Theros Game Day Tournament Report (and a rudimentary flow chart)
Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 08:35PM
John de Jong in Gaming, MTG

From the almost two years that I've been back at it and playing in tournaments, I've learned that I'm not that competitive, but when there's something on the line I'll care more about winning.

I think that 95% of the people who play at Gamebreakers are Good Fun People who Aren't Jerks. As a result, the fact that I'm out playing the game is usually fulfilling enough; however, as my prospects improve, I get Spikier and Spikier.

I calibrate myself against a "fun flowchart" that goes something like this:

Have a blast just playing the game, BUT
If I win my first match, I'd like to win half my matches, BUT
If I'm at the top table and have a chance, I'd like to crush the competition and win all of the prizes.

That's why I get all wound up when there's a Game Day playmat at stake. What better way to prove your worth than having a gaming surface that is emblazoned with the word "CHAMPION"?

Theros playmat. Image courtesy of

So Theros Game Day had me worried—sleep-losingly worried, at times—about how well I could do and what deck I should bring. The rotation of Innistrad block hit me fairly hard. The deck with which I was most successful, Jund Midrange, lost almost all of its creatures, and some of its land, and Farseek, AKA the Mana Ramp to End All Mana Ramps.

The deck that had fallen out of favour with me, Boros Aggro, mostly just lost half of its creatures, but they included the biggest, splashiest, most game-winning ones (like Hellrider and Thundermaw Hellkite).

My final decision was that I had the cards to build Boros Aggro, felt comfortable with those sorts of decks, and didn't want to drop a couple hundred dollars required to build a different deck.

And, my goodness me, I won it all. First place, 4-0, with one game loss in the whole match. Play mat. Boom. Did you know that there's a Planeswalker Points achievement for going undefeated? I didn't until now!

Yes, of course I took a screenshot. Humblebrag, or genuine brag?

Ultimately, I used the RW deck Adam Jansen used in Pro Tour Theros. Based on his results I think he went 10-6-1 with it, which isn't too shabby. Regardless: it felt like a good fit for what I was used to, and it let me use some of the new cards that I'd picked up (Stormbreath Dragon and Chandra, Pyromaster in particular). Adding white to a fairly normal-looking Red Deck Wins shell gives this deck reach, as well as the ability to use your sideboard to answer threats that a straight red deck just can't.

13 Mountain
4 Mutavault
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Triumph

4 Ash Zealot
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Chandra's Phoenix
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Rakdos Cackler
3 Stormbreath Dragon

4 Boros Charm
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
4 Lightning Strike
2 Mizzium Mortars

1 Assemble the Legion
2 Burning Earth
4 Chained to the Rocks
2 Mizzium Mortars
3 Shock
1 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Wear // Tear

Here's how my four rounds broke down:

Round 1: versus Esper Control (Simon)

This was one of the matchups I was expecting to see quite often, and hopefully do well against. It went as anticipated: while Esper Control loves using Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, it's not a good card against my deck. I mean, what are you going to steal? A Boros Reckoner if you're lucky? I came out of the gates quickly and made sure I finished him off each game before he could stabilize. PROTIP: Save some creatures in your hand for when he kills all the ones you've got!

2-0 for me.

Sideboarding choices:
-2 Boros Reckoner
-2 Mizzium Mortars

+2 Burning Earth
+1 Assemble the Legion
+1 Stormbreath Dragon

Round 2: versus Junk Midrange (Dan)

I'd played against Dan a couple of weeks ago, when I was trying out Three-Colour Red Aggro Burn (AKA Burning CRAB). If I remember it correctly, it's mostly high-value creatures (Loxodon Smiter, Voice of Resurgence, Advent of the Wurm, Trostani, Archangel of Thune), with the Black being mostly for removal. It's a deck that you have to deal with quickly, before the life gain makes it impossible for you to win.

Luckily for me, the mana just wasn't there for him in game 1, and he didn't hit a green mana source until his last turn. In game 2 I was able to neutralize his key threats with removal and fly over his head with Chandra's Phoenixes and Stormbreath Dragons for the win.

2-0 for me.

Sideboarding choices:
-4 Rakdos Cackler
-2 Lightning Strike

+4 Chained to the Rocks
+2 Burning Earth

Round 3: versus Jund Monsters/Devotion (Mike L.)

Mike said that this deck got him playing Standard, since he had been playing exclusively EDH for years. This was a fun deck to play against, and one of the sorts of decks that I was worried about squaring off against, just because of the speed that he can cast giant creatures. His deck was built to bring out mana acceleration such as Voyaging Satyr or Sylvan Caryatid, lay down some creatures to build up devotion, and then use Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Voyaging Satyr to drop gigantic unstoppable beasts onto the board (Arbor Colossus, or Polukranos, or Reaper of the Wilds, or etc. etc. etc.)

It was a hoot to see it in action! I came out of the gates too quickly in game 1 for him to fight back. He had a slight misplay in game 2 where he attacked when he shouldn't have, I blocked with my Boros Reckoner, did massive amounts of damage to his face, and then finished him off with a Boros Charm.

2-0 for me.

Sideboarding choices:
-4 Rakdos Cackler
-4 Lightning Strike (After all, I can't target Sylvan Caryatid with it, and most of his creatures were X/4 or larger)

+4 Chained to the Rocks
+2 Burning Earth
+2 Mizzium Mortars

Round 4: versus Five-Colour Maze's End Control (James W.)

Hilariously fun to play against. I was taken apart like a cheap watch in game 1 because he played two Saruli Gatekeepers, and then used Crackling Perimeter + Prophet of Kruphix to deal massive amounts of damage to me every turn. In games 2 and 3 his life gain cards just didn't show up, and I played a bit grindier a game by making sure I always held back either some creatures or a Boros Charm to address his Supreme Verdicts or other board wipes.

2-1 for me.

Sideboarding choices:
-1 Rakdos Cackler
-4 Lightning Strike

+1 Assemble the Legion
+2 Burning Earth
+2 Wear // Tear

I think that I had an easier time than I thought I would because everybody I played against was running three or more colours, so they were running many lands that came into play tapped. Since I'm trying to close the game out as quickly as possible, them setting themselves back a turn works to my advantage.

I never thought I'd ever write these words, but Firedrinker Satyr may have been Man of the Match. Before I played with it I severely underestimated how powerful the pump effect was. But after going through a couple of matches I really learned to appreciate how it smoothed out my plays. I found myself in situations on turn 2 where I didn't have an Ash Zealot in my hand, and I didn't need to cast any of my removal spells (all of which cost 2). So I'd use my mana to make the Satyr 3/1 and swing in for that ever-so-vital extra point of damage.

And, despite my love of Chandra, Pyromaster and Stormbreath Dragon, I'd have to say that the other key card for me was Mutavault. I may have consistently done more damage with Ash Zealots, and I may have been able to punch through some X/3 or larger creatures with Firedrinker Satyrs, but I never had a Mutavault die on me. They'd just stick around, faithfully hammering away at my opponents, through thick and thin, through Supreme Verdict and sorcery-speed removal. Because who wants to kill a 2/2 manland when there are Boros Reckoners and Stormbreath Dragons on the field?

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