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Author Topic: "Quiquid Latine Dictum Sit Altum Viditur" - A Threshold Report  (Read 1670 times)
Bardo
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« on: August 28, 2007, 07:04:33 pm »

”Quiquid Latine Dictum Sit Altum Viditur”
A Threshold Report, Of Sorts
August, 26, 2007


Author’s Note
I went to a tournament today and did quite poorly, finishing a resoundingly mediocre 2-2-1. I haven’t played the game in months and haven’t been to an actual tournament in more than a year, so this much was expected. Nonetheless, I’m rather obsessive about tournament report writing, and if you have nothing better to read or do with the next ten or so minutes of your life, I welcome you to my first report in a very long time. And just so there’s no hard-feelings here, be aware that the fluff to MtG content ratio is roughly 2.5 : 1.

Okay, enough of that for now. Onto the “Tournament Report,” proper.

----------

The bartender had his back to us, but I knew he was listening. How many times had he stood calmly behind the bar and listened to respectable-looking people talk about raping the hotel penguins? - The Curse of Lono

I.

As soon as I answered the call from the one-armed midget, re: the Vantucky Legacy tourney, I knew what I'd be playing even before the phone rang. Against the insistence of my lawyers and the lamentations of my children, I decided to come out of "partial retirement" for one "last" rumble.

You see, I basically dropped out of the online and Magic world when I quit my SCG gig and handed the reigns to Mr. Nightmare. Thereafter, I’ve only existed in the periphery of the game, tuning my Elder Dragon Highlander decks and posting sporadically in various Adept Lounges. But the idea of attending a Legacy tournament was appealing, even if my chops have suffered as of late.

II.

Rich Shay (aka TheAtogLord) gave me pause for some introspection on what I like about this game and what I enjoy playing from one of his excellent tournament reports. If you haven't read it before, I recommend that you do. Tournament reports are a proud part of MtG journalism, after all. In this case, I call particular attention to his thoughts under "A Reflection." Therein, Rich ruminates on the age-old "play-style conundrum," a topic which has caused much needless bloodshed.

Here's the nut of it:

"When you are thinking about which 60 cards to put in sleeves, there are two things to consider: which deck to play, and how to tune that deck. Both of these important considerations are going to be affected by how you as a player want to play this game. Sometimes a format has a best deck, and not playing that is a terrible mistake; however, this situation is rare. Most of the time, you are going to want to play a deck which is able to be played with your own playstyle. If you enjoy Mana Drain, don't play Ichorid. If you want to cast a Tendrils for 20 on the second turn of the game, then sleeving up a Fish deck might not be for you.

"This is, of course, fairly obvious. What is less obvious, however, is that you must also tune and adjust your deck to fit your playstyle. You need to make sure that you have enabled yourself to use your deck in a way that you are comfortable with. This is why, for example, Mike [Lydon] has done well with Jotun Grunt in his Bomberman list -- it brings it more in line with how he plays Magic."
(emphasis mine)

It should come as no surprise that I am an aggro-control enthusiast at heart. Upon reflection of my own, I have always played aggro-control decks even before that phrase was coined and before tempo-oriented game plans had been theorized, vis-à-vis “CounterSliver” decks (e.g. Flores’ ”Finding the Tinker Deck.”) My favorite home-brewed deck I used to play on those sweltering summer nights on the New Jersey shore, just after Mirage had just been released, featured every counter I could find, the maximum number of Swords to Plowshares the DCI would condone and, for the time anyway, the most efficient mid-range beatdown creatures available: Erhnam Djinn, Serra Angel, Mahamoti Djinn, usually powered out with Mana Drain or Sol Ring mana.

I don’t have much of an opinion of the so-called “Declared Blockers” Step, but Declaring Attackers is what I know. Storm combo? Bah, I’d rather lick my own perineum. Along with cheap threats, counterspells are pretty much a requisite for any deck I’ll consider, and the thought of registering a deck that doesn’t begin with 4 Brainstorm & 4 Force of Will boggles my mind. It will never happen, for as long as I play Legacy.

Aside from power and strategic flexibility, aggro-control is one of the few kinds of decks
I can play on auto-pilot. If necessary, I can pretty much turn off my frontal lobe and rely solely on my medulla oblongata in tournament settings.

As of August 1, Threshold is looking to be the ticket.

III.

