Back from the Brink – A look forward to April and my time the USA

 

I’m finally back from the USA! After a week I’m recharged, renewed, and ready to go. I filled my large suitcase entirely with gifts, candy, and other things that are difficult for me to get in Japan. For the most part I spent my week with my family. Saturday and Sunday I went to Indianapolis and visited both my sister, brother, and nieces. We checked out the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and had a good time with my two nieces, and I also got a game of Magic in against my brother while I was down there. It was the first time in a long time, and it was a lot of fun. I let him use my UB zombie mill deck, and I used my BG aggro deck. He took the first game, getting out dozens of zombies to mill me to death before I could get any pressure on him, but then I absolutely railed him in the next two games with awesome hands. It gave me some ideas and I’m thinking of rebuilding it into an Esper mill deck before Dragon’s Maze comes out.

Down in Indianapolis I also had the chance to stop into The Game Preserve near Fashion Mall.

The Game Preserve

The Game Preserve

My goal was to trade away some of my Japanese cards but I was kind of disappointed in the selection they had at this location. Don’t get me wrong, it was a cool store,  but they were largely a table top gaming store. They had a nice game room, tons of wall space devoted to table top games, but if you were looking for a large selection of Magic cards you’d probably be better off going to another one of their locations. I didn’t leave before trading away some Japanese promo cards for some shock lands I needed though, plus I met some fellow Magic players Brett and Jake (if my memory serves me correctly. It can’t be trusted after so much jet lag).

Once I headed back to my hometown of South Bend, I spent some time with my grandma and got some free food, and I also did a lot of shopping. On Wednesday I went to Fantasy Games in South Bend. I talked about this place a little bit back when I first started this website, however I wasn’t really able to say much about it because back in 2011 was the first time I had been there in years. I’m going to spend today talking about it a little bit.

Fantasy Games – South Bend

Fantasy Games is your go to shop for Magic cards in Northern Indiana. They are located in South Bend, Indiana, a few minutes from the Michigan state line on US 31.

Counter top at Fantasy Games

Front Counter at Fantasy Games

This picture is a little old, but you can get the idea of how the shop is set up. Popular single cards for standard and modern are located in the cases at the front of the store, and behind them on the shelves are binders of singles that will help you to build the deck you want for any format. Their prices aren’t bad, and Fantasy Games does a good job of keeping up with current prices. While I was there, I saw quite a few cards become less expensive in the matter of a few days (needless to say I picked up A LOT of cards for myself and my friends).

Main store at Fantasy Games

Main store at Fantasy Games

This is another dated picture (taken December 2011), but the set up is still largely the same. Fantasy Games has hundreds of board games and table top game accessories. They also have a large game room in back that can hold upwards of a 100 players during busy events such as qualifiers and pre-release events. After coming back to the USA from Japan, I was incredibly relieved to have adequate playing space during FNM and Wednesday night magic at Fantasy Games. The prices of single cards were also a welcome sight, as most singles in the USA are HALF the cost of what they are in Japan. For more information on their hours and the types of events they hold, please click on the above link and check out their schedule.

Fighting Back with Black

Before leaving for the USA last week, I was struggling here in Japan. I had gone 2-4 at the S-Cup on March 17th with my BG aggro deck, and on March 20th I went 1-1-1 with my Simic Midrange deck. I’ve come to the realization that my Simic deck needs a 3rd color, most likely white. Cards like Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere are simply too powerful in the current metagame in slowing down fast aggro decks. I was hoping that I would have better results after “training” in Japan over the last year against some of the best players Aichi prefecture has to offer, and I was anxious to play at Fantasy Games in South Bend. I had talked to a friend of mine who lived in Goshen, Indiana and he had said that Reanimator was on the warpath back in the states. With that information at hand I decided to go with my newly redesigned BG aggro deck.

