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City of Birds and Swords

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Last weekend was SCG Open Memphis. I had arranged a hotel split with Kelly, Doug, and some guy I didn't know. After an uneventful 7 hour car ride, I showed up to the hotel, tried to check in, and was informed that they couldn't find Kelly's registration. Huh.

I e-mailed Kelly and told him they couldn't find the registration.

"We are about an hour out. I think they need my info to check in. Can ya kill an hour?"

My response? "I have ANT on me."

After about three hands of goldfishing, the hotel worker called me over to tell me he found the reservation on the computer. I gave him the confirmation number and got the keys. After going to the room I noticed a severe lack of power outlets, so I unplugged everything unessential so we could all charge our phones.

Fast forward to Saturday morning. I registered the following:

That's right: classic Caw-Blade, to go with the sweet Justin Treadway shirt I was wearing. I tuned the deck a bit to have better numbers in the mirror and against aggro, by running a 4-spot of Condemn and the Sun Titans main. This made me correspondingly softer against Ramp decks.

Round 1: Kellen Willard, Mono-Green Eldrazi, finished 328th at 0-3.

Game 1 he hit me with an Emrakul. I kept Gideon, Jace, Sun Titan, a couple lands, and a couple of minor things. Gideon blew up Emrakul, I bashed him to get back some stuff, and took the game shortly afterwards. Winning after getting hit by an Emrakul as the highlight of the day? Not even.

Game 2 I got owned by a sequence of Eldrazi, and that sent us to game 3.

Game 3 I didn't take a single point of damage.

Round 2: Bruce Vance, Esper Tempered Steel, finished 287th at 1-4.

Tempered Steel, Tezzeret, Frantic Salvage, and just a general mess of awful too-slow beatdown cards meant this was a pitifully easy matchup.

Round 3: Aaron Malone, Boros, finished 41st at 6-3.

SCGLive should have picked us as the feature match here - the crowd that ended up surrounding us at Table 1 got their money's worth.

Game 1 I got hit by Goblin Guide twice and a [card Stoneforge Mystic]Squire[/card] twice. Both Goblin Guides revealed a Condemn that proved their demise the following turn. Gideon shut down the Squire before it could do anything relevant, and when I drew a Condemn, I let it try to hit me and fail. A team of Birds and Colonnades finished the job.

Game 2 was easily the highlight of the day thanks to Baneslayer Angel on my side facing off against Bonehoard and Basilisk Collar on his. My opponent didn't get a fast start, with his Steppe Lynx getting neutered by a Condemn. However, [card Basilisk Collar]Collar[/card] showed up very quickly, and a Divine Offering ended up taking my Sword. My double Baneslayer setup easily raced the 7/7 Bonehoard, but once he put it on a Squadron Hawk I had to stop attacking in order to keep my Baneslayers alive. A Plated Geopede came down with a mess of fetchlands still sitting on the table, and I was in trouble. The Hero of Oxid Ridge that showed up nearly ruined my day, taking me from 40 down to 6 in one swing. I had to Condemn it, and as my opponent dumped the rest of his hand on the board I was forced to swing with both Baneslayers to boost my life total, Mortarpod one at him for a bonus point, then cast Day of Judgment. This left us both awkwardly with nothing on the board, but I had relevant cards in hand, he had nothing, and when I Condemned his well-equipped Hero of Oxid Ridge, that pretty much sealed the game up even though he gained 19 life. We finished this game a few minutes before time was called.

Over the course of the game, my life totals went:
20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 21, 31, 20, 30, 40, 6, 16, 17, 22, 27, 32, 37, 38.

His went:
20, 22, 21, 24, 27, 26, 21, 28, 18, 17, 15, 26, 36, 24, 26, 24, 40, 30, 29, 20, 39, 30, 21, 12, 11, 4, dead.

Round 4, Richard Wayne, Boros, finished 19th at 7-2.

Game 1: He tried to get me with early beats, but I only ever got hit by a Goblin Guide 3 times before locking up the game. He scooped while at 21 life.

Game 2: I got overrun by a Hero of Oxid Ridge despite my Baneslayer Angel. If I had saved the Condemn for his Plated Geopede instead of blowing it on the Guide turn 2, this would have been quite a different game - I ended up taking ten from the Geopede over the course of two turns before trying to stabilize behind the Angel. It was probably a misplay, but I knew I didn't have early creatures. My plan was to stay alive at a high life total, drop Angel, and win. The plan was solid, but I shouldn't have gotten greedy with the Condemn.

