The Best Weekend of the Year Part 3

By Henry Moore

For the previous parts of this article check here Part 1 and Part 2

The Conclusion!

Before I start first let me say - because I’m shamelessly still writing this 3-4 weeks out from Nationals - congratulations to all of the NZers who played in PT Philly. It was great to see you all get to day two, and especially good to see Jason make 36th. Seeing New Zealanders do well makes me excited about Magic, and gives me the drive to play more and try harder to make my own run at a pro tour. Anyway, speaking of trying to get to pro tours…

Nationals weekend had not been kind to me so far. I couldn’t seem to get anywhere really. The Sunday Nationals PTQ is a classic, filled with the temporarily disenfranchised players, looking to salvage something from their weekend and remind them why they still played Magic. I was one of these players. Without further ado, I’ll give you my decklist from that tournament. It’s been a while since I’ve put one in an article, and I know how some of you love decklists: 

Deck: RUG Splinter Pod - Henry Moore
4Birds of Paradise4Pyroclasm
4Overgrown Battlement3Manaleak
2Spellskite2Obstinate Baloth
1Phantasmal Image2Nature’s Claim
4Deceiver Exarch1Wurmcoil Engine
1Sea Gate Oracle1Consecrated Sphinx
1Sylvok Replica1Master Thief
2Solemn Simulacrum1Spellskite
1Molten-Tail Masticore
1Acidic Slime
1Urabrask the Hidden
1Frost Titan
1Inferno Titan
3Birthing Pod
4Splinter Twin
4Scalding Tarn
4Misty Rainforest
4Copperline Gorge
2Raging Ravine
2Halimar Depths
 Display Deck Statistics

This deck is so good, but it is very hard to play. I still get it wrong sometimes, and I’ve played it a LOT. Don’t ask me about the Preordain/Ponder split, because I have no idea if it’s right. Ponder is better when you have shuffle effects, but Preordain is better in the late game. I honestly don’t know if I should have a 4-1 split, or if 3-2 is fine, or if I should have more Preordain. If someone can give me a definitive argument either way, I’m all ears. Otherwise, the ugly 3-2 will probably stay there until Preordain rotates.

The Sylvok Replica maindeck was something that some guy and I had talked about, and recent PT pro Jason Chung was on board too (if that isn’t enough for you Jason, I don’t know what is). It was really good: I highly recommend it. It was something you could pod-up to keep your opponent from Deceiver-comboing you when you didn’t have the mana or cards to keep up Masticore, and it was also a maindeck out to cards like Torpor Orb (if they happened to be playing it maindeck, grumble grumble) and Spellskite. It also kills Birthing Pod, Sword of Feast and Famine, etc etc.

I really like the Sea Gate Oracle; it lets you can go from two to six with Pod while gaining value all the way. I cut one of the 1-drop spells for it, which I’m still not sure about, but the Oracle was good for me in all the tournaments, so I would probably still play it.

Masticore is nuts, play it in this deck before you question it.

The split between Frost Titan and Inferno Titan is there because I just don’t think two Frost Titan is right. Inferno Titan gets you out of spots Frosty can’t, and vice versa. Frosty is average vs Cawblade, red and vampires, while Inferno is awesome in those matchups. Frosty is really good in the mirror and vs. Valakut, and Inferno is awful in those matchups. I don’t see the benefit of having two of one and zero of the other.

I really wish you could play fewer than four Splinter Twin, but I just don’t think you can. Even though I ALWAYS draw three plus Splinter Twin and nothing else, the benefit of just being able to combo game one is worth it. If I did play three (which would be the number if it weren’t four), I’d think seriously about adding the fourth Birthing Pod. The danger with that is, while drawing two Splinter Twin is an acceptable risk (since you can just win when you draw both pieces of the combo), drawing two Birthing Pod is rarely good, and it usually ends up sitting in your hand for the entire game. It does let you pod up the chain quite quickly in a very long game, but in games that long you’re likely to draw multiple Pods anyway. I mean obviously someone can kill your Pod and make you look silly for playing only three, but if they’re killing my Pods I’m normally pretty happy because my hand is stacked with Splinter Twins which they no longer have the card for.


