Phoenix Rising – AZ Magic Players Open Weekend Report

Hello everyone, welcome to the first article of mine that will be published here on I’m Joe Veth a 23 year old an Information Security student here in Tempe, AZ and I’ve been playing Magic off and on since the Mirage block started in October 1996 when I was 8 years old. The first card store I started playing in was a very small comic and card shop in Chester, NY with the likes of a young Ben Hayes and Reid Duke whom are now starting to get recognized for their MTGO careers. I’ve been playing constantly since the Darksteel expansion, and playing competitively since Alara Reborn was released. I like to consider myself an aggro player but I’m not afraid to play control when the time calls for it. A few of my favorite decks have had aggro-control elements to them, minus the Gruul deck that had existed in Champions of Kamigawa-Ravnica Standard. I am mainly a Constructed player, but will enjoy an occasional draft or two as well as some Legacy here and there.

So this past weekend was the inaugural AZ Magic Players Open Weekend, and I’ve got to say it was a very enjoyable experience for pretty much everyone that I’ve talked to that participated. First off, I’d like to say thanks to the Abong Twins for getting the event up and running with Pop Culture Paradise’s help and Marcos as well. Also, I thought that the venue was a very nice change of pace instead of the usual locales. I definitely would like to see MadCap used again in the future if they’re willing to have us again.

The weeks leading up to the Open Weekend I was mainly playtesting with a friend of mine that had flown out here from Maine, Jayson Chandler. During our testing sessions we decided that I wasn’t playing RUG properly and I should switch over to a deck that I was a little bit more familiar with even though there was a very stern possibility of facing mirror after mirror during the Open Event. This is the list that me and Jayson were testing with:

UW Caw-Blade

Artifacts (2)
Sword of Feast and Famine

Creatures (10)
Stoneforge Mystic
Squadron Hawk
Baneslayer Angel

Instants (9)
Mana Leak
Spell Pierce

Sorceries (7)
Day of Judgement

Planeswalkers (6)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Gideon Jura

Lands (26)
Glacial Fortress
Seachrome Coast
Tectonic Edge
Marsh Flats
Scalding Tarn
Celestial Colonnade
Sideboard (15)
Sword of Body and Mind
Sylvok Lifestaff
Volition Reins
Ratchet Bomb
Revoke Existence
Spreading Seas

This list is very similar to the ones we started playing during the week leading up to the 1k with a few minor changes. One of them being taking out the spreading seas as we felt that Valakut wasn’t going to have a very big showing at the event, another change that we had made was including a Sun Titan, another Volition Reins and another Flashfreeze in the Seas spots. With these changes we felt we had a little bit more game against the Esper Caw-Blade deck that had discard as well as a little bit better game against the various aggro decks that existed. I know that Jayson had made different changes but I cannot recall them to the best of my ability. Now for the FNM that we were so anxiously awaiting. The FNM was 40ish people and 6 rounds and it looked like 1 4-2 could possibly squeak in.

Round 1 Jason – Mono Red

Game one was rather lackluster for me as I never dealt damage to him except off of a fetchland. Jason had the typical turn 1 Goblin Guide which can be rather back breaking if left not dealt with which unfortunately for me wasn’t.

Game two I bounced back with an early Lifestaff and rode that in conjunction with a Sworded bird while he was only getting in for 2 a turn and I eventually was able to out race him and got the game.

Game three was an awkward game as he got an explosive start which got a little slowed down due to an early Oust and I started to recover but he was able to bounce back due to my lack of sweepers and wound up retaking control of the game with his aggresive plan.

0-1 1-2

Round 2 Alex – Boros

This game one was very similar to the first game against Jason in the fact that I basically never got any board presence and he easily won the game.

Game two according to my notes was a very quick one with only his life dipping down to 16, off of a Sworded Mystic before moving on to game three.

In game three we fought back and forth, me using early condemns and ousts to try and allow myself to get back into the game a little bit but a Basilisk Collar] wearing Cunning Sparkmage had different plans for me.

After the game, Alex told me that he wasn’t going to stay that much longer and wound up giving me the win so I still could have a shot at Top 8.

1-1 3-3

Round 3 Gary – Esper Caw-Blade

These games weren’t very well documented because I knew that I hadn’t practiced enough against the Esper build of the deck and basically resigned myself to my fate, which is never something anyone should do. You should always give yourself a fighting chance and don’t get yourself down over a matchup.

Game one I condemned a sworded bird and then promptly lost as he had discarded away all of the plays that I had and I never saw a Spell Pierce.

Game two I was behind the entire game and did not really put up much of a fight.

1-2 3-5

Round 4 Mike – Mono Black Infect

Game one Mike got a Phyrexian Crusader down early and I never got to see either a Jace or a wrath effect to take care of it and I was quickly finished.

Game two I was able to get down a hawk with a sword and eventually took down my opponent when I was at 6 poison counters, from a combination of Inkmoth Nexus and the previously mentioned Crusader.

Game three was a back and forth affair again, I got him down to 10 life with the aid of Gideon and Swords but after all I was unable to fight off the inevitable infection and lost.

1-3 4-7

I promptly dropped and tried to get home to tweak the deck a little bit and as I was looking through other cards that I had, I thought over a deck that I could play that used a couple of my old friends Vengevine and Fauna Shaman

I got a rough list together and got a call from Jayson that he went 4-2 and snuck into top 8, he was playing against Jonah whom was playing a very interesting Caw Blade list with Tumble Magnets, Jayson wound up winning his top 8 match and top 4 split. When we got back to my house I started to build a Naya Vengevine deck that I thought I could have a little fun with, while doing well. This is the list that I had started to sleeve up.

