and R/G with it, while also picking up decks like Humans for free along the way (the Wraths and removal spells for R/G, combined with the Curses and Lingering Souls for Delver are both very good against humans). The deck accomplished this in my eyes, although from time to time the R/G deck would win a game through Sword of War and Peace, or an insane number of
Stranglerroot Geist, or a sneaky Hellrider. For a time, we had a main deck Divine Offering, but ultimately this didn’t make the cut.
This is what I played, with the 4th Lingering Souls being added in favour of the 4th Mana Leak the night before, after discussing it with D.J. Carson.
ESPER CONTROL MAIN DECK SIDEBOARD
3 Mana Leak4 Lingering Souls2 Dissipate1 Doom Blade1 Go for the Throat3 Forbidden Alchemy2 Liliana of the Veil3 Day of Judgment2 Oblivion Ring2 Ratchet Bomb2 Curse of Death's Hold1 Dead Weight26 spells
60 main deck cards
MAIN DECK ANALYSIS SIDEBOARD ANALYSIS
Card Type Breakdown:Creatures: 7 (11.67%)Artifacts: 2 (3.33%)Instants: 10 (16.67%)Sorceries: 7 (11.67%)Enchantments: 5 (8.33%)Planeswalkers: 2 (3.33%)Lands: 27 (45.00%)
Spell Colour Breakdown:White: 12 (36.36%)Blue: 12 (36.36%)Black: 7 (21.21%)Colorless: 2 (6.06%)
Mana Curve Analysis:Avg. Casting Cost: 3.09Lowest Casting Cost: 1Highest Casting Cost: 6
0 Mana Spells: 01 Mana Spells: 12 Mana Spells: 113 Mana Spells: 134 Mana Spells: 35 Mana Spells: 26 Mana Spells: 3
Spell Colour Breakdown:White: 2 (13.33%)Blue: 8 (53.33%)Black: 1 (6.67%)Colorless: 4 (26.67%)
Card Type Breakdown:Creatures: 0 (0.00%)Artifacts: 4 (26.67%)Instants: 9 (60.00%)Sorceries: 0 (0.00%)Enchantments: 0 (0.00%)Planeswalkers: 2 (13.33%)Lands: 0 (0.00%)
The two Orbs were against U/B control to give us a way to maybe beat Drownyards, the two Jace against other control decks as well, along with the Negates. The Flashfreeze against R/G Aggro and Ramp, the Doom Blade against Delver, Humans and R/G, the Batterskull against Humans and Zombies, the Ratchet Bomb against Humans and Delver, the Divine Offerings against R/G and Delver.
In retrospect, this sideboard seems pretty far off, in that a lot of cards come in against certain decks…as it turned out, it was fine because the board was good against Delver (which I played against 6 times in 9 matches).
Round 1 – Tom Robertson, U/B Delver (with spirits)
I didn’t really know Tom that well at this point, but I knew he was a friend of Neil Rigby and Tom Harle, so I expected he was a decent sort. Turns out this was indeed the case, as he later rescued me from GP Manchester after I was crushed, getting me home late on the Saturday night.
The games were short, with Tom being ground down by spirits and removal spells, eventually tapping out to pay for a critical spell through Mana Leak, only to be Cursed the following turn in game one, and losing to a Phantasmal Image of his spirit lord … which made my 8 Lingering Souls tokens 2/2.
Game: 2-0, Tourmament Score: 1-0 (Games: 2-0)
Round 2 – Up and coming Dundee player, Delver
Game one I grind out, much according to plan, although I am impressed with his play and unimpressed with my own – a particular highlight included returning Oblivion Ring only for him to return his Batterskull in response, forcing me to remove my Titan. I win the game because I already have a Curse in play, and eventually draw another Titan, but this is clearly exceptionally bad. He eeps a one land hand with a Ponder game two, misses, and I Leak the second Ponder.
Game: 2-0, Tourmament Score: 2-0 (Games: 4-0)
Round 3 – decent player from Aberdeen, Delver
This round is reasonably short, and similar to the last rounds, only without any bad mistakes. My recollection of this game is imperfect, but I seem to remember he slightly over committed permanents, and was punished with sweepers.
Game: 2-0, Tourmament Score: 3-0 (Games: 6-0)
Round 4 – Bruno Panara, Delver
Bruno basically never beats me, but I respect him as a player. Very accomplished, having won far more PTQs than I have, and more recently, combined with a GP top 8 back in antiquity.
I beat him after he keeps a zero land hand after a mull to 6 in game one, swears a little in Italian, and loses. He floods in game two.
Game: 2-0, Tourmament Score: 4-0 (Games: 8-0)
Round 5 – Guy Southcott, Delver
Another problem round, although less so now than a couple of years ago. Guy used to be one of the people I travelled to PTQs with, and tested with regularly. While he doesn’t play much any more, this is certainly a round I would take seriously.
As it happens, I can I.D. but Guy already has an unintentional draw.
I win the first game, and offer the I.D., expecting it to be refused. He takes it.
Game: ID, Tourmament Score: 4-0-1 (Games: 8-0-1)
Round 6 – Jamie Ross, R/G Ramp
Jamie is a decent player, and this was certainly a problem match up for me after Cavern became legal, although at this point I hadn’t really tested it much. Because of the new system for top 8’s, where going first or second is the choice of the player with the best swiss finish, I should have considered playing this, but was actually unaware at the time.
