Last weekend, I attended the SCG Season 1 Invitational in Roanoke, VA. The tournament was a blast, and I learned a lot: Zombies is a worse Monument, speeding in Virginia is a criminal offense, and most of all, people love Modern! Most of my Invitational opponents (and the tournament's winner) were Modern fanatics, and the Modern Open and Classic were packed. It was awesome to play the format competitively with so many other devotees.
This article goes over my matches with Colorless Eldrazi Stompy, the deck I piloted to a 7-1 (7-0?) finish in the tournament's Modern portion. I'll also briefly recap my Standard matches and round out last week's thoughts on competition now that I've had a big bowl of perspective.
Notes on the Deck
I played the same list described in my article from last week, which I'll post again for reference. My Mono-Black Zombies list for Standard was also the same, although I dropped one Westvale Abbey for a 23rd Swamp.
SCG Season 1 Invitational - Day 1
Colorless Eldrazi Stompy doesn't just mulligan a lot, it Serum Powders a lot. At the beginning of every game, I'll use a key to simplify relaying die rolls and the mulligans taken by each player. Some examples:
(Play; MPM 5 - 7): I'm on the play. I mull to 6, Powder for 6, and then mull to 5; my opponent does not mulligan.
(Draw): I'm on the draw. Nobody mulligans or Powders.
(Play; P 7ss - MM 5): I Powder for 7 and end up with two copies of Eternal Scourge in exile. My opponent mulligans twice.
Round 1 vs. Kevin Jones on Jeskai Queller (2-0)
Game 1, W (Play): How better to start a tournament than with Celestial Colonnade first thing in the morning? I keep a Temple and stick Eternal Scourge on turn two. Kevin tries to race me with Snapcaster Mage and Spell Queller, but is soon forced onto the defense, and I stick a Chalice on one. That gets me Bolted twice in response, which brings me to 4. My four Quarters keep Colonnade from sealing the deal. In hindsight, I should have aggressively thrown some Quarters at Kevin's red sources, as he already had Mountain in play.
Game 2, W (Draw): I keep a seven of two non-Temple lands, Scourge, Reshaper, Seer, Surgical, and Spatial. All I need with this hand is three mana to apply a good deal of pressure throughout the game, and I have interaction for Kevin's aggression and for any kind of Snapcaster shenanigans. It helps that I draw Relic for turn. My opponent misses a land drop and Scourge takes over the game, eating removal but coming right back. I throw Surgical at Serum Visions to mess up his top-top scry, but he rips a third land anyway.
While I'm attacking with and re-casting Scourge, my Relic gets Wear'd, and my Seer gets Quellered. When I pass to Kevin, he cracks his last untapped land, a Flooded Strand. In response, I'm able to Spatial Contortion the Queller without fearing the Path to Exile I know he has in hand. I snatch that with my now-resolving Thought-Knot, and manage to fade my opponent's one Surpreme Verdict to crack in for lethal.
I made a couple of minor misplays this round, but the matchup is so good we enjoy a sizable margin of error.
Round 2 vs. Eldrazi Tron (2-0)
Game 1, W (Draw; M 6 - 7): I keep a threat-heavy, two-temple hand and draw Mimic for turn. The curve goes Mimic, Seer, Seer, Smasher.
Game 2, W (Draw): I pitch Scourge to Gemstone Caverns and rip Eldrazi Temple for turn. I lead on Mimic anyway to maximize my damage output next turn, but it dies to a kamikaze Walking Ballista. Scourge beats down a little while my opponent flounders on triple Power Plant (he draws the fourth a little later). I Dismember a Seer in response to its enter trigger, spending all of my mana and paying only 2 life thanks to Caverns; unfortunately, I draw another Dismember off the leave trigger and am forced to exile it rather than kill a lone Hangarback Walker. I end up then drawing Matter Reshaper into Reality Smasher to overwhelm the construct.
This matchup is quite swingy and usually depends on who opens more Temples. Natural Tron also works from their side, although it's not ideal. Ballista used to be a pain for this deck, but with the 4 Bomb, 2 Needle plan, I'm less afraid of it.
Round 3 vs. Sol Malka on BG Rock (2-1)
Game 1, L (Play; P 7 - 6): What a treat to pair with none other than the inventor of rock midrange himself, and just a couple weeks after I featured his deck here on Modern Nexus! In this game, I get Sol down to 11 before the ground stalls out with two Goyfs and a Scooze to my horde of Eldrazi. From there, I chip him down to zero in the air with a pair of Blinkmoths.
