knew weeks in advance that I was going to play in the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Edison, NJ that took place this past weekend. I just had no idea what I was going to play. While covering Pro Tour Paris I was keeping two eyes peeled for interesting decks; one for potential deck techs and the other for 75 card lists I might want to adapt for one of my few chances a year to play in a competitive Standard event.
Last week I did an interview with Shahar Shenhar, who played a Blue-Red-Green deck with Precursor Golem, and his deck was definitely one of the builds I liked as the California player went 8-1-1 with it. On the other hand, with so many players running Divine Offering and Nature's Claim in the wake of Caw-Blade's success, I was nervous about the Golem being well positioned for Edison.
I loved both takes of Tezzeret that we featured in Paris, whether it was the Grixis-y goodness of the Chapin/Matignon version or the Kuldotha Forgemastery of Martin Juza's build. I tinkered around on Magic Online for a couple of weeks with a blue-black version at was more control deck than anything else but kept running afoul of the same two things: a certain pair of Swords being wielded by a certain quartet of Hawks.
There were plenty of players from all over the country visiting the tri-state area in advance of the tournament and most of them were saying that I should just play whatever the most recent version of Caw-Blade turned out to be but I was loathe to get involved in mirror match after mirror match and be at a dramatic disadvantage in terms of preparation. Throughout all of this I kept wanting to play a version of Mike Flores's green-blue Genesis Wave deck, but the threat of Sword of Body and Mind kept the deck buried deeper on the bench than the tenth man in Mike D'Antoni's rotation.
As I mentioned earlier, there were a plethora of players from all over the country in town and Steve Sadin spearheaded an effort to make sure that they all had a chance to experience the joy that is the pastrami from Katz's Delicatessen on the Thursday before the tournament. There were around three dozen Magic players there. Out-of-towners included MTGMom.com's Megan Holland, Gerry Thompson, AJ Sacher, Drew Levin, Patrick Sullivan, and more players than I can recall. Local players included the aforementioned Steve Sadin, Matt Boccio, Ben Hayes, Matt Ferrando, Seth Burn, Josh Jacobson, and 2010 Magic Online World Championship competitor Bing Luke.
Bing is a New Yorker and I have interviewed him in my column a couple of times, but this was the first time I had an opportunity to spend any time with him in this time zone. We ended up at the same table and talked at length about Standard. Bing was planning on playing Valakut with some modifications that included playing with at least one copy of Wall of Tanglecord. As Bing explained it, the Wall would ramp your Overgrown Battlements and all but clip the wings of the Sword-wielding Hawks. It was exactly the card I had been looking for in green-blue Genesis Wave, and I immediately texted Flores for his updates to the deck.
At this point Mike was set on playing Pyromancer Ascension and thought I should do the same—his head was not in the green-blue list he had pioneered and I needed a way to get him thinking about it. Conley Woods had taken a "land death" version of the list to the finals of a StarCityGames.com Standard Open a few weeks back and that seemed like a fine starting point, but instead I told Mike I was working from an Adam Koska list on Magic.TCGPlayer.com that eschewed Primeval Titan and played Clone. Most importantly, it contained a statement by the author that said he was not sure who had originally advocated such a deck.
With Mike's ego sufficiently bruised (and his deckbuilding sensibilities offended by the absence of Primeval Titan), I was able to get his attention long enough for us to hammer out the following list:
Brian David-Marshall's Titanic Wave
Standard – StarCityGames.com Open in Edison, NJ
I fired up Magic Online on Friday and began testing against just about every deck you can possibly imagine for Standard. Other than Vampires, I did well against everything and began to understand the sequencing of the deck. One of the reasons Mike was so "surprised" by the lack of Primeval Titan in Koska's list was that the card is basically your last accelerator before you start casting Genesis Wave. It is not uncommon for the deck to play a turn-three Primeval Titan and then cast Genesis Wave for six on the fourth turn. You even get to go three cards deeper into your deck—via Halimar Depths—to find either the ninth mana source or the Wave itself. It is literally the engine that gets the deck going and I cannot imagine this deck existing without it.
It was a week of amazing food; perhaps we were all storing up for a long weekend in a convention center with cellophane-wrapped muffins and paper plates of chicken fingers and undercooked fries. Earlier in the week Steve Sadin, Zvi Mowshowitz, and I, all BBQ veterans, introduced Megan Holland, Ben Hayes, and Gerry Thompson to the joys of Hill Country and the IceBox cake of Billy's Bakery followed by Katz's the next day.
