Saturday, November 12, 2011

Geist in the Shell

Tonight I had a chance to hit up FNM since the effing debacle Mono-Black Infect turned out to be. I'm not really a fan of Innistrad but there have been some definitely powerful cards from the set. Although the "Horror" theme has turned me off from the set, it is hard to deny how crazy good a hand full of cards are.

One of the sickest cards from Innistrad is Geist of Saint Traft. 6 power damage for 3cc is pretty damn good. I remember when 5/5s for 4 was good but the power creep has gotten way out of control. The upside to the card is minimal casting cost to power ratio. The downside is the 2/2 Hexproof can be blocked by a number of creatures and just die. I think this card is one of the most powerful cards from the set and decided to sleeve it up in my deck.

I couldn't help myself with this card. I initially thought I wouldn't buy into them but Snapcaster Mage is the real deal. And if it takes a turn the same direction Dark Confidant or Tarmagoyf went then I could profit pretty good here. Snapcaster is seeing multi-format playability so it is a card to watch out for. If you pack one make sure to hold onto it for a while. It is the only card from Innistrad that will hold it's value.

I stopped by Armada Games and traded tons of Modern cards, odd foils and extras to get the cards I needed.

Based on these two cards I was able to wiggle them into my UW Ghost Blade deck that uses Midnight Haunting and Timely Reinforcements as Squadron Hawks. It still has Swords of Feast and Famine and Gideon Jura to steal tempo and add a clock. Snapcasters mixed with the token spells can really play havok against any deck.

Here is what I played:

Snapcaster Mage x 4
Geist of Saint Traft x 2
Sun Titan x 2
Gideon Jura x 2
Midnight Haunting x 4
Timely Reinforcements x 1
Think Twice x 4
Mana Leak x 4
Dissipate x 3
Dismember x 3
Oblivion Ring x 3
Day of Judgement x 2
Seachrome Coast x 4
Glacial Fortress x 4
Ghost Quarter x 2
Islands x 8
Plains x 8

Flashfreeze x 4
Day of Judgement x 2
Oblivion Ring x 1
Dismember x 1
Spellskite x 3
Timely Reinforcement x 2
Mental Mistep x 2

ROUND 1: Dude playing Red Deck Wins
Game 1: He gets an early Furnace Scamp which gets in for 4 damage. I get a Geist with a Sword of Feast and Famine and its over pretty quickly. Red can't do anything versus Geist save blocking it since all its spells are targeted.

Game 2: This is a long drawn out game that I just a total of 3 Timely Reinforcements to keep myself in the game. I comes down to the wire as he smashes away with 2 Chandra's Phoenixes. I eventually get a SoFaF out and start closing the game out. Gideon finishes it off.

1-0 / 2-0

ROUND 2: Ian playing Naya-Pod
Ian is one of the players I befriended at Lakeland CoC when I first moved to Florida. He is a very solid player and has come a long way since I first met him. I know this is going to be a tough match.

Game 1: Ian gets a very early jump with Birds into Blade Splicer and Viridian Shaman over the course of three turns. He is on the beat down plan. I'm on my back foot the entire game in search of a Day of Judgement. I am very color screwed with all plains and a Ghost Quarter and NO blue sources. When I do get a Seachrome he blows it up with Acidic Slime. I stick a Sun Titan and Geist but he plays Phyrexian Metamorph to copy Titan and gets Splicer back. I get run over handedly.

Game 2: This game is in my favor when he doesn't get a turn 1 mana dude. I get an early Geist on the beatdown plan, stick a Gideon to steal tempo, hit a Midnight Haunting and SoFaF to finish out.

