Standard has been in a great place since the release of Ravnica Allegiance. The new set added many fun cards and completed the cycle of Shocklands, breathing new life into Standard. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any competitive Standard events to prepare for, so I spent a good amount of time drafting and brewing, but not a lot of time actually playing Standard. Two weeks before the Last Chance, I knew I would have to double down and figure out what to play. I brewed up some decks that I thought could be good choices, but after playing them, my friend and teammate Campbell and I didn’t feel great about any of them. One of the decks was the green/black explore package that added red to get access to Ravager Wurm and Angrath, the Flame Chained. Another was a Grixis midrange deck that leveraged Thief of Sanity, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, and all of the great removal it has access to. While both decks felt like they had potential, we didn’t have time to refine the lists to the extent we wanted.
Instead, I turned to established lists. I noticed that Mono Blue Tempo had just won the SCG Open in Dallas at the hands of Robert Wagner-Krankel. I had some experience playing Mono Blue before the release of Ravnica Allegiance, as a way to grind the ladder on Magic Arena. Pteramander was the new card that the deck got access to, and it seemed like such a sweet addition. I built the deck on Arena, played a few matches, and was hooked immediately. It wasn’t until later that I realized that Gerry Thompson and Bryan Gottlieb talked about Mono Blue for the entirety of their podcast for that week. I think that their podcast is some of the best content coming out for Magic, and I really respect and pay attention to their advice. I made some changes to the deck, based on their suggestions that echoed the experience I had, and locked it in. I played as much with the deck on Arena and in paper as I could, and registered this list for the last Last Chance Qualifier:
A few notes on some specific card choices:
0 Mist-Cloaked Herald – I often sideboarded these out, and wanted something more impactful in the main deck.
2 Surge Mare – These always overperformed when I sideboarded them, so I didn’t mind pre-boarding against Sultai or Mono White a little bit, basically replacing the Mist-Cloaked Heralds. Surge Mare is sometime the best creature you could enchant with Curious Obsession, as it helps you see lots of extra cards as you draw and loot. Remember to always draw first, so you have more information when you loot!
1 Quench – I wanted another catch-all answer, and it performed pretty well.
2 Transmorgifying Wand – I found that I had a really tough time against Izzet Drakes, and I didn’t have any answers to Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Transmorgifying Wand gave me multiple, repeatable answers to big fliers, and let the Mono Blue deck soar past Drakes. These replaced the Deep Freezes that many decks play.
1 Metamorphic Alteration – Basically a cheaper Deep Freeze. It deals with Lyra Dawnbringer and Niv-Mizzet, Parun just as well.
1 Mystic Archaeologist – I had an extra spot in my sideboard after all of the retooling, and I decided I wanted a creature to help against the Mono White deck. I had the 3rd Faerie Duelist in this spot for awhile, but ultimately decided that I’d rather have something that could also come in against control decks, and that’s how I settled on Archaeologist. It is also a wizard for Wizard’s Retort!
44 players showed up to play at Mox Boarding House in Bellevue, meaning we were in for six rounds.
Round 1 vs Aaron (Sultai)
My opponent won the die roll and played a Memorial of Folly on turn one. I knew that I was favored in this matchup, and couldn’t believe my luck starting off the tournament against one of my better matchups. In game one I started to run out of gas after sticking an early Curious Obsession, but luckily my opponent was also on empty and I picked up the game. In game two I never had a chance, and my opponent overwhelmed me with exploring merfolk. Game three was one of the best draws I had all day, sticking an early Curious Obsession on a Pteramander and drawing Siren Stormtamers, Wizard’s Retorts, and Dive Downs all game.
Round 2 vs Zach (Bant Hero)
I sat down across from Zach, a local player that I play against relatively often. We exchanged friendly banter before we started the match, and we had a good couple of games. He had an impressive start with Hero of Precinct One into Emmara, Soul of the Accord into March of the Multitudes. Luckily for me though, he was stuck on two lands, so while he was able to deploy quite the board, he never interacted with my flying threats. I raced his ground creatures with Tempest Djinns and Pteramanders. Game two had more back and forth, with Zach sticking a Deputy of Detention and stealing my Curious Obsession. Eventually I was able to set up a lethal attack in the air, and used Metamorhpic Alteration to take his sole flier out of the equation. I was then free to attack for lethal.
Round 3 vs Peter (Mono Blue)
This was a good match. Peter and I had some good back and forth in our games, and he eventually took the match. I don’t remember specifics from this match, but I do know that I eked out a win in a close game two. Then in the third game, Peter threw two Curious Obsessions on a Mist-Cloaked Herald, and after a mulligan to six there was no way I could keep up.
Round 4 vs Richard (Simic Nexus)
Richard and I have been running into each other a lot recently, and he’s always pleasant to play against – I wish that I could have put up more of a fight. I took a mulligan to six and kept a very unexciting hand. He played a Breeding Pool on turn one and I realized that my hand was not going to be able to keep up and I conceded early. In game two I had to mulligan a close but ultimately too greedy seven into a bad six. I held on for awhile, but really the writing was on the wall and I lost the match. My draws didn’t line up at all, and I wasn’t able to establish a board presence before he started taking all the turns.
Round 5 vs Henry (Mardu Judith)
Henry was playing a Judith, Scourge Diva deck with Hero of Precinct One, Footlight Fiend, and Fireblade Artist. In both games he got off to a quick start, putting the pressure on. Luckily I was able to stabilize at a low life total in both games, largely thanks to Tempest Djinn having four toughness. Then, before he was able to find some sort of burn to finish me off, I was able to close the game quickly and lock up the match.
Round 6 vs Drake (Grixis Control)
Drake is a friend of mine, and he lives to build the best Grixis control deck in every format. His deck was filled with removal and had Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, which can be a problem for my small fliers. I got lucky to dodge Ritual of Soot in game one after he saw almost half of his deck, but Surge Mare enchanted with Curious Obsession let me look at a lot of cards on my way to the win. In game two I stuck a one drop with a Curious Obsession, drew some counterspells, and was able to tempo my way to a win.
When all was said and done, one player at 4-2 did make it into the Top 8 because of some draws in earlier rounds. Unfortunately, I ended up in 10th place, behind Campbell in 9th and the player who won their pair-up to get the 8th spot. While it would’ve been great to spike this tournament and qualify for the RPTQ, it wasn’t meant to be.
We did get to root on another teammate, Justin, as he battled hard with Temur Drakes in the Top 8. He lost a close match in three against Mono Blue in the first round, unfortunately.
The Top 8 decks from the event were:
This tournament gathered together a bunch of local grinders who are really going to miss the PPTQ process just like I am. This event made me realize just how much I’ve missed PPTQs, and how much I am looking forward to whatever comes next. I hope that we can get details soon, because I am definitely craving more local competitive Standard!