Today I want to write about the recent GP in Moscow, though for most of us it was more like GP Russia. Thanks to Magic Online I was pretty familiar with the current standard format and decided to take my favorite deck: Bant Super-Friends. I played it in paper in GP Phoenix and it showed good results.
3 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Azorius Charm
2 Last Breath
4 Supreme Verdict
4 Detention Sphere
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
2 Breeding Pool
4 Hallowed Fountain
1 Temple Garden
4 Temple of Enlightenment
2 Temple of Mystery
3 Temple of Plenty
3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
1 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Mistcutter Hydra
3 Nyx-Fleece Ram
3 Unravel the Aether
Let’s talk a bit about the strategy in general and then proceed to the list. Control decks usually consist of big spells like huge draw spells or ultimate threats like Aetherling, and support cards like spot or mass removal, small draw spells and counter magic. But the everlasting problem of control is drawing the wrong half of the deck. There is little profit in big spells if you can’t survive to play them or don’t have any means to protect or resolve them.
Having nothing but protective options is no better since you will be wasting your resources just to stay alive. The planeswalkers can help you with this, though you have to play them on your turn, leaving you vulnerable to counterattack like Rakdos’s Return. If it survives, the variety of effects it can provide far outweighs the risks.
A good planeswalker can adjust to any situation and be either offensive or defensive as needed. My favorite in standard was Gideon Jura – exactly what a good control walker should be, being able to draw aggression from you, absorb tons of damage and take care of the most annoying creatures. Once you seize the initiative it takes only three hits to finish the opponent.
Here we have two ladies as finishers and Jace to help them hit the table and play their roles. Although releasing the Krakens seems unlikely most of the time, I win 1 match out of 5 with Kiora, the Crashing Wave‘s ultimate!
The biggest question is the green splash, but the more I play the more I’m sure it’s worth it. Deicide could replace Unravel the Aether in the sideboard, but I’m not ready to part ways with Mistcutter Hydra yet and Kiora is just great of course. It helps immensely against Mono-Black, shutting down the big creatures before sweepers or Mutavault after. In control battles the player with more card advantage always wins and walkers are pure advantage. It dies to a surprise Stormbreath Dragon but can still hold some monsters in Jund. And last but not least, turn 6 Elspeth and turn 5 Elspeth are two very different things. As for the manabase, people sometimes even play guildgates in UW so adding 1-of color is absolutely painless.
Now let’s go to the matches:
Xiao, Lau [CHN] with Esper 2-0
Due to the dumb Russian visa issuing system (that goes along other xenophobic laws), about 85% of the field was Russian, but this round was an exception. In any case, I’m always happy to meet and play against people from other countries.
The main point of game 1 in the mirror match is just countering the right spells. For example, Sphinx’s Revelation for 2 is usually a way to lure your counterspell to resolve Elspeth, Sun’s Champion next turn. We had a long game 1, but I was able to seize the initiative in the late game. In game 2 I sided in everything except sheeps in place of Supreme Verdicts, Charms, 3 Spheres and Last Breathes, but my opponent was screwed and it took like 5 minutes to finish the game with Hydras.
Suhih, Alexey [RUS] with BgDevotion 2-0
Making a 2,000-mile journey to play with your friend wasn’t great but we had no choice. Game 1 was just the way it should be for Bant – I played Kiora with some support and Krakens finished the game pretty quickly. SB: +3 Unravel the Aether +1 Jace, Memory Adept +2 Negate, -3 Detention Sphere (he would bring Golgari Charms most likely), -3 Azorius Charm. In game 2 Alexey mulliganed to 4, while I had a pretty good 7. Enough said.
Balaev, Maxim [RUS] with Black Devotion 2-0
I think that reading the description of a cliché game would be just as boring as it would be to write it, so let’s just say – the draws favored me in this game. I sided in 2 Unravel the Aether, 2 Negate and Jace, Memory Adept, removing 4 Azorius Charm and a Supreme Verdict. There was the usual card trading routine in the first half of the game, but once Maxim used 2 of his Hero’s Downfalls I was able to find and protect Jace, Memory Adept for long enough to mill all of his library.
