Tournament Report: Big BUG, Top 4 at NYSE Open VI

First, a big thank you to Nick Detwiler whose incredible events over the past several years were life changing. I mean that very literally because in 2013, when I returned to paper Vintage, I thought I would just be playing locally a few times a year. I was convinced, reluctantly at first, to try an event in Lancaster, PA and then take the giant step towards going full roadie to New York for the first NYSE. The experiences were so exciting--venues filled with people who shared our furious interest in this ancient format, faces put to names from online forums, people sharing hilarious stories all day long, watching the Top 8 matches in person at a marquee event, I could go on. With all respect to the nightlife era of our 20's, I remember thinking at age 33, "Hmmm, I don't think I've had this much fun since I was 17. This is where I belong." It's been an unforgettable journey since then--a windfall of strong friendships, great matches, deckbuilding discussions, Dragonlords, Wolf tokens, trophies, Notion Thieved Treasure Cruises, VSL, team Magic, one (and only one) Modern tournament, dozens of SMIP podcasts, 27,000 arguments on the Mana Drain, a partridge in a pear tree, and of course, making and witnessing our own hilarious stories like the legends of old. None of it would have been part of my life if I hadn't gone to New York in the summer of 2013. I'm eternally grateful to Nick whose superb events opened my eyes to how great paper Vintage at large events could be.

Congratulations also are in order for the deserving champ, phenomenal player Joe Brennan, JP Kohler, other members of the Top 8 and the cadre of Vintage scientists whose rigorous work I witnessed firsthand as they designed and tested the [censored] out of their airtight Karn Shops list: Vasu Balakrishnan, Will Magrann, Ryan Eberhart, Joel Lim, Will Dayton, and Rich Shay (who audibled to evil Dredge at the last minute. Karma does not reward necromancy! 🙂 ) Sending a unit of 8 Academians largely on an identical 75 to this event and having the 50% of the Top 8 come from this squad was a great testament to the value of dedication, brainstorming, and recorded testing. I salute them all.

I tried experimenting with a blue Forge list while this was going on, but it didn't come together. As I was not able to stain my soul by serving Mishra or the Grave Troll, I went with a BUG deck that eschewed Deathrite Shamans in favor of the classic Tinker mana base, sans Sol Ring, but replete with Yawgmoth's Will, Academy, Bob-Jace, and removal options that went bigger like Deed or ones stuck around and generated additional utility, including the Queen. Notably, Deed, Vraska, and Garruk Relentless are all part of responsible Bob management. That doesn't mean they'll always be there in a pinch, but it means if they aren't, it wasn't for lack of planning.

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The list had good results for me in testing and I noted that in many of the games I lost, the deck came through but I wasn't paying close attention or chose an incorrect line. With more practice and knowing that I'd be paying more attention in paper than on PC, I thought as a descendant of the Bob-Jace/Tinker decks with which I'm comfortable and experienced, it was a reasonable choice.

The night before the event I cut Dig through Time for a Sorcerous Spyglass since it seemed that being alive or meaningfully participating in the game on Turn 3 was more of an aspiration than a given in the format's current iteration. It worked out since I was able to Spyglass a Karn in the quarter-finals where Dig would have been a total brick and I never missed the spell once throughout the day. Bob was also happy to never see it.

Additional thanks to Calvin Hodges and Shawn Anthony who helped offset a minor setback where a certain West Coast vendor somehow mistook 2 day shipping for 7 day shipping, the end result being that Garruk, Ouphe, extra Dazes and the Queen herself ended up appearing in my mailbox in Pennsylvania around the same time as we were checking into our hotel in New York.

Thank you to my friend David Kaplan who I always enjoy seeing. His company provided a raffle and refreshments for the whole group, including sparkling water which was heaven-sent on that 100,000 degrees Fahrenheit day.

I enjoyed playtesting with Rich the night before even though I died once to a Hollow One. Someone is going to sneak a Hollow One ornament on my Christmas tree at some point leading to a tragedy.

Thank you to Andy Probasco for bringing his multimedia wizardry to New York and allowing everyone to follow along from home.

