January 07 2016 Thursday at 01:56 PM

XB1 B4Z Tournament Round 1 - Reactions to Pairings and Decklists

Hello Duelers,

It's an exciting time.  Sixteen participants have entered the XB1 tournament, first prize is currently $100 in Xbox points, and I have just seen the decklists for the first time.  I have thoughts, musings, ramblings and opinions, and I wanted to write about it, so here I go.

First I'll talk a bit about my deck choice for the event.  I had very little information to metagame with.  I knew the participants, and I looked up their posts on NGA, but I found little that led me to believe I could predict what they would play.  I read the thread from the last NGA tournament for XB1 with Duels 2015, and while few of the participants are still involved in Duels I found the thread enlightening.  Research showed that most of the participants didn't play decks they often posted about.

In a typical metagame, I use a tactic borrowed from writers on StarCityGames.com and ChannelFireball.com - I start with Rock and try to get to Scissors.  Rock is typically the best, or most popular, deck.  Paper is the deck that beats Rock, and therefore will be adopted by most metagame-savy players.  Scissors is a deck that beats Paper.  So, for my Duels scenario, if ramp is the best known deck going into an event, and control beats ramp, I should assume players will play control to beat ramp, and I should play aggro to beat control.  

This is not a typical metagame.  What I decided I could and should count on is that most players do not want to do the obvious thing - they would prefer to play very interesting brews and decks that will not be expected.  I decided I could count on midrange and control.  I guessed that not many players would choose aggro or ramp.  This led me to sticking with what I personally believe to be the best pound-for-pound deck, Gruul Ramp.

4 x Fiery Impulse
4 x Gatecreeper Vine
3 x Rolling Thunder
1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer
2 x Reclamation Sage
2 x Radiant Flames
4 x Nissa's Pilgrimage
2 x From Beyond
4 x Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
2 x Outland Colossus
1 x Greenwarden of Murasa
1 x Oblivion Sower
2 x Nissa's Renewal
2 x Gaea's Revenge
1 x Omnath, Locus of Rage
1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
1 x Desolation Twin
6 x Mountain
12 x Forest
2 x Cinder Glade
1 x Canopy Vista
2 x Rootbound Crag

The changes from my week-to-week list on Diaries are minor.  All three Rolling Thunder for midrange.  4 Fiery Impulse instead a split with other spells like Twin Bolt because I expected very few "go wide" strategies and I wanted to kill Shambling Vents.  2 Reclamation Sage because I expected this field to be more enchantment/artifact focused, we'll see how that turns out.  Keeping Desolation Twin because I want more two-for-ones and threats off cast triggers.  No Jaddi Offshoots because I expected the red decks to stay home.  Even Barney has been dismissing Red Burn in writing.

Now let's take a look at the field I am walking into (full lists are HERE) - 



Jund Midrange Steal/Sac

Azorius Tempo

Dimir Midrange Ingest


Esper Control (no counters)

Naya Ramp

Jund Control

Converge Ramp

Jeskai Tokens

Jund Midrange

Esper Control

Sultai Control

Selesnya Ramp

Esper Control

Broken down by deck type -

3 Synergistic aggro decks (Thopters, Jeskai Tokens)

4 Ramp decks

3 what-I-would-call Midrange decks

1 Tempo-aggro deck

3 Control decks that rely on counterspells

2 Control decks that don't rely on countering spells

So now that I have seen the field am I still happy with my deck choice?  Yeah, I am pretty happy.  I think the only choice I am envious of is MegaBeasts 5 Color Ramp, because if you are in a field without much aggro and with only a few counterspells, you just want to play the biggest, most awesomest things available which is what 5 Color does.  Only two players aside from Beast are running Acid-Moss to punish the 5 Colors, so yeah, a little jealous of that pick.

Although I hate tempo, the one tempo-aggro deck may be very well positioned.  Nothing will get under it from an aggro stand point, so DIEVERSE1 will get to play the creatures, bounce, counter game all day.  If tempo could have an ideal field, I think this may be it.

I love my Reclamation Sages in this field.  Only a few decks aren't presenting targets, and anyone running From Beyond has to respect the Sages and can't just jam From Beyond on turn four (well, technically they can...).  Suppression Bonds has been showing up more throughout the season as planeswalkers and Ulamog become prevalent in most decks.  Sage really blows out a Suppression Bonds plan.  

