Tournament Report – aka Batman Villians
Do the best you can do.
Have a positive attitude.
I wrote those words right before the player meeting of the first Regional Pro Tour Qualifier in Chicago this past weekend. Those are generally my feelings before a big event and really in life as well. Bruce Wayne said it like this: “It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”
While I don’t normally subscribe to that line of thinking in life, in terms of my Magic career I have those types of thoughts often. This RPTQ was one such event where I thought I had something to prove--then came the villians.
Round 1 – The Rhino (Mono-Red Aggro)
As we get started with game one, it’s immediately apparent that my opponent will kill me unless I do something quickly. He starts out with the walking fireball (Lightning Berserker) and follows up with a pump and Monastery Swiftspear on turn two. I chose the get-out-of-the-way approach to dealing with The Rhino because all my lands came into play tapped and once I did have creatures in play, he used his horn (Goblin Heelcutter) to knock me out of the way. The day could have definitely started on a better note.
Games two and three went much better for me. I had solid hand backed up by good removal spells and my curve was much slicker after sideboarding out things I didn’t need against this deck. He had no one-drop which is very important to Red's game plan so I was able to get out ahead to grab The Rhino by the horn and throw him to the ground.
Game three he had a hard time picking himself up off the pavement after the beating I gave him. Being battered he obviously started with some bruises (mull to five) and he never really assembled a game plan. So, after a brief scare, I ended up winning round one which was a huge relief.
Round 3 – The Riddler (Esper Dragons)
This new deck definitely goes against the conventional wisdom of not playing creatures in your control decks. The saying usually goes like this: Riddle me this, what do you get when you combine three removal spells, three Counterspells, and a dragonlord together? A dead opponent.
For game one, I kept a reasonable hand of three solid creatures and the lands to cast them. This is normally a great hand if you draw into removal spells or overwhelm your opponent before they can recover. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
The Riddler asked me, how do you win a game against Dragonlord Ojutai without drawing removal spells? The answer: you don’t. I dealt myself tons of damage because my only mana sources were pain lands. So, once the dragon came on the scene, all he had to do was attack three times and I was lying on the ground defeated.
Game two should be better because I get to side out my bad removal and add in more threats. The problem is, you still need removal spells for the dragons or you will lose to them like I did in game one. So, I kept in a bunch of removal that was versatile but removed the things that couldn’t kill Ojutai. Even though I sideboarded well, I still died to the same sequence of plays from the villain. The Riddler asked me the same question yet again and I still had no answer so he threw me in the x-1 group of players at the tournament and went on his way.
Games lost to Dragonlord Ojutai: 2
Round 3 – The Scarecrow (Jeskai)
Trying to figure out which version of Jeskai you are actually playing against can be tricky. It’s like when The Scarecrow sprays you with some concoction that causes you to hallucinate. Let’s say they start out with Seeker of the Way--which version are they on based on that? What if it’s Soulfire Grand Master instead of Seeker?
Even if you think you figured out which version it is, there’s still a good possibility that the deck you’re playing against is different than the typical build. Unlike other archetypes in Standard, Jeskai seems to be the one where players try to do a lot of switching things up and trying different combinations of cards. There are so many possible iterations in the available card pool that switching a couple of cards dosen’t cause you to lose any power from your deck. This makes it more attractive for players to adjust their decks.
This particular version I played against mainly contained creature cards and burn spells. It did make tokens from Monastery Mentor just not from cards like Hordeling Outburst. Game one, which can be tricky due to all the hallucinating, I actually won. I had a good curve and a couple removal spells. That’s what the deck is supposed to do every game, but unfortunately that is not the case.
Game two, when I boarded in a bunch of useful spells like Drown in Sorrow, didn’t go as planned. I thought The Scarecrow was continuing his tricks but the Dragonlord Ojutai ended up not being an illusion after all. After dealing with some early threats, my tool belt was empty and we headed for game three.
The third game against this villain was spectacular, but unfortunately not for the hero. I kept an awkward hand of a couple creatures and double Drown. The awkward part was the lack of a second source of black mana but I had lands, spells, and threats so it was a keepable hand that improved drastically with any draw step revealing another black mana.
I did indeed draw the mana I needed as well as many other lands to go along with it. I guess I wished too hard and so my deck rewarded me with land after land. Both of my early creatures were killed and my opponent started amassing an army of monks, or I thought they were monks but who knows, it’s The Scarecrow afterall.
Late in the game I still had both Drown in Sorrow which was convenient because I would need both of them to kill the real Dragonlord Ojutai who showed up again. Normally I would only need one removal spell to kill a creature but you have to draw them to use them. Tool belt was nearly empty except for these awkward Drowns.
I kept putting pressure on him with my creatures so that I would kill him shortly after I dealt with his dragon. Unfortunately I never got another turn. The dragon flew overhead for five damage and the card he drew plus the one he drew for the turn was enough to defeat the hero.