When I have a little too much time on my hands I get seized by The Fear—looking at a sea of Threshold and Sliver decks from the last Batcave tournament. I exchange a few PMs with Illissius after I find out he took second at the last MTS online tourney with a modified version of my MMUC a.k.a. “Vorosh-less Vorosh Control,” which typically mauls aggro-control and has a respectable game against most combo decks owing to its litany of counter-magic, including Chalice of the Void.

August 12, 2007.

So, pretty strung out on a foggy Sunday morning, I pull apart a version of Threshold that I found in the back of my closet and built the following:

’Mostly Monoblue Control’ (“MMUC”) a.k.a. “Vorosh”
by Bardo

4 Brainstorm
4 Standstill

4 Force of Will
4 Counterspell
3 Chalice of the Void
3 Spell Snare

3 Pernicious Deed
3 Vedalken Shackles
2 Engineered Explosives
2 Crucible of Worlds

2 Smother [Flexible slot]

4 Mishra’s Factory
2 Wasteland
3 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
3 Underground Sea
3 Tropical Island
4 Island
1 Faerie Conclave
1 Academy Ruins
1 Tolaria West
1 Maze of Ith

Sideboard
4 Engineered Plague
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Duress
3 Planar Void
1 Haunting Echoes

I throw it against Affinity and get a sound 2-1. Game 1 becomes very drawn out, but Pernicious Deed, along with recurring manlands, stall the game until Vorosh dominates the board with Shackles. Game 2, Vorosh goes down quickly to an aggressive Enforcer assault supported by double Disciples which makes the game nigh-unwinnable. Game 3 however was just a blow-out. Vorosh Forces Affinity’s first turn Vial, Snares its second turn Plating, and just demolishes Affinity’s land with Crucible/Wasteland. It was just an ungodly slaughter.

Still the deck just seems clunky. A deck like Threshold just “flows” better; effectively using its mana every turn to present threats, thwart opposing strategies or just drawing cards. Pulling off topdeck wins is also much easier—Landstill will usually just keep on drawing lands, when I want to draw action.

IV.   

August 15, 2007.

On the train ride home from work today, I toss around a few ideas on other decks to play.

A. Tivadar's "Trinket Angel Stompy"

Pros: I own everything except for the Flagstones and Cataclysm and it's otherwise running my favorite creatures in a sleek shell: Silver Knight, Trinket Mage, Exalted Angel, Serendibs and my “All-time Favorite Magic Card, Ever.”

Problems: Not enough counter-power for my taste.

B. Team aYb's "Baseruption"

Holy sweet mother of fuck is that thing awesome. The three coolest Invitational Magi along with Tarmogoyf, Counter-Top and Shackles. Wow.

Problems: Serious lack of card-ownership on my part for like half the deck: Infiltrators, Counterbalance, Chrome Mox. Also, the manabase looks like a freight train ran over a pack of wild dogs.

C. My Mostly-Monoblue Control (MMUC) (see above)

Pros: I've played this thing a lot, it has elán, I own all of the cards and the cards that power it are awesome: Pernicious Deed, Shackles, maindeck Chalice of the Void, Crucible, Maze of Ith, Engineered Explosives, Academy Ruins, et al.

Cons: Simultaneously, boring and nerve-wracking to play; still, I’m leaning heavily toward Vorosh.

D. Tog!!!
by Bardo

4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Brainstorm
3 Intuition
2 Fact or Fiction
2 Cunning Wish

4 Force of Will
4 Counterspell
3 Chalice of the Void

4 Engineered Plague
3 Vedalken Shackles

3 Psychatog

4 Underground Sea
2 Tropical Island
4 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
3 Ancient Tomb
7 Island
1 Swamp

Sideboard
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Pernicious Deed
1 Chalice of the Void

Wish-Board
1 Slaughter Pact
1 Shallow Grave
1 Misdirection
1 Hydroblast
1 Naturalize
1 Extirpate
1 Berserk

Pros: Duh.

Cons: 25 mg of morphine dissolved in a jigger of Wild Turkey does not for a competent Tog player make. Trust me.

E. Threshold Variants

I write short-hand lists for a number of Threshold variations:

U/G/r: Pretty much the de-facto standard du jour, where burn replaces StP in the maindeck and red giving Threshold outstanding sideboard tools with REB/Pyroblast and Pyroclasm.

U/G/b: Plagues in the sideboard for Pinder, Volt, etc., along with Ghastly Demise, Dark Confidants and Tombstalkers in the main.

U/G/w/b: My beloved 'Witch-Maw Thresh,' a short of kitchen sink approach to Threshold deck-building with a manabase that smells worse than those dead dogs above, left to rot for a week under the hot Alabama sun, in the middle of August.

