Yes, it’s true. I went to a Friday Night Magic tournament. A Standard one. To play. Standard. Look, I’m just as floored by this as you are. On Episode 224 of The Mana Pool (not up yet, sorry), Brian mentioned that he was going to hit FNM at Lucky’s so he could snag one of those fancy-shmancy double-faced tokens. He asked if anyone else wanted to go. Of course, I don’t have a Standard deck. Because the day in question was Good Friday (a Christian holiday, in case you’re not into that sort of thing), Mike was going to be unable to attend. So we had the brilliant idea of me taking Mike’s deck to FNM!
Not just any deck, mind you. This is the Big Red deck that we built the night before Game Day! You can read about the original deck and the results in this article, written after he took second place at that tourney. He also snagged second place at last week’s FNM at Top Deck Games here in Kernersville, NC. After every FNM, we’ve been taking a look at the deck to see what works and what doesn’t. Mike then tinkers with it, trying to figure out what would help and what wouldn’t, and then we argue about whether or not he’s right. He usually is, just for the record. We’ll ignore that whole debacle with Urabrask, since we were both just plain wrong with that one. What the hell, man.
Mike had the idea of swapping out the singleton Devil’s Play and a Koth for two copies of Karn, Death Star (Mike’s words). After hearing about how stupidly good Karn was when he came in from the sideboard, I thought it was a damn fine idea. His other idea was to swap out the three Inferno Titans for Wurmcoil Engines. I was hesitant to make this change, because of the sheer firepower that comes from the Titans. Sure the Engine is great in a race situation, but that’s no help when you’re trying to set fire to everything in your way. We compromised by swapping out one of the Titans for an Engine so I could get a feel for them both. Anyway, here’s the deck in its current form.
Round 1: Zach (UB Zombies)
Game 1: He drops a turn 3 Geralf’s Messenger, followed by another on turn 4. There’s not much for me to do at this point other than take a crapload of damage. I shot one to save a damage, then wiped next turn, then shot the other one. But he had other guys of some sort and finished me off without taking any damage at all.
Game 2: I dropped a turn 2 Shrine and then another on turn 3. I had plenty of burn to wipe out his guys and keep the Shrines growing steadily. He saw no Messengers this time, and I was able to Shrine him out. Shrine shrine shrine.
Game 3: I mulligan to 5 in an effort to get away from one-land hands. I managed to wipe his board plenty of times. He had two Gravecrawlers, and I was starting to get too low on life, so I attempted to Galvanic Blast them both just to not take any damage. He Vapor Snagged one of them in response. Then he recast them both. Pretty sure I said a bad word, but then I used the Whipflare in my hand to kill them both again. He got me down to 7 life, but I only hit him 3 times for the win. Shrines are SO sick.
Zach tells me that he’s heard of us, though he’s never actually listened. I asked where he’d heard of us, and he said that people on the SomethingAwful forums had recommended our show in the past. That’s pretty awesome!
Round 2: Alex (Tempered Steel)
Game 1: Turn 1 Vault Skirge beats on my face for a while, especially once the Signal Pest hit the board. He kept swinging with both of them, then eventually started swinging with his two Inkmoth Nexus. I cast Koth, use his mana ability to cast Karn. Karn knocks out the stupid Spellskite, then one of the Inkmoths. My Ghost Quarter takes care of the other one. At that point his board is empty, his hand is empty, and I have two planeswalkers, so he scoops. He did manage to Revoke Existence my two early Shrines though, that was rough.
Game 2: After a nice back and forth, I’m at 7 and he’s at 18. He has 2 Glint Hawk Idols in play, and they swing at me. I’m DYING for a burn spell or a boarded in Grudge. I have Inferno Titan, but I can’t deal enough damage to kill him. I play my Solemn Simulacrum and grab a land, then attack with the Titan. I deal two damage to my own Solemn to draw a card…and it’s a land. He’s got this one, but at least I managed to use Surgical Extraction on his Vault Skirge earlier in the game, just to make him sad.
Game 3: I was having serious mana issues, and he played out a Tempered Steel on turn 3 to go with his Vault Skirge and his Spellskite. Then he played another one a couple turns later. There was also a Glint Hawk and a Hero of Bladehold in there somewhere. It was pretty brutal.
Round 3: Matt (RG Aggro)
Game 1: Turns out his name is Matt Banister and he used to write for PureMTGO. I would include a link to his articles, but apparently there’s no way to search by author on the site. They should really look into fixing that. Anyway, we played Magic.
He beat me down to 10 with his two Strangeroot Geists (which only took a couple of turns). But I managed to shoot one, then wipe the board. Then next turn I gambled that he wouldn’t have anything else and used my Whipflare to take out his lone Geist. My gamble paid off, and I was able to play Koth into Wurmcoil Engine to take the game back. I think he played a Huntmaster in there somewhere, but I just killed it as soon as possible. Stupid wolf thing.
Game 2: Matt was seriously mana flooded, and an Inferno Titan and a Shrine managed to just take him out of the game completely. His life total drops to 19 then 18 on my Cardshark score pad, then he scooped. I don’t even remember the early turns, I’m pretty sure they involved sweepers taking out his dudes.
Round 4: Justin (UB Heartless Summoning)
Game 1: He played a Heartless Summoning then dropped 2 Ubermyr. He used Treasure Mage to grab Steel Hellkite. But it turns out the -1/-1 from the Summoning was a bit rough for him, as I was able to knock out his guys one by one and drop a pair of Titans to kill his guys. A pair of Shrines finished him off.
