Conventional Magic - The Best Four Days In Magic

Posted in Feature on July 22, 2005

By John H. Klauk

As I mentioned in my last Conventional Magic article, I am a HUGE fan of Magic: The Gathering® Online. With the announcement of Mirage coming out for Magic Online, I am more excited than the most excited thing you can imagine that is currently filled with excitement! Phasing….flanking……it’s all coming back to me now……

But, until the day I get to poison my way to victory again (COBRA!!!) I will be psyched to play my older cards in the upcoming Legacy and Vintage events at Gen Con (or the Convention league or the Grand Melee or so much more).

So how do you get to play in these fine, fine events?

Well, first off, you need to pack your things and head to Indianapolis, to Gen Con. The convention is taking place August 18 through 21 at the Indiana Convention Center. This convention is heralded as The Best Four Days In Gaming. Once you’ve gotten the required and sure to be infamous road trip out of the way, just sign up onsite for the Magic: The Gathering convention league. It is a Standard format constructed league that runs the duration of the convention. Even if you don’t take home any of the 9th Edition product prizes, a convention league is still a great way to spend your four days of gaming. You get to play as many league games as you want, and you won’t be confined to the rigid timeline of a tournament event. Just plop down to play other league players in between the other things you may be doing at the convention (such as other Magic events).

Speaking of other Magic events, my oh my are there more than you could ever imagine going on at the Indy city. There will be Kamigawa Sealed Deck tournaments every day of the convention, as well as Kamigawa Block Booster Drafts and Extended Constructed tournaments. There will be plenty of Standard Constructed tournaments too, but I’ll get to those in more detail later on. Just stay with me for a bit folks.

For the hungering community of classic formats there will be Legacy and Vintage Constructed tournaments each day at the convention. If you want more out of your Legacy and Vintage events though, then you could play in one of the $500.00 prize events. These will be taking place Saturday and Friday, respectively. Gen Con is also home to the Legacy and Vintage championship tournaments. This is the first year for the Legacy format championship tournament, and I look forward to great things to come out of this. I know I will be taking notes for Grand Prix Philadelphia, which will be using the Legacy format. The Vintage championship tournament offers not only the right to claim the title of Vintage World Champion, but also the opportunity to snag an original piece of Vintage artwork! Bragging rights and one of a kind artwork?! Solid I tell ya’… Solid!

If you want something a little bit more off the beaten path, then check out participating in the Grand Melee tournament. It is a non-sanctioned Standard Constructed free-for-all where the last man standing walks away with the prize. If you are still craving some multiplayer action, then how about one of the Two-Headed Giant Standard Constructed tournaments? Share a 40-point life total and good times with one of your convention buddies. If you need something even more different than this, then there will even be several Unhinged Sealed Deck tournaments. Players in these events will get a Champions of Kamigawa™ tournament deck as well as three booster packs of the Unhinged™ expansion. Heck, the three sexy lands you will get out of these packs alone are worth participating in this event. If you need something odder than one of these tournaments, then the convention organizers will have some men with little white jackets waiting for you at the back door. Just tell them your name is Mark Gottlieb* and they will direct you straight to the “special room”.

For the tournament player who is looking to get onto the Pro Tour or a big leg up at a Grand Prix, there will also be two Pro Tour Los Angeles Qualifier tournaments at Gen Con, as well as a Grand Prix Salt Lake City Trial tournament. All of these events will be Kamigawa Block Constructed tournaments. With the introduction of Saviors of Kamigawa™ into that format, there is still a great deal of territory to explore and experiment with. The results of these will help form the ground work for the current PTQ season. Win one of the Pro Tour Qualifiers and you’ll earn an invitation to Los Angeles to compete on the Pro Tour. If you can win the Grand Prix Trial, it will score you a three-round bye at Grand Prix Salt Lake City.

Of course, any gaming convention involving Magic: The Gathering competition would be incomplete without the block party tournament. Thursday, bring a block deck from whatever your favorite block is. Can Upheaval beat Domain? Can Rebels rule the day against Goblins? Find out in this, one of the Greatest Formats Known to Man©. Me, I’d have to find out just how sneaky Ninjas really are. But like I said, that’s just me. I’m silly like that. Ah, though… just the thought. Block versus block, the way the Magic game was intended to be played.