Game 3 is an epic game that brings up to time. The game is very easily matched for most of the game. I am able to stall with two Oblivion Rings, some counter magic and some Spirit Tokens doing some work.  Snapcaster shenanigans also help stall until I can get a Gideon and Geist online. All the while his board is so developed with his ramp dudes like Solemn, Viridian and a Pilgrim. At one point in the game he plays a Geist Honored Monk that I quickly O-Ring but the flying spirit tokens get some work done with him in combination with Kessig Wolf Run. I stall for a while with Gideon, he Acidic Slimes the O-Ring to get back his Geist. I have only 1 of  my 4 Day of Judgements to get me out of this mess. I untap and draw. It's a Day of Judgement. I restart the game. We both tank for a number of turns but any threat he plays is almost lethal with his Kessig out. At this point I'm semi-stabilizing with some Spirit Tokens but he rips a few small guys that get in with the help of Kessig then closes it out when Elesh Norn drops. It was an epic fucking match and I do not mind losing to a friend and a good player.

1-1 / 3-2

ROUND 3: Felix playing RWU Burning Vengeance
GAME 1: This is a very interesting deck that runs on Burning Vengeance and Flashback spells like Think Twice, Desperate Ravings, Forbidden Alchemy and company. He uses a white card that taps down two guys and flashbacks to tap two more for only 2 mana. This card steals so much tempo and is cheap to buyback. This game I run on all cylinders with early Tokens, a Sword and Gideon on consecutive turns to close it out.

GAME 2: This is a good game as well but this time he gets the early Geist of Saint Traft, which I didn't see in the first game so I didn't sideboard accordingly when I basically took out all my creature mass removal. I am able to stall for a while with Token and Snapcaster tricks but I'm too low by the time his Burning Vengeance comes online and he finishes me off.

GAME 3: This game is a very heavy control game that gets just out of hand. We are countering anything and everything. Back and forth with Negates, Dissipates and Mana Leaks. I get Spellskite early which helps with Token tapping tricks and Burning Vengeance triggers. I am able to over run him with my Tokens, Snapcasters and I stick a Sword. I get him extremely low and just fucking misplay like a motherfucker. I have another Spellskite in my hand but am playing around Day of Judgement, which I saw from him in the previous game. I don't want to overcommit to the board but had I played the second Spellskite I could have splitting up his two Burning Vengeance triggers between the pair of Skites and left them both out to do work. Because of this huge misplay he is able to kill the first Skite, I play the second and he repeats the process. After the Skites are out of the way I play a Snapcaster for a Midnight Haunting to try and over run him. His tricks are too great. I get him to 1 life and he sits there digging for outs as I draw nothing but land for a million turns. We do get into a counter battle over Snapcaster  which he wins but that's all I have. He eventually uses three Flashback spells over three turns to bury my life in a gazillion Burning Vengeance triggers.

This was a very well fought battle and he deserved to win. After this game I realize that my deck has some problems beyond the mid-game because there isn't enough spells to dig and there isn't enough threats. 2 Titans and 2 Geists just isn't enough. This will cause me to really change my deck up.

The other epiphany I gleaned from this match was that Burning Vengeance is legit. I actually have a UR Vengeance deck because I didn't like the 3 colored version. But Felix's white splash for 4 of Geist, the tap spell and Day of Judgements is very good. I may try this build out since mine Vengeance deck needs a lot of tweaking.

1-2 / 4-4

ROUND 4: Tylor playing BG Pod
GAME 1: Tylor is a good kid and despite his very comedic and humorous guise he puts on during game play, he is a very solid player. I've played him before and he plays very tight and sees a lot of angles in a game. His Pod deck gets rolling early and he drops a Thrun which fucks my world. But for some reason he can't get Pod online, I countered one and O-Ringed the other. I eventually use Gideon to steal temp and Geist to close it out.

GAME 2: This game is similar to the previous game. He does get an early Beast Within on my land but I use it to beat him down pretty low. In combination to all his use of Phyrexian Mana he kind of in trouble. I get some Timely Reinforcement dudes to buy some time. He uses Skinrender to kill one and I O-Ring the Skinrender. Tylor sticks Thurn but Pods it for Slime to hit my O-Ring to release Skinrender and kills my last token. I play Geist and he Pods slime for Massacre Wurm. FML. I Day of Judgement. He draws and passes. I play Sun Titan and get back Geist. At 4 life he topdecks a Grave Titan and runs it out in hopes that I'm a terrible player and forget that Geist's 4/4 Angel token has flying. Admittedly I'm a horrible fucking player but I do not forget and win on the next crackback.