Game: ID, Tourmament Score: 4-0-2 (Games: 8-0-2)
Quarters – Scott McPherson, B/W Humans
I didn’t test this one much either, but Scott seemed to think I had basically won before we played, and that I am aware of this really means he must have felt it was indeed a poor match up; Scott is an old veteran, and I wouldn’t expect him to give information like that way…
As it happens, he crushes me in game one, loses in game two in a typical grinding fashion, and loses in a 3rd game which might have gone differently if I didn’t draw a 4th land on turn 4, after missing with my Forbidden Alchemy.
Game: 2-1, Tourmament Score: 5-0-2 (Games: 10-1-2)
Semis – Bruno Panara, Delver
This match reveals another level of excellence to Bruno’s play; he had got to where he was dispite not knowing that his
Runchanter’s Pikegave first strike! Luckily for me he only realized in game three, after an odd attack in game two which resulted in the death of his unequipped Geist of Saint Traft. These games were marginally more interesting, with Bruno casting a Sun Titan at one point, but ultimately the games ended in my favour.
Game: 2-1, Tourmament Score: 6-0-2 (Games: 12-2-2)
Finals – Bradley Barclay, U/B Control
This matchup is basically a typical control match up, only his threats cost nothing and can’t be countered. If he mulls to 4 he might still be favourite.
He doesn’t, and I lose 0-2 comfortably.
Game: 0-2, Tourmament Score: 6-1-2 (Games: 12-4-2)
I was pretty encouraged with this event, naturally. However Avacyn Restored was going to come out before the next event I played. Initially, we tested a red deck because we (like most people I expect) thought it was going to be amazing, and change everything, but it wasn’t, and didn’t. After this, we moved back to the Esper deck, dropping the Snapcaster Mages and Curses for the Unburial Rites and Elesh Norn, and two Tamiyo. Over time, we ended up with something very similar to what we played before, but with Despise in the board, only 1 Dissipate in the main, an extra removal spell in the main, and no Orbs. My results in Edinburgh were as follows…
Round 1 – a young player from Perth, who I have seen travel to the odd event. U/R Delver
I lose the first game to a 3/2 attacker on turn 2, back with some Mana Leaks and more little guys. Game two, I win pretty comfortably. Game three takes ages, but only because I don’t want to tap out, opting to cast and flash back Lingering Souls over multiple turns rather than tap out for Sun Titan. This might have been a mistake, but I was pressured for time and didn’t want to tap out and lose because I didn’t have time to think through the consequences of casting the Titan.
Game: 2-1, Tourmament Score: 1-0 (Games: 2-1)
Round 2 – Gary Campbell, Naya Pod
Gary wins the first with a Conscripts, but loses the next two. The third game is interesting because Gary makes a turn 2 Thalia, but only has one land. I stall as well, but ultimately recover better than he does.
Game: 2-0, Tourmament Score: 2-0 (Games: 4-2)
Round 3 – Gabor, Zombies
Game one is resolved quickly with a series of Messengers, game two with a flood for him. The third game looks totally sealed shut, but with me on a low life total. He has one turn to draw his one out, which is a Phantasmal Image. He plays the Image, copies Sun Titan, gets back Messenger, sacs a random dork to kill the Messenger, (because it’s smaller due to the Curse) and kills me. Looking back, that doesn’t sound quite right, but at the time, I’m sure that if I had got back Oblivion Ring and killed my own Curse, I would have won the game. It sounds narrow, but I’m pretty sure someone better than me would have noticed and done this. It’s obviously bad luck as well, but if I played better I would have won anyway.
Game: 1-2, Tourmament Score: 2-1 (Games: 5-4)
Round 4 – Ray Doyle, Delver
Ray is a Dundee player who travels to the odd PTQ. Likely as not, he will be an important player up here in a couple of years.
Game one Ray floods a bit, game two he struggles with land. There is little I can say about this other than that he didn’t lose because he made mistakes.
Game: 2-0, Tourmament Score: 3-1(Games: 7-4)
Round 5 – John Malampy, R/G Aggro
John actually gets a game loss for tardiness, but beats me in the next two. In the first game he starts with Strangleroot, Strangleroot, Avenger, and I’m quickly over ran. In the second, he casts Manabarbs, which he nearly loses to but ultimately beats me with Swords. Again in this game he runs a good set of draws for 4 turns or so, while I only draw average cards in this duration. The game could easily have gone in my favour, but this is to be accepted.
Game: 1-2, Tourmament Score: 3-2 (Games: 8-6)
Round 6 – Jeremy Mansfield, Naya Pod
I’ve been paired up, and don’t really want to knock us both out of contention as he is driving me to the event and so on, but I’m fairly sure that someone on 4-2 will make top 8, so I can’t really ID or scoop to him either.
In the first game, I establish what I think is control early doors, only to have my Elesh Norn stolen by Zealous Conscripts, and end up chump blocking with a Sun Titan. I untap with the 4/7 Legend, however and go on to win the game. The second game provides Jeremy with fewer land than he might like, and me with a win.
Game: 2-0, Tourmament Score: 4-2 (Games: 10-6)
As it happens, 2 people make it in on 4-2; Jeremy and myself.
Quarters – Jamie Ross, Delver
Jamie beats me with Restoration Angel in both games pretty convincingly.
Game: 0-2, Tourmament Score: 4-3 (Games: 10-8)
Clearly the deck didn’t perform nearly as well in the second event. As it happens, Jamie only had one copy of Restoration Angel in his deck, but this was the same weekend that Gerry Thompson did well with a list with 4 Angels in a Starcity event, along with numerous other people. This card is a *major* issue for the deck I played, dealing nicely with Liliana, while also making his counter magic better, and my Curses and Wraths worse. At this point, I decide to test something more proactive, and begin testing Naya Pod.
My performance in the Glasgow and Belfast PTQs, as well as the final WCQ in Glasgow, will come in part two of this article.
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