Tree of Tales – A Weekend of Mayhem

Since this is my first official article, we should probably start with an introduction.  My name is Michael Coughenour. I’ve been playing Magic since Arabian Nights and The Dark came out in ’94 (I really thought those packs looked cool… kinda Prince of Persia-ish). I started off playing cards at my school, until they got banned because we were playing for ante (I loved it). This drove us into local card stores, and when tournaments began happening, I never looked back. I’m 27, and I’ve spent the last 16 years playing Magic (off and on) competitively. I play all formats, though I tend to favor Legacy for it’s open-ended nature.  However, I am most successful at limited, where my deck building skills give me an advantage over a large portion of the field.  I had top 8 finishes at a few PTQs between 2001-2003, but was never able to actually break the bubble, and then lost interest for a while before returning to the game. I’ve maintained a fair rating most of my “career,” but really feel the need to get that win and prove myself.

So this previous weekend marked the advent of new site layout going live, which coincided with the 1k event. It was an entire weekend affair, with free Friday Night Magic at Pop Culture Paradise, followed by a $1,000 cash prize Standard tournament run at Madcap Theaters on Mill Saturday, then capped off by a $500 cash prize Legacy tournament run on Sunday back at PCP. Quite a bit of Magic for a weekend.

First off, I’d like to send a thanks out to Jeff and Jason for making this weekend a great success. Things ran smoothly, the venue was great, and I look forward to more in the future. I was unable to make it to the FNM (doing favors for friends is not always what it’s cracked up to be), but I did make it to both the Standard and Legacy portions of the event.

Here’s what I sleeved up for Saturday:

U/B Forgemaster

Lands (22)
Drowned Catacomb
Darkslick Shores
Tectonic Edge

Artifacts (11)
Mox Opal
Sphere of the Suns
Everflowing Chalice

Creatures (16)
Myr Welder
Kuldotha Forgemaster
Wurmcoil Engine
Myr Battlesphere
Molten-Tail Masticore
Steel Hellkite

Spells (6)
Go For The Throat

Planeswalkers (5)
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Sideboard (15)
Spreading Seas
Doom Blade
Ratchet Bomb
Black Sun’s Zenith

Despite this looking like a pretty rogue list, it is surprisingly good, and similar builds are wrecking the Scars of Mirrodin Block format right now. To be honest, it’s best days in Standard are definitely ahead of it (it loses next to nothing on rotation), but I really had grown tired of the current decks, and wanted to play something different. Vamps, Birds, these things just didn’t interest me, and nothing says interesting like Tinker on a stick.

Round 1 vs. Dyan (?) playing Mono-White Quest

I lose the die roll, and we shuffle up. Game 1 was pretty uneventful for me, but not so for her. She dropped a plains and a Quest for the Holy Relic, then preceded to drop two Memnites and pass me the turn, setting Quest to 2. I had kept a hand devoid of removal, so this was looking pretty grim for me, and I played a Darkslick Shores and a Preordain, which whiffed on removal of any kind, so I passed. She untapped, dropped a Glint Hawk, picked up Memnite, and dropped him again, setting Quest to 4. She had already attacked prior to this, which had me at 18, so she passed turn. I untapped, blanked on the draw, then played a land and a Sphere of the Suns before passing turn. She untapped, played a critter, and popped Quest, at which point I moved into my scoop phase so as not to give away info. 0-1 game count.

Sideboarding: +3 Doom Blade, +3 Ratchet Bomb, +2 Black Sun’s Zenith, -2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, -1 Preordain, -1 Steel Hellkite, -2 Wurmcoil Engine, -1 Myr Battlesphere, -1 Kuldotha Forgemaster.

My post-board game plan against aggro is usually to just go pure control, and it usually works pretty well. Game 2 turned into a blowout, despite her opening with a Quest and a Memnite. I opened on two Ratchet Bombs, and she never had time to get anything going before I wiped her out. One more Doom Blade was all I needed to seal the deal, and then got there on the back of a Wurmcoil Engine I believe. 1-1 game count.

Game 3 was another painful affair, as she Quested off on me turn 2 or 3. I blanked on removal, and her Argentum Armor got there. Quickly. 1-2 game count, 0-1 match count.