2-2 / 6-4

I ended up 500 which is fine with me. The matches I lost I played my fucking heart out but just mad slightly poor decisions on the decision tree that cost me both my game threes. I realize that I just do not play enough and my skills have very much waned over the last year. The last few years in Chicago I was probably playing the best Magic I have since I took down a PTQ a decade ago. I may not be the best player but I know how to play well. If I played with a group consistently I'd probably be a lot better. I'm not complaining, I'm just saying I'm not as good as I once was.

Quick aside...this is just a fucking game right? Why do these fucking douchebags talk shit to complete and total strangers. During my last round the dude sitting next to Tylor, a friend of Tylors, was watching our game and just talking some shit about my play, e.g. not tapping Gideon when I swung in, saying Snapcaster for a Midnight Haunting is a bad play, etc. At one point I'm just like, "Dude, I don't know you," and gave him this pissed off glare. He shut up after that. This guy was just having fun with Tylor because they are friends but he just came off as a huge fucking dick-bag and I didn't appreciate it. Like he is all high and mighty about Magic because he plays a lot of FNMs. Until you fucking win a Pro Tour  you ain't shit. Its just FNM. Don't be a douchebag. Just have fun and don't take it so seriously. Nobody like a critic especially when unsolicited. Just don't do it and not during someone else's gameplay. Ass.

Rant over.

I will tweak the shit out of the deck and see how it rolls next time.

Peace out my ninjas.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stop playing bad decks...right.

Sage old advice for a seasoned tournament player.

I took a supposed "good" deck to the last week FNM and my run goods ran out.

Little back story before my report. I haven't played in a very long time. Since before Innistrad was even prereleased I took BR Vampires on a good run before they rotated. I didn't give a very detailed report (mainly because nobody reads this shit) but I think I went 4-1 or something to that effect. I've been brewing for weeks now that Innistrad has been out but haven't played due to whatever reason, mostly that life is more important then cards. I currently have built 6 Type 2 decks and at least 2 of them are very good. I chose to play one of the bad ones.

Contagion Clasp x 3
Lashwrithe x 4
Phyrexian Crusader x 4
Plague Stinger x 4
Whispering Specter x 4
Dismember x 1
Go for the Throat x 2
Doom Blade x 2
Virulent Wound x 2
Skithiryx the Blight Dragon x 2
Despise x 3
Tezzeret's Gambit x 4
Inkmoth Nexus x 4
Swamps x 21

Black Sun's Zenith x 3
Spellskite x 2
Surgical Extraction x 3
Ni-Hil Spellbomb x 4
Phyrexian Vatmother x 3

The deck has been modified based on how I felt it would play out. Plenty of lists made Top 8s at States tournaments last weekend and a few articles have been written. I was semi-sold enough to build it and play it.

Infect is a strategy that basically cuts your opponent in half before you even roll the dice to see who goes first. You must deal 10 poison counters to victim instead of the usual 20 points of damage. This is good because the deck can come out of nowhere and deliver quick blows. The early iterations of the deck where usually Green and Black and used a multitude of pump spells to make your little infect dudes big enough to make lethal strikes around turn 4. Since rotation, many of the good pump spells have since gone, especially the very excellent pump spell Vines of the Vastwood. This new version forgoes pump and instead is built into a Midrange shell that can come off quickly, depending on draws and matchups or use its disruption, draw and removal to control the board. The addition of Whispering Specter from NPH is a good card that threatens to steal the game once it connects by discarding your opponents entire hand. Inkmoth Nexus is also an all-star because getting that early infect starting Turn 2 is very important. Phyrexian Crusader is amazing mainly due to his protection from red burn spells and his ability to stalk right past Sun Titans. With Lashwrithe and Skithiryx, it gives the deck a chance to sucker punch an unprepared opponent. They don't fear the innocuous 1/1 Plague Stinger late in the game, especially when they are only at 3 infect. They tap out for an alpha strike. You gladly take the damage and on the following turn, drop Lashwrithe, equip it to the Stinger and out of nowhere deal lethal infect FTW. Sounds pretty damn good right?