Moeru Gomi 2.0 (BG Beatdown)
75 cards, 15 sideboard
Overgrown Tomb
Swamp
Woodland Cemetery
10 Forest


21 lands

Wolfir Avenger
Corpsejack Menace
Arbor Elf
Dreg Mangler
Gyre Sage
Strangleroot Geist
Disciple of Bolas
Wolfir Silverheart
Experiment One

3 Lotleth Troll


30 creatures

Tragic Slip
Abrupt Decay
Rancor


9 other spells

Sideboard
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
Golgari Charm
Tormod’s Crypt
Tragic Slip
Sever the Bloodline
Garruk Relentless
Abrupt Decay
Triumph of Ferocity

1 Predator Ooze


15 sideboard cards

 

Problems it had before:

  1. Was getting mana screwed – Solution: Went up to 21 land (added a swamp)
  2. Some cards weren’t performing well – Solution: cut out a Gyre Sage and 2 Wolfir Avenger, added in 3 Lotleth Trolls
  3. Had trouble pushing damage through later in the game against midrange decks – Solution: I switched out Deadbridge Goliath for Corpsejack Menace 

So how did it go? I finished 3-1 at a 20 person event in South Bend on Wednesday, and 3-1 at an early 20 person FNM event on Friday. The new build is incredibly resilient. The added mana really helped me to reduce the amount of mulligans I was getting before, and the addition of Lotleth Troll was much better than using 4 Wolfir Avengers. Not only does he have the built in trample and an easier to activate regenerate, but he’s also much better later in the game. Don’t you hate it when you draw mana creatures or other 1 drops when it’s later on in the game and they are pretty much worthless? Well, the troll is a great outlet for those useless cards, and with a Corpsejack Menace in play it gets stronger incredibly quick. 

Speaking of the Menace, he has much better synergy with this deck than Deadbridge Goliath. Not only does he act as an evolve trigger for both Gyre Sage and Experiment One (putting 2 counters on each when he hits the battlefield), but he also works great with Strangleroot Geist and Lotleth Troll. Putting on 6 counters instead of 3 with a scavenged Dreg Mangler is also nice.

I was a little worried first starting out. My very first game in the USA on Wednesday was against Naya humans, which I did not have much luck against recently. I had been thinking I could outrace it in the past, but that simply isn’t possible when your opponent is playing a turn two Burning Tree Emmisary and laying down 2 more humans on the same turn to make their Champion of the Parish a 4/4 on turn 2. No, you need to play defense against this deck and make them use up all their cards while keeping the board clean of any threats. I learned this too late and fell 0-2 in two very quick games. My luck changed in my second match against Naya (GRW) Midrange. As you can see above, my deck is very aggressive. Midrange is not a deck you want to play against me. Mana creature, Farseek, Huntmaster is not going to help you against Experiment One, Strangleroot Geist, Dreg Mangler. I simply played faster than my opponent and he wasn’t able to compensate for the sheer number of creatures I was putting out early in the game. I picked up the win easily. 

Match 3 pitted me against a decent Frites human reanimator player, but as always my deck stole the first game due to it’s speed. It also helped that most people hadn’t even seen a deck like mine before. They simply didn’t know how to counter it. I found myself stuck on 2 mana for a very long time in game 2 and that extra time was all my opponent needed to fill up that graveyard. I was lucky because he simply wasn’t hitting his Angel of Glory’s Rise, but once he did (around turn 15 or so) it was all over as I was infinite combo’d to death. In game 3 I got off to a good start again, curving out with Experiment One, Strangleroot Geist, Dreg Mangler and even with a few Huntmaster of the Fells in play he couldn’t keep the pressure off as I added Wolfir Silverheart to the mix. Game 3 to me. 

In my final match on Wednesday I played against another Naya human deck but this time I was ready. I lost in the first game and started to despair, but I went all out against him with my sideboard in the second game: my 4th Abrupt Decay, 2 Golgari Charms, and 2 more Tragic Slips. The additions definitely helped. I took out his Champions of the Parish with my Abrupt Decays, and with a well-timed Golgari Charm after blocking his attack force, I took out everything he had while leaving two of my creatures alive. He never recovered and I took game 2. In game three he was mana screwed, and I took him out after 5 turns. There was definitely a lot of aggro on Wednesday in South Bend.