Round 2 vs Brian (?) playing Mono-Red

He won the die roll and elected to go first, which really hurt when that play was Mountain, Goblin Guide. I’m not going to go into this one heavily, but he went rampant on me, getting there mostly on the back of a Goblin Guide, Ember Hauler and burn. It happens. 0-1 game count.

Sideboarding: exact same as above.

So I went first in game 2, and things looked pretty bleak. I took my second mulligan of the match, and kept a one lander. Fortunately, that one land was an Island, and I cast Preordain, which revealed two more land. Sweet! He missed his turn 1 GG, and passed turn. I moved into a Sphere of the Suns on turn 2, and he played out an Ember Hauler on his before passing. I dumped a Mox Opal, played an Everflowing Chalice for 1, then dropped a Myr Welder before passing the turn. He swings with the Hauler, then Staggershocks the Welder when I block with it, effectively killing it. I untap, play my land for turn, then spin out a Wurmcoil Engine, which really made me feel good. He burned it down the next turn, hitting it with a Staggershock rebound, an Ember Hauler sacrifice and a burn spell I believe, but he couldn’t answer the tokens. I played a Myr Battlesphere two turns later, and he never recovered. 1-1 game count.

Game 3 was pretty anti-climactic, and went pretty poorly for him. He kept a hand with no 1 or 2 drops, based on a backbone of multiple Manic Vandals. Unfortunately, they did not supply enough card advantage to make a difference, and I rode to town on tokens and removal spells, which did the job quite effectively. I ended up winning with a pair of Wurmcoil Engines. 2-1 game count, 1-1 match count.

Round 3 vs. Tim playing UW Tempo

Tim’s a friend of mine, and we got down to business pretty quick. Game 1 he crushed me, dropping a Sword of Body and Mind, followed by two Phyrexian Revokers, naming my Jace and my Welder, which left me with no options. He rode to town on a Revoker wielding the Sword at the end, and I was left holding the bag. 0-1 game count.

Sideboarding: exactly the same.

So game 2 went about like I want post board games to go. He played several creatures, I answered them all with a combination of Doom Blade, Go For The Throat and Ratchet Bomb. He actually conceded before I could effectively win, since I had Myr Welder on the board, Forgemaster in the graveyard, and his board was swept and he possessed no removal, which meant the game was pretty much over anyway. 1-1

Game 3 was hard fought, as I used 2 Go For The Throat, 1 Black Sun’s Zenith, 2 Ratchet Bomb, and 3 Doom Blades before finally losing to a Glint Hawk Idol (with a GFTT in hand, btw). My gripe with this game was my lack of true threats, as I never played a single creature. I played a Tezz 2.0 (which got countered) as my single threat, and this list should really produce more than that. However, my sideboard strategy for aggro leaves me quite light on threats, so eventually you figure this will happen. I just wish it hadn’t. Oh well. 1-2 gc, 1-2 match.

So I dropped, not wanting to suffer any more punishment. All of my matches were quite winnable, and the ones I lost could easily have gone my way. What did I learn from today?

  1. I need to drop some of my silver bullet 1-ofs. Steel Hellkite is great, but he never finds his way into play, since something else is almost always better. Molten-Tail Masticore can be great, but he seems to be slower than he should be, and not as effective when he’s the only one in your list. Again, you usually want to be digging for something more relevant.
  2. Myr Battlesphere should probably be a 1-of, and my sideboard patterns support this. Despite the fact that I cast him several times, it’s not something I want in my hand, and he found himself there far too often.
  3. 4 Wurmcoil Engines was probably too much. In Block format, 4 was the right number, period. However, Standard is a little different, and him being in my hand most of the games was just not optimal. I would cut him to either 3 or 2, making him still pop up, but not dominate your deck.
  4. Quitting smoking makes me less than gracious in defeat, which is something I need to control. Period.

So that was Saturday. I got home, ate some pizza, drove to the store, got rear-ended in the parking lot (true story) and ended up back at home, sore and tired, but ready to come out again the next day for Legacy. Oh well, bad beats all around it seems. Fortunately, there’s always tomorrow, right? It’s only a day away.