U/G: Diceman’s first place GenCon ’07 list. Congrats, Peter!

Of all of the non-White-splash builds, I find the U/G deck to be the most elegant and really dig the land destruction (LD) sub-theme (4 Wasteland and 4 Stifle). Unlike Landstill, and similar to Goblins, Threshold is one of those decks that can actually exploit and clobber opponents that stumble over their early-game mana production. Furthermore, LD-wise, Stifle is so much more of a beating than Wasteland, which at least lets you get a mana out of the land before going away. A well-timed Stifle, on occasion, and backed up with enough threats, can be game.

V.

Re: Tarmogoyf. Thank you, Wizards of the Coast, Research & Development Department.

To whosoever designed this fucking monster: email a statement to that effect, including the Multiverse comments for this critter, from an appropriate @wizards.com email address to bardo49@yahoo.com and I will send you a crisp $5 bill.

 VI.

A totally 'random' selection of the next ten songs on my iPod:

Interpol - Stella Was a Diver and She's Always Down
Stereophonics - Dakota
Elliot Smith - Ballad of Big Nothing
Arctic Monkeys - 505
Nine Inch Nails - Ringfinger
Sufjan Stevens - Chicago
Modest Mouse - Bukowski
Sparklehorse - Don’t Take My Sunshine Away
New Order - Thieves Like Us
The Smiths - This Charming Man

Alright, to be honest, the first four songs were in order, then things took a turn to the shitter and I completed the "random selection" with some of the better songs I found in the next twenty titles.

VII.

August 25, 2007.

A Revelation.

Less than twenty-four hours before registration, I’m still planning on taking MMUC. But the night before, Sue, myself and the fam’ have dinner plans at this awesome Thai place in town (Typhoon). In the shower before heading off, it hits me: “LANDSTILL NEVER WINS!” I’m mean yeah, given its numbers, it will often make it to the Top 8, but therein it struggles to even survive the quarterfinals.

Going through Anwar’s Historical Top 8 Thread, I confirm that Landstill has never once made it to the finals in any of the serious US tournament since the format was created, let alone won a “Big Event.” (Incidentally, many thanks to Anwar for keeping that thread going.) The decks that win Legacy events, by and large, are/were Goblins, Threshold and combo—generally, hybrid strategies.

In the shower then, I decide to go with something tried, true and familiar: the Bardo Flagship, White-Splash Threshold. I'll bet you didn't see that coming.

VIII.

As much as I appreciate the two-color and Red-Splash versions of the deck, I’m left wondering how these decks can confidently deal with opposing Tarmogoyfs--short of having Spell Snare or tapping one down for a turn with Ice. Otherwise, ‘Goyfs are likely to stand opposite one another, with their x/x+1 stats meaning each will bounce off one another unless someone achieves “’Goyf Advantage.” I might be wrong, but I’ll bet that’s the first time in the history of the English language those thirteen letters have been arranged in that particular order. Nonetheless, I’d feel a lot better having access to Swords to Plowshares to at least gain “’Goyf Parity” (there it is again) in case I fall behind. So, yeah, I want access to Swords to Plowshares.

Also, as I anticipate a few Landstill players at the Batcave, I’m even more drawn to white, where Armageddon is still Threshold’s best weapon against “big mana decks,” if I’m not mistaken. (ZillA later convinces me that Price of Progress is better, a sentiment I can get behind.)

So, watching Scorsese’s The Departed at 1 a.m., I unsleeve Vorosh and put together the following, which is basically the same thing I was playing at the end of May:

White-Splash Threshold
by Bardo

4 Brainstorm
4 Mental Note
4 Serum Visions

4 Force of Will
4 Daze
2 Spell Snare

4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Pithing Needle
1 Engineered Explosives

4 Nimble Mongoose
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Meddling Mage
2 Mystic Enforcer

4 Flooded Strand
2 Polluted Delta
2 Windswept Heath
3 Tropical Island
3 Tundra
2 Island
1 Forest
1 Plains

Sideboard
3 Armageddon
3 Hydroblast
3 Chill
2 Tormod's Crypt
2 Krosan Grip
1 Meddling Mage
1 Pithing Needle

One minor change here is the addition of Enforcer #2 to the maindeck in place of Meddling Mage #4, since the field from last time was ripe for an evasive 6/6. In my last SCG article, I also found myself boarding in that lone Enforcer in the sideboard in almost every game. I don’t want to see him in my opening hand, but I’ll probably want to see one in almost every game I play.