Another card that I’ve thought about adding is Cunning Sparkmage. Sparkmage seems really good against Tempered Steel and Cawblade, since against the Blade they can’t equip a guy if you have Sparky up, and it kills almost every creature in the Tempered Steel deck. I really want to fit one into the maindeck, but I don’t know what to cut. Maybe Seagate Oracle isn’t good enough and I’m just too stuck on how much I like the card. If I want to Pod up the chain while gaining value, Sparkmage still does that. I guess I like drawing cards too much. I don’t like that Sparkmage                                                                                  doesn’t combo with Pyroclasm out of the board, but maybe that’s fine. If you play a turn two Pyroclasm then a turn                                                                         three Sparkmage that, seems pretty good.

I think the sideboard is nuts. The Pyroclasm are really good, and so are the Claims and the Mana Leak. I could be convinced to change the Wurmcoil Engine and one of the Obstinate Baloth to something else, but I want cards that cover mono-red and vampires, and I think they’re just the best. Consecrated Sphinx, Master Thief and Spellskite are awesome in the right matchups. As Zen would say, ‘the literal stone-cold nuts’.

 On to the tournament! When I turned up, some guy was still trying to win Nationals, and I think Dave was there somewhere? I feel like he wasn’t in the PTQ, but I don’t know why I think that. Maybe because he was playing the 2HG later that day. Anyway, I sat away from everyone to write out my list. When your decklist has about a million one-ofs, you want to concentrate! As an aside, I made sure to leave my Nationals playmat at home, since it reminded me that I had bombed out the previous day, and for some reason I feel that using your Nationals play-mat at Nationals side events is just asking to be on the bad side of variance. I’m sure it didn’t affect you at all though, Connor ;).

Round One -  I played against Nigel Wootton who had a vampires deck. He asked me to concede since he was from Christchurch, and we all know how much of a hard time they’re having down there at the moment. Sadly I’m a terrible person and wouldn’t do so. I was almost ready to after the inspiring speech from Rob Teirny, but alas, not today. Game one he played a typical vampires game, slamming down a bunch of dudes and beating me around the head with them. I couldn’t really keep up, and he basically just goldfished. Games two and three were a different story however. I don’t think Nigel saw Pyroclasm coming, which was really good for me. I managed to get great value out of it most times I cast it, and ended up winning with Splinter Twin on an Inferno Titan (both games, actually :P).

I brought in four Pyroclasm, the two Obstinate Baloths and the Wurmcoil Engine for this matchup. I took out the four Birds, the Masticore, a Solemn and the Frost Titan. I figure Birds are going to get Snap Bolted or Arc Trailed or whatever vs vampires, and they die to my own Pyroclasm. Drawing them seems like a liability, so they get cut. Masticore and Frost Titan are a bit slow, and basically all I’m doing is taking out two 4s and a 6 for two 4s and a 6…if that makes sense.

Round Two - I played Matt Rogers who had Matt Griffin’s RUG pod deck. This deck is a spicy brew, and full of one-ofs like all good Griffin brews are. I don’t really want to give away what it does, since that wouldn’t be fair, but luckily for me I had some inside information and knew what to play around. I beat up Matt in game one by playing the classic Pod game, capping out with Frost Titan and getting in there. In game two I made the AWFUL mistake of sideboarding out my Phantasmal Image, and I think that could have cost me that game. Matt ended up winning the match when my hand in game three didn’t really develop and he was able to leverage my slow draw.

Again, I don’t want to spoil Matt’s fun, so I won’t say how I sideboarded here. If either of them want to do an article about this deck, that’s up to them (by the way, that would be sweet. I would read that. But only if Matt Griffin wrote it, obv).

Round Three - I played Jacques Van Eden, Auckland’s resident Tempered Steel expert. Jacques even commented on Tempered Steel before the match,

hopefully tricking me so that I wouldn’t see the monoblack control deck that he had coming! This match was interesting, since I hadn’t played against monoblack before. I know I lost one of the games and won the other two. One win involved Jacques being light on land, which let me land a Frost Titan and keep him off the mana to Doom Blade and pay the two kicker required. The other win came at the cost of six permanents the turn before the end of the game, since I had to attack my Inferno Titan straight into a Phyrexian Obliterator!

I honestly don’t remember how I sideboarded for this match, but you’re definitely bringing in the Mana Leak, the Spellskite, the Consecrated Sphinx and probably the Master Thief (he had Spellskites, otherwise I wouldn’t). You probably take out a combination of some of the bad Pod targets, something like the Inferno Titan who is awful against Obliterator and the Urabrask the Hidden. The Phantasmal Image gets targeted by his whole deck, so it’s pretty bad. Maybe I also took out some of the mana men.


