Monday, June 16, 2014

How to 2-1 a VMA 8-4 with U/R control

Vintage masters is a very exciting format.  It has stirred the drafting juices like nothing I can think of since modern masters.  I think the largest reason is the sheer depth of the format.  For whatever reason, wotc seems to think that saddling expert and core set releases with unplayable garbage is a good thing for it is "skill testing." Balderdash.  While I understand that "these cards are not for me" (I'm looking at you, ephara's radiance!) the number of unplayables that each color gets in these more common sets is very dispiriting.  When you get the pack you cracked back and your faced with a complete sea of garbage, that feels bad, but for some reason WotC seems to care less about that feel bad moment than they do the feel bad amount of having your land destroyed, your creature killed, or your spell countered.

Tangent aside, I've been doing fairly well with vintage masters: certainly better than I have with traditional expansions.  I really relish the chance to play with powerful spells, and bringing decks with a few decent creatures and many very effective spells has been proving effective.  Presenting: u/r control:

Powerful removal spells, a busted card advantage engine, and a few powerful finishers: everything I want in a control deck.  I find myself taking the cycling lands higher and higher as the depth of the format allows me to more reasonably wheel playable cards.  Certainly the velocity afforded by the cycle lands helped me consistently draw into the action of my deck - a very low-cost flood insurance policy indeed.

Round 1 I played against a mono-black aggro deck, a challenge indeed.  A choking sands slowed me down sufficiently in round 1 that I just lost.  In game 2, I stabilized at 1 life, just barely.  At 1 life, he attacked me with a death's-head buzzard and putrid imp.  In response, I cast starstorm with x=1.  I thought I had made a terrible mistake as he proceeded to discard two or three cards to make putrid imp a 2/2.  However, I was saved as his death's head buzzard proceeded to finish the 2/2 off with it's death trigger!  I never expected that my own "misplay" would prompt my opponent to misplay so badly, but with this sudden turn of events I was able to turn the game around.  While at 1 life, I was able to play a thread and hold up counterspell in the event that he would draw a burn spell off the top, and removal in case he played anything else.

Round 2 I played against white weenie, and the true power of my deck emerged.  In the screenshot below I was able to get so much value off of starfall and rescind that I felt truly dirty.  Starfall managed to nab 4 creatures, spark spray nabbed a fifth, and then rescind bounced a mistmoon griffin that he had loaded up with first empyrial armor, then a brilliant halo.

In the next game he led off with skullclamp, a very scary card indeed.  I felt a pit in my stomach as I was certain it was the very skullclamp I had passed for a kindle. Would I be finished off by my failure to hatedraft?

No way!  Timely instant removal blunted the impact of skullclamp in the very early turns, leaving him with just a benalish trapper: a poor skullclamp target indeed.  Seeing that his one creature was defensive, I decided to turn the screws to him by becoming the beatdown.  Prophetic bolt turned the race in my favor in a very card-friendly way, and once I had him on the defensive a simple counterspell was all I needed to ensure victory.  The might FTK helped too, certainly.

Sadly, my opponent in round 3 declined the split, and I found myself getting out card-advantaged by a blue-green goodstuff deck.  While future sight is a powerful draw engine, it got countersinked while his own fact or fiction resolved while I hadn't yet drawn into my counterspells.  I perhaps made a too-clever play by using aftershock to remove what appeared to be his own red source, but it would have been better served smiting his 8/8 realm seekers that he laid down the following turn.  An 8/8 was simply too large to handle and I found myself chump-blocking to death.

Still, I was happy with the strategy, my only regret not playing 18 lands in the main.  With 3 actual counterspells, I wanted more blue mana in every game 1.  Adding an island after sideboarding while taking out something mediocre definitely helped my consistency while the lonely sandbars served to help with flood issues.  Another surprise hit was spark spray.  There are a surprisingly large number of x-1s in the format, and if you come up against a deck where it has no targets, you're not down all that much because it can help you find your actual answer cards.

Good luck to you in your own drafts, and let me know if you have had similar success with control in this format.  Aggro is currently the most popular strategy, it seems to me, and I'll be curious to see if the meta evolves such that it becomes less popular.

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