After writing about some of my favorite TES Memories I had an itch to play Grapeshot again. I mulled over deck slots, like moving the Bayou to the main deck for the millionth time. I ultimately landed on Massacre. The reason being, according to mtggoldfish.com, Death & Taxes is only 2.86% of the metagame.
Waking up at 5:30am to get to the Tales of Adventure Eternal Extravaganza 4 Satellite event wasn't exactly great. I picked up a few people at our local game store before hitting the road at 6am. We arrived in Coopersburg, PA with roughly half-an-hour before the event started at 10am. I saved some time by printing out my deck list from the web site. At the player's meeting they announced a total of 59 players (Much less than expected) and 7 members of the judge staff (What?).
- 4 Burning Wish
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Ponder
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 4 Cabal Therapy
- 2 Duress
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 1 Ad Nauseam
Round one: Mike Giaimo on Infect
Game one: I win the die roll, Mike sends his hand back for a new six and then reveals them to my Gitaxian Probe: Vision Charm, Brainstorm, Syvlan Library, Invigorate, Pendlehaven and Misty Rainforest. The rest of the turn goes as follows: Lotus Petal, Brainstorm, Badlands, Chrome Mox (Imprint: Cabal Therapy), Rite of Flame, Dark Ritual and Ad Nauseam.
Sideboarding: -1 Empty the Warrens, -1 Chrome Mox, +2 Thoughtseize.
Game two: Mike once again isn't happy with his initial seven and returns them. He plays a Misty Rainforest before passing the turn. I have another turn one in my hand depending on what Mike has in his, I decide to find out with another classic first turn Gitaxian Probe: Grafdigger's Cage, Spell Pierce, Noble Hierarch, Windswept Heath, Windswept Heath and a crop rotation. I am unable to combo through the Spell Pierce and have to pass after I lay my Bloodstained Mire. Mike plays a Windswept Heath, searches for a Tropical Island and then plays Noble Hierarch. I draw, play a Swamp and cast Cabal Therapy (Naming: Spell Pierce). The unknown card is Crop Rotation. I search for Volcanic Island and play Rite of Flame – my opponent does something unexpected in response, he casts Crop Rotation for Bojuka Bog? A very weird time to take this action, but I'm okay with it. Chrome Mox (Imprint: Burning Wish), Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Burning Wish and Empty the Warrens for 18 Goblins. The game doesn't last much longer.
Mike was a nice guy, who fell victim to me having a few pretty good starts.
2-0 | 1-0
Round two: Ross Prajzner on Elves
Ross sits down and was very friendly, definitely a good guy. He mentions that we've played before but it wouldn't have been memorable for me. I tell him that he doesn't seem like someone who plays Islands and if I were to hedge my bets, I think he plays Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. He acts offended, but I could tell it was hollow. I wasn't completely wrong.
Game one: Ross wins the die roll and begins with Bayou into Deathrite Shaman. My first turn is a little more exciting, once again I start off with a Gitaxian Probe revealing: Natural Order, Wirewood Symbiote, Craterhoof Behemoth, Wooded Foothills and a Forest. Underground Sea, Brainstorm, Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Lion's Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish and Tendrils of Agony.
Sideboarding: -2 Duress, -1 Empty the Warrens, +2 Thoughtseize, +1 Grapeshot.
Game two: Ross starts off the second game once again with Bayou into Deathrite Shaman. I play Gitaxian Probe once again (Four games in a row, pretty good, huh?), showing me: Green Suns Zenith, Wirewood Symbiote, Craterhoof Behemoth, Elvish Visionary and another Deathrite Shaman. I follow up with Underground Sea into Ponder (Ad Nauseam, Dark Ritual and a Burning Wish). Keep and draw the Dark Ritual, leaving Ad Nauseam on top. If Ross draws a land, he can Green Suns Zenith for Gaddock Teeg. If that is the scenario, I have Burning Wish in my hand to get Grapeshot on my turn. Ross draws, plays Elvish Visionary, a Forest and another Deathrite Shaman. On my second turn, I draw Ad Nauseam. Play my second land and cast Infernal Tutor revealing Dark Ritual (I do this because I don't need a second Burning Wish). Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual and Ad Nauseam.