And finally, thank you to my agent, antagonist, secretary, publicist, protégé, travel companion, and virtual younger brother Matt Murray (ChubbyRain) for an unforgettable trip, even though he pretends he never heard the original version of "La Isla Bonita," only the rock cover of it that is often played on his channel while streaming. I don't believe him and neither should you. 😛

Big BUG
Deck List

Mana Base:
3 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Tropical Island
3 Underground Sea
1 Island
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Strip Mine
5 Moxen
1 Black Lotus
1 Mana Crypt

Extra Artifacts:
1 Sensei's Divining Top
1 Sorcerous Spyglass

Critters & Sylvans:
2 Dark Confidant
2 Sylvan Library
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Trinket Mage
1 Collector Ouphe
1 Yixlid Jailer
1 Blightsteel Colossus

Countermagic:
3 Force of Will
2 Daze
2 Mental Misstep
2 Flusterstorm

Instants:
1 Brainstorm
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Peek
1 Assassin's Trophy

Planeswalkers:
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Vraska, Golgari Queen
1 Garruk Relentless

Sorceries:
1 Gitaxian Probe
2 Preordain
1 Time Walk
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Tinker
1 Yawgmoth's Will

Extra:
1 Pernicious Deed

Sideboard:
3 Tormod's Crypt
2 Yixlid Jailer
1 Grafdigger's Cage
2 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
2 Nature's Claim
1 Mindbreak Trap
1 Null Rod
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Ophiomancer

Some notes on card choice:

I don't run Scalding Tarns because it is the fetchland I am most likely to encounter and name when I do a blind Spyglass v. blue.

Ophiomancer is a buffer against Hollow Ones and other large creatures (cough Eldrazi) that could steam roll my poor army of fragile worker bees. It needed to be there because I changed Infernal Reckoning to an extra Nature's Claim hedging more against Karn Shops than Eldrazi.

I didn't run Sol Ring cause it doesn't help with turn 1 Bob/Sylvan or hate pieces (Jailer, Rod). Also, I'm not interested in keeping hands that rely on it for obvious reasons.

Thrun is for blue. Rush him out, ignore their PW's and focus on keeping their critters off the table is a solid strategy that's been successful more often than not.

Decay comes in against blue because Assassin's Trophy is so much worse there, but it's a blank in too many other important match-ups to be maindeck when Vraska, Garruk, and Pernicious Deed can already dispense with most things I'd want to Decay anyway.

Rumors of Jace's demise are exaggerated. I was pretty down on him too in my Xerox lists and what I've discovered is that it's not the card JTMS that's the problem but the lack of acceleration. He really wants things like Mana Crypt, full Moxen, and Tolarian Academy to be happy. It makes a world of a difference and he was great all day.

Never Force something if you can Daze it. Especially against Dredge.

Pernicious does a lot of things and is ideal in responding to the multiple CMC critter hordes one might see from the "Bane of BUG" Young Pyromancer and friends.

The potential for discord between Collector Ouphe/Null Rod and acceleration/Top is offset by the fact that the former responds to imminent threats so urgent that I couldn't care less if I can't spin a prospective Top or use a Mox Ruby if it means shutting down Karn's toys or Outcome. In other matches where Null Rods aren't good, if the Ouphe is going to be painful in a lopsided way for me, naturally I won't play it (unless we need an emergency blocker) and it gets boarded out. Classic Bob-Jace wouldn't run Null Rod, but this one keeps the Tinker without doing Vault-Key, so having the Rods is worth it.

I finally kicked the Library habit. My favorite card. It seduces me into keeping hands I shouldn't. Could not do it in this uber-punishing metagame.

Tournament Report

Round 1: Pitch Dredge, Win 2-0

I had no idea what he was on and he seemed well-dressed and sophisticated enough to not be on Dredge. 😛 Kidding, necromancers. But I was deceived. He led with Bazaar. I Probed him, saw no interaction, Time Walked and played Peek, drawing Yixlid Jailer leading to concession. In the maindeck? Of course. Crimes against the living cannot go unpunished.

Game 2, I had a hand that beautifully reflected the decklist's and creator's unabashed abhorrence of Dredge. At one point, I played a Tormod's Crypt and after it was on the table for 15 seconds, my opponent said, "Wait, I can counter that? Can I counter that?" I let him. He said he was new to the format and I was there mostly to have a good time and support the event. It didn't matter and I figured it was more important to give a good community impression. He still died to double Jailers and his Hollow Ones did not pay tribute at the Tabernacle so the high priestess, a benevolent scarlet minister named Lady Melisandre incinerated them at the pyre.

Round 2: Jeskai, Win 2-1

Game 1:
He won the die roll, played a cantrip, and passed. I played Time Walk which resolved. I played a Sensei's Top and declined to "Misstep back" when he countered it, then Bob, pass. He played an Arcanist and passed. He called it Smashcaster Mage and I liked the nickname. I played a Snapcaster and Time Walked again, followed by one of the green planeswalkers that eats Dreadhorde Arcanists. He conceded.

