First off, I had a blast at RIW Hobbies a couple Saturday’s ago. I drafted this report a few days ago but had a vacation in-between so there was a small delay with finishing the write-up. This was the first tourney Solemnity was legal. It was a sanctioned event for Eternal Weekend and thanks to Ben Perry for judging the event. I never write tournament reports, ever. I thought I would try something new. For those of you who do not know me I am from the Cleveland area and play with the Team Serious folk 1000% of the time. I am a Civil Engineer during the day and a dad to 2 boys at night. I am an Ohio State alum and a big fan of Disney. I really only like to play Vintage, but sometimes a game of Old School or Legacy will sneak in from time to time. I have been playing Type 1 on and off since Mirrodin but started to play more competitively in 2013.
Trying to round up some Serious folk for the trip to Michigan wasn’t too hard for the Cleveland group. It’s over a 3 hour drive from Cleveland to RIW. Nam Tran @nartman99 , Kyle Lenox @zodiacboyscout , and I started the journey Michigan, which is enemy territory for me with my Buckeye blood. I don’t want to step foot in Michigan or breathe the contaminated air, but once you get there it isn’t as bad as it seems.
We made the trip with enough time to get a bite to eat at the local deli. It was perfect timing because we ran into to some familiar faces, being Kevin Cron @CHA1N5 and Aaron Katz among a few others. It was good to see those guys. We got to talk about family, life, kids and other stupid stuff to calm the nerves before the tourney.
I went to this event playing White Eldrazi. I have been on the Eldrazi plan since the deck was created over a year ago. My play style is one where I like to attack with creatures. I played U/W Fish with Meddling Mages, Stormscape Apprentices, and Ninja of the Deep Hours back in the day and this love for creatures has led me to these style decks ever since. I have never played in this area before so I was not too sure of the meta and the exact 75 I would need. For White Eldrazi, the deck has 56-57 cards the same. Some decks like Sol Ring, more Thalias, less Smashers, no Wastelands, or whatever the pilot feels they want. My list is here:
White Eldrazi - Steven Sasala
My sideboard is where I was getting the most heart burn. I was expecting combo to be present. Ben Perry has been brainwashing people in this area to play 2- Card Monte. Plus I was pretty sure Nam was playing 2CM as well. Paradoxical Outcome is common online and is powerful and fun to play. I was anticipating Dredge to be present because this was a sanctioned event. My next thought on the meta is Blue. And by Blue I mean Mentor. And by Mentor I mean Jeskai Mentor. No surprise here. To some people playing a creature that’s better than Tinker, playing spells, drawing cards, attacking for an insane amount of damage, having access to Force of Will, Ancestral, Time Walk, etc. is fun. Whatever. Not my cup of tea. I have to plan for this deck obviously because the lemmings just want to play the best deck.
Shops was the archetype that was up in the air for me. I was not expecting a lot of Shops whether Ravager or Precursor Golem. Sanctioned does factor in again here. My last thought to the meta were the new cards. All Wild cards. Hollow One, Solemnity, Abrade, and the rest of Hour of Devastation could be played.
With a deck like White Eldrazi it is a big-creature, hatebear deck. Hatebears are meant to prey on a defined meta. This was anything but defined for me. My deck is basically a 59 card deck with one flex spot. I don’t like Sol Ring ever. Opening hands of Temple, Sol Ring and Thorn are just opening yourself up to Misstep and FOW. I would rather just play against FOW. If your only source of mana to ramp is Sol Ring, getting it Misstepped is terrible.
(Quick example, opening 7 – Plains, temple, Wasteland, Sol Ring, Thorn, Thalia Heretic Cathar, Thought- Knot Seer. Absolutely great hand other than Sol Ring. Against and unknown opponent you play Temple, Sol Ring (Misstep) pass. Turn 2 Thorn (FOW’d). Now imagine if Sol Ring is a Mox Jet. Turn one is Mox, Temple, Thorn. (FOW’d) Then Turn 2 is Plains, Thought-Knot Seer. You have two back to back threats when you have a Mox over Sol Ring.)