I ask Ross if he didn't have Gaddock Teeg in his deck. He responds that he did and he even drew the land for the turn, so the opportunity was there if he wanted it. Be he wanted to build a board presence to kill me faster, before searching for Gaddock Teeg. His rational was that if he just played the Green Suns Zenith, that it's a slow play that gives me plenty of time to answer it. I don't know if I agree, but to each their own.
4-0 | 2-0
Round three: Eli Kassis on UR Delver
Eli and I are no strangers to one another, I watch his match in his last round where he had a Null Rod in play against Death & taxes to slow them down. They had two Aether Vials, an Umezawa's Jitte and Batterskull that weren't so effective. I kept this in mind.
Game one: Eli wins the die roll and plays Volcanic Island into Delver of Secrets. For the fifth game in a row, I have a first turn Gitaxian Probe revealing: Daze, Spell Pierce, Gitaxian Probe, Young Pyromancer and Island. Polluted Delta, search for Badlands. I then cast Chrome Mox (Imprint: Ponder), Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Ponder, Cabal Therapy (Naming: Daze), Lion's Eye Diamond, Burning Wish, Empty the Warrens for 18. Flashback Cabal Therapy (Naming: Young Pyromancer).
Sideboarding: -1 Chrome Mox, -4 Ponder, +1 Bayou, +4 Abrupt Decay.
Game two: Eli has a Scalding Tarn in play before he motions for me to take my turn. For once, I don't have a Gitaxian Probe on the first turn! I play a Bloodstained Mire and pass. Our next two turns look like this. On turn three, Eli fetches twice, plays Wasteland and casts a Null Rod leaving a Volcanic Island untapped. I have the Abrupt Decay in my hand already, but am still missing the "Tutor Effect" to kill him. I draw for turn, it's Burning Wish! I play an Underground Sea and pass. Eli plays Delver of Secrets, then passes. I search for Bayou and Abrupt Decay targeting Null Rod. Eli destroys my Bayou on his end step as well. I untap, draw and am ready to go! I've been sitting on a Brainstorm, cast it. Drawing a pair of Gitaxian Probe and a Lotus Petal. Put back a pair of Chrome Mox and then shuffle them away. Cast Gitaxian Probe, revealing: Daze, Daze, Daze, Brainstorm, Brainstorm and a Lightning Bolt. With only two lands in play, one of which is tapped.
I think for a moment, I decide that I'm going to get him to float mana with his Dazes then enter my attack step. Forcing him to use his Brainstorm. After which, I can see what he has in his hand with the second Gitaxian Probe. My plan went perfectly! I cast Rite of Flame, Eli casts Daze, I pay for Daze, another Daze hits the table (floating a blue). I don't pay. Enter my attack step, Eli plays a Brainstorm. Post-combat, I cast the second Gitaxian Probe, Eli's hand is worse than I imagined. Just lands, Brainstorm and Lightning Bolt. I know the coast is clear, I place a Lotus Petal on the table, then another Lotus Petal, Lion's Eye Diamond, Lion's Eye Diamond and Burning Wish retrieving Tendrils of Agony.
6-0 | 3-0
While watching matches in between rounds, I witnessed something shocking. It's the last match still playing, Miracles versus BUG Delver. BUG Delver player has Delver of Secrets, Dark Confidant and Sylvan Library in play. Goes to his turn, he reveals to Delver of Secrets (flips), Sylvan Library triggers and then reveals to Dark Confidant. There are three judges watching this match and none of them caught it. I look around at other people, no one seems phased.
Round four: Ben Rivelloon on BUG Delver
I had seen Ben playing during other rounds, I saw that he also has Null Rod. I knew this was going to be a tough match.
Game one: Ben wins the die roll and has Bayou into Deathrite Shaman. I play Underground Sea and Ponder. Ben lays a Wasteland on the table, destroys my land and follows up with a Tarmogoyf. On my turn, I play a Lotus Petal and then cast Brainstorm. Lay a Polluted Delta, search up Badlands and cast Cabal Therapy (Naming: Force of Will). I miss (Sorry, I didn't take notes on what he had!), which is good news. Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Lion's Eye Diamond and Infernal Tutor. Search up Empty the Warrens and cast it for 16 Goblins. Flashback Cabal Therapy. Ben concedes.
Sideboarding: -1 Chrome Mox, +1 Bayou.
I believe that the extra land helps against tempo decks with Wasteland, but also is better than a Chrome Mox with their discard strategy. As far as Null Rod goes, I decide that he likely only has one. Where I had a feeling Eli might've had two.
