Barely Doing OK in OKC

By Matt Simpson

I took a 4 color shadow build to Grand Prix Oklahoma City and had a pretty disappointing 5-4 finish. This is a post mortem of what happened and why, and a bit on how to think about the deck moving forward.

 

In my last article I brainstormed several different ways of building 5 color shadow. The idea that intrigued me the most was finding a way to drop a color from the list. When Lingering Souls is supposed to be your big grindy matchup haymaker, and you only have one white source post board against control decks filled with Ghost Quarters, Fields of Ruin, and Spreading Seas, you can often find yourself unable to cast your best card in the matchup. Cutting white also frees up a valuable sideboard slot that was once dedicated to a Godless Shrine.

 

So I continued to explore the idea leading up to the GP, but was unsure if I was going to register the white sideboard or not. I initially tried Pia and Kiran Nalaar as a replacement for Lingering Souls for grindy matchups, but with only two red sources in the deck the parents suffer from the same problem as Lingering Souls. But worse. You can often wait to fetch the Godless Shrine until the turn you need it for Souls, but you will typically have to expose a red source before the turn you want to cast P&K. Plus 4 mana is basically a million in this deck, and if we’re cutting white we’re probably going to be playing 2 Hazoret, the Fervent. So I went back to the drawing board, or rather to the gatherer searches, looking for a good grindy card in UBRG to help replace Lingering Souls.

 

In the meantime, I reworked the mana. The manabase I started with was:

 

4 Verdant Catacombs

4 Bloodstained Mire

4 Polluted Delta

1 Overgrown Tomb

1 Blood Crypt

1 Stomping Ground

1 Watery Grave

1 Swamp

1 Forest

 

The Forest is insurance against Field of Ruin and Ghost Quarter. At the suggestion of Jon Anderson I replaced 2 Polluted Delta with 2 Misty Rainforest so that it was easier to fetch out the Forest that I had been playing, and it was working pretty well. Misty can’t fetch Blood Crypt or Swamp, which is occasionally a problem, but on the other hand Polluted Delta can’t fetch Stomping Ground or Forest, so I think this is a net improvement. Additionally, I kept losing to Tron variants with a fist full of countermagic because they found a way to destroy my one blue source with Ghost Quarter or Worldbreaker. I considered changing the Forest to a Breeding Pool to help fight this, but I was seeing a lot of Ghost Quarters and Fields of Ruin out of the control decks on MTGO and valued the second basic pretty highly. So I compromised and cut one of the two Polluted Deltas left in the deck for a second Watery Grave – not a Breeding Pool because 3 nonblack sources in the deck is too many. Otherwise, I left the maindeck unchanged from my regionals list. I tried a few tweaks, but nothing stuck, and I still really like Liliana of the Veil.

 

My gatherer search for grindy sideboard card turned up a couple of interesting ideas: Garruk Relentless and Arlinn Kord. Both cost 4 mana, which is a major downside, but the token generation helps fill the void left by Lingering Souls. Dead on Board host Austin Baker had told me that Garruk was my deck’s Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but I dismissed it at the time. But with Garruk now staring back at me from across the screen, I couldn’t imagine how a deck like Grixis Shadow could ever expect to beat this card. A stream of 2/2s is good enough, but if you ever get to flip it and make a stream of 1/1 deathtouchers they’re probably never getting through. I spent some time trying both Arlinn and Garruk on MTGO, but never managed to draw either one and had to resort to theory. I settled on Garruk though because you can pump out a token every turn, whereas Arlinn flipping back and forth means you can’t get a continuous stream of tokens, even if her other abilities are occasionally useful. In the days leading up to the GP, this was the sideboard I was considering:

 

2 Stubborn Denial

3 Disdainful Stroke

2 Hazoret, the Fervent

1 Garruk Relentless

2 Liliana, the Last Hope

2 Ancient Grudge

1 Izzet Staticaster

1 Radiant Flames

1 Kozilek’s Return

 

I cut the Collective Brutalities because I really wanted more counters for the big mana decks, and I wasn’t that afraid of burn. The Staticaster is a must-have in the 4c shell since we don’t have Lingering Souls anymore, and the 2nd Liliana, the Last Hope covers similar bases while also just being a good grindy card to help fill the lingering void. I wasn’t completely happy with this SB though, and had the following SB with white in mind as a potential audible:

 

