I know it wasn’t my fault, but I still feel a little guilty about promising Zac to write a tournament report for the blog, only to turn in a write-up about a five-man event with two real matches (one bye) and a bunch of pre-Gatecrash decks, so I’m back at it again. This time I have a whopping 18 (fine, fine, it’s really 17) rounds of results and data to share with you, which I’ve decided to break up into two separate posts. Today, you get to read about the Standard Open.

Round 1—Nemo, playing Epic Storm (see what I did there?)

Winter Storm Nemo impacted many people’s travel plans, including locals, like myself. By the time I arrived at the convention center, Round 1 was well underway. I planned on playing this weekend mostly for PWP and wasn’t concerned with taking down the tournament (not that I didn’t want to, but that wasn’t the main purpose for me), so starting 0-1 for registering late wasn’t the end of the world.

Now I am left with about 30 minutes to finalize my deck and fill out the registration sheet. Coming into the event, I really wanted to make American Midrange work, but I just couldn’t put together a list that I was happy with and abandoned that idea. I also considered slightly tweaking the American Delver list that Li wrote about in his column last week, but I decided I did not have the testicular fortitude to rely on blind flips, otherwise I’d be playing Counterbalance in Modern. In the end, I decided to stick to my guns and run Esper Friends out there again, with a few modifications.

Esper Friends Redux

Planeswalkers (7)

2 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Liliana of the Veil
2 Sorin Lord of Innistrad

Spells (27)

2 Blind Obedience
1 Curse of Death’s Hold
2 Detention Sphere
3 Azorius Charm
1 Devour Flesh
1 Forbidden Alchemy
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
2 Think Twice
1 Ultimate Price
4 Lingering Souls
3 Supreme Verdict
3 Terminus

Lands (26)

1 Island
1 Plains
4 Drowned Catacombs
4 Glacial Fortress
3 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Isolated Chapel
3 Nephalia Drownyard
2 Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)

1 Pithing Needle
1 Curse of Death’s Hold
2 Rhox Faithmender
3 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Dispel
1 Devour Flesh
2 Feeling of Dread
2 Negate
1 Supreme Verdict

I’m not going to go into great detail about the changes, but I cut some walkers, as the count was a little high, and I needed a little more early action. Gideon was pretty useless, so he got the axe, and because she’s a five-drop, I went down to one Tamiyo. Lastly, three Jace AoT was a little excessive. Think Twice was a good inclusion, and I would consider upping the count to three or four because of how well it plays with Blind Obedience.

Matches: 0-1; Games: 0-2

Round 2—Micah, playing RB Aggro

This match went pretty poorly for me, as I had to mull to 5 cards in game one, and had no action other than a T2 Azorius Charm to slow down Micah’s Gravecrawler and a T3 Lingering Souls, which normally isn’t terrible (especially after a mull to five), but it is when your opposition’s line is T1: Gravecrawler, T2: Gravecrawler, T3: Messenger, T4: Aristocrat, T5: THUNDERMAAAAW!!!

Game two doesn’t go much better as I had to go down to six cards. I was able to wipe his board full of x/1’s with a T5 Curse of Death’s hold, but not before falling to 9 life and then dying in three swings to Thundermaw again. It turns out he’s still fairly effective even as a 4/4. I did not deal a single point of damage to Micah in this match.

Matches: 0-2; Games: 0-4

Round 3—Tim, playing GR Aggro (not the Saito deck)

This round, I found myself seated across from a small child. Don’t let that fool you, though, I still got rocked pretty hard. He got some early beats in during game one with a Dryad Militant and a Strangleroot Geist plus Rancor. I never saw my fourth land and just die. I did extort him once, though, so at least I broke my scoreless streak!

Game two was a little bit more interesting, as I could cast spells, including a sweeper, but I end up drawing nothing but lands after a Verdict. It was a little disappointing to lose, because my opponent was not very good. I am not disrespecting my opponent because of his diminutive stature, but because of plays like not regenerating an Experiment One with two counters on it, and simultaneously casting two Rancors, rather than one at a time like you’re supposed to and giving me information to Devour Flesh his only creature in response to the second Rancor. He was a nice kid, though, and he asked for pointers afterwards, so I pointed out some of his play errors and what the correct plays would have been, and he seemed appreciative of that.