1. It's an infect deck. The problem with infect, which I've said since it was a huge thing in Scars block, from a play standpoint, is that you are completely ALL-IN on a creature strategy for the most part. You have to connect with little fragile dudes to win the game. This is very bad right now because plenty of decks in the metagame are creature heavy decks with threat dense output, i.e. Wolf Run Ramp, Tempered Steel, Red Deck Wins, Humans, Tokens, etc. This is bad for Infect deck because every deck is packing so much creature removal, spot and mass. Your guys are tiny, yes they have evasion but can't really fight if you need them too. On turn three you're playing Phyrexian Crusader and your opponent is dropping Primeval Titan. That is a bad scenario to be in.
2. It's a midrange deck archetype. I think the very aggro builds in early iterations were much better suited to win because they did so very quickly. Even Brian Kibler's Blue-Black Infect Control deck was very good because it controlled the early game long enough to get Skithiryx to only need to swing in twice for the win. Mono-Black Infect being midrange is bad because your cards are that good at different stages of the game in different matchups. Against an aggro deck, if you survive long enough, drawing a Despise or Distress in the late game is a dead draw. Against a control deck drawing all your removal early is pointless if they play no threats. The deck's three drops just are good enough to compete against the heavy hitters that can come up just as quickly.
3. The deck's guys are just terrible. They are so fragile and weak and you almost always have to be attacking to even have a chance. They can get quickly overran by a swarm of guys they are just no well suited to fight against. I mean c'mon man! The deck packs 8 (sometimes 12 if you count Inkmoth) 1/1 flyers, regardless of the aforementioned evasion, are just terrible.

If I was going to play an Infect strategy I should have just fucking played Brian Kibler's UB Infect Control from last Standard season.


Round 1 vs. Armando and Wolf Run Ramp

Game 1: This is just a horrible matchup because he is playing so much removal. Every guy I bring out is Incinerated or swept away with Slagstorm. When I finally DO get a Phyrexian Crusader out he uses Beast Within on my dude. I do get a beatdown with the token put it is quickly out classed by Inferno Titan and Wurmcoil Engine. I did get him close to death with 8 infect counters using Contagion Clasp but I could out race him once he Green Sunned for Acidic Slime. I had tons of mana and only needed to top deck Skithiryx to win but never saw it even though I dug twice with Tez's Gambit.

My sideboard is very heavy versus aggro strategies and I really expected to see Solar Flare due to the few ringers that are present at FNM. I only sideboard in Spellskites to stop the Kessig Wolf Run targets.

Game 2: Is about the same. I do get a good start but my guys are all cleared. I kill a Birds of Paradise with a Virulent wound and proliferate with Tez's Gambit to get more counters on him. But he ramps so fast and so much while I'm stuck on three lands holding two of my Skithiryx. He starts attacking my mana with Acidic Slimes and I'm done pretty quickly by a Wolf Runned Inferno Titan in one swing.

0-2 / 0-1

Round 2: Brad with Black Green Pod
I get paired up for some reason and play the 1-0 guy. Brad is usually a douchebag that I've lost to before but tonight he was actually a very nice guy.

Game 1: He gets an early Birds into a Turn 2 Birthing Pod. I land a Stinger that he quickly Dismembers. I get Phyrexian Crusader. He outmatches me with Glissa that he soon pods into a Skinrender to kill the Crusader. This game spirals out of control as he kills all my threats with infinite Skinrenders and I do nothing but play lands and blindly Despise into nothing. He curves up to Brutalizer Exarch where he sends Inkmoth Nexus to the bottom of my library and curves to Sheoldred and me with a Doom Blade in my hand and NOT a Go for the Throat. I lose.