On Friday morning with my deck recipe settled I needed to make cookies. I had promised homemade cookies to Rashad Miller for reasons lost to the mists of time and I decided to make my Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies. Megan Holland, in her role as tournament Magic's den mother, usually gives away cupcakes at most events she attends, but away from her cooking equipment she took the extra few dozen cookies not being consumed by Rashad and gave them away instead.
Brian David-Marshall's Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Preheat oven to 350. Melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat and set aside to cool. Beat together the eggs and sugar. Add the espresso and vanilla extract. Then add the cooled chocolate and butter mixture. Add the flour and mix until it incorporated. Add the cherries. Glop out tablespoons of the dough onto a silicone mat or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Remove cookies with a spatula and let them cool on a wire rack.
Later that evening I went to see the Knicks vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers with Mike, Steve, AJ Sacher, and Seth Burn (who was subbing in for Patrick Sullivan), but we don't really need to talk about that game. At least Mike was happy—I guess. I did manage to whammy Mike one more time, though. After the game we had intended to go to the so-called lucky curry place that Mike and I had gone to prior to qualifying for Nationals last year, but they were closed. Instead we went to Bon Chon Chicken, which is a Korean Fried Chicken place that is pretty much without par when it comes to bird parts fried in oil.
While there I checked in on Facebook and tagged the rest of our party as well. Later that night, Mike found out about the check-in when his lovely wife Katherine growled, "Fried chicken at midnight?" from what he thought was a sound sleep.
With several days of amazing food, one crappy basketball game, good times with people from out of town, and six dozen cookies in tow, it was finally time to play some Magic. When I finally got to the tournament site and got my cards (huge thanks to Luis "Not Vargas" Nieman for loaning me the non-Jace, nonland, non-Wave portions of the deck!) there were close to 600 players signed up for the event, which meant ten rounds of play.
I only had three copies of Jace and had to borrow the fourth. Ben Hayes procured one for me through local player Josh Harris. Of course as soon as pairings for round one went up I was facing Josh, who jokingly asked for his Jace back. Josh was playing a Caw-Blade deck, and he got in some early beats but his life total went 20, 14, scoop as I hit him with a Primeval Titan and followed up with enough of a Genesis Wave to lock down his white sources with Frost Titans and make sure he could not cast Day of Judgment the following turn. Josh mulliganed multiple times in Game 2 and I compounded that with turn three and four Acidic Slimes on his mana.
In the second round I faced Matthew Bowes, who was playing a White Weenie deck with Knight Exemplar. I took Game 1, although I am pretty sure Matthew would have won had he not cast Day of Judgment. He cast turn-two Honor the Pure, turn-three Mirran Crusader, and then enchanted the Crusader with Armored Ascension on turn four. I had cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor the turn before the Aura, and he promptly killed the planeswalker. I was able to stave off the Crusader for one turn with Wall of Tanglecord, but it was threatening to eat me up in 14-point chunks on the next turn. I played out all my mana creatures and hoped for a wave or Frost Titan. Nervous about me having access to ten or more mana on the next turn, Matthew cast Day of Judgment, and I recovered more quickly than he did.
He took the next game on the back of multiple Knight Exemplars and what seemed like a full week's worth of Day of Judgment, but I took the third game with sideboarded Tumble Magnets, Frost Titan, and an eventual Genesis Wave for thirteen cards.
My Round 3 opponent was Vipin Chackonal playing blue-black control. In Game 1 he tapped out to Jace my Jace, and I was able to cast Primeval Titan to load up on Tectonic Edges. While I still had my Titan I was able to use three Edges at the same time on 75% of his mana base. In Game 2 he led off with Inquisition of Kozilek and saw two Joraga Treespeakers and two Overgrown Battlements. He took a Treespeaker, which made it seem to me like he was holding a spot removal spell. I cast my remaining Treespeaker but cast Battlements on turn two instead of trying to level up the Elf and cast the Wall. He had been sitting on Go for the Throat, but he was not able to keep me off of mana for a fourth-turn Titan, and I was quickly 3-0.
The fourth round was a painful reminder of how hard it is to play Magic in a tournament setting. There had been a significant delay prior to the start of the third round and it was already well into the afternoon when I squared off against Jacob Padulsky and his Boros deck. The two of us split the first two games—he attacked past my defenses with a timely Hero of Oxid Ridge in Game 1, and I got off a huge Wave in Game 2. I double mulliganed to start Game 3 and was quickly facing off against a pair of Mirran Crusaders. Jacob had stumbled out of the gate as well, and while he had a Steppe Lynx and a pair of Plated Geopedes, they did not pull their weight and I was able to climb back into the game with Primeval Titan and Tumble Magnet.
