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Reigniting the Flame

New Zealand Magic Nationals 2011 7th by Dan Bretherton

Hey, I’m Dan Bretherton. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything and after Top 8ing in 2007 and winning Nationals in 2008, it’s safe to say it’s been a while since I’ve put up any results.

In 2008, I had that fire. The confidence, the deck and the belief I could win. I was on the cutting edge of technology with Skred Deck Wins, which went on to win US Nationals and take the world by storm. Ultimately I got lucky and was the last man standing after 15 rounds. Play skill helps, but you have to get lucky to win a major tournament. Since then apart from a Top 8 or two my results have been lacklustre.

Outside of Magic, life has gone on and things have changed, especially my priorities. In the last 18 months I’ve settled down, found a wonderful partner, bought a house in Huntly and welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world.  At the same time, deep down the desire was there. I want to win again. Whether it’s a PTQ, Nationals, a Grand Prix, a Pro Tour, Worlds -  I’m not fussy.

It should be no surprise to those who know me that Red Deck Wins was my deck of choice. After some solid testing, Dave Williams, Kelly Laird and I settled on RDW with inspiration coming from the list Justin Cheung and John Quenoy rocked at Australia Nationals. Anyway here it is: 

Deck: NZ Nationals 2011 - Red Deck Wins
Main Sideboard
4 Goblin Guide 4 Dismember
4 Grim Lavamancer 4 Phyrexian Revoker
4 Goblin Bushwhacker 3 Hero of Oxid Ridge
4 Plated Geopede 2 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Kargan Dragonlord 2 Act of Aggression
4 Lightning Bolt

4 Burst Lightning

4 Incinerate

4 Devastating Summons

2 Arc Trail

4 Teetering Peaks

4 Arid Mesa

4 Scalding Tarn

10 Mountain

60 Cards 15 Cards
 Display Deck Statistics

The list differs a bit from the norm with the Bushwhacker/Summons package and the exclusion of Shrine of Burning Rage. I knew the combo would be great vs. Valakut and the mirror but was a little tentative about it in other match ups. I messaged Justin and he was kind enough to reply in detail.  In a nutshell he reaffirmed what I already thought, that Summons was good versus everything except counterspells and that narrow sideboard cards like Vulshock Refugee and Manic Vandal were no good. I was sold.

                                                                                                                                                  In the hands of Dan Bretherton...Frightning!

Kargan Dragonlord proved his value now he no longer had to pass the Jace test. Arc Trail got the nod over Searing Blaze to free up both sideboard slots and because it was more consistent. After playing against Timely Reinforcements, both Koth and Manabarbs were quickly ditched in favour of Hero of Oxid Ridge. The last change was deciding to run Phyrexian Revoker on theory alone. I’ll include my sideboarding notes and if you have any questions please leave them in the comments below:

RDW - Out: 4 Goblin Guide In: 2 Chandra’s Phoenix and 2 Phyrexian Revoker

Caw Blade – Out: 4 Goblin Bushwhacker, 4 Devastating Summons, 4 Incinerate, 1 Plated Geopede. In: 4 Dismember, 4 Phyrexian Revoker, 3 Hero of Oxid Ridge, 2 Chandra’s Phoenix

Valakut: - Out: 2 Arc Trail. In: 2 Act of Aggression.

Tempered Steel - Out: 4 Goblin Guide In: 4 Dismember.

UR Twin - Out: 4 Goblin Bushwhacker, 4 Devastating Summons, 2 Arc Trail. In: 4 Phyrexian Revoker, 4 Dismember, 2 Act of Aggression.

RUG Twin Pod - Out: 4 Incinerate, 4 Plated Geopede, 2 Arc Trail. In: 4 Phyrexian Revoker, 4 Dismember, 2 Act of Aggression.

UB Control – Out: 2 Arc Trail 4 Devastating Summons In: 2 Chandra’s Phoenix, 2 Act of Aggression, 2 Dismember.

Vampires – Out: 2 Goblin Guide In: 2 Chandra’s Phoenix

Elves – Out: 4 Goblin Guide In: 4 Phyrexian Revoker or 4 Dismember

After Nationals I was happy with the main deck but wasn’t 100% sure on the sideboard. If Caw Blade continues to dominate (Check out US Nationals here –Editor) I would like to try and fit in another Hero of Oxid Ridge and see how Act of Aggression performs in that match up. 

NZ Nationals 2011 

Onto a round by round breakdown:

Round 1 - Mike Zhang - Caw Blade – 1-0:

Smash em bro! Game 1 I went all in with a Devastating Summons for 4 and Game 2 was sealed with a Dismember off the top to kill his freshly played Kor Firewalker. It was great to start off with a win especially vs. Mike, who if you don’t know is probably one of the best UW players in New Zealand.