My first round opponent is Ender1313, a finalist from the last 2015 tournament, so I have my work cut out for me.  Ender1313 registered the following -

1 x Jorubai Murk Lurker
2 x Bone Splinters
1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
3 x Mist Intruder
1 x Horribly Awry
1 x DIsplacement Wave
2 x Reave Soul
3 x Eldrazi Skyspawner
3 x Benthic Infiltrator
2 x Fleshbag Marauder
2 x Telling Time
1 x Retreat to Coralhelm
1 x Retreat to Hagra
2 x Scatter to the Winds
1 x Spell Shrivel
3 x Whirler Rogue
2 x Gravedigger
2 x Languish
2 x Possessed Skaab
1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited
1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
8 x Island
6 x Swamp
2 x Drowned Catacomb
4 x Dimir Guildgate
3 x Foundry of the Consuls

At first glance, what I need to worry about most are the three counterspells, Scatter x2 and Spell Shrivel.  As far as removing my creatures, I need to keep Gatecreepers and Scions around to keep Fleshbag from having an impact.  Otherwise, there are no solutions to Gaea's Revenge.  Ulamog is a threat in a very long game, but I expect Acid-Moss and my own Ulamog to keep him off his Ulamog.  My removal is good and bad, as Radiant Flames hits Mist Intruders and Whirler Rogues but misses Infiltrators and Murk Lurker.  My fatties such as Outland Colossus, Desolation Twin, Oblivion Sower and Omnath really only have to contend with the three counters and two Bone Splinters if I can keep Fleshbag out of the equation.  Still, there are Possessed Skaabs to get multiple uses from Splinters.  Overall I like the matchup, but I don't love it.  Things can and could go wrong.  Mist Intruder, Sky Spawner, Whirler Rogue with a Counterspell to back it up could be game over if I don't have Radiant Flames and the right mana for a Rolling Thunder when I need one.  23 lands in Ender's deck means an Acid-Moss could really cause headaches if it resolves.  Ender also has no way to remove From Beyond, so I'll be trying to resolve it early if an opening comes.  These are all my first impressions, I'll be playing with the deck more later today.

I'll also indulge you with my first impressions of the rest of the first round -

Black Barney (Thopters) vs DANNYRETARTABUL (Jund Steal/Sac Controll)

Danny really needs to lean on two copies of Languish here, as steal/sac will struggle against a go-wide Thopters deck.  BB even has Fiery Conclusion for a potential steal/sac blow-out.  Two Reclamation Sages will also have to come up big if Danny is going to take this one.  My pick is Black Barney.

DIEVERSE1 (Azorius Tempo) vs STEELY DANNO (Sultai Control)

I like Danno's list, there are no Evo Leap engines and minimal focus on Ingestion.  The deck's three Reclamation Sages will be great in other matchups, and four copies of Complete Disregard should be great here.  I feel like Dieverse1 wants to be in this matchup, it is something the deck is made for, but of all the control matchups I think this is the toughest that Dieverse could have drawn.  I am going with Danno on this one, but I feel like this is a tight matchup with no room for error on either side, and as such it may be decided by the RNG when it is time to take mulligans.

SPLINTER19CC (Esper Control) vs WESTWANE (Esper Control)

Welcome to the tournament, enjoy your Esper Control mirror match.  Westwane has potentially three more counters and more instant-speed action in general, so I am going with Westwane in this one.  On a side note, I really want to see Ulamog get countered by Ulamog's Nullifier.  Oh the flavor!

Hakeem928 (Thopters) vs. PeepySqueeps (Jeskai Tokens)

A go-wide aggro face off in round one.  Both decks have the Twin Bolt package to make this a real back-and-forth for who can control the most creatures, so I think it comes down to who can pump their creatures more.  Peepy has 2 Retreats and 2 Kytheons Tactics.  Hakeem has three Chief's.  The good news for Hakeem is that Peepy really doesn't have a way to remove them.  The bad news for Hakeem is that Peepy has Firemantle Mage, which can be a total blow out.  The good news for Hakeem is that he only has one.  This will be a very entertaining match and another toss-up that could be determined by mulligans.  I am going with Hakeem, he's my friend and a sentimental favorite, but this really could go either way and should be a blast to watch.

I Abuse Welfare / Mobius (Esper Control) vs. smokyalaterz (Jund Control)

In a battle of two control decks, I normally pick the one with either more lands (they both have 25) or more counterspells (they both have zero).  This one requires my thinking cap.  Neither player has Eldrazi, but I think that the Emeria Shepherd loop means that Smoke has to be the aggressor and Mobius has the inevitability, so I am picking Mobius here. 

InFaMoUsGeMiNi (Naya Ramp) vs. Tsh1rt (Selesnya Ramp)

It's a Ramp-off!  I am going to pick the deck with Moss in it, but it will be interesting to see how the players sequence their Emeria Shepherds and Ulamogs.  If one player is a level ahead of the other in this regard, it will swing the matchup.  Going with Gemini based on Moss, but who will play their Ulamog second is probably the correct answer to the question of who will win.

Mackey79 (Jund Steal/Sac Controly midrange thing) vs. Megabeast37215 (Five Color Ramp)

If Beast pays attention to the decklists and focuses on planeswalkers instead of fatties, I think he's got this.  Mackey has very little walker interaction, and will have to lean on Perilous Myr for that, which means he has to remove Jaddi Offshoot.  At least Beast doesn't have Gatecreepers, or this would look like an uphill battle.  I don't see many great lines for Mackey, but his steal/sac cards will force Beast into a very long game where he can't just jam Ulamog.  In such a long game, perhaps Mackey can cast and dig up Gaea's Revenge three or four times and find a way to break the game open.  I am going with Beast.

Good luck to all the participants and may the odds be ever in your favor!

<3 CGB