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Back-to-back cashes at SCG Kansas City

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(Editor's Note - Daniel Dusang cashed in both SCG events at Kansas City and was one of the first people to pick up GW Beats, the breakout deck of the last week. Enjoy the report!)

Hello, Dear Reader, and welcome to my first tournament report.  These things can be pretty bland when done poorly, so I am going to take a slightly different approach.  I don’t want to focus on the wins/losses and plays alone.  Instead I want to use the plays to tell you when the deck performed well or poorly and how it did so.

This deck was a bit of a brew, so I had a few ideas of how it should play out in my head, but I was also pleasantly surprised by how some cards worked in different match ups during the day.  But since this is the first time that many of you have seen my name I will start with a bit of introduction.

My name is Daniel Dusang (@CapnTopDeck on Twitter) and I am a graduate student attending the University of Oklahoma.  I began playing competitive Magic about 2 years ago and I have had some small success here and there.  I have top 8ed a constructed PTQ in the last year and now I can add being in the money in back-to-back SCG Opens (I got 22nd on Sunday in my first Legacy tournament).  My 11th place finish in Standard came on the back of a literal last-second audible.

I played Wolf Run Green the night before at FNM and won, but the deck choice still wasn’t sitting right with me.  I had mentioned to my follow Okies how I wished I had been able to test a G/W Destiny list, since I knew it was poised to demolish the expected meta.  Most of my friends told me not to audible (which is sound advice…I already knew how to play Wolf Run) and I stuck with it and filled out my deck registration with 18 forests.  With 30 minutes left before the player meeting, I heard Ari Lax talking about Mirran Crusader at the next table.  Between that chatter and my friend Kyle telling me to simply play the most fun deck I grabbed a new registration sheet and started scouring everyone’s binders for the rares I needed.

I built the deck loosely off the list posted by Valeriy Shunkov in this SCG article last week.  I loved the idea of main deck Crusaders and Thrun, the Last Troll but I felt that his list was off by a few cards.  After playing Wolf Run I knew exactly how powerful Sword of Feast and Famine and Garruk Relentless were, so I knew that I wanted to draw those cards almost every game.  So, with no testing and 30 minutes worth of thought, here is the 75 that I sleeved up in Kansas City last weekend:

Creatures

3 Avacyns Pilgrim 4 Birds of Paradise 4 Hero of Bladehold 2 Jade Mage 4 Mirran Crusader 2 Thrun the Last Troll

Spells

3 Garruk Relentless
2 Garruk Primal Hunter

As you can see this wasn’t really a Township Tokens list, as SCG was kind enough to label it.  This thing brought the beats and it did so in a way that Wolf Run and U/B couldn’t interact with.  I figured my control match-up was pretty good, but I really built this to slaughter Wolf Run.  Unfortunately for me I only got to play that match once (in the last round).  Enough jibber-jabber, how did the deck actually perform?  Read on:

Round 1: Eddie with G/B Pod

I have 4 main deck Crusaders that I can play on turn 2…this was not a close match.  I hooked the Knight up with Angelic Destiny both games.  He Acidic Slimed the enchantment away in game 2, but he was at 4 with only green and black blockers…

Pod is the only match up where Leonin Arbiter is actually desirable out of the board.  I didn’t even board that card in against ramp…I just didn’t need it.  This board slot is the first change I wanted to make to the deck.

Record: 1-0 (2-0)

Round 2: Eddie #2 with U/W Control

Game 1 was where I discovered just how insane Garruk Relentless is.  I snuck Garruk in after baiting a counter with Hero of Bladehold and proceeded to make a wolf every turn until the game ended.  His life total after Garruk landed: 15, 11, 7, dead.  Having a steady stream of creatures is super-important against Day of Judgment decks, especially since our creatures can get big with enchantments, Gavony Township, and swords.

Game 2 I boarded in the Swords and not much else.  He countered my first 4 threats on consecutive turns (2-Crusader, 3-Garruk, 4-Destiny on my Birds, 5-Hero).  I then landed a Sword of War and Peace and made him Day away single threats until I drew a Thrun.

This match made me realize that Garruk Relentless might just be the best card in the deck.  I feel like his ability to make sword-carriers for free every turn is vastly underrated.  Is he as good as Primal Hunter?  Probably not.  But he comes down a turn before his beefier version, which can lock your opponents out of a win condition in certain matches.  He also kills mana-dorks in those same matches.  He is a house against both green and blue decks right now, which makes him one of the best cards you can be playing in the current meta.

