Network  Jun 29, 2003

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Tournament Report


The Tome

Type 1 Tech: Yet Another 1st Place Finish for ABM
  - by David Kwon

C&J Collectables in Newark, California, hosts a type 1 tournament every Thursday night at 6:30. Recently, we have been getting very good turnouts of 20+ people attending, with perhaps about 1/2 of the field having some kind of power, and about 1/3 of the field being fully powered. The number of people in attendance, the strength of the players there, and the variety of decks represented all makes this an excellent place for type 1.

Unfortunately, I had been unable to attend the tournament for the past few weeks, and so I was itching to go this week. I was somewhat afraid that the field would be flushed with Gro-a-Tog decks, as this was one of the last opportunities to play a deck with 4 Gushes. But I figured, "eh, what the hell," and went anyway. I was hoping that it would turn out to be a good night, since I can only make it to the tournament sporadically.

And by Jove, the night was good. The store was packed with 29 players, which is almost enough to run 6 rounds. I was well-rested and well-fed. The day was hot - 94 degrees at 6 PM - and since C&J's doesn't have air conditioning, we had to make do with some fans in a room packed with people. The heat likely worked to my advantage, since I was probably better rested than many of the other players and therefore less vulnerable to the lethargic effects of the temperature. Poor Emmanuel, who is one of the guys that I drove down with, had to play under those sweltering conditions with only about 3 hours of sleep the night before. The field seemed very diverse, with a somewhat heavy leaning towards Keeper and other blue-based control decks, which my deck does well against. So overall, I was fairly happy with the field, and very happy with my physical state and the turnout.

I was playing a deck of my own creation, named A Beautiful Mind.

A Beautiful Mind (ABM)

The engine:
4 Land Tax
4 Scroll Rack
2 Whirlpool Warrior
1 Trade Routes
1 Zuran Orb

Restricted brokenness:
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Mind Twist
1 Balance
1 Regrowth

Control elements:
4 Force of Will
1 Misdirection
2 Back to Basics
1 Cunning Wish
1 Merchant Scroll
2 Swords to Plowshares

2 Meddling Mage
1 Psychatog
1 Gorilla Shaman
1 Devout Witness

Mana base:
4 Gemstone Mine
2 Undiscovered Paradise
1 Library of Alexandria
1 City of Traitors
5 Plains
3 Island
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Emerald
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Diamond
1 Sol Ring

60 cards total

4 Blood Moon
1 Chains of Mephistopheles
2 Meddling Mage
2 Swords to Plowshares
1 Diabolic Edict
1 Red Elemental Blast
1 Misdirection
1 Ebony Charm
1 Disenchant
1 Abolish
15 cards total

The Mox Emerald should really be a Mox Ruby, but I don't own a Mox Ruby. There are probably a number of other adjustments to be made, since I haven't thought deeply about the card choices recently. I think the deck is still a few cards off from being optimal, but it's good enough for now. Besides, the card choices will have to be reevaluated after July 1st anyway. It is likely that I will add some more Disenchant effects, since many of the remaining dangerous decks after Gro-a-Tog gets the axe runs enchantments and artifacts.

Anyway, on to the actual matches:

Round 1: Ken Johnson playing Gro-a-Tog.
He opens with a Duress, and takes either a Force of Will or a Yawgmoth's will (my memory's a bit fuzzy here). On my turn, I play land, Mox, Mox Diamond, Sol Ring, and Balance, which effectively Mind Twists my opponent. From the cards that he discards, I see that he's playing Gro-a-Tog, and I simultaneously grunt and breathe a sigh of relief - Gro-a-Tog is a hard matchup for ABM, but I have managed to significantly slow him down with that Balance. After the Balance, my opponent never fully recovers, and with the help of a little bit of topdecking, I manage to resolve a Back to Basics and an Ancestral Recall (On myself. You never know with Gro-a-Tog). My opponent casts Gush once, but doesn't seem to draw anything useful. I go on to cast Land Tax and Scroll Rack, and win with a Psychatog.

We sideboard and move on to the second game. My opening hand consists of two Blood moons, two Swords to Plowshares, Balance, Mox Sapphire, and Gemstone Mine. I decide to keep, since resolving Blood Moon will go far towards winning me the game - and I only need to topdeck one mana source of any kind, which I have a decent chance of doing since I'm going second.

On the first turn, I topdeck a Meddling Mage. "Excellent," I think, and proceed to cast it. It resolves, and I go on to think about what I should name.

