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Author Topic: Report playing elves  (Read 1126 times)
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« on: December 22, 2015, 05:01:56 pm »

This is the report of a tournament. It's meant to teach something, at least to me. Don't expect a beautiful reading, I'm not the best writer in the world and I'm not really fluent in English, but I'll try to make this as readable as possible.

The tournament was placed the 28th of November, at Mana Infinito (in Barcelona). It was the eleventh and final tournament of the Vintage Catalan League (LCV), and since I already had earned a spot but couldn't get to the top positions, the points for the league weren't really important. But this report starts several months before, maybe even more.

I acquired my P9 (vault instead twister) just 2 years ago. Since then I have played some powered builds, few times doomsday and most of the time some salvagers build. I enjoy bomberman since it has several lines of play, can switch easily from control to combo or even win the aggro way. But before getting the power, I played this vintage league for about 5 years, mostly with budget decks. I started with Rogues, quickly switched to Merfolks + faeries, diverse red based builds, and finally Elves. I managed to make some tops with merfolks and monored, but couldn't with elves and I had a thorn on me.

Lately I had been willing to try a non-salvagers deck and after different ideas I decided that I wanted to give elves a try. I really thought they were good positioned in the current meta, among mentors and mud. While mentor is a solid control deck that can go off really quickly with a mentor in play, elves should be more explosive, and I wanted a list with some resilience so I could overcome lots of removal. Against mud I really think elves has a good chance, based on the fact that elves can generate a lot of mana, costs are cheap and while first match can be tough if we face an early golem, post side it should be way easier, especially since chalice was restricted.

This is the list I sleeved:

4 elvish archdruid
4 priest of titania
4 elvish visionary
4 nettle sentinel
3 heritage druid
3 elvish mystic
3 fyndhorn elves
2 llanowar elves
3 wirewood symbiote
1 quirion ranger
1 craterhoof behemoth
1 emrakul, the aeon's torn

3 umbral mantle
1 staff of domination

3 glimpse of nature
2 summoner's pact
1 genesis wave

1 black lotus
1 mox emerald
1 mana crypt
9 forest
4 cavern of souls

So I met Marcel on the train and we go for the tournament. We go for a coffee with other participants and I finish my sideboard there, as usual, since I like to decide last cards depending on the faces I see before the tournament. If I don't see dredge players, or there is a lack of mud players, my sideboard can change some cards.

LESSON 1: Have a defined 75 card list already prepared before the tournament. If you really want to have sideboard influenced by the rest of attendance, bear the changes well prepared previously, don't leave that to final inspiration. You are going to play more games with sideboard than without, so it's really important.

Finally my sideboard was this:

2 dosan the falling leaf
4 pithing needle
2 grafdigger's cage
2 null rod
3 reclamation sage
2 nature's claim

Pairings are announced and I have to face Rubén González. I put him on a gush deck. He had been a regular player, but last years he has been living abroad and we see him from time to time. He is one of the most skilled players in our league, with fast play. I win the dice and we keep our hands. I open quite aggressively and after some counter magic to my first threats, I manage to play a genesis wave for GGG + 7, bringing a umbral mantle into battlefield and some mana to untap a priest/archdruid with enough elves to combo. Hell yeah, this works! In the second match he mulligans but nevertheless plays T1 lotus, mentor, mox, preordain or top and a land. Next turn two more spells and he strikes for 10, GG. In the third match I open with lotus and land into double llanowar (one was mistepped) and visionary, while he keeps a hand without lands but he plays demonic tutor. Next turn I play pact aggressively looking for an heritage druid, and I tap three elves to play archdruid. Unluckily for me on his turn he plays swords and then Yawgmoth's will into swords again, killing two elves. I cannot pay for the pact, and I lose.

Speak little. Do much.

In that third match maybe I shouldn't had played the pact, much less without a clear path to win. However I had just 1 llanowar, 1 land and visionary in play, with an archdruid in hand so I felt I had to go for it.

LESSON 2: Measure the risks. There are plays that can win or lose the games, and it requires lot of practice and testing to identify the correct play. As a rule of thumb, play aggressively when you will close the game, or face an imminent death, but don't throw yourself into the abyss when the reward is low and you are not in a bad shape.