Games lost to Dragonlord Ojutai: 4
Round 4 – The Joker (Mirror Match)
Even though two losses would almost certainly not make Top 8, I still stayed in to salvage my rough start. Batman’s arch-nemesis would have none of it though. First he started the match off by giving me only unstable ground with which to stand on (all lands come into play tapped). Then, once they were in play, he thought it was funny to not allow me to draw anymore. The Joker continued to bring more and more goons to the party and after a couple of turns, it was clear that this day was lost.
Game two was The Joker’s biggest prank. He sent clones to defeat me. So many clones that I couldn’t have them in play together at the same time. Playing legendary creatures can still be a liability. Despite the plethora of playable removal spells, getting legends stuck in your hand is a serious drawback that can lead to your defeat. In this case it was all four Anafenza, the Foremost and two Surrak, the Hunt Caller.
Don’t worry though, I didn’t have double green to cast Surrak. In addition he stole my tool belt and left me with no way to interact with him. Sometimes you get awkward hands like this but you can still give yourself time to draw out of it by playing some removal spells. That was not the case here but often it is. The Joker is the arch-nemesis for a reason I guess.
Some tournaments are not yours to win. Despite your best effort, sometimes your deck does not give you the tools you need to win. Even though my preparation was good, I was unable to leverage that to help me succeed.
So, at the event there were 113 players, with 7 rounds, and Top 4 qualify, but I was not one of them. At least I live to fight another day.
***No players were hurt in the writing of this tournament report. All opponents were good sports and are actually not villians.
Dragons of Tarkir
Regardless of what event you are attending, whether that be FNM, PPTQ, or a bigger event like a SCG Open or GP, you need to determine the best way to fight against dragons. The Dragonlords have asserted their will on the format and if you want to be successful, you go through them. These warlords have staked their territory in the metagame and sometimes they will even work together to destroy the surrounding landscape. Even the low man on the totem pole, Dragonlord Kolaghan, shows up from time to time to swoop in for some destruction.
Not only should you be concerned about fighting against them in Standard, but you should also closely be following their prices. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this cycle feels very similar to that of the titans. Every titan saw some amount of play while it was legal and I expect that to be the same for the Dragonlords.
One part that has stayed the same are the sales numbers. While the numbers will always skew towards playable Standard cards, the sales for this cycle is close to even for all five cards. I sell almost as many Dragonlord Kolaghan as I do Dragonlord Ojutai.
If we see a deck do well with an inexpensive Dragonlord, we could see a quick price bump. My advice is to trade for all of these cards because they should move well in trades, buylists, or in your online sales.
Tiny Leaders Finance
This weekend, while I was at the RPTQ, I thought a lot about the new and awesome Tiny Leaders format. At the event, they had signups for eight-man pods with a prize structure similar to drafts. As far as I know their other events, like a cash prize PPTQ, were much more popular and so they did not fire many if any Tiny Leaders tournaments.
There were a bunch of players having fun playing the format throughout the room though. My friends and I, as well as some other players, were jamming games between rounds. This format attracts many players who would be qualified for this type of event and I think we will start seeing this format a lot more in the side events listings.
You can take advantage of this knowledge by trading and speculating on some cards in the format. Smother, for example, kills every creature in the format that can be targeted. As with most cards in the format, the most desirable versions are the foils. With the smaller deck size and singleton nature of the format, it makes it much easier to pick up foils for your deck. Recently I had success doubling up with FNM Smother but this fact applies to basically every good card in the format. The type of player who pays $50 for a foil Brainstorm is the same type of player who loves this format.
There is plenty of money to be made by getting ahold of underpriced foils. Any foil tiny leaders are good pickups and are probably worth more than what you are trading for them. Any of the Standard foils are worth keeping your eye out. Some of the foil commanders to look for are Yasova Dragonclaw, Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, and Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. These three creatures are all very popular because of their versatility as commanders.
Playable Legacy and Modern staples are also great pickups. More players will be looking for them and we know they are good long-term investments. A couple cards that stand out are True-Name Nemesis, Council's Judgment and Abrupt Decay. I won’t spend a ton of time talking about things you already know but if you see these, they are still great cards to trade for.
Finally, as with most formats, planeswalkers are strong and see a lot of play. With Tiny Leaders there are not many legal cards with this type but all of the three-cost ones are great. Here are the legal planeswalkers: Ajani, Caller of the Pride, Dack Fayden, Jace Beleren, Domri Rade, Askiok, Nightmare Weaver and Liliana of the Veil.
These cards could see a price bump over the next year because they are playable in so many places plus being very desirable for casual players. Liliana of the Veil, in particular her promo, seems like it will be a great card to get towards the end of the year. She is the promo for the RPTQs for the whole year so getting some copies when supply is at its height would be the best idea.
That’s all for me this week. If you have thoughts on good Tiny Leaders specs please share them in the comments.
Until next time,
Unleash the Force!
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