In Game 2, I mulled to 6 with a control heavy hand and Top. At one point, I blind drew off Top for a blue card to Force his Dack Fayden and the blue card miraculously ended up being Daze. But he threw more threats at me than my three counters could handle and ended up with Dack in play at the end which turned into the typical Xerox parade of horribles. After drawing a blank on my turn, I conceded.

Game 3, I kept a hand with 3 lands, 3 Moxen, and Jace. It was risky cause it was all on in Jace, but when the Jace didn't get Forced and his +0 Brainstormed into Misstep, Daze, and some other counterspell the game was taken over quickly. Garruk came next. Then Vraska. Each of the planeswalkers including Jace did something horrible to a Dreadhorde Arcanist. I Decayed his Dack and he was able to resolve Treasure Cruise but nothing else of any consequence. I sacrificed one of Garruk's wolves to his flip side and tutored up Thrun, the Last Troll.

Round 3: Jeskai, Loss 1-2

Game 1, I kept a hand with Daze, Flusterstorm, some other counter, Sensei's Top; I think we both mulled to 6. He played an Arcanist turn 1. When he untapped he Ancestralled himself and I got a pit in my stomach. He Misstepped one of my Flusterstorms and paid 1 for the other. The first Recall did not resolve but the second one did. I was depleted; drew and saw no action, condeded.

Game 2, I kept a hand I usually despise due to double Force to Tourach but it served me well (for once). He played Turn 1 Lavinia, I Forced it, he Forced back, I Forced back. He had a lot of Moxen but no red Mana. He Wasted my land. I got a Sylvan to stick. The first 3 had no land so I gorged. He played a Lotus and did not crack it. My next 3 had no land again so I took 2. The following turn, I found the fetchland. He cracked Lotus for red to Pyroblast my Narset and I decided not to counter back because I suspected he had another Pyroblast, which, with Lotus gone, could be rendered impotent later due to lacking Volacnics. He had been passing the turn back several times previously with no action and no red mana. I blew up his 3 other Moxen with Pernicious Deed, Garruk came and the Wolves were hungry. After the game, he showed me his hand was Pyroblast, Pyroblast, Dack Fayden.

Game 3 was broadcast. This match was my only loss in the Swiss so naturally it was featured on camera for the whole world to see. He mulled to 6 and played Ancestral, it resolved. I played a turn 1 Trinket Mage getting Top and had Cage in my hand for Arcanists. He played Lavinia and Strip Mined me so even with multiple Moxen in play, I couldn't even play a Cage or Sensei's Top. I drew no land. I drew spells that could remove Lavinia, including Abrupt Decay, but no land. His Arcanist got going while I drew more non-lands, culminating in an insult-to-injury Mox Emerald and then I conceded.

Round 4: Shredge, Win 2-1

I had a delightful opponent who said he played on MTGO often and I asked what his screen name was. He said he couldn't tell me because it would be a dead giveaway. I stated "The only person I could think of whose name would be a dead giveaway would be Zias." I didn't think it was really him. But it was! He introduced himself then. I couldn't believe it. He is famous for his innovative Shops/Dredge hybrid which I always admired.

I had a bizarre opener of Lotus, Mana Crypt, Jet, Vraska, gobble my own Mana Crypt. It was decent but he very quickly had that Hogaak thing in play next to a Hollow One + 2 Bloodghasts and an Amalgam and I couldn't mount a commensurate defense or find the really broken cards in time.

In Game 2, he had a Leyline of Sanctity in play pre-game which was okay cause I didn't board in all of my Dredge hate for Shredge, leaving out many of the Crypts due to Null Rod. I played a Grafdigger's Cage. He played a Trinisphere. I Spyglassed Bazaar. I played a Jace. I wanted to Nature's Claim his Trinisphere and start doing fireworks but he suddenly put one half of Depths combo and Urborg into play with very few, if any, cards in hand. Having already used my Spyglass, I was pretty cold to it aside from one Strip Mine wherever it was so I had to claim his Leyline to start fatesealing and keep that evil at bay. He didn't assemble it.

