Monday, March 1, 2010

one game

In the spirit of one of the all-time best Magic articles, One Game by Richard Feldman, I'm going to post a fairly detailed walkthrough of a single game with my latest version of the Elves deck in the third game of the third round of a Magic Online daily event. My opponent is playing a fairly interesting UW Thopter list, deviating most noticeably from most Thopter lists in playing Tron backed up by various signets and talismans. Talismen? Notable cards seen before include Path to Exile, Repeal, Wrath of God, Day of Judgment, Hallowed Burial (?!), Mindslaver, Engineered Explosives, Academy Ruins, and Chalice of the Void. I did not see what his actual win condition was, since I scooped to Mindslaver recursion in the first game. In the second, the game went long, so I had to actually recur Primal Commands for once to keep him off Wrath mana, leaving me fairly little time for the third game. Worse yet, losing the first game means I'm on the draw for the decider... never a good thing for this deck; it shifts almost every matchup to be much worse than when on the play. For sideboarding, I brought all three Shamans- two Viridan, one Loaming- as well as a single Ranger of Eos, removing Cloudstone Curios and a Boreal Druid. The thinking here is that Academy Ruins recursion plus shitloads of mana is something that I just can't beat, so a 2G 3/2 that shuffles their library is pretty good. I'm unsure whether or not I want the third Ranger of Eos (I cut down to two sideboard, one main), but decide against it, since with two Primal Command and Regal Force in the deck, it could lead to some clunky draws.

Opening seven:

Five land, ouch. Glimpse plus Nettle is certainly tempting, but an easy way to think of lands past the third in a hand is that they're mulligans already, making this hand a "double-mulligan" and a toss. Yes, it has your two most critical cards (Nettle for early pressure and Glimpse to combo if they tap out), but the supporting cast isn't there.

Well hello there. Pact, when backed up with Elves in the opening hand, is only slightly worse than having Glimpse. Fist-pump keep.

More fist-pumping occurs. The only decision here is whether to lead with the Forest or the fetch, and whether to get a basic or a Temple Garden. Since his only spot removal seems to be Path and Repeal, there's not much advantage to try anything fancy with tricking him at the expense of life, so I just go with the Forest, in case I draw one of the two Rangers eventually.

Well that's not what I wanted to see, but it's not a huge deal. I have the Archdruid, and can Pact up Shaman when it's necessary to do so. I decide to fetch up a basic again, since the odds of drawing a Ranger before another white source are rather low; however, life total barely matters at all here, so it was a misplay. I should have gone for the Garden.

Boo land. Pacting for Shaman is briefly tempting, but it's possible he's slow-rolling the second white source (or that he'll draw it) in order to Wrath me for an easy game win. Instead, I begin bringing beats. He takes the four and Thirsts at end of turn, ditching another Chalice, then completes the Tron, plays a signet, and Repeals Archdruid. This isn't looking good.

Two lines of play here: either Shaman his Chalice and lay the Nettle, threatening eight damage with the Archdruid I play next turn, or play Archdruid this turn and intend to go crazy on the next. The latter seems much better, since he can just get blindsided by losing his chalice and seeing my board explode out of nowhere, not letting him untap with the knowledge that I've dealt with Chalice.

Speaking of exploding out of nowhere, he plays Triskelion (?!?!?!) and the turn I was setting up disappears. Thankfully, I've practiced enough with the deck to draw another Archdruid.

If I don't commit in a major way to the board, Triskelion recursion with the new Foundry is going to knock me out of the game in a hurry. For that reason, it seems best to play out everything I can and hope to overwhelm him.

I play Heritage Druid as the second elf rather than Nettle Sentinel, since I'd rather he Path the 1/1 than the 2/2 Nettle. Interestingly, he opts to Path Viridian Shaman rather than Heritage Druid, I assume for a similar reason. Here is where I've started rushing my decisions due to the limited time on my clock, so I can't fully calculate what he'll do with Triskelion turn after turn. I don't even think I saw the Foundry-Ruins interaction here that allows him to do that at all; I was overly focused on my side of the board, and it cost me.

Pacting up Shaman doesn't do anything here, especially with Chalice in the graveyard ready to go on top of his library. I could get Loaming Shaman to stop that from happening, but that eats up two turns and doesn't do anything about the Triskelion. The best way out of this seems to be to Ranger up Warcaller to potentially get enough guys outside of Triskelion range so that I can kill him soon, after Pacting for Shaman to deal with the Chalice he'll play.

As expected, there's the xx, and much like the band, it's pissing me off a bit, but can get tuned out temporarily before it gets brought back up. The first Pact obviously has to get VShaman, then I can play out my hand... but what does the second get? I reason that Archdruid is the best call, but this is wrong. If I had ended this turn by fetching up Loaming Shaman instead, I can stop his crazy Triskelion recursion and make him have one of a very small number of removal spells either as the last card in his hand or on top of the deck to win the game. If he does, he wins on the spot, but it still seems superior. I should have realized that, by playing Archdruid, he can just kill it with Trisk, so if I attack with Nettle Sentinel into his four untapped Thopters, then I can only tap three Elves plus four land and lose. Fortunately...

Well, that's a relief.

I attack with everyone, and make a huge mistake by holding on to the Llanowar in my hand until next turn for... some reason.

Note his five life, my four power worth of unblocked creatures, and summoning-sick Llanowar.

The deck attempts to apologize by handing me a win in the form of Visionary into Pact, but again I politely refuse, this time by searching for Archdruid. Trying to play too fast was getting to me.

...and I lose and drop from the tournament.

Short version: "he had turn two Chalice, obviously drew the Urzatron and Academy with no tutoring, and started recurring Triskelion, and I don't get a single Glimpse the entire game, so obviously I lose. Nothing I could do about that."

Next time I do this, it'll be a game I played well.


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