…is now today, eh? I know, not very clever, but what do you expect? Anyhow, I sleeved up BGW for Sunday, and went to try out my luck. I mean, The Rock has millions and millions of fans, so I figured it must be doing something right. Oh wait, no, that’s wrestling… Anyway, here’s the list:

The Rock

Lands (24)
Verdant Catacombs
Marsh Flats
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Treetop Village

Artifacts (8)
Mox Diamond
Sensei’s Divining Top
Umezawa’s Jitte

Creatures (13)
Dark Confidant
Stoneforge Mystic
Knight of the Reliquary

Spells (14)
Pernicious Deed
Swords to Plowshares
Hymn to Tourach

Planeswalkers (1)
Elsepth, Knight-Errant
Sideboard (15)
Tormod’s Crypt
Engineered Plague
Diabolic Edict
Krosan Grip
Pernicious Deed

This is my favorite deck in Legacy currently, and for good reason. With it’s removal suite, it can literally handle almost anything, and Hymn to Tourach may be the most powerful black card in Legacy currently. It definitely ranks up there. Good interactions from everything make this list flow quite smoothly, and it can just get wicked. Umezawa’s Jitte + Bitterblossom = Good Game more often than not, and Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary may be the two best green creatures in all of Magic. On to the report.

Round 1 vs. Danny playing B/r Goblins

His list was pretty standard, and so I felt fairly comfortable with this match-up. While knowing I could easily lose to the right hand, I definitely possessed the tools I needed to win the match. Game 1 was pretty uneventful. I won the die roll, played a fetch, and passed where he cast Goblin Lackey. I fetched for a Scrubland and cast Swords to Plowshares before untapping, drawing and casting Hymn to Tourach. Another Hymn followed a turn later, and then a Pernicious Deed. He had fetched into 3 Badlands (a play error he admitted was due to lack of experience with the format), and I blew them out with two drawn Wastelands and a third fetched by the Knight of the Reliquary I played. After sweeping his lands, I Deeded his board and proceeded to swing for the win.

Sideboarding: +2 Engineered Plague, +1 Pernicious Deed, -1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant, -1 Bitterblossom, -1 Vindicate.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much about the rest of this match, other than that he made a point to fetch for Mountains when he didn’t absolutely need Badlands. I believe he crushed game 2, and I was able to drag out game 3.


Round 2 vs. Nick playing High Tide

So I won’t bother going into in depth plays with this match-up, as each of the games went excessively long. Game 1, I either double or triple Hymned him, and had lethal on board for next turn. He had a High Tide in hand, and the only available draw in his deck that gave him a chance was Time Spiral, which he drew. Oh well. He takes game 1 on an endless string of High Tide, Time Spiral, and finally Blue Sun’s Zenith ftw.

Sideboarding: +3 Extirpate, +3 Duress, +2 Tormod’s Crypt, -3 Swords to Plowshares, -3 Bitterblossom, -2 Pernicious Deed

Game 2 I ripped his hand apart, with two Duress and a Hymn to Tourach, and proceeded to beat with Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant. Game 3 I opened with Bayou, Mox Diamond, Hymn to Tourach after he mulliganed to 6, so the game was almost over before it started. Another Duress and a Vindicate on one of his Islands, and I had all the time I needed. He tried to go off with 3 Islands near when time was running out, but it just wasn’t there.


Round 3 vs. Cody (mirror match)

This was a really interesting match, but unfortunately would be completely impossible to recount. I won 2-0, but both games could easily have gone either way. Game 1 I opened with a Mox Diamond and a Hymn to Tourach, which ripped his Mox Diamond and Dark Confidant. The rest of the game was attrition, but that was what won it, and we both knew it. Die roll ftw.