Oh man, when did I last play this deck? As far as I can tell, MattH was the last person I played from Match #10 in the SCG article; but ‘In Real Life’ opponents? Damn, I think the last time I played this deck with real cards was against Don (“AngryTroll,”) when I swept that tournament at the ill-fated Mana Curve in Beaverton in July of ‘06. So, I haven’t taken this deck out in public in more than a year? Shit.

 IX.

Before setting out for the tournament, I rummage one last time in my bag of Super Secret Technology and make some last minute changes for the anticipated metagame:

-1 Island (APAC, Red: Hong Kong)
-1 Island (APAC, Clear: Singapore)
-1 Forest (Beta)
-1 Plains (APAC, Clear: China)
+2 Island (Unglued)
+1 Forest (Unglued)
+1 Plains (Unglued)

That should do it.

X.

I arrive at the site in time to register my list and play some Ms. Pacman, getting a respectable high score, which--I discover later--Volt will crush.

Seventeen players show, which is enough for four (or five?) Swiss rounds and then a Top 8.

Round 1: Justin with U/W Control (maindeck Counter-Top)

Game 1.
I win the roll and make my first tournament play in a long time: Windswept Heath. Justin leads with a dual into Diving Top; the following turn I Needle the thing. Shackles threatens to gum up the board, but I find my other Needle, a brief counter-war ensues, but Daze wins the day.

I eventually resolve Meddling Magi on “Swords to Plowshares” and “Wrath of God” and win the game with my Invitational wizards and a 6/7 Tarmogoyf (the first of many today).

The only damage I took this game was all self-inflicted, three fetchlands and a Force.

Sideboarding, I take out some combination of StP and Daze for ‘Geddons, Grips and Needle #3.

Game 2.
Our second game begins promisingly with my turn 2 4/5 Tarmogoyf. When Justin is at nine life, I resolve Mystic Enforcer with the hope of “combo-ing out,” i.e. Enforcer + Armageddon. Then an unfortunate series of plays ensues: Justin finds a Seal of Cleansing to disenchant another Needle on Top, Enlighten Tutors for Control Magic, kills the the Needle, activates the Top, steals my Enforcer and proceeds to beat me bloody with it. I draw the Force one turn too late.

Game 3.
Again, Justin leads with another Diving Top, I Needle it, but as our last game proceeds,  I play too conservatively with my fetchlands, fetching a basic Plains to avoid Wasteland, when my hand accumulates an awesome pile of green cards but no green mana. In my haste to finish the match on time, I did a very poor job of randomizing my deck, and after this match, I was always careful to pile shuffle. Anyway, a dozen turns go by and I can’t find any mana and we unintentionally draw when we realize there’s no way for either of us to win in the time remaining.

1-1-1
1-1-1 (cumulative, games)
0-0-1 (cumulative, matches)

Round 2: Randy with U/W Control (no Counter-Top that I saw)

My Round Two is nearly the polar opposite of Round One. Game one is over very quickly, with a Meddling Mage chanting against “Wrath of God” and a thresh’d Mongoose. His life total: 19, 18, 15, 10, 5/concede.

In our second game, I drop a quick Mongoose, resolve Armageddon on turn 4 or 5, which instantly gives the Mongoose threshold, who then goes on to clobber my opponent bloody. My opponent fails to recover in time and this match is over in 10-15 minutes.

2-0
3-1-1 (cumulative, games)
1-0-1 (cumulative, matches)

With time to spare, I walked across the street to a dingy biker bar, wherein I sipped a tall gin & tonic, wrote up my match notes, and made use of their restroom facilities which was too grim to recall, let alone commit to words.

Round 3: Brent with U/B/g Psychatog

If I could replay any match from the day, this would be the one—a real heart-breaker.

Game 1.
The match starts off ominously with me mulling to five. From my poorly written notes, I think I kept a hand of Tropical Island, Mental Note, Daze, Mental Note, Nimble Mongoose.

I get Brent down to five life and am one or two turns from winning the thing, when his Berserked Tog takes me out from 18 life.

Game 2.
In our second game, a 3/3 Mongoose and 6/7 Tarmogoyf make short work of him. I have no notes and the life totals tell a tale of carnage.

