RPTQ gone wrong, Nebraska’s War gone right

Art by Franz Vohwinkel.

After an unsuccessful tryout on RPTQ in Prague, where I went 2-5, there was a big modern tournament scheduled for early December in Italy (Nebraska’s War 3.0), and our playgroup was set for a trip, looking to play some Magic and hope for the best.

Speaking of RPTQ, it was an interesting (and awesome) experience, despite my poor result. Anyhow, if I ever qualify for another RPTQ, I’ll probably try to play the metagame more. This time around, I somehow skipped on Kitchen Finks and Zoo hate in the board, both a big enemy of Goblin decks, and it ended up a bad decision (I played Atarka Goblins, something like this, and we could argue it’s a bad deck). The only match-up that I won during the RPTQ was two rounds versus infect, whom I beat 2 to 0 in games. Well, mainboard Mogg Fanatic just loves infect.

Caption of RPTQ venue.
Caption of RPTQ venue.

Nebraska’s War hosted two modern tournaments, and like always, I wielded my (Jund) Goblins (similar to this list, I honestly changed only a card or two in the sideboard) for the first event. It started off great, winning against UWR Control, UR Storm and Affinity (first game was crazy, I closed it out in turn 3 with three Goblin Grenades for an overkill). However, it went downstairs after that, as I was paired with Abzan, Naya Zoo and KnightFall CoCo Zoo, losing against all three and dropping out at 3-3.

SCMFor the second event, I was eager to try Skred Red, and luckily, vendors had 15 Snow-Covered Mountains that I needed to somewhat complete the deck. I was still missing some pieces, but had enough to construct a playable and relatively competitive mono-red control deck. So, here is what I picked up, sleeved and practiced against my playgroup (thanks!) long into the night, which gave me a feel for the deck and helped me in some of the games. People, it’s good to practice with the deck you intend to bring to the table at the tournament. (Yes, that is obvious).

Nebraska's War 3.0 - Modern #2 (Camaiore, Italy, 7th of December 2015) - Top4 out of ~ 170

Creatures (11)
Boros Reckoner
Thunderbreak Regent
Stormbreath Dragon
Thundermaw Hellkite
Simian Spirit Guide

Planeswalkers (4)
Koth of the Hammer
Chandra, Pyromaster

Artifacts (7)
Pyrite Spellbomb
Relic of Progenitus

Spells (15)
Lightning Bolt
Skred
Anger of the Gods
Volcanic Fallout
Pyroclasm
Blood Moon
Lands (23)
Scrying Sheets
22 Snow-Covered Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Guttural Response
Rending Volley
Anger of the Gods
Spellskite
Molten Rain
Shatterstorm
Smash to Smithereens
Batterskull
Dragon’s Claw

I modeled the deck based on the decklist that made Day 2 on Grand Prix Pittsburgh. So, we were missing one Koth of the Hammer, which was replaced by Chandra, Pyromaster, and one Pyrite Spellbomb. I went with four mainboard sweepers, including Anger of the Gods for those pesky Finks and Voices, and used what creature base I owned or got a hold of (thanks Jovo!). Sideboard was decent, Batterskull (thanks moneydrek) took away one game by itself, while Molten Rain is always fun to play, and it’s ability to hit basic lands is great in Blood Moon lock. Speaking of which, Turn 2 Blood Moon proved to be indeed a game-changer on more than one occasion.

Tournament started and in Round 1, my opponent was playing Ad Nauseam, which is said to be a relatively bad match-up (or so they say in the primer), and indeed I felt helpless when he went off. Lacking enchantment removal, and since I was not packing Ratchet Bomb or anything alike, Spellskite was not enough, and neither were the Molten Rains. He sided out many of the artifacts, so he blanked some of my removal, and I believe I won game 2 only because he accidentally milled himself with Spoils by naming a card that he sided out (well, he named Pentad Prism, and had one in play, but sided others out). It was funny, to say the least. Anyhow, I lost the match despite that misplay.

Start was not great, but I had fun playing Skred Red (or Big Red, as one of my opponent said) and was eager to play some more. Round 2 pairings were published and in no time, I was sitting across a UR Twin player that walked right into my Pyrite Spellbomb (that I casted turn 1) + Lightning Bolt trap to deny his Turn 4 combo. He later said he thought it was a Nihil Spellbomb, not really sure why (it’s a Skred Red deck). Nothing spectacular happened, I ended up taking the series 2 to 0 and bagged my first official win with SkRed.

Thundermaw Hellkite

Round 3 was a big test for my deck, but I somehow managed to squeeze a 2 to 0 victory. Creatures in this deck are so resistant that it costed my opponent a Searing Blaze, Lightning Bolt and 6 life to dispose of Thunderbreak Regent (I took 3 to the dome as well). Early removal, nice sweeper (Pyroclasm caught two Goblin Guides) and hard beater is the way to go. Ironically, it was Thundermaw Hellkite that sealed the deal in game 2, presenting a 3-turn clock (any other 4-power beater would allow the burn player to get another draw, and he already flopped on one draw step – I was on 3 life, to illustrate the context).

Next up, I played against Bant Aggro in Round 4, or so he claimed. Both games, it was bolt/skred the bird/noble into Blood Moon, locking him out of a white source and ending the game with ease. When people talked and wrote about Blood Moon giving free wins, this was it. 2 to 0 in games, and 3 – 1 in matches.