Game 3: I stabilized behind a Gideon, or so I thought. A pair of Heroes robbed me of that misconception, and I picked up my first loss of the day to sit at 3-1 with 5 rounds to play.

Round 5, Dru Elwell, Naya Caw-Vine, finished 153rd at 3-3.

His poor finish doesn't really reflect his deck's quality. Naya is perfectly suited to beat the living hell out of Caw-Blade, but somehow I stole this match from him.

Game 1: Incredibly close - I started getting beat down by a Hawk, but stabilized. An Inferno Titan ate a Condemn, but not before dropping me to 14. He put a Sword of Body and Mind on a Squadron Hawk and started beating me down with it and a Raging Ravine. With a timely Tectonic Edge I ended the threat of his manland, and my own Colonnade took care of his Hawk. He suited up a Bird of Paradise to take me to 2, forcing me to hold back my Colonnade. Stoneforge Mystic showed up and I finally managed to take him out of the game with only a few cards left in my deck.

Game 2: He got my turn 2 Mystic with an Arc Trail, but I landed a Jace the turn after he played a Fauna Shaman, and just kept bouncing it so he couldn't get any uses. Once I hit him with a Sworded Baneslayer, I let him have the Fauna Shaman so I could Brainstorm, and he set up a Vengevine - which got hit by a Condemn without ever doing any damage to me. Baneslayer just kept getting in there, and when he made the mistake of cracking a fetchland at 8 life, I pointed out that he just put himself dead on board and rendered his play irrelevant.

Round 6: William "BJ" Bessler, Valakut, finished 27th at 6-2-1.

Game 1: A turn 2 Squadron Hawk hit him 5 times with no resistance, and a Sword of Body and Mind on my Gideon Jura smacked him silly in place of the 6th hit when his Inferno Titan cleared my board of the birds and tried to beat me, but Condemn saved the day. Two turns later he was dead. This took roughly 30 minutes, which was far too long.

Game 2: He got a fast Primeval Titan and there was nothing I could do about it.

Game 3: With very little time remaining, I got a fast draw and fatesealed him with Jace while beating him down with a Gideon and a Sword of Feast and Famine. He got Nature's Claim on the Sword, but Sun Titan solved that problem. He did hardmode a Valakut, but Tectonic Edge dealt with one and his other one didn't have any way of winning in time. Time was called at some point in here and when the turns were up, I had Sun Titan on board and a Jace at 12 counters. He refused to concede despite my incredibly superior board position, which put us both at 4-1-1 and having to win out to make top 8.

(To be fair, if not for time he would have Valakuted the Jace or my Sun Titan instead of myself, but he couldn't do both, and I would still have crushed the hell out of him.)

Round 7: John Penick, Caw-Blade, finished 101st at 4-3-1.

Naturally, the draw put me in the draw bracket and I got to play the mirror the next round.

Game 1: I landed turn 2 Mystic, turn 3 Squadron Hawk, and turn 4 Sworded the Hawk to take the win. Nice deck.

Game 2: He landed turn 2 Mystic, turn 3 Squadron Hawk, and turn 4 Sworded the Hawk to take the win. Nice deck.

Game 3: He mulliganed to 5 and I won because he only had two truly relevant plays - a Divine Offering on my Sword early, and a Gideon plus a Sword later. I was doing stuff all day long, including a Sun Titan to bring back my Sword, and that sealed it up.

Round 8: Nick Glavich, Monogreen Eldrazi, 7-1-1 and 9th on tiebreakers (ouch).

Game 1: Despite hitting him with a Sword of Feast and Famine on a Squadron Hawk, I got owned by some ridiculous monster.

Game 2: I managed to beat him down a turn or so before he could cast a ridiculous monster. Being on the play here helped.

Game 3: He cast turn 1 [card Joraga Treespeaker]Treespeaker[/card], turn 2 level up and cast Overgrown Battlement, turn 3 Overgrown Battlement and Primeval Titan. I played Mana Leak on the Titan and Summoning Trap hit Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. Turn 3 Ulamog? I'm just going to put a 1/1 bird on the table and go cry in a corner.

At 5-2-1, I had to win the last round to have anything to show for my day.