Round Four - I played Jason Hoe, another Auckland player who always puts on a certain deck. Jason is a lover of mono-red, and he didn’t disappoint. These games were close, and the match came down to an interesting situation where Jason could have killed my Masticore, which could have won him the game. I say could because in doing so he would have had to spend additional resources, and I’m not sure that he would have had enough to put me away quickly enough after he offed my man. Anyway, there were some stacking shenanigans going on, and Jason made a slight mistake around regeneration, otherwise he may have been able to get me. Either way, this was a tight matchup.

I sideboard this matchup similar to vampires, except I also brought in the Spellskite and took out the Acidic Slime.

Round Five - I played against Chris Miller. Chris was playing the creature-heavy version of Cawblade, which is a matchup I quite like. They’re more likely to draw hands that don’t interact with your combo than regular Cawblade, which is nice. Chris wasn’t familiar with his deck, from what I gather his friend had just handed it to him, and nor was he familiar with my deck or what it did. Needless to say, this was quite beneficial to me. I was able to combo him in both games because he didn’t know to make me play around Dismember etc.

You want to bring in Nature’s Claim, Master Thief, Consecrated Sphinx and the Mana Leak. The Red Titan is much better in this matchup, so you axe Frosty. Masticore is a little slow against this version of Cawblade, so he can come out. You also don’t need as many value creatures, since they don’t have as many removal spells and you want to just combo them. So a Solemn can come out, and probably the Seagate.

Round Six - I played against Douglas Millar. So many millers…millars. Ok they’re not the same. Anyway, Doug is another man who is always the beatdown. He had brought a mono-red deck to the table, and we had a really good match. It ended up going to game three, which was very close. Basically I needed to deal with his Koth of the Hammer, but if he had anything to stop me from killing it with combat damage (like the Dismembers I know he had), I was dead. I could leave my men back, but that doesn’t really get me anywhere since it just gives him more time to draw more burn. In the end, Doug played well and got paid off with a burn spell off the top to make his sequence of plays pay off. I’m not saying he got lucky, I’m just saying he got me. I also want to apologise for accusing him of slow-rolling me. He was 100% correct to keep back his last burn spell in game one till I tapped out to play around Mana Leak. In my mind, you don’t have to worry about it since the list doesn’t have them till after sideboarding, but Doug doesn’t necessarily know that, so making the play he did is much better.

So I was at 4-2, and feeling pretty gutted. 4-2 is NOT a score you want to be on if you plan on going deep at a PTQ. However, this particular tournament had exactly 65 players (thanks Chris Bewley <3), so was 7 rounds long. Being just over the cusp of 64, the standings work out well for at least one 5-2 to make it in. Having nothing better to do, and feeling like I was playing well (not to mention there was only one round of swiss left anyway), I played on in the hopes of being that one.

In the final swiss round, I played a man playing UW tempered steel. I’ve commented before how good this matchup is for RUG Pod, and this round showcased that well. It was even better for me because my opponent was playing a slower more mid-range version with Preordain and Spell Pierce. These are good cards, but Tempered Steel is really only good in my opinion when it is as fast as possible. You can’t afford to have your hand cluttered up with Ajani Goldmane (yes, I’ve seen this played in Tempered Steel), the White Shrine, Preordain etc. While they might give you some late game, the truth is that other decks have far better late-game, and you’re not going to win if your opponent can get there. I won this match (I love Inferno Titan), and all that was left to do was cross my fingers and hope to make it in!

The sideboard cards for this matchup are so good. You get to bring in Pyroclasm, Nature’s Claim and Master Thief. I normally take out the Birds, the Frost Titan, one of the Solemns and the Urabrask.

My breakers were pretty insane thanks to both of my losses making it all the way to the top eight and some good performances from my other opponents, so luckily I made it in! I did something for this tournament that I’ve never done before, and while I think it DID help, I don’t think it really helped as much as preparing for the tournament in advance. I’ll come back to this later. Anyway, I made the top eight! Yay me! My quarterfinals was against Matt Rogers, time for some revenge…

I won game one by having more mana guys and a Birthing Pod, so I quickly ran him over with a bunch of dorks. Game two I managed to resolve a Consecrated Sphinx, and I drew a whole lot of cards and basically couldn’t lose. It was a brutal match and quite quick. I think there was only two games, it’s possible there were three but I honestly can’t remember. Before this match, I took the time to go away and think carefully about how I would sideboard, asking for advice and generally taking about the matchup and important cards. I know this helped me in this match, because Matt’s deck was such a strange concoction that getting the sideboarding right was difficult. You can’t always prepare for every matchup (especially if it’s something you don’t expect!) so taking the time during the tournament to write out how you would sideboard given a certain match-up is definitely something that can help you out. I also did this for other potential matchups in the top eight, including Digby’s mono-blue control deck and the Bant-Pod deck which was in there too. While I didn’t end up playing them, taking the time to just think about the matchup and write out a sideboard plan on the fly is still worth it, I think.