It's ok, one loss it's not determinant. I won first game, lost second to a busted start and then kept an subpar hand that brought me to a fatal end. I can do better, and I really think so when I see my next pairing, Pablo Ambrojo. It's not that he is a bad player at all, he has won lots of tournaments and is MUCH better than me, but I suppose he is playing slaver or mud and I really believe elves have the edge. Let's see if the green men can overcome his better skill.

I win the dice again, and despite I have to mulligan to 6, I quickly get a little swarm of creatures. However I cannot find any combo or finisher, while he assembles sword of the meek + thopter foundry several turns later. I have few turns to overcome the situation but I draw blank after blank and die to the flying menace. I side in some artifact hate and keep a decent hand, but on his first two turns he plays key + vault with protection for my pithing and sage and I lose. In fact he could have won in turn 1 using mana crypt, but he preferred to wait one turn to be safe.

The key did not work on a single lock, yet it opened many doors.

LESSON 3: Vintage is full of fast combos. We are playing the most powerful cards ever printed. Play the best cards, or have a decent plan against people who do. If not, don't complaint when other players crush you. 

Now I am 0-2, commonly known as "Ornithopter", and my possibilities of reaching top are nearly 0. But we have come here to play, haven't we? So let's keep playing. My next opponent is Miquel Alcoriza, probably the player with more league points since I play vintage. He has won leagues and finals, and my first bomberman deck was a copy of his. However we sit and he announces that I just won, since he has probably the slowest deck among all, and I'm heavily favored. I ask him to sign a 2-1 win for me, but he declines and we have to play.

I even win the dice again and I start in a quick way, just as elves should do. However I keep drawing lands and mana elves but no gas again. He plays a crucible and I'm not worried at all since I have more than 10 mana in play between elves and lands. I get him to 7, while he plays some filtering for... balance. He wastes 2 of his lands to destroy 3 of my lands, my 5 creatures and takes a card from my hand in the process. So it's a 5 for 9, but since he has the crucible in play it's even worse. After that I'm still in the game, but he has removal for my next elves and I'm out soon after.

LESSON 4: It's good to win quickly. However it's not wise to overcommit against a heavy control deck. That time it was balance, but it could have been another mass removal, and I was not going to win in the next turn unless I had drawn a bomb. Learn to read the game and play the cards when you have to. Often is a good idea to wait for the right moment.

So I start next match too. I'm still confident I can win the round, I just need to draw my evasive bombs. I keep a decent hand, but with only one land. I open with a forest an a mana elf. The elf gets mistepped and the forest stripped on his turn. By the time I draw the second forest he's way ahead from me and I cannot make it.

Unlike previous conflicts, the war between Urza and Mishra made Dominia itself a casualty of war.

Shouldn’t I have kept my hand? This deck does not work at 100% with just 1 mana, but it can do lots of things, and I had 2 mana sources by turn 1. If unanswered, I'd had been able to play priest of titania or play elvish visionary. Even with just 1 mana I could have play another elf. I would keep the same hand again.

I have lost third round pretty fast and I some time to have lunch (we never stop for lunch in this shop so must go fast between rounds) and other player, José Romero, comes with me. While we eat something fast he tells me he is also 0-3, but he has attended less tournaments than me and needs the points in order to be among top 32 players of the league, which concedes access to the final. I tell him that I'd concede to him in case we are paired, and it would be probable because of our total lack of points.

However I have to face Alberto Manchado (aka Baku). He plays more legacy but he sometimes also pays a visit to us. I win the dice for 4th time in a row, we both mulligan, and quickly see I'm facing dredge. I attack him to 17 and then to 10 since again I have lots of elves but no combo, but next turn he overwhelms me with the famous artist "Flame kin and his zombies". I put all the sideboard I can and he starts with bazaar although dredging really slow. I early realize what I should have known: pithing needles and grafdigger's cage die to all dredge counterhate. I mean all. So for another time in the game I have at least half a dozen creatures into play but I'm going to lose after drawing blanks. However, in my last turn before dying I draw Craterhoof from the top. Wow. Of course I have lots of mana to pay for it and lots of creatures to attack so I win in the spot. The third match does not go so well for me: despite he is also dredging slowly and I keep drawing pithings and cages, he always has the chewer or the claim. I think I am really low on mana and I lose after several turns.