Round 9: Eric Zimmerman, Boros, 5-3-1 and 68th.

Game 1: I mull to 6 and lose to Hero of Oxid Ridge while not doing anything relevant.

Game 2: He leads with Adventuring Gear into Squadron Hawk. The 5 points I took from that Bird was the only damage I took in the entire game, since my Mystic did serious damage to him while my Birds played defense.

Game 3: His lack of lands for landfall meant his Lynx and Geopede weren't particularly impressive, and once I hit him with a Sword on a Bird I locked up $50 and some Open Points.

Final record: 6-2-1 (really should have been 7-2, but with my tiebreakers I likely wouldn't have made top 16 at 7-2.)

We headed to some ribs-and-booze place in Memphis, despite Kelly's inability to navigate worth a damn with his iPad. After eating we eventually got back to my car so I could get it out of the parking lot, and I plugged my phone back up, waited for it to turn on, punched in the address of the hotel, and drove for 5 minutes. Around 20 minutes later the others showed up. Winner: Android.

BONUS CONTENT:
I didn't do too well in Legacy, which was a disappointment. I played my ANT deck, with the new sideboard tech of Lodestone Golem for mirrors and pseudo-mirrors. The logic is that mirror matches end up with both players gutting each other's hands, rendering neither player able to combo off until one of them topdecks a win. By playing Lodestone Golem, neither one of us are ever going to be able to topdeck a win, and my four-turn clock will take the game instantly. At least the 75-card Zoo deck I handed to Zac Jones made top 32.

Round 1: My opponent was on Merfolk and kept a hand with no disruption other than Cursecatchers. I got a Tutor -> [card Ill-Gotten Gains]IGG[/card] -> Tutor for [card Tendrils of Agony]Tendrils[/card] loop on turn 4 and won it easily. Game 2 I got a turn 1 Duress hit by Daze, a turn 2 Xantid Swarm hit by Force of Will, and set up a turn 3 Ad Nauseam through a second Daze... which saw no Rituals despite me going all the way to 2. Dammit. I played a Lotus Petal and a Xantid Swarm to block his Mutavault, keeping a Ponder and a setup that would let me cast Ill-Gotten Gains the following turn. I ramped to 9 mana thanks to a pair of Lotus Petals, and managed to Ill-Gotten Gains directly to Tendrils by returning Duress, Lotus Petal, and Tendrils of Agony. He returned both Dazes and a Force of Will, and I led off with Duress. He did some thinking, and due to the fact that countering it would up my storm count, there was nothing he could do to stop me from winning. It turned out that I should have simply waited to go off, since he had kept a hand with literally no pressure other than the lone Mutavault, and it wouldn't have been such a nailbiter.

Round 2: My opponent (Devin Koepke, who finished 17th) led off game 1 with Ancient Tomb into Chalice of the Void on 1. Turn 2 he played Trinisphere. Turn 3 he played Metalworker. Turn 4 he laid down a pair of Lodestone Golem. Really? Game 2 I don't turn one him, and a trio of Chalices lock me out of the game. I couldn't help but say, "You woke up this morning and decided there was no way you were losing to combo, didn't you?"

Round 3: I punted game 1 against Bant by playing Lion's Eye Diamond followed by Cabal Ritual with Infernal Tutor in hand... against an active Qasali Pridemage. Oops. Game 2 I got beat by multiple Ethersworn Canonists, and dropped to go draft.

I drafted a mediocre Red/White deck and managed to 2-0 a deck with a terrible manacurve. Round 2 I got paired against a Red/Green Dinosaur deck which I managed to beat the hell out of game 1. Game two I didn't have anything for him and he got fat on the board before I could get him to zero. Game 3 I landed a turn 3 Koth's Courier against his basic Forest, and cast Burn the Impure on his Ferrovore to give me more time to kill him. Unfortunately, I didn't draw anything but lands, stranding my Glint Hawk in hand. Eventually I drew a Darksteel Axe, played it and the Hawk, and stuck the Axe on the Courier. It ended up putting him to 1 the turn before I died to his double Razorfield Rhino. If I'd saved Burn the Impure for his lone Cystbearer (which he naturally played the turn after I killed Ferrovore) I'd have ended up killing him. Still, I can't really complain about ending up one point away from making top 8 of the Draft Open in my first post-Besieged draft.