2 Stubborn Denial

3 Disdainful Stroke

1 Hazoret, the Fervent

3 Lingering Souls

1 Godless Shrine

1 Liliana, the Last Hope

2 Ancient Grudge

1 Radiant Flames

1 Kozilek’s Return

 

Leading up to the GP, Hazoret had really impressed me and I also liked the idea of having at least the Traverse targetable haymaker not require white mana against the control decks with mana denial. Against the UWx control decks specifically though, Ranger of Eos is probably better just because so many of them have piles of Celestial Purge and Detention Sphere to back up Path. Even if your it’s easier to keep a red source around than a white source. Hazoret also is one of your strongest cards against Lantern decks, since most of the time they won’t know to name her preemptively with Pithing Needle.

 

Suddenly it was Friday and time to hop in the car for nearly 7 hours. I rode with 3/4 of the Dead on Board crew: Austin Baker, Peter Trapani, and Collin Bradley. The 4th member, Micah Godfrey, went down early to visit family in the area. Meeting us down there and crashing in our hotel was recent Columbia, MO arrival, Jordan Lidsky. Jordan didn’t manage to register online before it capped out, so he drove down Thursday overnight and was at the door when the convention center opened Friday morning so that he could try to get a spot in the event. They held a few spots for people to register on site, and he got in. What a savage.

 

Peter was on a similar 4c Shadow build and had been having a lot of success with Garruk in the SB, so we discussed options on and off during the week leading up to the event and on the drive down. But nothing really sounded that great, and I was getting closer and closer to registering the white SB. Once everyone was in the hotel at about 1am though, it started to come together. One of my problems with the non-white SB I had been trying was that Liliana, the Last Hope wasn’t much of a grindy card against the Path to Exile control decks. Her +1 does nothing most of the time, and if they only ever exile your threats, her -2 is pretty poor as well. Someone suggested a Kolaghan’s Command in that slot, and that sounded much better. K Command has a similar problem getting creatures back, but it at least has plenty of other uses. With that slot changed, I decided the 2nd Ancient Grudge was redundant, and went looking for a new 15th SB card. While flipping through some cards, I saw a Dreadbore and it sounded good, if not great. It turned out to be fairly strong through the day as I found myself siding it in vs a lot of different decks. Ultimately, this was the deck I registered Saturday morning:

 

4 Verdant Catacombs

4 Bloodstained Mire

2 Misty Rainforest

1 Polluted Delta

2 Watery Grave

1 Overgrown Tomb

1 Blood Crypt

1 Stomping Ground

1 Swamp

1 Forest

 

4 Mishra’s Bauble

4 Street Wraith

4 Traverse the Ulvenwald

 

4 Death’s Shadow

4 Tarmogoyf

 

4 Inquisition of Kozilek

4 Thoughtseize

2 Stubborn Denial

2 Temur Battle Rage

 

3 Fatal Push

2 Abrupt Decay

2 Terminate

3 Liliana of the Veil

 

Sideboard:

 

2 Stubborn Denial

3 Disdainful Stroke

2 Hazoret, the Fervent

1 Garruk Relentless

1 Liliana, the Last Hope

1 Kolaghan’s Command

1 Dreadbore

1 Izzet Staticaster

1 Radiant Flames

1 Kozilek’s Return

1 Ancient Grudge

 

I knew I didn’t want to try to metagame too hard for the GP, and that I wanted to be as proactive as possible. The metagame at a GP is usually pretty random until you get to the top table on day 2, and predicting what that metagame will look like can be difficult. I had mostly given up truly trying to beat Humans. Nothing really moved the needle, and it’s easier to get percentage points in other matchups. The one Radiant Flames is a bit of a concession to the matchup though, but there’s also just some value in diversifying the sweeper slot. I didn’t think this sideboard was superior to the white one if opponents weren’t going to pressure my mana, but I figured I would see plenty of Ghost Quarters.

 

While I was getting my last few slots figured out, Jordan was debating between Jeskai Control and the Scrap Trawler / Krark Clan Ironworks combo deck, since those were the two decks he had. He didn’t like either for the GP for different reasons, and exclaimed that he’d play burn if given the option. Naturally, I had burn with me. Never leave home without a Goblin Guide. The cards were strewn about various decks and boxes, but eventually we got it together. Jordan only had to buy an Inspiring Vantage and an Exquisite Firecraft on site. Once everyone got their decks together and crawled into bed, it was 2 or 3 am.