Here is a list of the highlights (not counting numerous drafts, constructed, and 2 headed giant tournaments):

Convention League Standard Entire Show 10 am - 8 pm (10 am - 4 pm Sunday) 9th Edition Product
Legacy Championship Legacy Thursday 10 am Legacy Championship Trophy and a play set of Revised Dual Lands (40 cards, 10 of each type)
Grand Prix Salt Lake City Trial Kamigawa Block Constructed Thursday 3 pm 3 round bye at GP Salt Lake City and product
Grand Melee Standard Thursday 9 pm Product
$500 Vintage Tournament Vintage Thursday Midnight $500 and product
$5,000 2 Headed Giant Standard Friday 10 am $5000 worth of prizes
PTQ Los Angeles Block Constructed Friday 5 pm $250 and invite to Pro Tour Los Angeles and product
$500 Legacy Tournament Legacy Friday Midnight $500 and product
Vintage Championship Vintage Saturday 10 am Original Magic: The Gathering artwork - Mark Poole's reinterpretation of Ancestral Recall and product.
PTQ Los Angeles Block Constructed Saturday 2 pm $250 and invite to Pro Tour Los Angeles and product
$500 SealedTournament Kamigawa Sealed Saturday Midnight $500 and product
Kamigawa - Italian Legends Sealed Sealed Sunday 9 am Italian Legends product

Okay, okay... you stayed with me this far. Now let’s talk about the Standard Constructed tournaments that will be taking place. There will be roughly three of these each day during the convention. That’s a lot of Standard being played for prizes! Hot off the heels of Regionals, this a great time to enter the ring and compete in some Standard events. But what to play? You could spend your days until the convention wandering the earth like Cane from Kung-Fu trying to decide. As fun as that might be, I will try to enlighten your path with a few simple lessons to help you decide instead.

First Enlightenment: When you can snatch two creatures from your library then you have learned.

You could just go with what is unarguably the best deck in the format, “Tooth and Nail”. It posted solid results from Regionals and has resiliency against most other matchups, including the ones that are designed to beat it. Here is the Terry Soh inspired build that I piloted to a 5-3 record at Regionals in Memphis:

Tooth and Nail

Download Arena Decklist
Artifact (1)
1 Oblivion Stone
Land (10)
10 Forest
Other (20)
4 Urza’s Mine 4 Urza’s Power Plant 4 Urza’s Power Tower 4 Kodama’s Reach 4 Sensei’s Divining Top
60 Cards

In case you don’t happen to be familiar with this deck, it revolves around it’s namesake Sorcery, Tooth and Nail. I won’t bore you with the details because you can surely find many an article about this deck if you are somehow lacking the knowledge. Just know that this particular build did very well in the mirror match all day, not losing a match (or game for that matter) out of the two I played. My losses came against a white weenie deck sporting some sick Promise of Bunrei/Second Sunrise tricks, a blue/green Death Cloud deck that went the full three games (man, is Cranial Extraction/Persecute rough stuff), and a red/green land destruction deck (arguably the harshest metagame beating versus Tooth and Nail). I also would change up the sideboard and find room for at least three Culling Scales. Some players say Tooth is the deck to beat. Some players say it is the best deck in the format. I say it is the deck most played in a very healthy Standard environment. No one could fault you for choosing it as your deck, that’s for sure.

Second Enlightenment: It takes but a single pebble to disturb the pond grasshopper.

The nice thing about really, really rogue decks is that they can take a long time to ripple through the tournament scene. Take this deck piloted by Alex Frantiz at Regionals in Sacramento, CA to a top 8 finish.

Red Deck Wins (with Cosmic Larva and War Elemental nonetheless)

Download Arena Decklist

This deck uses some very unconventional but powerful cards to smash its way to a quick victory. If you want something very aggressive with a twist that will give your opponent a short-lived and very false sense of security, then try it out. Besides, how fun is winning with this one. I mean, War Elemental! Need I say more?