Game 2, L (Draw): We trade resources for awhile, and I set up to take control of the game with Relic and Scourge. Then Sol draws Kalitas. In my giddiness, I throw the game by double-blocking it with a couple Mutavaults, forgetting the Vampire can eat a Zombie token and outsize my lands.
Game 3, W (Play; MPP 6s - 7): I lead with Relic and manage to embarrass a turn-one Inquisition of Kozilek with my opener full of Temples and Smashers. Relic gets Decayed, but my 5/5s close out the game with ease.
BG Rock trades Abzan's Lingering Souls and Path to Exile for mainboard Ghost Quarters, which actually don't hurt me much. Scooze and Kalitas can still take over the game unmolested, but if we're careful, it won't happen. The biggest loss from ditching white in this matchup is Stony Silence, which shuts down my Relic-Scourge plan and blanks Ratchet Bomb.
Round 4 vs. Tom Ross on G/R Tron (2-1)
Game 1, W (Draw; P 7 - 7): I powder away a dead seven for a Temple hand with two Mimics, Seer, and Chalice. The Chalice ends up never being cast, as I put Tom on Eldrazi Tron after seeing an Urza land and play threats instead. Then Grove of the Burnwillows pays for Sylvan Scrying, but I'd still rather cast Seer and crack for 8 than lock my opponent out of Chromatic Stars. The plan works and we go to Game 2.
Game 2, L (Draw; M 6 - 7): I keep six cards without a Temple that feature Mimic, Quarter, and Surgical, and scry Simian Spirit Guide to the top. That allows me to cast Mimic on turn one and Quarter-plus-Surgical the Tron lands before Tom makes his third land drop. That's what goes down, but I fail to apply more pressure, losing to Thragtusk, a pair of Wurmcoils, and Karn before I can seal the deal.
Game 3, W (Play): I cast a turn-one Needle calling Expedition Map, since I'm casting Chalice for one next turn. Tom casts Ancient Stirrings. In hindsight, I should have called Oblivion Stone; that would let me resolve Chalice without fear of losing it. By calling Map, I allow my opponent to resolve another one-drop on his turn instead, which ends up having little impact in the grand scheme of things—he's already locked out of Map once Chalice comes down.
Tom casts Sylvan Scrying, and Scourge resolves on my turn three. Oblivion Stone wipes everything I've landed, including a Powder I dropped to help turn on Sea Gate Wreckage. I recover with Thought-Knot Seer and take Wurmcoil Engine, but a second Stone kills my 4/4. A second Chalice comes down, and this one wrecks Tom's future draws. Mutavault and Eternal Scourge get my opponent down low, and he eventually taps out for a topdecked Wurmcoil Engine at 2 life, hoping I forget about my pair of Blinkmoths. I don't.
Gx Tron lacks the "I drew Temples" factor of Eldrazi Tron, and it's pretty soft to Needle and Chalice, making it a decent matchup for this deck. Ross and his crew (including vocal Eldrazi Tron proponent Todd Stevens) were all on the deck this weekend, and performed poorly overall.
Rounds 5-8 (Standard)
Round 5 vs. BG Energy: 1-2
Round 6 vs. Temur Energy: 2-0
Round 7 vs. Mardu Vehicles: 2-0
Round 8 vs. Monument: 0-2
I took plenty of mulligans in these rounds thanks to opening one-landers the majority of the time. Had no idea what to do against Monument, which stomped me, and felt fine elsewhere. Made a good deal of rookie sequencing errors and learned a lot about basic Standard interactions. Considering I hardly did any testing, I was happy to 2-2, but would have liked to be x-1 going into Day 2.
SCG Season 1 Invitational - Day 2
Round 9 (miss)
I accidentally turn off my iPad alarm instead of snoozing it, and wake up naturally 40 minutes into the round. Oops! I hurry over to the Berglund center and un-drop just in time for Round 10.
Round 10 vs. Jeskai Queller (2-0)
Game 1, W (Draw; PMMP 5ss - 7): What did I say about starting the day off with a hot cup of Colonnade? My opponent is speechless as I use a pair of Powders and start the game with Gemstone Caverns in play. Mimic dies quickly but the Scourges get their clobber on, beating my opponent down to six as I Dismember a Queller on Chalice to keep myself alive. With my opponent depleted of resources, Mutavault squeezes in lethal as Quarter keeps Colonnade from animating.
Game 2, W (Draw; M 6 - 7): I keep Temple and Scourge, but the 3/3 gets Ceremonious Rejection'd. My stack of removal keeps Clique and Queller from clocking me. Eventually, I rip Relic of Progenitus, and throw Scourges at my opponent until he dies.