Sideboarding: +2 Diabolic Edict, +1 Pernicious Deed, -3 Bitterblossom

Game 2 was just as ridiculous, although neither of us actually hit a turn 1 Mox Diamond. We traded Hymns, traded creatures, and basically stalled each other forever. Interestingly, the end of turn 2 had me sitting at Plains, Swamp, Top in play, Top in hand, and he had Plains in play, Swamp in play, Top in Play, Top in hand. Seriously, Mirrored board state (although I think he may have played a Mox turn 2, so he may have been a mana up on me). Anyway, despite his triple Vindicate and triple Swords to Plowshares, I eventually got there with a Stoneforge Mystic.  Props to Cody for playing such a well rounded deck.  His list seemed a little closer to the norm (Gerrard’s Verdict, not Bitterblossom), but it was a very good list, and he played exceptionally well.


Round 4 vs. Alex playing Mono-Red Burn

So I did the math walking into this round, and discovered 3-0-2 was a guaranteed in, so I offered Alex the draw, which he took. I figured that even if my next round opponent decided to not take a draw for whatever reason (which was exactly what happened, by the way), I would just beat them, and come into the top 8 in first place. Arrogant, right?


Round 5 vs. James playing Mono-Red Burn

So I offered James the draw and he turned me down (not exactly surprising, but I won’t go into it), so we play. Game 1 I rode to town on Umezawa’s Jitte, which despite his best efforts he couldn’t keep from going active. I believe it was a 4/5 Tarmogoyf that ended up wielding it, and bashing face to get the Jitte counters which put me far out of range.

Sideboarding: +3 Duress, -3 Bitterblossom

Game 2 he blew me out, and there really wasn’t much I could do. He was hosed on mana the entire game, and I even Duress/Hymned away triple Searing Blaze, but I just couldn’t get there in time.

Game 3 went much the same as Game 1, where the war was fought over Umezawa’s Jitte. Unfortunately for him, he mulliganed and kept a 1-lander, which I Vindicated on turn 3. By the time he drew a second land, I had already gone active with Umezawa’s Jitte, and the game was out of reach. On a side note, I re-offered the draw after winning game 1, and he still turned me down. In either case, he ended up making the top 8 anyway, so it turned out not to matter much, other than me getting another win for my Legacy rating.


Quarterfinals vs. Michael playing Team America

Again, I don’t remember much of this match-up, but I will recount what I can. Game 1 he just crushed me. I mulliganed to 6, kept two land with a Mox Diamond, and played down Bayou, Mox Diamond, Bitterblossom, which was a solid turn 1 play on a mulligan. He proceeds to Wasteland my Bayou, then drops an Engineered Explosives on 2 a turn later, gets my Bitterblossom, then drops another EE on 0 and pops my Mox Diamond. Oh well, not much I can do there but get outplayed.  I sat for several turns, and only ended up drawing 1 more land across the course of the game.

Sideboarding: +3 Duress, +1 Pernicious Deed, -1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant, -1 Stoneforge Mystic, -1 Umezawa’s Jitte, -1 Pernicious Deed (tricky!)

Game 2 went a little better, but he simply outdrew me. He ended up winning with a Tombstalker after making me pitch my removal, which is to say he played his cards very well and made no mistakes for me to capitalize on. To be perfectly honest, I think I may have found my first bad match-up for my deck, which I can deal with. Props to Lester for playing an insanely good deck and making good plays throughout.


So I only lost one match, but it was an important one. All things concerned, I can’t be disappointed with that kind of performance, as usually you can afford to give away a loss at least once during a tournament. I just chose a bad time for mine. Congratulations to Adam Prosak for winning it all on Sunday, Billy Gogol and Vu Phan for splitting Saturday’s top 2, and everyone else who placed. This weekend was a great time, and I look forward to more events like this in the future. Thanks again to Jason and Jeff Abong, who set this whole thing up, and Marco Regalado and the entire Pop Culture Paradise staff for everything they did, as well as Nicholas Yach for judging on Saturday.

The Vault

This article is running pretty long, so this will just be a short decklist. This is the new build I’m trying out for Stax in Legacy.

U/B Stax

When New Phyrexia comes out, at least 1, possibly 2 Karn, the Released need to make their way into this list. I love playing this (but hate playing against it), and it seems to crush quite a bit of what’s out there. Turn 1 Goblin Lackey or Aether Vial can be a problem, but not much else, and Smokestack can (and will) eventually take care of those problems.

Anyway, until next time!