Record: 2-0 (4-0)

Round 3: Jerrod with U/B Control

Game 1 I am on the play and have to mulligan away a do-nothing hand.  As I shuffle Jerrod and I chit-chat about how he won his last round when his opponent mulliganed to 4.  Of course, I then proceed to mulligan to 4.  As I shuffle for the last time we both mention how we have seen those odd come-backs from a four-card hand and how it really takes drawing perfectly to pull off.  I proceed to open a hand of Township, Forest, Plains, Thrun; Snap-keep.  I draw Birds of Paradise for turn 2 and slam Papa-Troll home on turn 3.  Jerrod loses 5 turns later.

Game 2 I keep my opener and have a turn 2 Crusader queued.  Wring Flesh for my Birds makes sure that doesn’t happen, but he still resolves turn 3.  I then get him to tap out to kill my Crusader (Tribute to Hunger) during combat.  This left me open to slam Garruk Relentless in the second main phase.  I drew a Thrun soon after and buried him in value.  He had to start doom blading wolf tokens after a turn or two.

After that game I cannot deny the power of Thrun.  Having that card in your main deck gives you a ridiculous win percentage increase against control.  I don’t think a deck like this could take control without him. (This theory is supported by Kibler’s videos which were posted today.  No Thrun main = lose to U/B game 1, twice in 4 rounds.)

Record: 3-0 (6-0)

Round 4: Kyle with Tempered Steel

I already knew what Kyle was playing and I already knew I was in for a world of hurt.  I didn’t expect to see Tempered Steel since A) No one had done well with it recently and B) the deck is terrible.  But he played the enchantment on me 2 games in a row and I had no answer, so I got face-rolled.

If playing 3 artifacts on turn 1 becomes a thing again the sideboard definitely need 3 copies of Creeping Corrosion.  You should also have a third Mortarpod in the board for sure.  I missed this and it cost me a bit.  Before they land Tempered Steel Mortarpod simply wrecks them.

Record: 3-1 (6-2)

Round 5: (Forgotten Name) with Tempered Steel…Again.

This match was HARD.  It did, however, show me that the match wasn’t unwinnable.  He never found a Tempered Steel game 1 and I got a Township online to bury him in 4/5 Birds of Paradises.

Game 2 I finally drew an Oblivion Ring (two in fact).  I O-ringed his Hero of Bladehold and the Tempered Steel he played the turn after that.  I was behind most of the game, but I couldn’t block his fliers so I had to just keep attacking.  After the second O-ring he left blockers back for my board of Spellskite, Thrun and Hero.  I proceed to rip Mortarpod off the top and gun down his 2 blockers to swing for lethal with Thrun and the Hero.

Mortarpod is really good here, but would be better as a reliable turn 2 play.  I still wanted Creeping Corrosion since there is just something about a one-sided Wrath effect that is awesome.  Another card that can be very good in this match is (go figure) Garruk Relentless.  If they don’t have a Steel or a Spellskite then Garruk can pick off multiple Signal Pests or a single Spined Thopter/Vault Skirge.

Record: 4-1 (8-2)

Round 6: AJ Sacher with Solar Flare

I had never been paired up against a SCG Pseudo-Pro before and was a bit nervous.  My opening draws didn’t help that much, as I mulled to four in game 1.  AJ countered three Garruks (after I was stuck on lands for 3 turns) and killed a fourth before we moved to game 2.  I brought in Swords for the Sun Titans and Spellskites for the Doom Blades.

Game 2 my opener is 5 lands, Avacyn’s Pilgrim, and Mirran Crusader — Snap-keep.  I proceed to play turn 2 Crusader followed by turn 3 Sword of Feast and Famine.  I won that game.  AJ now had a chance to sideboard correctly after finding out that I wasn’t, in fact, a Mono-Garruk Control deck.

Game 3 AJ got stuck on two lands and I played a turn 3 Thrun into Mirran Crusader into Gavony Township.  I don’t think that game would have been close even if he DID have lands.

This was an odd match to gauge my deck’s power level with.  He never played a Day of Judgment or a Liliana.  I wouldn’t have changed anything based on these games; the deck ran exactly the way it was supposed to in games 2 and 3.

Record: 5-1 (10-3)

Round 7: (Forgotten name) with Esper Control

The first thing that I find out about my round 7 opponent is that his friends gambled away all their gas/hotel money and they have no way of getting home if he doesn’t cash that day.  I tell him “that sucks man” and proceed to crush him in game 1.  His main plan seemed to be winning with Midnight Haunting tokens with Sword of Feast and Famine.  Without the sword he couldn’t beat a resolved Garruk Relentless.

In game 2 his plan worked perfectly, and he demolished me with flying sword carriers.  Game 3 was not so close either.  My curve was Turn 1 Birds, turn 2 Sword of War and Peace, turn 3 smash you for 8.  He ended up having to Day away single threats, which allowed me to resolve a Garruk.  He did have the O-ring for my first Garruk, but not for the second.  I was too far ahead at this point to even punt the match away (which I tried to do by letting him live an extra turn).