 

If you’re counting, I’ve already punted twice and the event hasn’t started yet. The first punt is the obvious one: going to bed late the night before a 9 round tournament. I know better, but several people in the car couldn’t leave until the late afternoon / early evening, and I still hadn’t settled on my 75 by the time we arrived at the hotel. Still, I should have found a way to get to bed earlier. The second punt is maybe not so obvious: I registered the wrong sideboard. I knew GP metagames are pretty random and didn’t want to over-meta, but on one key point I did: I built my deck as if I expected a lot of Ghost Quarters and Field of Ruin out of slower, grindier decks. The grindy cards I was able to play were good, don’t get me wrong. Garruk in particular is a monster and tough for many opponents to beat. But I switched to this sideboard at the last minute without properly testing it, so there was no way I could really know how well it compared to the Lingering Souls plan in grindy matchups. Spoiler: it’s still not as good. For similar reasons, I think I would have been better off with the full 12 fetchlands, and Breeding Pool over Forest in the MD. Additionally, you don’t really gain a sideboard slot by cutting the white, because you basically have to play Izzet Staticaster once Lingering Souls is no longer in the deck. Here’s the list I wish I would have played:

 

4 Verdant Catacombs

4 Bloodstained Mire

1 Misty Rainforest

3 Polluted Delta

1 Watery Grave

1 Overgrown Tomb

1 Blood Crypt

1 Stomping Ground

1 Breeding Pool

1 Swamp

 

4 Mishra’s Bauble

4 Street Wraith

4 Traverse the Ulvenwald

 

4 Death’s Shadow

4 Tarmogoyf

 

4 Inquisition of Kozilek

4 Thoughtseize

2 Stubborn Denial

2 Temur Battle Rage

 

3 Fatal Push

2 Abrupt Decay

2 Terminate

3 Liliana of the Veil

 

Sideboard:

 

2 Stubborn Denial

3 Disdainful Stroke

1 Hazoret, the Fervent

3 Lingering Souls

1 Godless Shrine

1 Liliana, the Last Hope

1 Radiant Flames

1 Kozilek’s Return

2 Ancient Grudge

 

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this list going forward, but it is where I would start. I think it’s a mistake to try to cover the obvious weaknesses of the deck: to mana denial and to graveyard hate. Instead, embrace the weaknesses and be as strong as possible in the spots where your opponents aren’t attacking those weaknesses. If the metagame shifts towards more graveyard hate and/or mana denial, instead of adapting this list it’s time to move to a different deck entirely. This is modern. You can’t expect any deck to be a reasonable choice in every possible metagame.

 

To that end, the main thing I want to explore in this shell is adding Grim Flayers – one or two. The deck is still a bit threat light, and Flayer also enables Traverse if you can ever get a swing in. One of the main reasons I still haven’t tried the card is because I dismissed it as not helping us against our worst matchups. But that’s a mistake. Again, get the percentage points wherever you can, and if you’re worried about people gunning for you just play a different deck. I do still think there’s some merit in finding a 4 color shell, but replacing Lingering Souls is really really hard. This one will take some more time. Perhaps the pros will crack it at the upcoming modern PT.

 

Skip to the morning of the event. I feel like I haven’t slept at all, which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the day. Before we get into the matches, it’s time to dust off the old punt counter, and introduce a new one: the savagely topdecked counter. I got topdecked a lot in this tournament. I mean a lot. But that’s how you lose in the 8 discard spell deck, so it’s hard to get too upset. I do think I got a bit unlucky at OKC, but I also think I got pretty lucky to win regionals. That’s magic. If you can’t handle the swings, go play chess.

 

Ok, time to check the counters:

 

Punts: 2

Savagely topdecked: 0

 

Yep, working great. Remember, I punted twice before the event even started. Let’s get to the matches.

 

Round 1 vs. Dredge

 

Did I mention I didn’t have any byes? Sometimes it sucks not to be grinding all the time. But sometimes it’s great too.