All in all, Memphis was a good weekend, and I'm really looking forward to playing in SCG Atlanta on my home turf.

Joshua Justice

@JoshJMTG on Twitter

6 thoughts on “City of Birds and Swords

  1. Question:
    He put a Sword of Body and Mind on a Squadron Hawk and started beating me down with it and a Raging Ravine. With a timely Tectonic Edge I ended the threat of his manland, and my own Colonnade took care of his Hawk.
    Something must be wrong here, because a squadron hawk with SoBM on it doesn't really care about a colonnade…hope you didn't just win this game by lack of rtfc

  2. You're right, Colonnade becomes blue.

    I clearly messed that game up in the retelling. I reconstructed the match from memory, but my notes from the match are telling me I messed it up because he doesn't have a 6-point lifegain off Condemn.

    I have a Condemn written down that he gained 4 life on. He must have moved the sword onto a Wolf token. It's possible that he missed the interaction and aimed to trade it with the 4/4 land, or maybe he was holding his Hawk back as a blocker for mine. (Or I killed it with a Gideon, perhaps.) I know that I had two swords by the time the game was over since I do have a 5-damage Stoneforge hit listed, and I hit him for 6 with a Colonnade before that. The Titan didn't get Condemned, I'm not sure how I messed that up – that had to have been either a Day of Judgment or a Condemn, judging from the lack of lifegain on his part.

    It's also possible that I botched the Colonnade play and blocked something I shouldn't have because we both managed to forget that it picks up the colors.

    Correct play is something like this:

    He hit me with a Hawk. I stop taking damage from it so it got nullified somehow. He fires off a Vengevine, which I Condemn. Inferno Titan dealt 1 to me, which clearly meant he dealt 2 damage to guys I control. I remember now that I played a Gideon, taunted the Titan, he dealt 3 to me and killed Gideon with Firebreathing. I played a second Gideon and assassinated the Titan. I don't know how I forgot about that play, since that was the point where the game started to turn around.
    He hit me for 3 with a Squadron Hawk which put a Wolf token into play. There were a either couple of other creatures and an additional turn here, or bolts to kill Gideon, or something.
    The next damage I took was 7 off a Raging Ravine to put me at 4 (clearly I had gotten a block in) and I know I got a Tectonic Edge to deal with that. He had something get Condemned to gain 4 life- my guess is it was the Wolf token he moved the sword onto (meaning it was probably on the Ravine the turn before), and then he only dealt 2 to me with a Birds of Paradise (carrying the sword).

    Life totals:
    Me- 20, 19 (Tarn), 18 (Hawk), 17 (Titan), 14 (Titan), 11 (Hawk), 4 (Ravine), 2 (BoP)
    Him: 20, 23 (Condemn VV), 22 (Mesa), 26 (Condemn WW- I don't remember what WW was supposed to be), 20 (Colonnade), 15 (Stoneforge), dead.

    Still don't know if I botched the play with the Colonnade against the Sword of Body and Mind. My notes for this match are pretty much just the life total changes. Hopefully I didn't, since that would mean I probably should have lost that game.

  3. "He refused to concede despite my incredibly superior board position, which put us both at 4-1-1 and having to win out to make top 8."

    why should he concede to you? you didnt beat him in time and hes winthin his rights to play for the draw.

    i get so sick and tired of reading tournament reports where people complain about how their opponten didnt concede to them.

    you wanna win? then beat your opponent in the given time for the match!

    1. He's certainly within his rights to keep the draw and I don't hold it against him. In fact we were even bumping into each other and chatting about the event later and on the next day. However, it's generally accepted that if you're clearly going to lose the game then you should concede at turns.

      However, when evaluating the quality of the deck I played, I regard that game (and match) as a win. I do note that time was a concern all day long and my postboard games were much faster, this will influence my card selection somewhat for future events if I play the same deck.

      He wasn't slow playing his way to the draw, unlike some people I've seen. The real problem is that there is so much shuffling in these decks that it bleeds off a ton of time. Probably half of that match was spent with one of us searching our deck or shuffling. This is a problem with Caw-Blade, Boros, and every non-Elf green deck.

  4. yah that hotel room had like 3 outlets. good thing only one of us needed the hairdryer. matt, with the norse warrior valkyrie style hair? I'm looking at YOU.

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