Game two: Ben mulligans to five, before starting off with Underground Sea into Duress. I play a Ponder, on my turn, setting up for a second turn. Ben plays a Wasteland, destroying my land and a Deathrite Shaman. I play another land and pass. Ben plays a Tarmogoyf and passes. I miss my land drop, I have the option to go all in now (Two cards in Ben's hand with an untapped Deathrite Shaman) or Duress and then try next turn. I chose to Duress, Ben plays Brainstorm in response. My Duress reveals lands and a Deathrite Shaman. A land enters the battefield, Ben attacks, plays the second Shaman and passes. I go for the Ad Nauseam from my hand, which meets a Flusterstorm. I ask Ben if he had it the previous turn, he says he found it with Brainstorm. Which means, I would've won.
Game three: We both mulligan. I play a first turn Ponder off of an Underground Sea (Keeping Empty the Warrens on top). Ben plays a Thoughtseize and discards the only business in my hand - Burning Wish. I play a Gitaxian Probe (drawn off the Ponder) revealing: Force of Will, Force of Will, Polluted Delta and Delver of Secrets. I play three Lotus Petal, a land, Lion's Eye Diamond and then cast Empty the Warrens. Ben counterspells a copy with Force of Will. He dies over the next few turns.
8-1 | 4-0
Round five: James Eck on UR Delver
Game one: I lose another die roll, James starts with what his deck should do: Scalding Tarn for Volcanic Island into Monastery Swiftspear. I play a land and pass. James plays a second land and a Delver of Secrets, then attacks. I draw a Gitaxian Probe for turn and fire it off, which shows me: Force of Will, Chain Lightning, Price of Progress and Scalding Tarn. The coast is clear, Dark Ritual, Rite of Flame, Ad Nauseam... Normally games end there, this one doesn't. I have an awful Ad Nauseam that only has one Chrome Mox in it and no other initial mana sources or Lion's Eye Diamond. I stop at two life. I look at the pile of cards in front of me, I decide that I need to cast Brainstorm and hit either two initial mana sources or initial mana source plus Lion's Eye Diamond. It's looking grim.
I hit another Chrome Mox and two non-important cards. I think of my options, I can Empty the Warrens but no way to flashback any Cabal Therapy revealed to Ad Nauseam this turn. I could also die to the Delver of Secrets. I have the other remaining three Rite of Flames in my hand. I then realize, I can Burning Wish for Past in Flames, replay all my Rite of Flames, Burning Wish (a second one in my hand) and finish him off with Grapeshot. I do exactly that. I can storm for 19 exactly which is his life total. #savedbythegrapeshot
Game two: James starts the second game with a Delver of Secrets, I play a Ponder for my first turn. James' second turn is an Eidolon of the Great Revel. Despite my best efforts the rest of the game, I can't beat the duo of creatures on the board.
Game three: I begin the third game with a hand that can make Goblins on the first turn if James doesn't have a Force of Will. My hand even has Gitaxian Probe, which showed me that unfortunately the blue card was there: Force of Will, Flusterstorm, Daze, Gitaxian Probe, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Mountain and Flooded Strand. After seeing this, I'm forced to lay a land and pass. James fires off his own Gitaxian Probe before laying a Flooded Strand. I draw, play a land, play Lotus Petal and pass. My hand is now strong enough to win through Force of Will can't combo through the Flusterstorm as well. I realize that if James plays Eidolon on his turn, I should have the green light to go - he does exactly that. (I played the Lotus Petal early to avoid any extra damage)
On my turn, I draw, lay my third land and cast a pair of Rite of Flames (13 life), Burning Wish (11 life), James plays Force of Will removing one of his unknown cards - Delver of Secrets. I then cast Dark Ritual (9 life), Infernal Tutor? Resolves. Plus, James misses his trigger. Empty the Warrens for 14 Goblins. James' facial expression says something along the lines of, "How did this happen?" My Goblins seal the deal on the following turn after James deals himself plenty of damage looking for whatever his answer was.
10-2 | 5-0
Round six: Brendan Mcgrail on Shardless BUG
I actually wanted to play the match because Brendan made a comment earlier on about how Shardless has a good match-up against the deck that makes Goblins, but a draw would guarantee me into first place. This means I would get to be on the play for the entire top 8 – I can set my ego aside for that.