My choices for the last maindeck spot are either Aegis of the Gods, Containment Priest (#3), Eldrazi Displacer (#4) or Spirit of the Labyrinth. Aegis would have been picked if I felt that Oath & Paradoxical Outcome decks would be popular. Aegis – out. Containment Priest #3 was considered only if I felt Dredge and Oath would be popular. Priest – out. Eldrazi Displacer was not chosen because I like it in Shops matchups which I was not expecting a lot of. Displacer – out. I chose Spirit of the Labyrinth because of Blue decks and Paradoxical Outcome. I felt like my hardest matchup is Mentor. An early Mentor hurts; but Spirit will slow down the token generator from getting out of hand. Spirit can make the opponents first STP hit itself rather than hitting Thalia. Definitely a win for my deck.
To the sideboard. I put 15 cards in my sideboard that will try to give me an edge against the expected meta. I am planning for Mentor, PO, 2- Card Monte, and Dredge.
2 – Null Rod – I never leave home without my favorite magic card. Shops, Outcome, Oath.
1 – Containment Priest – The extra Priest from the maindeck that I passed on; Dredge and Oath.
1 – Trinisphere – For the Mentor and Outcome decks.
1 – Grafdigger’s Cage – Dredge, Oath, Yawg Will decks.
2 – Kataki, War’s Wage – Shops, 2-card Monte, Outcome
2 – Swords to Plowshares – Mentor, Shops, Oath, creature decks, mirror match
4 – Leyline of Sanctity – This was the first time I played with Leyline other than in testing. MVP for this meta. Would have been even better if Oath would have been represented. Many people are trying Gift Ungiven style decks now and this stops that too. Gifts targets an opponent.
2 – Ghost Quarter – This was my last card chosen for the sideboard. It was between this and Pithing Needle. I wanted a card for Shops and Dredge which both cards fight against, but Needle can be underwhelming at times. Needle would have come in against 2-card Monte decks. I did take a gamble with choosing Ghost Quarter because I was anticipating someone trying out Solemnity/Dark Depths which can be stopped by this card.
I wanted to try out a Balance in the board but I ran out of room. I have heard too many times lately, “well, maybe if he has Balance in his deck maybe he can get out of this situation.” I know that I play creatures which is not good with Balance, but sometimes Balance is Mind Twist, Stone Rain, and Wrath of God all in one.
When it was time to shuffle up we had a total of 17 players competing for the Bye at Eternal Weekend. My intention for the event was to get the Bye. I wasn’t really wanting to split prizes or anything; I was focused on getting the Bye. And after over a 3 hour drive to the event I did get the Bye… for round 1. So I had some time to kill and was admiring the new location for RIW Hobbies. Their card selection is pretty deep. Case upon case of eternal cards, modern cards, etc.
Round 1 – BYE
Round 2 – Will – 2-Card Monte
I didn’t really do too much scouting. I wasn’t certain what Will was on; however, he is Ben’s brother so there was a chance he was on 2CM. I think he has played White Eldrazi before as well. My opening hand was pretty good having fast mana, Ancient Tomb and turn 1 Revoker on Helm of Obedience because his Turn 0 Leyline was already on the battlefield. Will played Mox, Ancient Tomb and Painter’s Servant. I play Mox, Mox, Ancient Tomb and TKS. Will said his hand just went to crap. Which it did. He had Gemstone Mine x2, Wheel of Fortune and Demonic Consultation. I exiled the Wheel. Smasher then makes quick work of the game.
After I counted up the cards I wanted in, it totaled 10. I didn’t even realize it was that many cards. Everything but Containment Priest, Trinisphere, Ghost Quarters, and a STP comes in. Maybe the second STP would have been good.