Friday was entirely different. I came into the event thinking that aggro would again reign supreme, but instead I saw that Esper (BWU) control was out in force. My first match of the day was against Esper control and suprisingly enough I beat it. I have been struggling to beat the deck for a while, tweaking my sideboard to beat it and it’s finally paid off. The Azorius Charms and Sphinx’s Revelations were aggrivating (especially when I had my opponent at 1 life), but the addition of Lotleth Troll definitely helped in this match up. When my opponent drew a Revelation I pretty much had to scoop, but when he didn’t I was in control. My BG aggro deck was simply too resilient, with regeneration and undying in the main deck. He was obviously worried in the second game and sided in a lot of board wraths such as Supreme Verdict, but those won’t even slow me down. After using them all up, I pounded away at him until it was over. Triumph of Ferocity finally proved itself as well, drawing me more than a handful of cards as my resilient cards were the only ones left after a board wipe. 

My second match came against another Naya midrange deck, and the results were pretty much the same as Wednesdays. I simply put too much pressure on the board too early, and my opponent could do nothing about it, even with a Bonfire of the Damned in hand. I was feeling pretty good about my chances at this FNM, and in game 3 I went up against Jund Midrange. It was the first time I had gone up against Jund midrange in a while so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that Thragtusk, Huntmaster of the Fells, and Olivia Voldaren were going to be challenges for me, but I had ways of getting through them. My speed carried me to victory in game one as always, but multiple Thragtusks and an early Olivia stole my threats on turn 6 and spelled my doom. I wasn’t sure that I could beat Jund midrange, but I managed to get an incredibly good hand in game 3. I started off on the play with two Wolfir Avengers, an Arbor Elf, and a Wolfir Silverheart in hand, as well as a Tragic Slip. By the end of turn 2 I had an Avenger in play, and on turn 3 I had the second Avenger in play while my opponent had nothing. He played an Olivia on turn 4, but on my turn 4 I played a Wolfir Silverheart. With his life already down to 13 after taking a hit from the Soulbounded Silverheart, he was in trouble. He played a Thragtusk on turn 5, putting him back up to 18, but with no extra mana to use I attacked with 18 damage the next turn, forcing him to block with his Thragtusk. He kept his mana open and pinged my Elf to death with Olivia at the end of his turn, but I used Tragic slip and took her out as well. 

Phew, 3-0 going into the final round of Magic at Fantasy Games got my hopes up. I really had a chance to win my first ever FNM in the USA! My final opponent was using Esper control, but he had tweaked it to beat the current menaces of the meta: Reanimator and Naya humans. This meant he was running Rest in Peace main, as well as Blind Obedience. I could handle one, but not both. My deck had a few cards that used  the graveyard (Strangleroot Geist), but Blind Obedience was the real problem. I played a lot of cards with haste, so not being able to attack early and hard would put me at a disadvantage. He took the first game by getting both of these cards in play and milling me to death after countless Supreme Verdicts and Terminus. In game two I sided in my Golgari Charms and Abrupt Decay and with a good hand I managed to steal a game from him but relentlessly attacking. It all came down to game 3. Just as I had done all week, I attacked early and hard, and I was lucky he didn’t have enough tempo cards early on. I managed to get him down to 2 life, but I over-extended myself one turn and found myself with little to do after a board wipe. Drawing mana on the next few turns, I had to painfully watch as he cast Sphinx’s Revelation for 6, then another one for 8, and at that point the game got away from me. I had lost, but it had been so close. 

Going 6-2 in one week is nothing to be sad about though. After doing so bad in Japan, this was exactly what I needed. I got some confidence, some good cards in trade, and I was able to hang out with my magic friends in Indiana. I plan on using my BG deck for the foreseeable future, or at least until Dragon’s Maze comes out at the end of April.

What the future holds

As I said above, we are only 26 days away from Dragon’s Maze pre-release. How crazy is that? That means we’ll have the full spoiler in about 21 days, and that spoilers will really start to take off in a week. What does this mean for the Japan Hobbyist? Well, if you’ve been following me for a long time, then you know what to expect. First off I’ll be posting my continuing ‘Limited’ series “Play to your Weakness” for the pre-release, and after that I’ll be posting about the impact of Dragon’s Maze in standard (“What to Expect: The Impact of Dragon’s Maze on the metagame”). Before that, there will be spoilers and speculation on my website and probably a new deck idea or two before the new cards come out. 

Today’s “catch up” post was a little long, so thanks for taking the time to read it. As I get caught up with all the Magic news I’ve missed and get some more games in, you can be sure to see more posts put up. I hope to have another article up as soon as the weekend. See you then!

 

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