Round 2 - Jason Chung – Twin Pod – 1-1:

As expected, the “smart” players gravitated towards Caw Blade and Twinpod so it was no surprise to see Jason with Twinpod in hand. Game 1 - He got me with a Splinter Twin’d Frost Titan. It’s a bit scary when their Plan B is better than their Plan A. Game 2 - I got in there with a Summons/Bushwhacker which was quickly nullified by a Pyroclasm. Still, I managed to get there and go on to a drawn out Game 3. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photographic memory when it comes to play by play breakdowns. However I think if I had held onto a Dismember and not played my Act of Aggression straight into his Mana Leak (trust your gut!) I could’ve pulled this one out. In reality Jason got me with an Obstinate Baloth plus Phantasmal Image.

Round 3 - Chris Bewley – UB Tezzeret 2-1:

Chris is a great bloke and all but he didn’t do much this round. I know Chris is writing an article but from my perspective this was a very one sided affair. I played some guys and burned his face. Next!

Draft 1 – I first picked Gideon’s Lawkeeper and although I picked up a late Blood Ogre and Incinerate, the white kept coming including a late Timely Reinforcements 6th-7th pick. I ended up with: 

Deck: NZ Nationals 2011 - Draft One Deck
2 Gideon's Lawkeeper
1 Elite Vanguard
1 Alabaster Mage
2 Armored Warhorse
2 Stormfront Pegasus
2 Griffin Rider
2 Benalish Veteran
3 Assault Griffin
1 Arbalest Elite
1 Peregrine Griffin
1 Stave Off
1 Pacifism
3 Mighty Leap
1 Timely Reinforcements
17 Plains
40 Cards
 Display Deck Statistics

Round 4 - Tony Matthews – UG Jace – 3-1:

Game 1, I gained a ton of life via Alabaster Mage and swiftly sent Jace, Memory Adept packing. Game 2, Tony sat behind a Throne of Empires and didn’t do much else. 1/1 dorks were never go to stop my air force. Tony had a bit of a cry afterwards about my stupid aggro deck and not getting rid of his Ice Cage earlier with Alabaster Mage. Thankfully the rest of my opponents this weekend were chur.

Round 5 - James White – BUW – 4-1:

Hemi Ma, I’m sure if he wasn’t so busy he’d be dominating and if there were a New Zealand Hall of Fame he would be a lock (we’ll leave that for another article). Either way, it was business time. If one moment summed up the weekend for me it was when James questioned me if I was hungry for the win this year and I answered with a resounding yes. Although James’ deck included Sorin’s Thirst, Pacifism, Gideon’s Lawkeeper and Serra Angel he was unable to keep up with my curve and consistency.

Round 6 - Andrew Plinston - RUB Bloodthirst – 5-1:

Andrew was playing Red Bloodthirst splashing Black for Doom Blade and Blue for Merfolk Looter. Game 1 involved me chunking away at his life total with a Griffin Rider and Assault Griffin plus protection. Game 2 didn’t start so well after blocking Goblin Arsonist with Gideon’s Lawkeeper which lead into a Stormblood Berzerker. I got back into the game though, by curving out and finishing with a Mighty Leap.   

Draft 2 – I went all in with a First Pick Overrun. In hindsight this was a misplay: a) I should have taken the Tormented Soul; b) in a more aggressive format where trades are more common it is far from the finisher it used to be; and c) I was dreaming that Green would be under-drafted.  On top of that I had difficulty locking down a secondary colour and ended up playing Rampant Growth main.

Deck: NZ Nationals 2011 - Draft Two Deck
1 Gideon's Lawkeeper
1 Jade Mage
1 Alabaster Mage
2 Runeclaw Bear
1 Lurking Crocodile
1 Benalish Veteran
1 Cudgel Troll
1 Giant Spider
1 Stonehorn Dignitary
1 Stampeding Rhino
2 Greater Basilisk
1 Carnage Wurm
1 Stave Off
2 Plummet
2 Rampant Growth
1 Mighty Leap
2 Arachnus Web
1 Overrun
7 Plains
10 Forest
40 Cards
 Display Deck Statistics

Round 7 - Aaron Sewell - UWr - 6-1:

Game 1 Aaron smashes me with a Great Sword and some dorks. I tried telling Aaron Great Sword was terrible but it was pretty effective vs. double Arachnus Web. Games 2 and 3 I win via Jade Mage. Thankfully Aaron never drew the Mountain he needed to get his Grim Lavamancer online.

After finishing the day 6-1 I’m sitting in 4th and hoping to squeeze another win out of my GW pile. Dave, Kelly and I head back to Megan’s place for an epic roast meal and watch the All Blacks destroy South Africa B.  The standings are posted on Facebook and with some help I’m able to figure out what the top 20 players are playing in Standard. However, an overactive mind and Kelly’s snoring resulted in 4 hours of solid sleep.

Round 8 - Paul Carson – BG - 6-:

Game 1 and with too much blood in my caffeine system Paul dispatched me quickly. Double Plummet couldn’t save me from Rune Scarred Demon and a pair of Grave Diggers. Game 2 was more of the same but finished with a Cemetery Reaper.