Popov, Alexander [RUS] with White Weenee 2-1
I was kind of surprised to see WW undefeated. First game I failed to find a 2nd white source to play a Verdict and quickly succumbed to a horde of 2/1′s. Sideboard: +3 Nyx-Fleece Ram +3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos -6 countermagic. Next 2 games I had enough resources to proceed to a mid-game and it’s really hard to lose after that.
Rogov, Alexey [RUS] with Jund Monsters 2-0
Again, nothing of particular interest in game 1. During sideboarding I decided to give Brimaz, King of Oreskos[card] a try (usually I don’t bring them in for this mathchup but I like the surprise factor), so SB was +3 Brimaz, +2 Negate, -2 Last Breath, -3 Azorius Charm. The plan played out perfectly – [card]Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler were falling under the Cat’s assault while everything else was either countered or removed. But to be honest, I’m still not sure if it was the right call or not.
Andrejchikov, Denis J [RUS] with RW burn 0-2
Burn is not as bad a matchup for Bant as creature-based Mono-Red is (two of which decimated me in Phoenix cutting me short of from reaching the Top but is still not in Bant’s favor. In both games we had average draws and it was more than enough for Denis to kill me pretty quickly. I never thought Eidolon of Great Revel would be that much of a problem. Sb was +3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos, +3 Nyx-Fleece Ram + Dispel + 2 Negate, – 1 Elspeth, -4 Supreme Verdict, -1 Jace, -1 Kiora, -2 Detention Sphere
Trenogin, Pavel [RUS] with Junk mid-range 2-1
In game 1 I was able to deal with his biggest threats, leaving him only with Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid until the trio of Planeswalkers was assembled. Sb: + Jace +2 Negate + 3 Unravel the Aether (it’s for Banishing Lights, Coursers and Connections) – 2 Last Breath, -2 Supreme Verdict, -2 Detention Sphere. In game 2 Pavel resolved Obzedat, Ghost Council and I failed to find any answer to it. In game 3 after wasting all our resources we proceeded to topdeckmode. We both found Elspeth but on the next turn I topdecked Jace, Memory Adept, which proceeded to mill all of my opponent’s deck.
Bornelöv, Susanne [SWE] with BgDevotion 2-0
I remember only one thing in this match – I had Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, 3 tokens,Mutavault, tons of mana and a Dissolve in hand while Susanne has 5 life, 4 untapped lands, Mutavault included and 2 Underworld Connections on tapped lands. She played Pack Rat and I decided to counter it leaving her on 1 or 2 life preventing her from drawing with Connections. Then I drew lands while she resolved another Connections and 2 Gray Merchant of Asphodel, almost killing me. Eventually I managed to win with Elspeth, but that counterspell was so horrible since the rat was absolutely no threat to me. SB is the same as with other devotion decks.
Gorbunov, Igor [RUS] with RW Burn 2-1
Igor got flooded during games 1 and 3 and that gave me a chance to resolve some Revelations, sealing the match. SB is the same as round 9.
Now I was missing 1 point to make it into the Top8 and my next two opponents accepted the ID offer, so I had some time to rest before it began.
I live far from Magic centers in Russia so out of all the Top 8 I only knew Sergiy Sushalsky(mostly through Magic Online) and Lee Shi Tian, who made Top 8 after an epic day 1 lets-roll-a-die-for-the-win story.
I really wanted to write in detail about the Top 8 match against Igor Gorbunov and his RW burn, but this time he had an excellent mix of lands and spells, while my sheeps refused to leave their pastures. So in less than 10 minutes, it was over for me. No hard feelings though. Knowing I was playing a bad matchup against a competent player prepared me for that outcome.
In conclusion I’d like to say that the best point of the tournament for me was the proof of the deck’s power and now I’m definitely going to give it some more play.
Oh, you might find this interesting and it might give me a chance to redeem myself – I was given an interview on a GP and there was a question about preparation for big events. I told them that the most effective way of testing was done with people of the same experience level.I also said that if a much better player than me would agree to test with me it would be ineffective for both of us. But Wizards quoted me as saying, “I don’t test with anyone because they don’t have enough skill.” This is not true. I’m not that arrogant.
Thanks for reading!
Dmitriy “Butakov” Butakov