In the semis, I played Jay Lamont playing elves. Despite the fact that this was obviously my revenge matchup where I was obviously going to win because he crushed me out of Nationals the previous day, I was also pretty sure that this matchup was really good due to Pyroclasm out of the board. I was basically correct. Jay absolutely crushed me game one, but both game two and three I drew at least one Pyroclasm, which gave me all the time I needed to either set up for the combo or drop a bunch of huge six drops.

I sideboarded this matchup by again taking out two Birds, the Frost Titan, one of the Solemns and the Urabrask and bringing in four Pyroclasm and the Wurmcoil Engine. This wasn’t correct, but I’ll talk more about this after I talk about the finals.

So, the finals. The short story is, I lost. It was incredibly gutting, especially since I had just beaten an elves deck (Michael was also elves). Here’s the long story: I won game one, which was so awesome. I knew my matchup game one wasn’t great, since he could just run me over with a bunch of elves and there would be nothing I could really do. Luckily I naturally drew the combo and was able to just win on turn four. At this point, I thought I had won the tournament. I was certain that all I needed to do was Pyroclasm away his dudes and just slam Inferno Titans and Wurmcoil Engines.

As it turned out, I was wrong. Game two I did indeed Pyroclasm away his board, twice in fact. I even assembled the combo. I had a feeling that one of his last cards was a Nature’s Claim, and when I showed him the combo he did indeed have it. After that point in the game, I drew a bunch of lands and irrelevant cards, and my opponent eventually ground me down with Ezuri, Renegade Leader. In game three, a similar thing happened, except that I was 100% sure that he had Nature’s Claim, and he had a Spellskite in play as well. I had the combo very early, but I just couldn’t draw any relevant cards to deal with the hate and get the combo off. In the end I believe he dealt me something like sixty-seven damage on turn thirty or thereabouts, and my chance at the Pro Tour was gone.

So, what did I do wrong? Basically, I didn’t respect the matchup. After winning game one, I think I got a little too cocky about it. I had beaten Jay using the sideboard plan of Pyroclasm and a Wurmcoil, and I didn’t have that much trouble with hate cards. So why should I have trouble in this match, especially after winning game one?! In actual fact, I should have been MORE cautious. I had won game one, so why take any chances? I KNEW that my opponent would have at least Nature’s Claim, if not Spellskite out of the sideboard. So why not sideboard in my own Spellskite? Sure, I might have to take out something like a Bird, or a Battlement, but the upside is so much higher if he has a Claim and I have the combo and a Spellskite.

I can forgive myself for not bringing in the Master Thief and the two Nature’s Claim after game one. I didn’t know he had Spellskites and they could have been blanks against a fast deck. However, after seeing Spellskites in game two and knowing that he had Nature’s Claim, I should have gone back to my sideboard. I’m not sure exactly why I didn’t, I think I was too locked in, and just thought “I got unlucky to lose that one, just win game three!” The worst part is, I can clearly remember drawing a Solemn Simulacrum in one game when I had the combo, and if it had been the Master Thief that I would have replaced it with, I would have cast it, stolen his Spellskite (to counter the Nature’s Claim) and won one turn later.

The important lesson to take from this is that sideboarding can’t be static. You have no idea what cards your opponent could be playing, even if it might be ‘matchup X’. I should have thought more carefully about how my opponent was going to win after sideboarding. He would essentially be making his deck slower with 0/4s and Nature’s Claim and hoping to disrupt me while beating me up, so I should have brought in all my counters for his hate. That was his plan, and I should have set my deck up to beat his plan. I normally write out my sideboarding plans before a tournament, but I don’t know if this is what I should be doing. Rather, if I want cues, I should probably just write notes about certain cards and how they play in certain matchups. By doing that, I don’t give myself the crutch of +X cards in, -X cards out, and I have to think about exactly what my opponent is doing.

If you’ve gotten this far down, thanks for paying attention! There are a lot of interesting things coming through at the moment, what with the GP schedule, Planeswalker Points (which I think are awesome) and of course Innistrad Spoilers. I have opinions, as most Magic players do, so I’ll probably put them in writing soon.

Innistrad has some SWEET art.