Now, typically against Gro-a-Tog, Meddling Mage names Gush or Quirion Dryad. But looking at my hand, I'm not really afraid of creatures. And I'm still not sure whether Ken is running just one Gush (because of the upcoming restriction) or a full set, since he only managed to play one in the first game. Also, if I resolve either of the two Blood Moons in my hand, Gush becomes irrelevant. After thinking all of this through, I decide that the most important thing is to try and resolve Blood Moon, so I name Force of Will, despite having four in my deck. As it turns out, this was the correct play, as Ken had two Force of Wills in his hand at the time - he let Meddling Mage resolve since he figured I would name Gush.

Now, all I have to do is topdeck a mana source, and I can seal up the game. But alas, the mana eludes me, and I stall out at 2 mana sources with 3 Blood Moons in my hand (I topdecked another one). I then kill off a Quirion Dryad with a Swords to Plowshares- Now I'm desperate for mana, since my Gemstone Mine only has one counter on it now. Meanwhile, my opponent gains card advantage with Gush and Brainstorm. I finally get a third mana source (an Undiscovered Paradise-yippee), and cast my first Blood Moon. It's countered, which is what I expected. Fine, I have two more. My second Blood Moon has to wait until I can topdeck another mana source. When I finally cast it, Ken floats green and another mana, and casts Naturalize. Okay, I have a third one. 'Surely he can't stop the third one, with Force of Will named by my Meddling Mage', I think. But before I can get the third Blood Moon down, Ken casts Pernicious Deed. Well, there goes that plan.

At this point, Ken has a significant land advantage on me, and has used a few of his fetchlands. I cast Balance, hoping that he would activate his Pernicious Deed in response - otherwise I would have a significant mana advantage on him due to the Moxen on my side post-Balance. I plan to get the Moxen back later with a Yawgmoth's Will. But he doesn't blow up the Deed, and I manage to kill most of his lands with the balance. Because of the resulting mana advantage, I decide to go ahead and cast Yawgmoth's Will anyway, while I still have the initiative. Now, I make an idiotic mistake here. Instead of casting Demonic Tutor then Vampiric Tutor from the graveyard, I cast Vampiric Tutor first. This essentially makes me waste a card, and the only other thing I can do is to cast Balance again from the graveyard in order to kill off a few more of my opponent's lands. I'm sure that tutoring for two cards instead of just one at this point would have had a very significant effect on the game's outcome.

After this, I manage to resolve Ancestral Recall (which is what I tutored for), but my opponent also casts Gush and Brainstorm. His draws from those spells are better than my draws from my Ancestral, and he chains into more card drawing. He soon gets several creatures down - I manage to Swords to Plowshares a few of them, but eventually I am killed by a 6/6 Quirion Dryad, while holding 4 lands in my hand.

At the end of this long game, time is called for the round. We draw for game 3. I am happy to escape with a tie in what is usually a hard matchup, but feel that I could have won if I didn't make a few mistakes. Nevertheless, it was a good match overall and one that I'm glad to have played.

Matches: 0-0-1
Games: 1-1-1

Round 2: Riz Markar playing counter/landstill.
In game 1, Riz draws a lot of counterspells - I can't get past his counter wall, and eventually get killed by a man-land. It didn't help that his Nevinyrral's Disk blew up most of my mana sources, and that I telegraphed my Yawgmoth's Will so that it can be easily countered (I Mystical Tutored for Regrowth for Yawgmoth's Will, and in the intervening turns Riz played enough lands to hard cast his Force of Will while he had a near-empty hand). I lose ignominiously.

Game 2 goes better. I get down a Meddling Mage naming Mana Drain, and complete the Tax/Rack combo early. My opponent eventually gets a Disk down, but it is too little, too late. With the card advantage generated by Tax/Rack, I find a Cunning Wish, and wish for Abolish, and destroy the Disk before it can untap. Riz gets a second Disk down, but at this point it just doesn't matter. Rather than going through the motion of destroying the Disk again, I simply go off from the immense card advantage of the Tax/Rack combo, and go for Psychatog/Yawgmoth's Will/Time Walk, and attack for the kill with the Psychatog before the Disk can untap.

Game 3 was similar to game 2, but not quite as dramatic. I resolved an early Blood Moon, which was quite enough. When I cast my Yawgmoth's Will, I made a horrendous mistake - I forgot that my nonbasic lands were mountains, and therefore I couldn't use them to cast the crucial blue spells in my graveyard. I only managed to cast a Scroll Rack which was countered earlier. Yawgmoth's Will for Scroll Rack - how sad. But despite this mistake, the Blood Moon and Scroll Rack simply provided too much advantage, and I eventually won with the usual Tax/Rack combo and a lethal Psychatog.