Matches: 0-3; Games: 0-6

I guess this means I have to run the table from here on out to have a shot at top 64. I contemplated dropping and just playing win-a-boxes all day, but I reminded myself that I wasn’t there to win packs in 1x multiplier events.

Round 4—Geoffrey, playing Esper Control

This was not a true mirror, as Geoffrey was on the non-Lingering Souls version of the deck. I made a specific note of that on my pad, because he mentioned when he realized it was a mirror that he was playing the non-Souls version and he didn’t think the other version was that good. He didn’t actually see any souls from me in game one, but he did see double Blind Obedience and scooped when the life totals were 29-9. Sorin was a complete house in game two, coming down on curve right after Liliana (who was doing a fine job of ravaging his hand). He scooped when my board was Sorin, emblem, a pair of vamp tokens, and Lily about to go ultimate.

Matches: 1-3; Games 2-6

Round 5—Jesse, playing Naya Aggro

Jesse was on the play with a strong T2 of Burning Tree Emissary into Flinthoof Boar, followed by a T3 swing for five. I was able to follow up the next turn with a Devour Flesh to slow down his clock a bit, as life totals are 22-12 in Jesse’s favor. Then things turned around and Jesse experienced death by a thousand paper cuts: first I get a Blind Obedience, then I get a Sorin online, and his life dips one point at a time, while my total seesaws its way up to 19 before I can fire off a Revelation for five. I fire off another big Revelation when I’m already at a comfortable 26 life, and he scoops ‘em up. Jesse made a valiant effort to race in game two, but he couldn’t keep up with two Nighthawks in the air, powered up by a Sorin Emblem.

Matches: 2-3; Games: 4-6

Round 6—Gus, playing BG Kibler Ooze Garbage

I still maintain that this deck is garbage and felt the need to include it in the deck name. Of course, in the last few weeks, the top of my deck has had a perverse sense of humor in finding new ways to make me lose games that I shouldn’t be losing to this deck. Three lands, a sweeper, a Lingering Souls, a Blind Obedience, and a walker is usually a keep, right? Especially on the draw, right? You’re going to get that fourth land within four draw steps, right? Think again! (Or Think Twice…ok, that was bad, even for me.) T1 Experiment One, T2 Lotleth Troll, T3 Rancor was all Gus needed to put me away. The top of my deck felt a little sympathy for me in game two, as I got the timely Terminus to put away Experiment One and Strangleroot Geist after suffering only a single swing. From there, spirits and a shock land whittle Gus down to eight life, while Jace and Curse of Death’s Hold prevented Gus from making any sort of recovery. I slammed a Tamiyo, and he scooped. Gus proceeded to keep what appeared to be a land-light hand with an Arbor Elf in game three, so I took the opportunity to pay 2 life for a shockland to come in untapped and hit him with a Devour Flesh. Sorin came down on T4, followed by Tamiyo, and that was enough to induce the scoop. I was pretty pleased with myself to battle back to a virtual 3-2 record (remember, first loss was to the snow).

Matches: 3-3; Games: 6-7

Round 7—Jason, playing UWR Midrange/Flash

Jason has the T3 Geist and goes right to work, bashing into my two spirits. I take 4 off the angel to get rid of Mr. Traft, only to see another Geist enter the battlefield in his second main phase. Jason would later add a Boros Reckoner, but it proved inconsequential as I was able to hold him off with a wall of spirits long enough for the Super Friends to assemble. Jason sided out most of his removal in game two and he paid for it dearly when I played T3 Nighthawk, T4 Nighthawk, T5 Souls with flashback, T6 Sorin making an emblem, allowing me to swing for lethal. To which he responded, “What the hell, now you’re an aggro deck? I’m just not sideboarding against control from now on.”

Matches: 4-3; Games: 8-7

Round 8—Chris, playing RB Aggro

Chris came out of the gate quickly with Gravecrawler on each of his first two turns, followed by Knight of Infamy. I slow him down a bit with some souls, but Thundermaw comes down and it’s on to game two. This game has a similar start as last game, with two Gravecrawlers bringing me down to 14 on T3, but extort and a Faithmender took over and brought me back to 18. He had a Searing Spear for the Faithmender after I blocked a Gravecrawler, but Revelation for four in response was enough to put the game out of reach. Game three, Chris quickly brought me down to 13 with a T1 Gravecrawler (three games in a row!) followed by T2 Knight, but Nighthawk stabilized things long enough for Sorin to get going. Chris was able to get in once with a Thundermaw before having to trade with Nighthawk, but was only able to get me down to six before Vampire tokens get me back up to 18 and kill him.