 

I win the die roll and keep a hand with no threat, but a Traverse, a Thoughseize,, a Liliana of the Veil, and a Temur Battle Rage. It’s slow, but Liliana is great in grindy matchups, and with some luck Traverse can find a threat quickly. He has a slow start, but a discard spell taking a Narcomoeba reveals what he’s doing. I cycle the Street Wraith and find nothing, then put Liliana into play on an empty board on turn 3, and tick her up discarding something irrelevant. Next turn the board is still empty except for Liliana, and I’m one card type away from delirium. There’s no way I’m ultimating Liliana, and that doesn’t even seem like a strong play against dredge, so I downtick. Jordan had a round 1 bye and was standing behind me during the match, and he later told me he almost lost it once he realized what I was doing. Hey man, getting delirium for Traverse is the winning line.

 

Before my next turn the opponent graciously put only a Narcomoeba into play off his dredgers, so Liliana takes one for the team to kill the flier and turn on Traverse. I cast Traverse and go to pick up my deck, and the opponent takes a look at my graveyard. In that moment, I realize I only have 3 card types: creature, land, and planeswalker. How could this happened? I should have slept more. What a blowout. I mutter something to myself, find the swamp, and ship the turn. What a disaster. I’m at 11 with a TBR in hand, but no other threats, and there’s only so much time before his dredgers finally hit something relevant.

 

Immediately after I ship the turn I look my opponent in the eye and say “I’m garbage.” Remember that turn 1 discard spell? Yeah, that’s a sorcery. For some reason when I scanned my graveyard after my opponent checked for delirium, mentally rounded it off to another Street Wraith. Land + creature + sorcery + planeswalker = 4. I had the right line but essentially elected to Traverse for a basic instead of a creature. Punting away game 1 of round1 one was not how I wanted to start this event. Punting it away after I found a pretty sweet line that would have worked makes it even worse. This is why you go to sleep at a reasonable hour, kids.

 

The opponent is still having trouble getting things going though, so I’m not just dead. He finds a Bloodghast and sneaks a hit in with it, and has a Conflagrate in the graveyard. I find a Tarmogoyf, but I can’t attack from fear of dying to the crackback + Conflag. Opponent has Loam going and instead of building up to kill the Goyf, he decides to Conflagrate me for 5 to put me to 4. Curious. I’m pretty sure that if he just kills my Goyf there, I’m basically dead. He also finally gets a Prized Amalgam into play. I’m in a pretty bad spot and ready to concede the game when in my draw step my deck bails me out of my stupidity induced predicament: I find a Death’s Shadow. Remember that TBR in my opener? I still have it, but nothing else relevant in my hand. But the opponent has managed to drop to 12 due to their manabase. We’re in business.

 

The opponent dredges Life from the Loam on their turn and hits another Conflag and a Bloodghast. He can Loam for 3 lands, play one to get back the Bloodghast, crack in with 2 ‘ghasts and an Amalgam to hit me for 2, then pitch two cards to flashback Conflag for the kill. He elects to play around Stubborn Denial, which is reasonable given that I have blue up and a few cards in hand. So instead he… attacks with his only two creatures. Which I block. So they die. And when he gets them back, that Amalgam is tapped. Guess I didn’t need that TBR after all. Onto game 2.

 

Out: 3 Liliana of the Veil, 1 Fatal Push

 

In: 2 Stubborn Denial, 1 Disdainful Stroke, 1 Radiant Flames

 

The plan is to try to counter enablers and Conflagrates, and otherwise find TBR and get lucky. On his turn 2 I get to Stub a Cathartic Reunion, which turns what would have been an explosive start into something far more pedestrian. I quickly get two Goyfs into play while he’s floundering, and he concedes while I still have the Radiant Flames in hand. I think he was pretty upset repunt game 1 after I punted it to him, but I don’t know if he realized not killing the Goyf was also a mistake.

 

Matches: 1-0

Punts: 3

Savagely topdecked: 0

 

Round 2 vs. Burn

 

On the draw game 1 I keep a Goyf into Liliana hand with otherwise no interaction. He targets my Goyf with Lightning Helix when there was only land + sorcery in the graveyard and learns a lesson about state based effects, but I didn’t have the tools to take advantage and succumb.

 

Out: 2 Street Wraith, 3 Thoughtseize

 

In: 2 Stubborn Denial, 1 Radiant Flames, 1 Dreadbore, 1 Hazoret

 

Hazoret is randomly a reasonable card to sideboard in against burn because it’s another threat, which you desperately need, and the haste allows you to close some games a turn earlier. It’s not amazing since it costs 4, but it’s probably better than a Thoughtseize.