Artifacts (3)
Basilisk Collar
Sword of Body and Mind
Sword of Feast and Famine

Creatures (27)
Acidic Slime
Birds of Paradise
Cunning Sparkmage
Fauna Shaman
Hero of Oxid Ridge
Inferno Titan
Squadron Hawk
Stoneforge Mystic
Molten-Tail Masticore
Sylvan Ranger

Instants (3)
Lightning Bolt

Lands (26)
Arid Mesa
Copperline Gorge
Raging Ravine
Razorverge Thicket
Rootbound Crag
Sunpetal Grove
Sideboard (15)
Basilisk Collar
Acidic Smile
Baneslayer Angel
Cunning Sparkmage
Glimmerpoint Stag
Sun Titan
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Thrun, the Last Troll
Gideon Jura
Arc Trail

There are a few changes that I made to the list that has been doing well at the SCGOpens because I felt that the changes were better suited for our Arizona metagame. I added 3 Lightning Bolts into the list because of the possibility for the aggro decks to be very numerous. I also put in a Glimmerpoint Stag in the sideboard to blink opposing Gideons as well as rebuying various creatures like Acidic Slime or Stoneforge Mystic.

The morning of the 1k myself and Jayson were getting ready for the tournament waiting for our ride to show up at the house which was running a little bit late. We got our cards together, new sleeves ready and started to head over to the venue. I thought we were going to be a little bit late but the start was delayed a little bit to allow for people to find the theaters as well as getting monitors setup for announcements. Before round 1 began I was running up the stairs to see who all was up there and I took a little spill and caught myself but had given myself a little bit of friction burn from the floor. Great way to start a tournament.

Round 1 Brandon – Boros Lost Die Roll

In game one Brandon got off to a good start with a couple of Goblin Guides but I was able to start getting Vengevines into play. I was at 12 and had a Hawk a Masticore and a few green guys in play while Brandon had a Mirran Crusader equipped with a Sword of Body and Mind. He declared his Crusader attacking, I immediately blocked with my Hawk, he then announced “in response to blockers” and cast a Lightning Bolt against my hawk. This is important because technically my hawk never was able to block and I could then block and regenerate my Masticore and on the next attack quite possibly kill him with what my board state was, but I didn’t do this. I for some reason simply said okay, I’m dead and started shuffling for the next game and about five seconds after saying that it dawned upon me what had happened. This would be an indicator of how the rest of the day would go.

Game two Brandon had a little bit of a slower start with only a Steppe Lynx, while I started setting up my Haste Elementals, which eventually wound up giving me the win as he just could defend against my recurring onslaught.

Game three however I mulliganed to 5 cards and just could not setup my Fauna Shaman plan and fell quickly behind from which I couldn’t recover.

0-1 1-2

Round 2 Vladimir – Boros Lost Die Roll

There’s not really all too much that I can say about this match-up other than I didn’t mulligan aggressively enough. Both of the hands that I kept were very slow and my opponent had pretty good draws in both matches. Goblin Guides that were played before I could even do anything game 1 and a Steppe Lynx with a Plated Geopede sealed the game up real quick for him.

0-2 1-4

As you can see the 1k and the FNM didn’t exactly start off or end the way that I had really wanted it, but Jayson was already off to a 2-0 start.

Round 3 Edwin – Red Green Control Won Die Roll

I surprised Edwin with the deck that I was playing and Edwin certainly surprised me. I thought he would be playing the GW Quest deck that he had been piloting a lot over the past few months, and Edwin thought that I was on a Caw-Blade deck. The first game he blew me out of the game rather quickly with back to back land destruction spells in the form of Acidic Slime and Goblin Bushwhacker.

Game two was a different affair, he kept trying to land planeswalkers in the form of Garruk Wildspeaker and Chandra Nalaar. I was able to take control of the game with a deathtouching Sparkmage and eventually with a deathtouch enabled Inferno Titan.

Game three Edwin was behind most of the game and I was able to take his life total down fairly quickly with the effort of a Raging Ravine and a few Vengevines.

1-2 3-5

Round 4 Erik – Valakut

Game one I was able to start with a quick Stoneforge Mystic and Fauna Shaman to enable me to get dudes out on the board very quickly and simply over power him through the mill sword.

However in games two and three I was unable to out race Primeval Titans and promptly got burned out of the game.

1-3 4-6

Round 5 Daniel – Esper Blade

These games were pretty nondescript as well. Game three had an interesting board position in which I foolishly had a double Basilisk Collar equipped Inferno Titan to try and gain double life, but lifelink doesn’t work like that anymore. Oh well. We eventually drew the game with him at 32 and myself at 48.

1-3-1 5-7-1

After round 5 I decided to drop to get a bite to eat with Jayson, do some trading and simply not have to worry about playing another match. One thing that I can definitely say is that I may have felt like Naya was the right decision at the beginning of the day, but after playing two aggro decks in a row in the beginning that I’ve had a good record against with UW Caw-Blade. I shouldn’t have changed at the last minute to a deck that I haven’t played essentially since Scars of Mirrodin came out.

Jayson wound up going 4-0-2 making Top 8 to lose to an Elf deck that definitely caught me by surprise and I’m sure it caught him by surprise as well. I have to give him credit though, after watching him play so much over the past few weeks with UW Blade that he definitely has a much better grasp on the deck then I do.

I’ll either be sleeving up RUG or the Esper deck as I’ve always liked the option of having the black discard and the arguably best man land available with swords, or just the sheer explosive draws that RUG provides. That about wraps up the tournament report for me, hopefully for the upcoming Nationals qualifiers and Standard PTQ I’ll be able to put up a nice placement.