All I wanted was a hand with Leyline of Sanctity. Pretty simple. I would like Tomb and Null Rod as well. My 7 had a Leyline so I was in business. My notes said I gained 4 life so I believe my Leyline was Nature’s Claimed. His life total went 20-16-8-0. I exiled another Nature’s Claim with TKS and failed to exile having only lands with the second TKS.
Round 3 – Aaron Katz – Jeskai Mentor
The funniest part of the entire tourney happened at the start of this match. Aaron and I have played a couple times before. Aaron is a great guy. He and I both have a couple kids and are able to joke about the odd things that kids do. We talked about our prior rounds and what happened. We finished shuffling up and I hand him my deck for cut. Then Aaron said that on a scale of 1-10, his last round was an “F”. So I start laughing for a few seconds (Inside Out reference) and I go to cut his deck and then we kind of look at each other like… uh. Aaron was like you just cut your own deck. We kind of just stared at each other for a second.
Both of our decks have black KMC sleeves and we don’t know which deck is whose. Now we are just like what do we do? I call Ben over and explain the situation and he starts laughing too. He picks up one of the decks and looks at a couple cards. He told me later that it took him a couple cards deep to see who’s was whose. I think it was my Jap foil Thalia that made his determination. It was a funny moment for sure. After we laugh that off we shuffle up.
Let me just say this round was definitely an “F” for me. I win the die roll. I know he is on Mentor. I am uncertain if he knows what I am on. It doesn’t really matter when I have to mull to 5. My 5 was good. With the scry, I put Smasher on top. I have Mox, Cavern, Thalia, Tomb, other. I play uncounterable Thalia and pass. He opened on Library. I was like sweet. With Smasher on top if he tried to go the long game I had a chance. I was anticipating “pass” from Aaron. I almost reached for the Smasher on top of my deck. Then I paused. I was thinking say “pass”. Say “pass”. Say “pass” Aaron. He didn’t. Taps Library, plays Lotus into Mentor. “Pass.” Okay. Hopefully Smasher can get there. It didn’t. On to game 2.
I do the best I can to isolate games like that. While I am sideboarding I am trying to let the turn 1 Mentor be an anomaly and can happen 1 out of 20 or so games through a Thorn. I sided in STPs and Trinisphere. Being 5 rounds of Swiss you have to mentally tell yourself to accept it and to analyze it later. Well, my next 7 is terrible. I have to mulligan to 6. It was either great or it wanted more. It was a White hand with Karakas and Plains but had the Colorless monster in TKS. To round out my six was Lotus, Emerald, and Trinisphere. I scryed Thorn to the top. I had turn 1 threat (Trinisphere) and turn 2 threat (Thorn) if Trinisphere gets FOW’d. Keep. I took a deep breathe, played Lotus slowly. Snuck Emerald into play too. Then I played Trinisphere. FOW exiling JVP was his response. Ok; 2 for 2 trade I thought. Karakas became basic Plains now because JVP was in exile. Aaron went Flooded Strand, Mox, pass. Turn 2 Thorn is not bad. I drew Plains. More whiteness is not what I wanted. I play Karakas and Thorn, pass. Aaron starts to pull ahead from this point on. He even taunted me say that having a TKS stuck in my hand sucks. He knew what was up. I lacked a colorless source of mana. My draw was Reality Smasher. Pass. I draw Mana Crypt and play it through Thorn and play TKS. I saw Dig Through Time, Ingot Chewer and Library. Dig was exiled. His draw was Dack Fayden. That sealed the deal. The greatest thief in the Multi-verse stole my Mana Crypt and was now on his side. Back to not having any colorless mana. An alternate casting cost Chewer (full price) came down. Game over. I should have exiled the Chewer in retrospect, maybe, but drawing Dack made my bad choice moot. Mana Crypt was too late to turn the game around anyways.