 

Game 2 I get a Shadow into play with Stub backup and a TBR in hand, then when the time is right I one-shot him while he’s at 16 life. TBR man. Messed up. This game was never really in question.

 

Game 3 I get a quick Goyf into play and get a couple attacks in. I have a lot of lands, so I elect to fetch basics instead of shocks, and never get a Watery Grave for the Stubborn Denial in my hand. My reasoning is that I can always fetch a tapped land later if I need it. I put him to 8 and add a Death’s Shadow to the board while I’m at 5. He has 2 lands and a few cards in hand, plus one draw step to kill me. He draws a land, which allows him to cast two spells to kill me. I could have fetch + shocked to counter one, but that doesn’t do anything. Something like 1/3 to 1/2 of his deck kills me there, depending on how many lands and 1 mana spells he has left in his deck, so while he’s not a favorite to kill me he’s got a burn player’s chance.

 

I think not fetching Watery Grave early was a mistake even if I was forced to pay life for it since I don’t have to fetch with the 3rd or 4th land if I don’t want to. This effectively saves me 1 life since I would have taken 2 more damage from the Watery Grave, but would have been able to use my Stubborn Denial without cracking another fetch to counter a burn spell. So I punted, but he also topdecked me. It wasn’t that savage, but I’ll count it.

 

Matches: 1-1

Punts: 4

Savagely topdecked: 1

 

Round 3 vs. Grixis Shadow

 

Game 1 I win the die roll and rip his hand apart with discard spells, and we’re both in topdeck mode. He spins his wheels a lot with Thought Scours and Opts, but mostly floods, while I find a Liliana of the Veil and a creature, and he quickly concedes.

 

Out: 2 Stubborn Denial, 2 Temur Battle Rage, 2 Street Wraith

 

In: 2 Hazoret, 1 Garruk, 1 Liliana, the Last Hope, 1 Kolaghan’s Command, 1 Dreadbore

 

Game 2 is pretty similar, except I get to put a Hazoret into play that he has no chance of beating. Plus he casts a lot of cantrips and floods out again.

 

Matches: 2-1

Punts: 4

Savagely topdecked: 1

 

Round 4 vs. Bant Eldrazi

 

I keep a hand with discard spells, Tarmogoyf, Decay, and Liliana, and get to work on his hand. He has a turn 1 Hierarch, but won’t be doing much for the next several turns before his haymakers come online – a Drowner of Hope, a Reality Smasher, and a Thought Knot Seer. So knowing the contents of his hand, I put Tarmogoyf into play. He topdecks path. Turn 3 I cast a couple more discard spells and decay his noble, then set up for Liliana of the Veil. She ticks up to 6 putting him to no cards in hand and me to just a TBR looking for a friend and a Push and then… he topdecks EE. I’m at 5 at this point, but have an uncracked fetchland in play and the push in hand, so I should have a turn or two to draw something releveant when… he topdecks Reality Smasher. Well then.

 

Out: -3 Liliana of the Veil, -1 Temur Battle Rage, -1 Street Wraith

 

In: 3 Disdainful Stroke, 1 Dreadbore, 1 Stubborn Denial

 

This is fundamentally a rough matchup that we lose if it goes long, so I want to stay fairly aggressive. And hope that he doesn’t draw Cavern of Souls.

 

Game 2 takes a bit to develop, but it gets to a tricky spot where he’s at 16 with an Eldrazi Displacer in play, and I’m at 10 with TBR, a Shadow, a Terminate, and 2 Stubborn Denials in hand. I used discard spells to pick his hand apart, and I know he has 1 a Path in hand and some creatures. I put the Shadow into play, he Paths EOT and I Stub. Then he blinks the Shadow with Displacer. On his turn he plays a Thought Knot Seer, which I’m forced to Terminate, and attacks me to 7. I draw nothing relevant and pass. The plan is to try to get him to blink my Shadow on his turn to attack, then crack back with TBR for lethal. Or to find a removal spell. He attempts to Path pre-combat. I Stub. He blinks Shadow, and attacks me to 4. Then attempts to Path post combat. Did you catch that? He drew 2 Paths in two draw steps to get through my Stubs. I had another one in hand, but didn’t have a second blue source. I whiff on my next two draw steps, and die, and even if I found the removal spell he was sandbagging a Smasher.