For this match I was very happy to have War and Peace in my board.  Garruk was an all-star again for killing tokens and making sword carriers.  I did really want a third Mortarpod again though.

Record: 6-1 (12-4)

Round 8: Win-and-In against (Forgotten name) with Solar Flare

This match wasn’t fun or interesting.  I got stuck on two lands while he Dayed away my mana-dorks both games.  He resolved seven Day of Judgment and five Lilianas in two games in this match.  His draws aside, I found some fundamental flaws with the deck and sideboard:

I needed Elspeth Tirel for this match.  I also needed graveyard hate…badly.  The Elspeth addition was not a realization from this match alone.  There were at least half-a-dozen times during the tournament that I stared at a dead Garruk, Primal Hunter in my hand with an active Garruk Relentless on table.  Relentless was enough for this deck, and I should have thought about that when building it.  Elspeth adds so much resilience to both Day and Lilly, I have no idea why I wasn’t playing her.  As for the graveyard hate, I should have had Nihil Spellbomb in my board.  I have been personally touting Surgical Extraction for its versatility, but Spellbomb would have been the better card against the Lilly heavy version of Flare.

Record: 6-2 (12-6)

Consolation Round 9: Win-and-Top-16 against (Forgotten name) with Wolf Run Green.

I was pretty mad about how that last match had gone, but I did my best not to go on tilt.  I found out that I had the best tiebreaks of all the X-2s and that, depending on who played or drew, I had an outside chance at Top 8. So, I made sure to compose myself and finish strong.

I opened a hand with turn 2 Crusader into turn 3 Destiny while my opponent played Birds of Paradise on the play followed by a Dungrove Elder.  That game ended shortly thereafter.  I was pretty happy to finally be playing the match up I had built the deck for.  There had been Wolf Run players all around me all day, but they all dodged me.

Game 2 had a bit more play to it.  He had a turn 2 Dungrove again and I had a turn 3 Garruk.  I killed his Birds to keep him off of six mana on the next turn, which effectively took away 2 possible win conditions on the next turn, since he wouldn’t throw a Primal Hunter away to get rid of a Relentless.  So, instead he played and equipped a Sword of Body and Mind and bashed me for 5 damage, 10 cards, and a wolf token.  My next 2 plays were Mirran Crusader followed by Sword of Feast and Famine, equip, bash you for 8 and 2 cards.  I found a Gavory Township for my Crusader and deathtouch Wolves (I flipped Garruk to start making blockers for the sworded Elder) and he scooped it up.

I don’t think I would change anything about the deck for that match-up.  Those two games were the exact face-rolling that I expected.

Final Record: 7-2 (14-6)

So, there you have it.  I came just short due to a bad matchup and a poor sideboard.  I am still pleased with my finish (any time you get your name on the internet and $100 for playing Magic it’s a good day) but I would have liked to have had a more tuned version of the deck.  I was pleasantly surprised to see Martin Juza take a similar list all the way to the top of a GP.  One note on his build: it was designed to crush Wolf Run and WU-Tang Humans.  That deck gets rolled by control from what I have seen.  Feast and Famine and Thrun main are a much better pair than Geist-Honored Monk and Overrun.

So, I talked a lot about the changes I would make, and here they are:

Creatures

4 Avacyns Pilgrim 4 Birds of Paradise 2 Hero of Bladehold 4 Mirran Crusader 3 Thrun the Last Troll 1 Fiend Hunter 2 Mikaus the Lunarch

Quick notes on the changes:

Hero of BladeHold underperformed all day (as usual) so she got the axe, except as a tutor target for Garruk.  Elspeth replaces Primal Hunter for planeswalker synergy.  I cut an Angelic Destiny because the deck was a bit heavy on 4 drops.  The replacement for that and a Hero was Mikaeus.  He seems like an excellent card for turn 2 or 3 and has a large impact on the game if he isn’t answered.  Finally, I added a Fiend Hunter to the main as a tutor target for Garruk.

As for the board, I like the changes I have made here most of all.  The Miser’s Elesh Norn will be fun to tutor/top deck and the new graveyard hate should be pretty functional as well.  I am happy to find room for the Mortarpod, but I’m not sure if Timely Reinforcements is the right cut.  The lifegain should be fine with 3 Elspeth, 2 Timely and 2 Swords after boarding.

Wow, this thing is really 3000 words long…That is nuts!  I hope you learned something if you made it this far without dying of boredom.  I welcome and appreciate your comments, please help me to get better at this writing thing.  You can contact me via twitter (@CapnTopDeck).  One more thing, I am on a podcast too!  Head over to couchpirates.com and listen to Planeswalker Asylum.  We do a decent job of making the information relevant and we make them pretty entertaining.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel Dusang

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