Coming down to the final turns of the game Jacob drew and cast Squadron Hawk and had all four Hawks on the battlefield two turns later. Earlier in the turn he attacked with two of them and one Mirran Cruasder and then asked if he could take back one of the attacking Hawks, and for some reason I let him. I was immediately angry at myself for letting him take back an attack when it was clearly too late—and one that would have left me at 1 life. He was at 3 with three Squadron Hawks, two Plated Geopedes, and one Mirran Crusader back to block.
I managed to compound the error of letting him take back his attack by mentally adjusting his life total back up 1 point instead of mine. I had two counters left on a Tumble Magnet at the end of his turn and tapped his Crusader. I had cast Joraga Treespeaker the turn previous and if I had just untapped, tapped one of his blockers, and swung with 6 points of trample and my one-drop I could get in those critical 3 points. For some reason convinced myself that it needed to be 4 points to win and conceded instead.
There are so many things I could have done differently. First of all I should have eaten something and had a bottle of water after the long delay. I should have verbally confirmed life totals and made sure they were written down correctly. Finally I should have not conceded a game with the win on the table. I should have stared at the board until I could see what was obviously in front of me but instead I was so disheartened from the double mulligan to start the game and the willingness to let my opponent take something back after the window for such things had closed that I defeated myself.
I lost the following round to Clayton Carroll playing a very interesting green-blue poison deck with Distortion Strike and Vines of Vastwood. I think he won on turn three in Game 1 and got me in a close Game 2 past a pair of Tumble Magnets thanks to Vines again. With two losses I was knocked out of any shot of making the Top 8, but a Top 16 finish was still possible and I wanted to not walk away from the experience with a bitter taste from Round 4 still in my mouth.
I found myself facing one of my worst matchups in Round 6 when I played against Ross Hisert and his Kuldotha Red deck. I double mulliganed again and when my on-the-play opponent attacked me with a turn-one Goblin Guide I was ready to sign up for the four-player Commander queues. I managed to stabilize with walls and Jace and eventually his little red men could not find a path around two Titans.
In Game 2 Ross crushed me with a first-turn Kuldotha Rebirth and second-turn Goblin Bushwhacker. Ross whittled me down in Game 3 with another first-turn Kuldotha Rebirth but no Bushwhacker this time. I ended up using Jace, the Mind Sculptor to bounce tokens and abundant Walls to hide behind before a huge turn that saw me Genesis Wave for thirteen cards with two Lotus Cobras in play and another Wave in hand. I did not get much from my first wave but the follow-up Wave for twenty-one—on that same turn—was enough to take down the match.
I got to play against Bing Luke the next round in a Wall of Tanglecord mirror match. I was not sure how my deck would fare against Valakut, but it turns out that Spreading Seas and Tectonic Edge with Acidic Slimes after board are pretty good against them. More importantly, the trump of Frost Titan over Primeval Titan is pretty huge.
I won the last three rounds playing against two Caw-Blade decks—played by Jonathan Ma and Anthony Miller—sandwiched around a match-up against Paulo Cesari's Valakut list. I honestly had no idea how strong the green-blue Genesis Wave deck would be against Caw-Blade, but it was quite a favorable match-up for the deck with all the mana denial between the main deck and sideboard. My notes for the last three rounds are quite spotty as my energy level was fading pretty quickly; it was well into the evening by that point.
When the dust settled from the event I was in 21st place with an 8-2 record. I was angry with myself for my misplay early in the day but was very pleased with the deck. The one main-deck Wall of Tanglecords did a lot of work for me throughout the rounds. Whether it was holding back Hawks and Swords, Mirran Crusaders, or ramping my Battlements I was very happy with the card choice. I had been concerned about Day of Judgment coming into the tournament but any one Titan is usually enough to force a sweeper, and if that Titan happens to be green you can usually cast Genesis wave the following turn—just like Mike drew it up in the locker room.
One of the key things to learn with the deck is what lands to get with your Primeval Titan. I almost always got a Halimar Depths, but sometimes you want to pair it with a fetch land for more card selection. Sometimes you want a Plant token to blunt your opponent's attack, and Tectonic Edge is almost never a bad choice. I would definitely play the deck again if I was going to Memphis this weekend but I am off to PAX East instead for some more casual Magic experiences. I will be taking part in a Commander Panel on Friday and playing in plenty of MiniMaster and Commander events whenever I get the chance. After that I will get back to the business of covering Magic events from the Grand Prix in Kobe.