I think a lot about what happened in Paris yesterday. I also think that thinking or praying isn't enough. Is there something that you can actually do, if even at a micro level, to help someone or change things for the better?
The $12,257 we've collected for MSF of course wont create world peace alone. But it will help a lot more than $0 would. Everything is pretty fucked up right now. I'm glad to be around people who cares about changing it for the better rather than scream for more blood.
I'm going back down now to our casual realm of card games. Today we have a special treat from one of the top techers and good guys in the format, I give the word to our own Felipe Garcia. Enjoy :) /Mg out
A couple of weeks ago the BSK gaming convention was held in the Swedish city of Borås. The yearly BSK oldschool tournament at the site attracted 55 players. Six rounds of swiss and a top 8 gave us a Hall of Fame champion: Olle Råde.
I played Time Vault combo for the second time after the last n00bcon tournament and placed 10th, missing the top 8 on a close game based on some unfortunate misplays.
I am going to talk a little about the deck here as it has caused some curiosity among opponents and because I think combo is a bit underdeveloped in the current 93/94 meta. The list is somehow self explanatory but I will go through it a little just to clarify its goal and go a deeper into some of its synergies.
The deck's goal is to develop mana and play some card drawing accelerators on the first few turns, preparing the ground for a chain of extra turns out of the Time Vault-Twiddle combination. This must be done with some caution depending of the opponent's strategy. I will go deeper on how to play it against the current archetypes further down on this article.
The mana base is focussed on blue producing lands and mana accelerators. Among them the Mana Vault is of extreme importance as it helps us to lower our life down to an optimal Mirror exchange point and trades through transmute artifact into Howling Mines or combo pieces.
The defense block is prepared to fight against our most feared enemy: The Deck. The maindeck Red Elemental Blast is for both counter fights and to remove our own Stasis. The Power Sink is extremely valuable as we will often have more mana than the opponent. For optimal value it must be played on opponents turn to tap out his mana preparing for a more comfortable combo turn. The Hurkyl's Recall is a tech choice which has proved to be critical in my recent games. Against control the usual play is as follows: at the end of a turn in which a Mishra's Factory attacked you, you cast Hurkyl's backed up with Power Sink and they will usually lose a land drop, bounce up some mana producing artifacts and subsequently discard some of those cards. Hurkyl's Recall is extremely powerful in the current meta due to lots of deck which run four Jayemdae Tome and 4 Fellwar Stone. They also work very well in combination with Timetwister, Balance and Wheel of Fortune. On top of that, they also won some matches without the Mirror combo just bouncing a couple of Mana Vaults and moxes for a lethal 20 points Fireball.
On the card advantage there are not too many things to clarify. We could only point out the importance of the Sylvan Library which helps you at drawing, searching and lowering your life total. The ability to shuffle the library through Transmute Artifact help you search for the cards needed any specific situation. I have also tried it in combination with Bazaar of Baghdad and it has proven really useful. I finally cut the Bazaar because it was somehow a "win-more" card and didn't really help in tight situations.
For the combo itself I would advise a lot of practising, because even when you have two Howling Mines and a Sylvan Library on the table it can be a little tricky. Before using Twiddles on the Vault we normally want to maximize the effect of the extra turns by playing as many Mines as possible. Remember to use wisely the shuffling ability of Transmute Artifact. The deck can take infinite turns with the Regrowth/Timetwister combination but remember that Recall is a one time use card so use it carefully.
The lone Stasis can be used as another Time Walk in this deck in combination with Time Vault, giving us some more time to gather our combo pieces and lock opponent down for a few turns. Never play it just on top of some howling mines because you need some protection and a way to minimize its effect on yourself (REB or Time Vault). Another techy card is Reconstruction. This card is awesome in combination with Mana Vault and Transmute Artifact, as it allows us to reach ridiculous amounts of mana with Black Lotus. Perfect before a draw7 or an Amnesia.
Strategy against the current meta decks:
Playing against Control
Against control decks we only have to focus on their mana. There is no Force of Will in 93/94 which is crucial for us. They can have a full hand with Library of Alexandria, Jayemdae and two Factories in play, but if they are out of blue mana during our turn they are dead anyway. Sylvan Library is extremely useful in this matchup because it allows us to do a lot of different tricks. They are very slow on lowering our life so we can take advantage of its -4 ability two or three times without worries. I always try to keep a Demonic Tutor or a draw7 on top without drawing it in order to have a chance of recovery after a big Mind Twist. In this matchup we have to be very cautious casting Howling Mines before comboing because a Time Walk-Regrowth-Time Walk from their side would be critical.
The strategy here is to gather some defense, develop mana and use their end step to eventually tap them out through Hurkyl's and Power Sink.
Playing against Aggro
I will divide aggro in two groups, the one with Disenchants and the one with burn. Against the first group we have to play fast and try to bait out some Disenchants on your early howling mines. Try to wait or force them to tap out before comboing off. Against the burn group, it is usually easier. It is similar to the control matchup in the sense of mana counting, but in this case instead of counting blue mana for counters, we should count red mana for instant speed burn spells. On top of that I usually run some copies of Fog which is a one green mana Time Walk against aggro decks.
Playing against Combo
I haven't had the chance to play against many combo decks in 93/94 tournaments apart from Enchantress or Lands Edge. On those matches I noticed that we can be a little bit more explosive than them so we could wait until the optimal spot without exposing our pieces or strategy. The deck can disguise itself as some kind of control until it finds the spot to finish the enemy from full life without giving them the chance to have another turn.
There is one card to be feared over all the rest which is Underworld Dreams. Save counters and sideboard the 4 disenchant in that case. Other annoying threats like Black Vise or Copper Tablet are much more easily to answer with Hurkyl's Recall.
A short example from BSK
Second match in the swiss against Icelander (finalist in the 57 player n00bcon 7 tournament).
Icelander plays a heavy control version of The deck with Factories as the main win condition. I begin with a hand with very little defense so I decide to go full throttle from the beginning so I play land, mox and Howling Mine, hoping to not face a Time Walk soon from his side.
He answer with some mana accelerators and a Mind Twist to make me discard my whole hand. At least he is tapped out, I thought. On the following turns I play the rest of my three Howling Mines as he develops his mana sources with Fellwar Stones and Factories. He was sitting on some counters and decided to let the Howling Mines resolve as he was taking advantage of them. Finally I gathered some defense and when he tapped out for a big threat I played Hurkyl's Recall on his step which would have bounced seven artifacts and two factories. He fought the counter-fight over the Hurkyls', depleting his mana and rendering him helpless for my following turn when I could take seven extra turns in a row drawing 7 cards each turn.
On this tournament I played a transformation sideboard and sidedboarded out the combo to convert the deck into a full control version. He opened with Library of Alexandria and I answered with two Mana Vaults and a lethal Mind Twist which lock him down with the help of a transmuted Disrupting Scepter.
Finally I want to take the chance to speak a little bit more generally about our game. Unfortunately I won't be able to visit Nebraska's War tournament in Italy, so I will miss the great opportunity of meeting Richard Garfield in person. Nevertheless I want to say here what I would like to tell him in person. The game he created is great in many aspects. In my case I would like to point out that in my process of adapting to a new culture and country, the game has proven to be a wonderful communication tool. Sometimes we use clichés when we meet people from abroad which obstacle a fair understanding. Magic the Gathering creates a frame of communication and instant friendship which "exiles" automatically all those barriers that our minds create between people.
Adding "The gathering" to the game's name could have never been as accurate.