In Game 3, my hand was 3 accelerants, Fetchland, Tolarian Academy, Jace, Cage. The kind of thing that looks super strong but I know to be susceptible to certain Shops-esque openers on the draw which I expected. Still I kept. He led with Null Rod. I played all my Moxen, fetchland, and Recalled. Next turn I played Cage and used Academy for UUUU to cast Jace. Things got out of hand. He Wasted my Academy but predictably, Jace kept finding land. I think I beat him down with a Bob and Yixlid Jailer.

Round 5: BUG Depthstill, Win 2-0 (?)

The only reason I know this was a Standstill deck is because much later on, I heard people mention a Depthstill deck having been played at the top tables. To me it just looked like BUG Depths in our match. I saw Life from the Loam, Trops, Seas, Wastelands, Hexmage, Assassin's Trophies, blue countermagic, but not a single Standstill at any point, not even in the graveyard while he was Loaming deep.

Depths makes me a bit anxious since I don't play Legacy and have to pause and parse through the correct timing steps in my head with Wastelanding the Stage every time it comes up. He started Strip Mining me with Life from the Loam. My Spyglass showed he had Depths, Stage, Force, Trophy and Hexmage in hand. Scary! I named Stage. I got Bob and was able to draw land at critical times. He Trophied my Spyglass and I was sad about that but happy to get an Island to put a Jace on the stack despite the incessant Strip Mining. He tapped 5 to Force, which I Dazed. I drew a Strip Mine which complicated his Depths plan and prevented his Hexmage from making Marit, but for a while I was certain I was going to lose somehow. Something I did got Mindbreak Trapped. Eventually I played Yawgmoth's Will and Demonic Tutor for Tinker, Time Walk. I used a Force from my graveyard on his second Mindbreak Trap. It was the first time I cast Tinker all day.

Game 2 He had DT, Hexmage, Depths, Time Walk, and some mana. I don't remember everything but I know I Strip Mined his Depths, he played a Sylvan and drew all 3 but did nothing (I assume it was countermagic). He was having trouble finding Depths. I was debating playing Jace to tease out a Force but instead I drew my own Force and played Tinker for the win.

It's possible that this round was 2-1 and I can't remember a whole game I lost or if I just felt like I was going to lose for so long that I can't be entirely sure I didn't. It was a long match and "5 minutes left in the round" was heard shortly before the Tinker.

Round 6: Paradoxical Outcome Win 2-1

This match was featured here: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/455452179?t=06h04m01s

The only thing I'd add from seeing the commentary is that the reason I conceded Game 2 is because my hand was Lotus, Mana Crypt, Jace, Flusterstorm, and some other demanding CMC things like Assassin's Trophy/Garruk so when he put Lavinia into play turn 1 even after using his land drop to Preordain, it meant that I would not be casting any spells for a very long time. Hand goes Treasure -> Trash. Jeremy had Outcome immediately after Lavinia, not visible on camera, which was enough for me to concede.

Also, I boarded out Tinker/BSC since he was on something extreme like 4 Chain of Vapors and I'm control here rather than Robot-Aggro. I did keep Garruk as a wincon though since it's only one card and it could keep things like Lavinia or Dark Confidant at bay if it lands early. I didn't know if he was on sideboard Bobs but I've seen them before in Esper PO; they're extremely effective for the PO pilot and I liked having floodgates for that kind of thing.

Round 7: Ravager Shops, ID into Top 8, 6th Seed

Top 8 & Top 4:

Quarterfinals and semifinals matches are here:
https://www.twitch.tv/videos/455452179?t=05h54m57s

I haven't yet watched the replays but after I do, if there were audience questions I could address, I'll return an respond in the comments below or edit the report to include them.

I hope to see everyone again at the next big event (Waterbury!) in October. Best,

-Brian Kelly

last edited by brianpk80

Congrats buddy. Always love the BK special. Ill toss a write up together at some point but as always thank you for all the work you put in, its always so impressive.

Congrats on the finish and love the deck design! Watching your top 4 match in person against Joe was one of the best matches I’ve seen in a long time. Great play from both of you. Definitely a match people can learn a lot from.

Great report! Not sure whether to upvote for the La Isla Bonita reference, or the fact that I had to look up multiple cards in your deck. How about both?!

last edited by joshuabrooks

@brianpk80

Excellent report and congratulations on the finish!

It was a real pleasure to meet you in person.

Congrats on the run and great report! Read the Ophiomancer in your board as Ovinomancer and was simultaneously very confused, but not surprised given the pilot.

As the one that requests the Twilight Guardians version of La Isla Bonita in Matt's stream, I can't help but grin at reading this.

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