Game 3.
This was the most painful game of the tournament. For one, I savagely mismanaged my fetchlands as I ended the game with double StP in hand, but no white mana, where my life total indicates three fetchland activations (one Tundra may have been hit with a Wasteland). In any case, I am again poised to win, having just hit Brent’s graveyard with a Tormod’s Crypt and looking at a weenie Tog when I’m at twelve life. A Shackle’d Tarmogoyf had hit me for four earlier in the game, but I found a Grip for it.

Within striking distance, and only a couple of cards in his ‘yard to feed Mr. Tog, I keep swinging with my 6/7 Tarmogoyf, reasonably sure that nothing ugly will happen. As it plays out, Justin topdecks Intuition, which fetches AK, which puts enough cards between his hand and yard to attack for lethal. Man, oh man, I can’t believe I lost this one. Still, Brent was a gentleman and a cool guy--I wish him well for the rest of the tournament.

Looking back, the correct play was to sit back with my Tarmogoyf as a blocker, waiting to draw a land that produced white man for StP. In this case, I erred on the side of aggression and lost because of it.

1-2
4-3-1 (cumulative, games)
1-1-1 (cumulative, matches)

At this point, things are bad, but they could be worse. I’ve been having a good time and I just need to win my next two matches to make Top 8.
 
Round 4: James with Sligh

Game 1.
James’ life total this game: 20, 17, 13, 7, 3, -7. Mystic Enforcer wins the day before James could accumulate a critical mass of burn. He also gripes about his useless Prices of Progress when he looks at my board and sees my only land as those four Unglued basics.

Sideboarding, I bring in Chills and Hydroblasts for some combination of StP, Pithing Needle and Daze; James tells me he’s boarding ten cards against me and I warn him not turn his deck into a pile of crap in an effort to hate mine.

Game 2.
Again, I begin beating down aggressively, drop a Chill, and Hydroblast anything otherwise annoying. Out of cards, at six life and looking at seven power of creatures on my side of the board, James rips his last topdeck, jumps out of his chair, slams down Ensnaring Bridge and yells at the top of his lungs:

“YEAH MOTHERFUCKER, YEAH!!!”

(Well, it was something to that effect, if someone’s knows the exact quote, feel free to post it.) While clearly unsporting, I took no personal offense to his “enthusiasm” and was happy he wasn’t given a warning or anything.

I congratulate him on his good luck while staring at the Engineered Explosives in my hand. I only have blue and green mana available, but I find Chill #2 in short order and draw a Polluted Delta to fetch a Tundra about three turns later. I blow up the Bridge and send in the army.

2-0
6-3-1 (cumulative, games)
2-1-1 (cumulative, matches)

Round 5: Brett (LinkXwing with 4c Landstill)

These games, I just get clobbered, pure and simple. Brett draw a bazillion cards off Fact and broken Standstills, produces a never-ending stream of removal and beats me to a pulp with Monastery monks.

So far as I can tell, beating 4c Landstill with Threshold is like beating Goblins: do it quick or you won’t do it at all; the late game really favors the control deck here.

There is of course Plan B, Armageddon, which is basically an auto-win, assuming you can get it to resolve. In our second game, my two efforts to do so fail and that is that.

0-2
6-5-1 (cumulative, games)
2-2-1 (cumulative, matches)

The drive home was simply gorgeous. There are just summer nights, usually only a handful of them every year, which are just stunning. I suppose it’s because the summer is winding down and the nights are getting colder (it got down to 40 degrees F last night, I think) as the season are about to change. But the ride home and the time spent walking my dogs later was really sublime: “Good to be alive weather,” I call it.

So that’s my story. I left just as the Top 8 was being announced and was happy that Volt, playing White Thresh, was undefeated by that point, and that the Tog player that beat me earlier was also making the cut.

Obligatory Props & Slops.

Props:

- Chris (Volt) for helping to organize the event and sharing his yummie French fries when my body was sick of health food and needed grease.

- Engineered Explosives, how I love thee.

Slops:

- That filthy fucking toilet across the street (creepier than anything seen in Trainspotting).

- Frogboy, for failing to show.

Doppeltes Slops:

- GodzillA, for not showing after I had written an awesome Epilogue, which I shall share anyway.


XI. Epilogue.

Then a fight broke out in the parking lot. ZillA took a nasty gunshot wound to the gut and bled out in my backseat going over the I-5 bridge. What a fucking pussy. I dropped his body off with a longshoreman I knew from my time in the Merchant Marines, where it was burned with rubbish from Gresham.

Selah.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2007, 08:39:25 pm by Bardo » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2007, 06:41:29 pm »

Welcome back old man Razz
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