Matches: 5-3; Games: 10-8

Round 9—Dan, playing UWR Midrange

So it comes to this, a sort of win-and-in (for top 64, not top eight) after my dreadful start. I was pretty happy with how my day went at this point. Game one starts off with a Geist of Saint Traft immediately falling to Devour Flesh. A second Geist suffered more or less the same fate from Liliana. I resolved a Sorin afterwards, but he didn’t last long, as Dan packed lots of burn. Fortunately, I’m ok with trading Sorin for two Searing Spears and still having a Vampire left over. Over the next few turns, I ate a Searing Spear, a pair of Boros Charms, and fended off a Snapcaster, but then the extortion machine kicked in and got me back up to a healthy 14. By this point, we had about 20 minutes and I appear to be in the driver’s seat, so Dan concedes. I don’t remember everything that happened in game two, but I remember it being quick, and I remember getting hit by Shock Troopers and thinking to myself, “Seriously?”

While I didn’t win game two, it began with Dan hitting a T3 Geist and my Devour Flesh. I want to harp on this for a moment, as a friend said several times over the course of the weekend that he doesn’t get why control decks are running Devour Flesh rather than paying one extra mana for Tribute to Hunger so that you can gain the life instead of your opponent. This seems like a reasonable question, since every control player appreciates a little life gain to get you through the early rush that the aggro deck presents. The thing is, one extra mana is actually a HUGE deal, and giving life to your opponent isn’t really a huge deal. As you read this recap, you must have noticed several games where I bailed myself out against an early Geist with Devour Flesh. Being able to deal with a T3 Geist (or Reckoner, for that matter) on the draw AND getting to have mana up on your turn to make another play is much bigger game than tapping out on your T3 for two extra life. I think Boros Reckoner could be the card to put UWR decks over the top much the same way Restoration Angel put Delver over the top, so having the two-mana answer is going to be important.

Anyway, game three was another win I can thank Vampire Nighthawk for. I would go on to deal 12 damage (and gain that much life) off a single Nighthawk while Lingering Souls held off any aggression from Dan. After a Revelation for four put me at a comfy 34 with a full grip, Dan extended the hand.

Matches: 6-3; Games: 12-9

In the end, I would fall short of top 64 on breakers, but I was satisfied with going 6-2 (if you ignore the snow loss) and winning six matches in a row. Extort is a very strong mechanic and I cannot stop singing the praises of Blind Obedience. I have taken the deck out for another spin over the last week with a third Blind Obedience and was able to win some games solely off the back of Extort. Osyp Lebedowicz had an interesting deck tech for Esper Control, where he maxed out on Blind Obedience, Think Twice, Azorius Charm, Revelation, and Verdict, allowing him to rapidly churn through his deck and extort along the way. The next evolution of his approach might be to also max out on Lingering Souls which is great for offense and defense and lets you extort twice because of flashback, and then also add a set of Thought Scours since it’s very easy to pay for several extort triggers on a 1 CMC spell and it has nice synergy with all the flashback.

As good as Blind Obedience was, though, I think the award for highest impact card of the weekend goes to either Sorin or Vampire Nighthawk, and I’m more inclined to give it to the Nighthawk. That said, I would not move them to the maindeck, as the surprise factor is part of what often allows them to act as a free win. When everyone cuts their removal, a 2/3 flier with lifelink is suddenly an incredibly difficult card to race. He brick-walls Geist of Saint Traft and outraces the mighty Reckoner. He forces aggro decks to over commit to the board, allowing your wraths to be that much better, and effectively allowing your follow-up ‘walker to end the game.

Some of you reading may have already heard about my legacy performance on Sunday, where I was given not one, but two on-camera feature matches. I’ll cover that next week in the second half of my recap of the Edison SCG Snowpen weekend.

“Evil” Tim Akpinar is one of Brooklyn’s finest durdlers. If there’s a top-tier control deck in the meta, you can bet he’s spent a minute taking it apart to see what makes it tick. If it wraths and draws cards, “Evil” Tim Akpinar approves.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.