Similarly to the previous match, Round 5 against Naya Zoo ended fast in my favor. No Blood Moon lock this time, but early removal with sweepers to back it up did it’s job, and I didn’t drop below 16 life in neither of the games. Same score, 4 – 1.

So, now comes my inexperience. Round 6, Game 1, I’m on the play. Snow-Land, Relic, go. Opponent plays Verdant Catacombs, passes. I play another land, pass right back. He doesn’t fetch, plays another catacombs, and nods. I crack the Relic, draw a card, draw another one. Thinking about Thunderbreak Regent (I had a Simian Spirit Guide in hand), but I am afraid of Liliana, so I play Blood Moon. In response, he fetches, and cycles a creature (Living End). Oh shit. Yep, I lost game 1. Now that I knew what’s up, it was action time. Game 2 goes smoothly, game 3 I mulligan to 6 with two Relics in hand, auto-keep and yes, auto-win. 2 to 1 after blind Relic activation, but the result to my name said 5 wins and 1 loss.

Now the most “what is happening I’m just here playing some MTG and having fun with my friends” moment in the whole tournament. Because they stopped announcing the start of the rounds (really really don’t know why, but ok), I was almost late for Round 7. I arrive and to my surprise, the guy sitting in front of me recognizes me, we played in the Top8 of PPTQ in Udine earlier this year. We say hi and start with game preps, and along comes the judge (or TO) and asks us if we mind playing a feature match on the stream. We both say why not, and here I was, doing all the misplays but still winning 2 to 0. Skred Red is smarter than me was my joke after watching the VODs (part 1 and part 2). Please be gentle, I promise I’ll try to learn from my mistakes THIS TIME AROUND.

On a more serious note, after seven rounds of play, I was at 6 – 1 with decent tie-breakers (the Ad Nauseam guy was also playing on the top tables, but I believe he didn’t make the top8), so we ID’ed with my Round 8 opponent in hope of making the cut. It was a good decision, as we both made it. I was seeded 7th, while the guy we ID’ed ended up 8th. Hurray!

Scrying Sheets

So, another Top8 on the Italian ground, I thought. Last time this happened, I took away the PPTQ (which was my first and the only notable result by far). I felt like this is some kind of a story that I’ve made up when I was a kid playing Magic and Pokemon, either trying to impress peers, or just daydreaming. I find it funny, to be honest, as Magic is a hobby for me. Not that I don’t wish to do well, or that I don’t want to have a BYE on GP (I have yet to attend one, ha ha), but you know, it’s a collectible card game, and in a World of “real life”, it’s similar to e-sports – it sounds cool, but it’s a lottery. You are better of getting a degree or just working. Bear in mind that I’m an awful speculator and usually buy cards right before they drop, so that might not be for me as well. However, in a game of Magic: the Gathering, even more so than in electronic sports, I would say that sometimes, it’s the deck, sometimes, it’s the metagame, and othertimes, it’s the pilot. This was probably not the latter case. A combination of the current metagame, (un)popularity of Skred Red (people usually don’t play against it much, quite a few don’t know how the deck works, and many will read your cards) and some basic luck did it’s job. More or less the same as it happened on that PPTQ I won – metagame was not prepared, I used a focused decks that requires specific hate (and draws), and had my share of luck. But frankly, who cares, I was in the Top8 and I was excited.

In the Quarterfinals, my opponent was on the play, and he played Jund. Game 1 his two goyfs and Ooze put me in a difficult position, since I couldn’t hit the fourth land so my Skred didn’t trade with goyfs 1-for-1. He had too much and I was down 0 to 1. Yet, like many times before, I used the force (thanks Obi-Wan) to summon the most red-energy-blast-power-whatever I could and BAAAAM!, Superfriends (Koth) and Batterskull-equipped-Regent took the second game.

Koth of the Hammer

But Game 3.. that was something. In fact, it was so scary that I had to use a new paragraph for it. He starts and is in the control during the early and midgame, I barely keep up with him. What followed were a few turns of good decisions, decent plays and excellent (near mint) draws, followed by a huge misplay and a win nonetheless. He had Bob, I get Chandra. He attacks with Treetop (I have 4 life), I just drew a bolt turn before. Later on, I slam Koth and start chipping. I even ulti’ed Koth of the Koth of the Koth of the Koth and instead of playing it out nice and slowly, I push the clock with Thunderbreak Regent, which he removes and gets in the spot with an out that I just gave him. Needless to say, he doesn’t draw it and I take the series 2 to 1. Man, those misplays are so scary, I almost threw a win. I hope to finally learn something from my past mistakes. I’m getting bored with this “learning” and “next time.. bullshoes”. Focus!

When we were only four remaining in the tournament, before the semi-finals, we had a brief discussion and as most of the guys were ready to split, we did just that. It’s a rather unspectacular finish, but it was probably the best decision for all involved.

All in all, I had a blast. Lucky or not, I crawled from 0 – 1 to 6 – 1 and ID’ed into the Top8. A big shout-out to my playgroup (this wouldn’t be possible without you all) and fellow Magic players in Slovenia (too bad we didn’t do well on this years WMC, but Japan is fighting!), and of course all Goblins players in past, present and future formats (we da best). Either way, Red is the best color in Magic, alright? What are you looking at? And Lightning Bolt is probably the best card ever printed. You know, Ancestral Recall doesn’t go to the face, and neither does Black Lotus. I could maybe even argue and not be too wrong saying that Lightning Bolt is the card that won the most games in the history of Magic: the Gathering. So why not play it? I sure do, and I’m lovin’ it.

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