Round 11 vs. Joseph Soto on Grixis Shadow (2-0)
Game 1, W (Draw): I open a pair of Temples with Thought-Knot Seer and a couple Smashers. Then I draw Mimic for turn, and Eternal Scourge on turn two, giving me a perfect curve. I skip one attack to develop my board and avoid growing a couple of 2/2 Shadows; my opponent fails to find a Thoughtseize and I kill him the following turn.
Game 2, W (Draw; PMPM 5s - 7): Thoughtseize takes my Dismember, leaving me with two Temples, Blinkmoth Nexus, and a Ratchet Bomb. I had scryed Chalice of the Void to the top, and stick it on turn two (that and a second one some turns later, as Kolaghan's Command insurance). Tasigur comes down for three mana, walling Scourge and the Thought-Knot Seer I then resolve. A couple turns later I draw Smasher and put the game away.
I overestimated the importance of Guide in my sideboarding. We also really want all the Bombs against them, as Shadow's their only card that gives us fits. Our sets of Relic and Chalice tend to overwhelm their Commands.
Round 12 vs. Jeskai Control (2-0)
Game 1, W (Play; PM 6 - 7): I've lurked around the top tables enough to know my opponent's on Jeskai, and get to keep a juicy six with Temple and Scourge, scrying another Scourge to the top. I eat a Helix early on, and fizzle another one aimed at Scourge once I start beating down. Two Electrolyzes keep the Scourges at bay for a time, but true to name, they come back and continue attacking. Quarter kills one activated Colonnade and my opponent lacks the mana to activate his second.
Game 2, W (Draw): I neglect to use Gemstone Caverns, since I have three lands in my opener and want all the cards. I lead with Relic after drawing Scourge for turn (of course), and I find another Scourge soon. Those never die, although my opponent tries to keep his head above water with some fancy Cryptic Command maneuvers. He draw-bounces my first Chalice in response to the Chalice at two, then makes Snapcaster-Ceremonious to counter the new one. I just keep casting my Scourges and stockpiling Reality Smashers in hand until my opponent's down to one card and I draw Thought-Knot Seer. Seer comes down and my opponent casts Snap, targeting Electrolyze; the coast is clear now, so I play a Smasher and attack for game.
Rounds 13-16 (Standard)
Round 13 vs. UW Monument: 2-1
Round 14 vs. Temur Energy: 1-2
Round 15 vs. UW Monument: 0-2
Round 16 vs. Abzan Delirium: 2-0
My hands were significantly better this day, and I also had a better grip on Zombies. I got a crash course in beating Monument from a friend of a friend just before Round 13, and was happy to defeat it this time around. Then I got a Game Loss against Temur Energy during a deck check; I'd borrowed this deck, sleeves and all, from a local Boston player. Apparently, Westvale Abbey could be seen through the orange sleeves! Next round, Jody Keith crushed me on Monument, and at the very end of the tournament, I paired once again with Sol Malka on Rock. Recursive threats are a pain for BGx midrange decks, and it didn't help that Sol went to four in Game 2 while I opened a strong seven.
The Invitational was my first-ever multi-format event, and I had a great time. I didn't think I'd like it as much as Modern-only tournaments, but splitting the tournament this way breaks it up neatly and challenges players to ration their prep time. The Invitational yielded the toughest field of players I've had the pleasure of playing against, and it re-ignited my competitive spark.
So despite all the "I'm not cut out for professional play" in last week's article, I'm very excited for the next Invitational, which I qualified for by making Top 32. For that event, I plan to spend more time with Standard and make sure I'm properly prepared for both halves of the tournament, instead of just the Modern portion.
The prep I did for that half ended up being more than enough, as I didn't lose a played Modern match all weekend. The only decks I was afraid of were other Eldrazi strategies, as those matchups often come down to who draws more Temples. I don't feel Colorless Eldrazi Stompy has any actually bad matchups right now and was very happy with my configuration over the weekend (although I was underwhelmed by Surgical Extraction—Sorcerous Spyglass can't get here fast enough).
Er... well, there is one bad matchup. In the Classic on Sunday, I went 6-2, narrowly losing to GB Tron and not-so-narrowly losing to UB Tezzerator. Three Ensnaring Bridge and 4 Whir of Invention-into-Pithing Needle-naming-Ratchet Bomb is truly impossible for this deck to beat. But that's Modern—no matter how powerful your strategy, there's always a predator!