Matches: 1-0-1
Games: 3-2-1

Round 3: Simon Zhu playing Ankh Sligh.
Simon says that it's his first time playing in an actual type 1 tournament. It's good to see new people, especially someone who seems as solid as Simon. Despite his inexperience with tournaments (I'm sure he's played type 1 in non-tournament settings before), he does decently in his games against me.

The first game sees me with quite a bit of broken plays - I cast Ancestral Recall, stop my opponent's early beats, and then cast Yawgmoth's Will to do it all over again. I find my Zuran Orb somewhere in the process, and it keeps me alive quite nicely. Although my draws were simply too good for Simon to win, he makes some plays in the middle which lets me know that I'm playing against a good opponent. (He Lightning Bolted me twice in response to Meddling Mage, which was the correct play under the circumstances, as I would have named Lightning Bolt with my Mage. Also, he knew enough to burn me as much as possible in response to my Yawgmoth's Will to try and get me to make a play mistake with my Zuran Orb).

We sideboard and move on to Game 2. I feel pretty confident with a Library of Alexandria in my opening hand, but I hear Simon say, "Okay, if I can't win with this hand, well then..." And indeed, Simon had the perfect hand, combined with the perfect draws for the next few turns. I Force of Will his two early threats, get Library and Land Tax down, and would have played a Scroll Rack and used it for 8 or so cards on my next turn. But my opponent draws just the right combination of spells, and brings me down from 12 to 0 with a series of burn, ending with a Fireblast which he topdecked that turn.

Game 3 is more reasonable, and I manage to win after getting the usual Tax/Rack combo quite early, and tutoring for the Zuran Orb. Tax/Rack draws me cards, Zuran Orb keeps me safe, and Psychatog finishes the game, and the match.

Matches: 2-0-1
Games: 5-3-1

Round 4: Joshua Yin playing Fish.
I keep a mediocre hand, only because it has a Whirlpool Warrior, which I can use as a free mulligan. The hand that I Whirl into is actually quite nice, and it allows me to cast Balance multiple times and Swords to Plowshares a creature with Curiosity on it. After all that brokenness, I manage to resolve Tax/Rack without much resistance and kill with Psychatog soon thereafter.

The second game makes me wonder why I didn't mulligan in retrospect. Ah, I remember - I had a Scroll Rack in my opening hand, but it got countered. I eventually died with two Plains and an Undiscovered Paradise as my only mana sources for most of the game, while I often needed to cast both a blue spell and a black spell in the same turn. My attempt to cast a critical Balance was countered, and my opponent's creature with a Curiosity on it drew him a card every turn starting from the second turn until I died. My Meddling Mages had to chump block and my spells were generally countered by things like Daze (Which got the Scroll Rack... Arg...) and Disrupt (Which got the Balance, even though I knew he had it in his hand because he had dropped it earlier. I could have played another land before casting the Balance, too. I'm a moron). I probably deserved to lose this one.

The third game had an interesting first few turns. I manage to get Tax-Rack early, and after a small counter war, I get it to resolve. But my opponent casts Gush, turning off the Land Tax. But then I play Zuran Orb, and then Balance. After being exhausted from the earlier counter war, my opponent doesn't have a counter for the Balance, and so the game comes to the state of us both having near-empty hands, no creatures, and only one land. But I have Tax/Rack and Zuran Orb. From this position, the Tax/Rack combo draws me plenty of cards, and I eventually win in style with Yawgmoth's Will-Time Walk-Psychatog.

Matches: 3-0-1
Games: 7-4-1

Round 5: Justin Walters playing Keeper.
At this point, Justin has a 4-0 record, and I have a 3-0-1 record. Everyone else is at 3-1 or worse, so whoever wins this match will win the tournament.

My opening hand contains Ancestral Recall and some other goodies, but only a single Plains for mana. I make the painful decision to mulligan. It was probably the correct decision, and the hand that I mulligan into has Land Tax, Force of Will, Mystical Tutor, Yawgmoth's Will, and some other nice cards, but it is mana light, with only a Mox Sapphire for mana.

Justin opens with a Duress, and I Mystical Tutor for Ancestral Recall in response. Justin takes the Force of Will, if I remember correctly. The Ancestral Recall that I tutored for gets countered, but my Land Tax eventually resolves. But meanwhile, my opponent tutors for the right combination of cards to put Future Sight in play, and it resolves. It's still very early in the game, about 3rd turn or so.

Now, let me take a break here to fully endorse Future Sight. The card is simply broken. The only reason that I managed to win this game was because I was, by a stroke of luck, able to get rid of the Future Sight right away. The old-style Keeper decks without Future Sight had a much harder time against ABM than the Keeper decks with Future Sight in it. When it resolves, the whole game starts to revolve around it, unless an even more broken card or combination of cards is on the board.