 

Matches: 2-2

Punts: 4

Savagely topdecked: 6

 

That’s right, I got savagely topdecked 5 times in that match. 6 if you count the Smasher he sandbagged.

 

Round 5 vs. 5 color Humans

 

I lose the die roll and he leads with Champion of the Parish. I cast an IoK on my turn and see another Champion, 1 land, and a pile of 2s and 3s. I take the Champion, and he whiffs on land for a few turns. From there I use discard spells to take fliers away before he finally hits his 2nd and 3rd land drop. This allows me to set up a truly massive board with 3 11/11 Death’s Shadows and two Tarmogoyfs, and force him to chump every creature during my attack step. I have the TBR to win that turn instead of allowing him to try to hit Mantis Rider, which would die to the Terminate I had in hand anyway.

 

Out: 2 Thoughtseize, 2 Street Wraith, 2 Stubborn Denial

 

In: 1 Dreadbore, 1 Radiant Flames, 1 K Return, 1 K Command, 1 Garruk, 1 Hazoret

 

Hazoret comes in on the same reasoning as it does against burn. K Command and Garruk are both clunky, but they at least interact and we don’t have great options.

 

He keeps on 6 and leads with Noble Hierarch in Dark Confidant. I have the removal spell for Bob and he gets stuck at 2 mana with 3 drops in hand. I eventually stick Garruk and fight a freshly played 2 drop creature to flip him, and he concedes to the prospect of an unending stream of 1/1 deathtouchers.

 

I got pretty lucky to win that matchup, but I’ll take it after the beating I just went through. After the game he shows me his SB technology for the matchup: Nightshade Peddler. Go ahead and look that one up. He also has Staticaster in the board for when he wants the wombo combo.

 

Matches: 3-2

Punts: 4

Savagely topdecked: 6

 

Round 6 vs. 5 color Death’s Shadow

 

He mulligans twice on the play game 1 and I think this should be an easy game. We trade discard spells, then I stick a Tarmogoyf. He topdecks a Fatal Push, and we stare at each other for several turns, occasionally casting discard spells, before he finds a Tarmogoyf after my hand has been emptied of removal. Dead.

 

Out: 2 Stubborn Denial, 2 Temur Battle Rage, 2 Street Wraith

 

In: 2 Hazoret, 1 Garruk, 1 Liliana, the Last Hope, 1 K Command, 1 Dreadbore

 

Lingering Souls is a great postboard trump if he has it, but Garruk and Hazoret should be able to fight back pretty effectively. Souls is probably a little bit better than what I’m doing though.

 

I manage to rip his hand apart and stick a Liliana of the Veil with a creature in play to his empty board + hand, and am in a great spot. He topdecks a Ranger of Eos and only tutors up 1 Shadow since that’s all he could play in the turn, and discarding the second to Liliana would be counter productive. But one topdeck deserves another, as I rip K Command to get back another creature and kill the Ranger so LotV can take care of the Shadow. He quickly concedes.

 

Game 3 we both mulligan, and quickly trade resources until I’m in a favorable position with Push + Push + Terminate in hand with both sides of the board and his hand empty. Then he topdecks Liliana, the Last Hope. He knows my hand, so he upticks. Ok, i have a couple turns to find something relevant. He’s at 7, so any creature should just kill him. I quickly find a creature, but he immediately topdecks a removal spell. The turn before LtlH will ultimate I find another creature, and I’m reasonably live to just kill my opponent through the ultimate with all of the removal in my hand since his life total is so low. But then he topdecks another removal spell. I struggle to hang in there for a couple more turns, but it’s hopeless and I’m quickly dead.

 

Matches: 3-3

Punts: 4

Savagely topdecked: 9

 

I’m not counting the Ranger he ripped game 2 since I won anyway, but make no mistake, that was also pretty savage.

 

Round 7 vs. No Show

 

Did I saw I went 5-4? I lied. I went 4-4.

 

Matches: 4-3

Punts: 4

Savagely topdecked: 9

 

Round 8 vs. UWR Control

I win the die roll and have the perfect sort of opening to beat control. A few discard spells followed by a large threat that quickly closes. If the game goes long, I’m in trouble because he can just bolt me out. I punt at some point by failing to cast a Stubborn Denial, but I don’t remember the details – probably because I won the game.