Game 2: This game was such a pain in the ass. I got stuck at 5 mana while holding a Karn and a Wurmcoil Engine. I had to use the last counter on my Sphere to do something to protect myself, and then of course I drew a 5th land. ARGH! He got it easily.
Also, this game marked a shift in the atmosphere of the round. After he used Treasure Mage to grab a Wurmcoil, he shuffled up and offered it to me to cut, which I did. Then he picked it up and turned it upside down, looked at the card on the bottom, and put it back down. I said “Dude, I don’t mean to be a dick or anything, but I’m gonna have to insist that you shuffle that again.” He asked why. I told him why. He said “that’s just how I pick up the deck.” I told him he shouldn’t pick it up that way then, as it’s definitely not allowed. He then proceeded to tell me about all the times he’s done that and how judges have told him it’s fine, even at (supposedly) non-FNM tournaments. He told me all this while he was shuffling up again, though. I told him it was blatantly against the rules, and that he really shouldn’t tempt fate by continuing to do it. He wasn’t terribly happy with me for calling him on it, and was much less friendly for the rest of the round. Sucks to be him, I was still having a grand old time.
Game 3: Just to rub it in, I took no damage this game. He was doing his shenanigans with his Treasure Mages and Summonings and whatnot, and I dropped an Inferno Titan followed by a Karn to thoroughly wreck his world. He was SERIOUSLY pissed that he lost. Gotta love the always-on-tilt FNM players.
Round 5: Jake (Monoblue “Grand Illusion”)
Game 1: First off, this guy is a serious brony. He had a Brony shirt, a brony two ponies that sat on his playmat, and I’m pretty sure he neighed at me once, though I could be wrong. He started off with a first turn Phantasmal Bear, giving me pause. Then he played a Lord of the Unreal (which I immediately killed) and another Bear. Other than that, I only saw a bounce spell and a Steel Hellkite, so I wasn’t sure what to make of the deck. I burned him out something fierce though. I think a Titan finished him off.
Game 2: Holy crap dude. He showed his buddy his opening hand, and after Pondering he was convinced that he had the God draw. So I killed off everything he played to prove him wrong. Lord of the Unreal? Blasted. Grand Architect? Volt Charged. Not that it mattered. He dropped a Wurmcoil, then Phantasmal Image of a Wurmcoil. I shot the copy, which still gave him his Wurmy tokens. Then he played a Phyrexian Metamorph, copying the original one. Yeah, I died. It was pretty rough.
Game 3: He played an Architect on turn 3, which promptly ate a Volt Charge. He played another one a couple turns later, which was fried by an Inferno Titan hitting the battlefield. That was about it for him, as he couldn’t manage to stick anything long enough to survive the burn from the Titan and the burn in my hand.
Michael Bog (BR Vampires)
Game 1: Lemme just say that this guy was entirely too much fun. We spent a fair amount of time laughing at each other, which is always a good sign. He leads off with a Stromkirk Noble, then a Stromkirk Noble. I wipe them both out. He plays another one followed by a Stromkirk Captain. I wipe the board again. At this point, I’ve managed to proliferate Koth up to 6 counters, so I use his Limit Break to get the pinging-mountain emblem with 4 mountains on the board. He drops a Bloodline Keeper so I’ll zap it instead of him, so I do. Then I finish him off on my turn.
Game 2: He was doing pretty well for only having a single red mana source. He knocked me all the way down to 7 life, and I started doing math. I had a Shrine on turn 2 and another one a few turns later. I ended up throwing a pair of Galvanic Blasts (with metalcraft!) at his face, dropping him to 10. I’m not entirely clear on what I was thinking, but I had a Shrine with 8 counters on it, another with 3 or 4 counters, and not enough mana to cast a red spell AND activate one or both of them. I swung in with a Koth mountain, which got Dismembered. I used my Ghost Quarter to turn it into an untapped Mountain, then cast a Vulshok Refugee. I thought I made a mistake here and I could have popped both Shrines, but my Sphere was out of counters and could no longer make mana. What I probably should have done was just popped a Shrine to knock him down to almost dead and popped the other one next turn. Luckily, he didn’t draw another red source and couldn’t double Brimstone Volley me to death, so I got it.
So there you have it! I finished at 5-1 in 6th place. I managed to pilot Mike’s deck effectively, probably because I a) helped him build it and 2) have watched over his shoulder at FNM for many, many rounds, offering advice, talking through available options, and asking “what the hell, man?”. The addition of Death Star Karn is completely nuts against decks that aren’t trying to win with a swarm of dudes. Every time I played him, I just won. Like it weren’t no thing.
I also think that not losing the Titans in favor of Engines was a good choice. Sure when I drew the Wurmcoil, it was pretty cool. And I was actively trying to play one when I was behind on life at least a couple times. But every time I drew an Inferno Titan, the first thought in my head was “YESSSSS!” That seems like a good sign that they should stay in the deck.
Lucky’s 5th anniversary weekend is tomorrow with another free Standard tournament. Since Mike is out of town all weekend on family affairs, I do believe I’m going to take it back and see what sort of damage I can do. I can’t wait. The deck is entirely too much fun to play.
Hope you guys enjoyed my return to Standard!
Don’t get used to it.