Round 9 Max Botkov – UB – 6-3:

The first time I Top 8’d Nationals was result of pile shuffling Max and finding he was only playing 59 cards. Like I said, I was hoping to squeeze out another win. This time Max’s sleeves were worse for wear and I called a judge. Only one card (Merfolk Looter) was deemed to be severely marked and as there was no pattern Max only received a warning. I’m not suggesting Max was cheating but I definitely wasn’t buying his “I just quit my job and can’t afford sleeves” excuse. Anyway, I know Max drafted a UB deck with Royal Assassin, Vengeful Pharaoh and a selection of removal and fliers. Game 1 I did nothing much and he got me. For a card I thought was bordering on unplayable I was surprised how effective Smallpox was for both Max and James. Game 2 I stupidly keep a hand of 5 Lands, Lurking Crocodile and Stampeding Rhino and of course it doesn’t get there. Ah well, I have to win the next two.

Round 10 Jonas Erman – Mono Green Eldrazi/Amulet – 7-3

I was happy when I saw the pairings as I knew what Jonas was playing and expected it to be an easy match up. Game 1 despite a turn 4 Wurmcoil Engine I do the maths and attack for lethal with a bunch of guys and Bushwhacker/Summons. Game 2 more of the same except Amulet is turned off by Phyrexian Revoker and Spellskite offered little more than a speed bump vs. a fully levelled Dragonlord. 

Round 11 Brett Rogers – Red Deck Wins – 8-3:

Except for a brief fling with Kithkin, Brett is as Red as they come and played Boris Dulac’s list from French Nationals Top 8. Thankfully I should have the advantage as Devastating Summons is amazing in the mirror. Game 1 - Bushwhacker/Summons on Turn 3 takes Brett from 18 to 8. During my next attack he casts Act of Aggression and my tokens die but he is left on 4 life and dies soon afterwards. In between games Brett goes to sideboard and with both of us rocking the same Red Deck Box Brett sneaks an unintentional peek at my sideboard. I call a judge and Brett gets a warning. The warning count is soon even when I’m clumsy and flip over a card during my draw step. Game 2 - I’m definitely the beatdown while Brett expends much of his burn trying to keep the board clear. His Shrines do nothing while I attack for the win.

Round 12 Dan McKay – Tempered Steel – 8-3-1:

I’m paired up and with good tiebreakers so I’m grateful to ID and cross my fingers I top 8.

Round 13 – Quarter Final - Andrew Plinston 

So one more win and I’m off to San Francisco. I shake hands with APL and we shuffle up.

Game 1 – Win – I manage to fight through the full squad of hawks and win with a fully levelled Dragonlord. If anyone earned their spot on the team this weekend it was Kargdawg. Onto the sideboarded games:

In: 4 Phyrexian Revoker, 4 Dismember, 3 Hero of Oxid Ridge, 2 Chandra’s Phoenix

Out: 4 Devastating Summons 4 Goblin Bushwhacker 4 Incinerate, 1 Plated Geopede

Game 2 Loss –  Major misplay number one: with a Ratchet Bomb on the board I attack a Phyrexian Revoker into Inkmoth Nexus. I don’t know if this would have affected the outcome of the game but it didn’t help.

Game 3 – Loss – Countered a Timely Reinforcements by Dismembering my only creature but got pecked to death by a party of hawks.

Game 4 – Win – I get a bunch of dudes and rip Hero of Oxid Ridge off the top for the win.

Game 5 – Loss – Major misplay number two: I keep a sketchy one land hand on the draw which means I have to rip land to even play Magic. I get to three lands eventually. Andrew animates Gideon and goes to equip his Sword. I Dismember Gideon and go to finish him off with a Burst Lightning. Andrew seemed puzzled. I read Gideon. Major misplay number three.

And that was it. As you can probably tell I didn’t Top 8 on the back of tight technical play. While I don’t want to focus on the negatives there is a lot to be learnt.  Congratulations to the Top 4 (Luke, Max, Paul and Andrew) and well done to Michael Naisbett for winning the PTQ.

Bonus Deck Tech: Hands down the best brew of the event has to go to James Laycock. There were many stories including Kelly being killed by Fling for over 20 damage! While I’m sure it could do with some tuning I know I wasn’t the only one hoping to avoid this monster: 

Deck: Fresh Meat – James Laycock
4Birds of Paradise3Obstinate Baloth
4Llanowar Elves2Arc Trail
2Viscera Seer3Memoricide
4Bloodthrone Vampire4Nature's Claim
4Nest Invader3Act of Aggression
1Tuktuk the Explorer

4Kozilek's Predator

3Mitotic Slime

2Blade of the Bloodchief


4Fresh Meat

3Garruk Wildspeaker

2Eldrazi Monument

4Copperline Gorge

4Verdant Catacombs

2Raging Ravine



 Display Deck Statistics

Thank you time!

Thank you Dave, Kelly and Jeremy for the practice, without you I would not have been prepared, I hope to share in your victories one day soon.

Thank you Megan for your hospitality and the mean feed.

Thank you Gene for being the boss and doing what you do.

Thank you Justin for helping some random off Facebook, I hope one day to return the favour.

Thank you Richard for the cards, you better be playing next year bro.

Most of all thank you Prudence and Ava, you make me feel like the richest man in the world.  

Thank you for reading, feedback please