Fortunately for me, I resolve a topdecked Back to Basics, which severely limits Justin's use of his Future Sight. This buys me a turn, perhaps. In that turn, Justin makes a severe mistake - he Demonic Tutors for Ancestral Recall, so that he can keep his Future Sight from stalling out. In our discussion after the game, Justin told me that he was thinking about tutoring for Duress and taking out my Yawgmoth's Will, which would have been the correct play. But at the time, I still only had 3 mana - not enough for my Yawgmoth's Will to be dangerous, or so it appeared. So he decided to use his Ancestral and Brainstorm to get maximal card advantage, while setting up his next few cards so that he would have counter ability in the next turn. This would have still been quite okay if it weren't for the Back to Basics, but Back to Basics forced this particular turn with Future Sight to be rather tame.

Now, I begin my turn with three mana. I play a Mox and cast my Yawgmoth's Will. I play a land from the graveyard. So I now have 2 mana available. I use those two mana to cast Mystical Tutor for Cunning Wish, then Ancestral. I Ancestral into, of all things, the Cunning wish and my Black Lotus. I Wish for Abolish using the Lotus, and destroy the Future Sight, a turn before my opponent would have accelerated away from me for good. I breathe a sigh of relief.

I am now definitely in the favorable position, but it's not quite over yet. Justin eventually gets a second Future Sight down a few turns later. But by this time, I had Land Taxed quite a few times, and then cast Whirlpool Warrior, and then sacrificed it after Taxing some more, generating card advantage on par with Tax/Rack. This allowed me to deal with the second Future Sight by casting a Devout Witness, and then a Meddling Mage naming Cunning Wish. Justin flips over a Swords to Plowshares with his Future Sight, but it has to kill the Meddling Mage, since otherwise he can't deal with the Back to Basics which is still on the table. Thus the Devout Witness kills the Future Sight, and soon the card advantage that I got from the Land Tax-Whirlpool Warrior eventually overwhelms my opponent.

In the second game, I get a Library of Alexandria in my opening hand. I play it, but Justin brainstorms, and then kills the Library with his Wasteland. So much for that. I play a Land Tax. On his next turn, Justin casts a Future Sight - the second game with a super-fast Future Sight. I Force of Will, but Justin Forces back. Now I'm pretty shocked. Not only did he find the solution for my Library, he managed to get a 3rd (maybe it was 2nd?) turn Future Sight again, and if that wasn't enough, he cast it through my own Force of Will. I'm out of gas now, and I'm beginning to think that I've lost this game.

Ah, but the fates are capricious. I've been using Land Tax for two turns now, and what would I topdeck right after Future Sight resolves, but a Scroll Rack. I cast it with nothing else in my hand but land. My opponent is out of resources after getting the Future Sight to resolve, so the Scroll Rack hits the table which already has a Land Tax on it. Now we see which is more broken - Future Sight or Tax/Rack.

Justin gets his turn with Future Sight, and manages to generate some card advantage, along with getting down a Powder Keg which will eventually kill the Scroll Rack. When my turn comes around, I look at around 10 cards with Tax/Rack, and Future Sight gets Abolished pretty fast. Eventually, the Scroll Rack is destroyed by the Powder Keg, but it doesn't matter by this time, as I've already seen around 20 or so new cards, and I already have a replacement Scroll Rack and a Whirlpool Warrior. So the Tax/Rack continues, and I eventually get a Back to Basics and a Blood Moon on the table. Justin scoops when I cast a Meddling Mage naming Cunning Wish, which cuts off any chance he has of getting rid of those two enchantments.

Matches: 4-0-1
Games: 9-4-1

So I come in 1st place out of 29 players - the night was indeed good.

The final standings were:
1st: David Kwon (me) going 4-0-1 with ABM.
2nd: Justin Walters going 4-1 with Keeper.
3rd: Brian Woo going 4-1 with Keeper.
4th: Brian Morgan going 4-1 with Keeper.
5th: Dustin Ngo going 4-1 with Masknought.

Some have questioned exactly how good of a deck ABM is. This 1st place finish (which is only one of many), combined with the diversity of decks which I faced on the way, in addition to the fact that other dominant decks placed below me in the final standings, all conclusively point to a singular answer: ABM is one of the best decks in the format, and is capable of doing very well in a general metagame.

After the restriction of Gush, I expect that ABM will only get better, since Gro variants were one of the few decks which gave ABM a hard time. A variety of combo decks will still be difficult to deal with, and now there are so many variants of Keeper out there that it's difficult to focus on beating it, but overall the future looks very bright for ABM.

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