Game 2: This game he gets trip Viridian Emissary, ramps into a crazy amount of Acidic Slimes and attacks my lands. I'm stuck on two lands after all the action. I'm holding Skithiryx, two Tez's Gambit, a Lashwrithe and Phyrexian Crusader while I die.

0-4 / 0-2

Round 3: John playing Black Green Pod
I get paired up again with a 1-1 instead of another 0-2. John is a very harsh type of personality. He plays so angry and shows it. When he runs bad he beats himself up big time. I've played him plenty of times before and beat him every time. The moment I sat down he had this look on his face like, "Fuck me."

Game 1: I Despise him and see Swamps, a Phyrexian Rager, Pod and green dudes. I take the Rager. He doesn't hit a forest for a while as I start infecting him. I get a Specter and rob his hand a turn later. He scoops after that. He is very pissed off.

Game 2: He sides in tons of cards as we go under way. This game goes bad for me as he attacks my lands with Acidic Slimes and Brutalizer Exarch. I don't get anything going as I hold all my kill cards in hand.

Game 3: This game comes down to him making a huge play mistake. I land a Phyrexian Crusader and Plague Stinger. I Despised him turn 1 and saw a Go for the Throat. I ran out Crusader to see what he would do. Instead he plays a Viridian Emissary and Birthing Pod and taps out. I casually play Lashwrithe, equip to my Stinger and swing for the win. He told me afterwards he thought I had the Lashwrithe but tapped out to maximize his mana. He probably should have followed his gut.

2-4 / 1-2

Round 4: Unknown with BR Vampires

This dude is a new player that literally just got in with Innistrad. Nice of enough guy but I steam rolled him two games in a row since he never made blocks nor killed my relevant dudes. It wasn't a fun win But despite my shitty showing for the evening, I'll take it.

We play casually and he actually defeats my UW Ghost-Blade deck that I've been playing in between rounds the entire night.

4-4 / 2-2

Round 5: Unknown with Weenie White Metalcraft

Being in the losers bracket isn't much fun as I get paired down with a 1-3. This kid has been playing since Mirrodin but really just casually. He just bought some Scars Block pre-cons, threw them together and called it a deck.

Needless to say, I rolled this kid over too, even mulling to 5 and to 6 in my two games. He did the same thing as the last guy, did not assign any blocking and didn't use removal and relevant dudes.

I helped him tweak his deck and gave him some extras. I mainly tuned his deck to be a White Weenie Battle-Cry aggro deck instead of a Metalcraft piece of jank. I hope he continues to come back and gets better because we could use some new people at the shop.

6-4 / 3-2

Despite a winning record I pretty much hate the fucking Mono-Black Infect deck. Regardless of any Top 8 finishes at SCG Opens or States, I chuck up all those wins to lucky run goods. The deck lacks reach and is just not suited to fight the aggro and removal heavy metagame.

In hindsight I really should have trusted my gut and played UW Ghost-Blade. Although I'm good at playing almost any deck, I'm much better suited to control (although I actually prefer aggro strategies). I did get a chance to play Ghost-Blade a ton. I did fairly well against Wolf Run Red and Birthing Pod decks. I like the deck because of the main deck Day of Judgements but I'll probably up that to 3 in the main. I also need to find a better spot removal spell then Dismember. As good as the card is, it is useless versus a Titan deck. We'll see. I wish there was a Swords type spell for White.

I also had a chance to play Burning Vengeance, which was total Jank. But with some tweaks, we'll see.

Deck building for the next FNM will occur. I will mos def build GW Aggro, RG Wolf Run, GB Pod and possible Mono-Black and Mono-Red control decks.

Until next time.