Elemental are ideas given form. This one is the idea of "smashitude".

LESSON 5: Understand hate cards. It's not the same to play pithing needle or cage in a bomberman deck, with mental misstep and other countermagic to protect them, than to play them in Elves!. Ravenous trap, Surgical extraction, or even a Tormod's crypt would have been much better against Dredge. It's nice to have cards useful in several pairings, but in this case they weren't. Probably in this match it wouldn't have changed anything (I was drawing bad again and I was far from winning the game), but choosing the right hate cards wins rounds.

I suppose I now will get the bye, since I have 0 points and we are odd, but I have to play against José Romero, playing mentors. We sit and I tell him that the three points are for him, but let's give him the opportunity to earn them. I'm again confident I can win, since he is having a bad day and last time I won our match. For the first time in the tournament, I lose the dice he and starts. He is all the time in control, swords a couple of my elves and overwhelms me with mentor soon after. The second match is really similar, he just need to connect twice to win the game. I didn't attack anytime in this round or were able to combo at any moment.

The smallest seed of regret can bloom into redemption.

And then the sixth round. Now I'm sure I'm getting the bye, but it goes to a my rival of second round and I have to face a player with 6 points. I ask if it's an error but the referee says it's normal and I have to play Raul Roso, a tough Mud player. It won't be easy, but if I can stay out of revokers and explosive starts, I'm ok. However he wins the dice and I have to mulligan, and he wins after ravager plus triskelion blow my little green men. Ok, it was a real possibility, but after sideboard I expect to do better. I mulligan again, but I can play early glimpse and despite it's not enough to win, I play enough creatures and start beating. When he's only at 4 he topdecks Wurmcoil engine and I have a problem. He strikes once, twice, and I'm at 4. And then, I draw wirewood symbiote, and coupled with a reclamation sage I can stabilize and win turns later. For the final match I again get some creatures and can make lot of mana, but he has the fatties and I'm not drawing the artifact hate. I try to survive until I draw any relevant, but the four chained elvish visionaries do not bring anything relevant and he wins being at 42 life.

Why do bad things always come in three?. -Grouf, expedition survivor

I pissed this match with my sideboarding strategy. I put in the null rods, since triskelion destroys me and other cards hurt too. So I took 2 mantles and the staff out. Because of that I also sided some archdruids out. And probably 1 or 2 glimpses, since any sphere makes it really hard to go off. At the end, I had much less chances to combo, and if I had troubles all day finding the bombs, it got much worse with half of them out.

Lesson 6: Don't break your deck with sideboard changes. Choosing cards to take out of the deck when sideboarding is often hard, but keep in mind not only the opponent's deck, but yours. It could be ok to remove the combo of the deck, but only if the aggro or the control plan is better, and this was probably not the case.

So this was my tournament report. Normally reports talk about great performances, innovative decks, awesome plays, famous tournaments... but not this one. This was a punch in my face from reality, a mix of bad deck design, bad plays and in my honest opinion, bad draws. I build the deck slower than a typical elves deck, but with lots of *bombs*, and when goldfishing it proved quite resilient. Now I can tell that the tournament proved otherwise.

I just hope some of you have enjoyed the reading, and have learnt something. But more important, I hope I have learnt something. See you next time folks.

- I love to play vintage and lose.
- Play vintage and lose? What about playing vintage and win?
- Win should be awesome...

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« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2015, 02:48:07 pm »

Great report!  I enjoyed reading about your adventures with an uncommon deck.  Very refreshing!!!
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Shalom Aleichem

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« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2015, 11:43:11 am »

I really enjoyed the report/Tutorial. Although you didnt succeed in taking down the tournament, you are much wiser. Thank you for writing this. Better mulligans next time  Wink

Colossians 2:2,3
 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, both of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
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« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2015, 02:05:22 pm »

Thank you guys! I was commited to do something better, with some images and more explanations, but at the end I realized this was not a really interesting topic and kept it simple and as easy to read as I could. If one day I'm able to win a tournament, I'll try to write something better Smile
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