Third Enlightenment: When you can forestwalk upon your opponent and leave a big mark…

This is the metagame deck of choice. It grabs hold of the strategy that the most played land currently in the format is the one that has the picture of the little broccoli sprout on it. You flop down a quick turn one or turn two forestwalk creature, equip and/or enchant it up, and ride it to the finish line. Here’s a deck list from Regionals top 8 competitor Semion Bezrukov:

Medium Green

Download Arena Decklist
Sorcery (4)
4 Plow Under
Instant (3)
1 Beacon of Destruction 2 Oxidize
Enchantment (3)
3 Blanchwood Armor
Land (22)
22 Forest
Other (6)
4 Sensei’s Divining Top 2 Umezawa’s Jitte
60 Cards

Now curiously, I chose a decklist that actually is devoid of any forestwalking creatures. Still, it VERY closely resembles the builds that are utilizing Rushwood Dryad or Jukai Messenger. Semion simply chose to fly and/or trample his way through the red zone instead of finessing it through. The deck itself can just be a complete whuppin’, but the beauty of this deck is the sideboard in my opinion. Particularly Troll Ascetic with Worship, which can be an automatic win versus some of the field or an unprepared opponent.

The Great Epiphany: There is no spoon… I mean fork… I mean spoon.

The most unexplored yet potentially insanely powerful metagame deck I have recently seen revolves around the new Saviors of Kamigawa card, Twincast. Here is a decklist I put together from various forums I scoured as well as my memory of what I saw from the one person at Regionals running this intriguing solution deck.

Monoblue Twincast

Download Arena Decklist
Sorcery (2)
2 Bribery
Artifact (4)
4 Vedalken Shackles
Other (5)
1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge 4 Wayfarer’s Bauble
60 Cards

This deck plays the classic blue control game with a big twist versus the Tooth and Nail matchup. If you haven’t seen this trick yet, it works like this—

Have four mana, two of which must be blue mana sources, untapped when the opponent casts Tooth and Nail (shouldn’t be too hard for monoblue, right?).

With Tooth and Nail on the stack, cast Twincast, copying Tooth and Nail.

Search for Uyo and one Mephidross Vampire and put them into play with your copy of Tooth and Nail, which resolves first.

With opponent’s Tooth and Nail still on the stack, pay two and activate Uyo, Silent Prophet, copying Tooth and Nail.

Search for the other Mephidross Vampire and Triskelion and put them into play with your second copy of Tooth and Nail, which also somehow miraculously resolves before your opponent’s does. (This is kinda’ trixsy, no?)

With opponent’s Tooth and Nail still on the stack, activate Triskelion hitting Uyo three times. Now the Triskelion gets six +1/+1 counters because of the Vampires. Now activate the Triskelion six more times, hitting each Vampire three times each. It now has twelve +1/+1 counters on it.

Let your opponent’s Tooth and Nail resolve. Almost anything your opponent chooses to search for and/or put into play will spell his doom. With any of his creatures’ come into play abilities on the stack, shoot and kill them with the Triskelion, killing them and netting more counters. You should be able to finish off the combo by unleashing the remaining damage the Triskelion can dish out straight to your opponent’s head.**

I’m thinking this deck should be called “Monoblue Tooth and Nail Em”. I know I laughed out loud when I first heard this combo. Man… Standard is so much fun right now. R&D sprays a little Affinity B Gone***, and suddenly the format is extraordinarily entertaining again.

All silliness aside though, go to Gen Con. Play lots of Magic games. Have fun and win stuff. Copy a Tooth and Nail over and over. It’s all good my friend.

Catch Ya’ll Later,
John H. Klauk
Klaukwork Wizard on Magic Online

* If you have never read this man’s articles, you are missing out on what the Magic game is REALLY all about. Mark, your articles were always a joy to read. Those are going to be some hard shoes to fill. My best wishes to whoever takes a stab at it.

** I personally would have to add a Grand Moff Tarkin quote to the kill of, “You may fire when ready.”

***Oh, but it ain’t gone. Check out this. Now that’s how the deck is “fair”.

John started playing Magic back when Antiquities came out. He is a frequent top 8 finisher at PTQs and States using non-archetype decks and is a Regional Coordinator for the Delegate program. John also wants you to know that he didn’t see Promise of Bunrei and Second Sunrise coming AT ALL! Mad Props to my opponent”.”

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