Round 4 – Will Rogers – 2-Card Monte
I met Will for the first time at brunch prior to the event. Very nice guy. He carpooled with Kevin and Aaron. He wins the die roll. I know he is on 2-Card Monte. I was searching for a hand with Revoker. I don’t have many notes on this game. He named Blue with Painter and my notes stopped…
Same sideboarding as in Round 2. 10 cards in; Reality Smashers, Containment Priests, and Thorns out. I have a Leyline in my opening 7. Keep. He gets his combo down quick with both Painter and Grindstone in play. Leyline holding down the fort while TKS hits his life total 4 damage at a time. On to game 3.
My opening 7 had Leyline and Revoker with 5 mana sources. Keep. We both play a Leyline turn 0. His was voided by my sanctity. I named Helm of Obedience with my Revoker. Revoker did 16 damage that game. It wasn’t until I played Null Rod that Mike scooped. I did not have another threat the entire game. There was a point in the game where I had to strip his colored mana source which forced him to bounce my Leyline. I was then able to replay the Leyline post combat. Mike said that he had a win if not for strip mine at the right moment.
I have some down time for a few minutes and talk to Kevin Cron about life and work and magic. The last thing Kevin says to me before the start of Round 5 was, “you know Steve, I have a terrible matchup versus White Eldrazi… except when I play you.” Hahaha, hah, ha…
Round 5 – Mike – Storm
Hand shake. Small talk. And sort my deck for a deck check.
Alright, step 1 accomplished. Make Top 8. I have some fig newtons to keep my energy up and wait for my pairing. My Top 8 opponent is Kevin. Of course. The only way to beat him in the top 8 is to play him in the top 8.
Top8 – Kevin Cron – U/W Mentor-Solemnity
I have not had luck against him in the top 8, ever. Things are good though. I am on the play being 3rd seed. My 7 is keepable. One thing that I have learned with this deck is that it needs a turn 1 play. Simple as that. Tomb x2, Revoker, TKS x2, Smasher, other. This turn 1 play was not exciting. This is the most underwhelming, shot in the dark turn one play you can make. Blind naming Revoker on Lotus into turn 2 TKS is my game plan. I do not want a quick Mentor. Revoker naming Lotus will stop that. Kevin kept his 7 and off we go. I play Tomb, Revoker… and Kevin flinches, then says okay. I still name Lotus despite Kevin’s reaction. He goes fetch, Tundra, STP the Revoker, Lotus, Mentor. Okey Dokey. Here we go again.
At least my TKS is bigger than his Mentor. I play Tomb #2, TKS. It resolves and I see Solemnity, Tundra, flusterstorm, and Time Walk. I exile Time Walk and pass. Kevin draws and passes. I draw Mana crypt. I have taken 4 damage from Tomb (STP +2 life). I have the damage bomb in Mana crypt and he has Mentor in play with Solemnity, Flusterstorm and unknown card in hand. If his draw was STP that’s fine because I can get some of the life back from the Tombs damage. So as long as I can avoid FOW then I am good. I choose to play Smasher over TKS but in doing this I have to play Mana Crypt. Smasher ends the game quicker and I do not want a top deck Dark Depths to end the game. TKS can’t hit lands. I am at 12 life after casting Smasher. He is at 18 life. So as I start writing down on my notepad the 4 damage to play Smasher, he exiles Flusterstorm for his FOW.
I can’t say I was on tilt but this was as close to tilt as it comes. But it happens. I think I attack with TKS which is a mistake because my life total was low. But that wasn’t what caused the undoing of this game.
What if I played TKS instead of Smasher? I still take 4 damage. I would be at 12. I then go to 8, play mana crypt (if I don’t draw a mana source) and Smasher. Start attacking his life total and avoid some mana crypt flips. Maybe that would have been better. But, nonetheless, I continue on playing TKS #2 the following turn. I got hit with Mana Crypt damage. Kevin attacks me to 3 with Mentor and tokens and I die in my upkeep.