 

Out: 2 Temur Battle Rage, 2 Fatal Push, 2 Street Wraith, 1 Thoughtseize

 

In: 2 Hazoret, 1 Garruk, 1 K Command, 1 Liliana, the Last Hope, 2 Stubborn Denial

 

I expect him to be trying to bolt me out, so I shave some of the life loss and bring in extra countermagic. Stub is also a great way to fight Cryptic Command.

 

Game 2 he has answers to my threats, but I stick a Liliana of the Veil and get to work. It looks like I’m going to be able to ride her to victory when he topdecks bolt with Lily on 5, then Snapcaster to flash back bolt to take her out. The game is still pretty close, but I fail to draw enough threats and his Cryptics eventually grind me out.

 

Game 3 I quickly get down to a low life total, and am put in the unenviable position of having to hold up removal for his Colonnade instead of casting spells so that I don’t just die. I have a Hazoret that I never tap out to play because 1) I always have cards in hand, and 2) at various times I know he has either Purge or Path in hand. By the time I clear out his hand and can finally jam her, I’m in dead to Colonnade + anything range. We get to a rough stalemate where he doesn’t have much going on and doesn’t want to expose his Colonnade to the removal I’m clearly representing, and I don’t want to tap out because I don’t want to die to Colonnade + burn. He’s ahead in this spot, but if I can find Shadow or Goyf to enable the Stubs in my hand I’m suddenly in good shape. Instead, he topdecks Elspeth. You know, the 6 mana one. With 7 lands in play. Yup, I’m dead.

 

Matches: 4-4

Punts: 5

Savagely topdecked: 11

 

Doesn’t Elspeth count? He had plenty of draws to find her or some other bomb. Ok, fine, you’re right. But I’m counting both the Bolt and Snapcaster game 2.

 

Round 9 vs. 8rack

 

Before the match the opponent is chatty and offers to let me go first instead of rolling dice since we’re both 4-4 and there’s nothing on the line. I accept. Of course, he’s on 8rack. This is actually a pretty shady move since if he wins the die roll, he would have to reveal his preference for going 2nd, which reveals his deck. He also complains that his opponents have topdecked him all day long. Which, 1) I feel ya. I have this counter over here… And 2) you’re playing 8rack, what did you expect?

 

Game 1 he rips my hand apart, but I snag a Smallpox with a discard spell before he can get me good with it. Then we play the topdeck game. He has Shrieking Affliction going, but my one card is a TBR and I rip a Shadow. He finds nothing, and I kill him while at 3 life.

 

Out: 2 Thoughtseize, 2 Terminate, 3 Liliana of the Veil

 

In: 1 Ancient Grudge, 1 K Command, 1 Garruk, 2 Stub, 1 Dreadbore, 1 X

 

(I don’t really remember how I SBed here, but this seems like a reasonable guess)

 

Via discard spells I know he has a Bontu’s Last Reckoning in hand, so I have to be careful not to overcommit. He sticks a Shrieking Affliction and The Rack, but can’t get my hand low. I put a Goyf into play and he knows about a Death’s Shadow in my hand. On my turn he asks if I’m adding Shadow to the board to present lethal next turn, in a dejected way. For Bontu’s sake, I’m not that dumb. He fails to draw a land for Raven’s Crime in a crucial turn, giving me more time after he kills my Goyf, and I stick Shadow. I have the Stub for Bontu’s Last Reckoning, got to 3 from his things, then attack for exactsies.

 

Matches: 5-4

Punts: 5

Savagely topdecked: 11

 

Not my best performance. It’s easy to be annoyed with how well some of my opponents drew, but I put most of this on me. I only counted 3 in-match punts, but I’m reasonably sure there were more and I just didn’t recognize them. When you’re low on sleep, fundamentally you won’t be playing to the best of your abilities, and you won’t be able to recognize when you’re making mistakes. Cognitive impairment is a pain. Also, who knows how many games not having the white splash cost me? Lingering Souls is basically the best card to draw against UWR, and also a great topdeck against 5c Shadow.

 

As far as the deck goes, I think it’s still pretty good, but not the best positioned right now. The control decks are fundamentally tough to beat, and we don’t have as much of an edge – if at all – against the big mana decks as we do against most of the other unfair decks in the format. But give it a minute for decks like Storm, Ad Nauseum, and Infect to rise up and take advantage of all of the big mana decks, and then 4 or 5 color Shadow is exactly where you want to be.

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