On to game 2. Trinisphere and STPs in. Containment Priests and Revoker out. I keep a good 7. Cavern, Thalia, Mox, Displacer, others. This is the typical game White Eldrazi can play. Uncounterable creatures, wastelands, TKS, etc. He plays JVP and I have Karakas – JVP bounced. Kevin’s next turn is unexciting, plays JVP again, pass. There was a turn I had an active Displacer and Karakas untapped. I get to a point to where I can step on the gas and attack for more damage, but I do not know Kevin’s list. It is a new brew with Solemnity/Dark Depths combo. I do not want to get blown out by Balance. I was planning on playing Thalia 2.0, so instead of bouncing JVP to his hand, I blinked the blue creature in and out of play to get some damage in and so that Kevin doesn’t get a free blue card for a FOW. I talked myself out of getting Balanced and stepped off the gas without playing Thalia 2.0. I bounce JVP back to his hand and pass. I win this game playing a bit better than I did game 1 and Kevin not drawing what he needed.
No changes for game 3. I have to mulligan to 5. My 6 was oh so close to keeping. It had 2 Mox, Thalia 2.0, TKS, Smasher, others but did not have a land. I could scry for a land. I shipped it looking at the top 2 cards. Cavern followed by Wasteland. Ugh. I would have been in business. My 5 was bad. But it was only bad because it was a virtual 4 card hand. It had Cavern, strip, Displacer, and Thalia 1.0 x2. I scryed Thorn to the top. Committing Cavern to the board would force my mana in one direction or the other (naming Human or Eldrazi) making my hand worse. Kevin started off with Tundra, pass. I play Strip pass. He Ancestrals end step and asks if I change my mind on the pass. Nope. I need the mana. He plays land, preordain (top top) and Mana crypt, pass. Warning flags go up. He is ready for something big by committing crypt to the board. I feel like I can see 20-20 right now. I draw and play Temple and cast Thorn. (I still can’t commit Cavern to the board because of the color restriction. Uncounterable Thalia versus Thorn and at this point if I can get Kevin to remove 2 cards to Thorn I feel that is a win for me.) Thorn resolves and Pass. He plays Solemnity through Thorn thanks to Crypt. Dark Depths makes him hell-bent. There you have it. I could see 20-20. But more like 20/20. At the time I thought my only out was Black Lotus. If I draw Lotus, I can blink the token with Eldrazi Displacer. My draw was not Lotus. I shake Kevin’s hand and wish him luck.
After I thought about it more I did have my 2 Karakas’ as outs as well.
I had a ton of fun. Playing Vintage is the best. We had some great players on hand. My round 4 opponent won the Trial and got the Bye. He didn’t even have a Lotus in his deck. Mike must have played very well to get around the lack of Lotus. Great for Mike!
My carpool guys finished in 9th and 2nd. So good finish for the Serious guys. We hit the road and stopped in Toledo and ate at Tony Packo’s. Good food and beer.
In doing this write-up I analyzed my losses a bit more and thought about match with Kevin a lot. My toughest losses of the day were to turn 1 Mentors. Does this happen more than I am thinking that it does? Was I a bit unlucky? Don’t know for sure, but Mentor is a pretty insane card. Now thinking about my match with Kevin, if you go back to game 3, in the game Kevin asked me if I changed my mind about using Strip Mine. I was so focused on needing the mana that I did not see what was going on. For his hand to line up the way he wanted he needed Strip mine gone. Playing Thorn was meaningless. He had the mana. If he goes Mentor and cantrips I have a chance because I have a Displacer to help fight that. It was the other part of his deck I should have been afraid of; you know… the 20/20. Tapping my Strip Mine gave him the green light for Marit Lage. I should have played against Kevin with how you play against a Dredge Dark Depths opponent post sideboard. Find a Wasteland and never tap it. Ever. Also, I should have prioritized landing the Displacer. Displacer holds off Mentor and stops Marit Lage. Definitely learned from my mistakes. Don't have your Mentor opponent have Black Lotus and Mentor in their opening hands. It happened twice to me that day. Oh well. By the way, Kevin’s alters…
Hopefully there is another trial at RIW soon. I will be there. Thanks for reading. Hopefully some of the animation works. If not... I will try better next time.