10-2-1 | 5-0-1
Top 8: Jacob Lucrezi on Lands
Game one: We both keep, I start off with a classic first turn Gitaxian Probe! Which then reveals: Crop Rotation, Crop Rotation, Thespian Stage, Verdant Catacombs, Maze of Ith, Taiga and Gamble. I follow that play with an Underground Sea and a Ponder. My plan to win this game is using Burning Wish for Dark Petition for Ad Nauseam. I don't know if Lands plays a Bojuka Bog in the main deck, but I need those Crop Rotations gone. Jacob plays Verdant Catacombs and passes. I draw and it's Cabal Therapy! Very timely. I search up a Badlands and cast Cabal Therapy, James responds with a Crop Rotation for Tabernacle of Pendle Vale. I then discard the other (unknown card is a Wasteland). I play the pair of Lion's Eye Diamond in my hand, Lotus Petal, Rite of Flame, Burning Wish, Dark Petition and Ad Nauseam. I am able to safely keep revealing to Ad Nauseam below two life as I've discarded my Empty the Warrens to my Lion's Eye Diamond. I can't find another Burning Wish or Lion's Eye Diamond. I have plenty of Lotus Petals and Chrome Mox but can't become Hellbent. I stop at two life, play three Ponder and a Brainstorm looking for the right card(s) but fail to find. I discard Jacob's Gamble and pass.
Jacob plays the Wasteland, but it's not enough at this point. On my turn, I play my entire hand into Infernal Tutor searching for Burning Wish, which retrieves Past in Flames.
Sideboarding: -4 Cabal Therapy, -4 Ponder, -1 Empty the Warrens, +1 Bayou, +4 Abrupt Decay, +2 Huryl's Recall, +2 Thoughtseize.
Game two: Jacob isn't happy with his seven card hand or even his six, so he sends back for five. His first turn involves an Bayou, mine a Duress: Gamble, Dark Confidant, Sphere of Resistance and Exploration. With Hurkyl's Recall in my hand, I decide to take the Gamble. I play a Chrome Mox (Imprint: Burning Wish) and pass. Jacob draws a land for turn and casts Sphere of Resistance. I play a Bloodstained Mire and pass. James' next draw is a Wasteland, I search up my own Bayou and cast Hurkyl's Recall with my mana.
On my turn, I lay a land and then cast Rite of Flame, Lion's Eye Diamond and Infernal Tutor. Once again, my Ad Nauseam is less than stellar. I am unable to reveal any initial mana sources and am forced to pass the turn. James draws and plays another Sphere of Resistance, but I have an Abrupt Decay in my hand. I destroy the Sphere of Resistance to begin my turn, before setting up another Past in Flames kill.
12-2-1 | 6-0-1
Top 4: Jacob Lindy on Aggro Loam
In between rounds I had seen Jacob playing what looked like a Junk/Abzan Deck, so I put him on that.
Game one: I mulligan, scry (Lion's Eye Diamond), keep it. Play Underground Sea and Cabal Therapy (Naming: Thoughtseize) - I miss: Dryad Arbor, Gaddock Teeg, Sylvan Library, Dark Confidant, Grove of the Burnwillows, Savannah and Knight of the Reliquary. That's good news for my second turn kill. Jacob plays Dryad Arbor for turn and passes. I draw the Lion's Eye Diamond, play a Bloodstained Mire and search up Badlands. Dark Ritual, Lion's Eye Diamond and Infernal Tutor for Ad Nauseam.
Sideboarding: -4 Cabal Therapy, -2 Duress, -1 Ponder, -1 Chrome Mox, +1 Bayou, +4 Abrupt Decay, +2 Thoughtseize, +1 Grapeshot.
Game two: My notes on this game just say, "Get Stomped." I remember being shocked by a Taiga and realizing he's not on Junk/Abzan but more likely Aggro Loam. Which maybe should've been recognized by the Grove of the Burnwillows in the first game? I remember being hit by a Hymn to Tourach, followed by Scavenging Ooze and a few turns later a Ethersworn Cannonist. De-light-gul. Let's move on.
Game three: This is a long game, where I get hit by a Hymn to Tourach early which discards my Ad Nauseam and a Lion's Eye Diamond. I Infernal Tutor after drawing a second Lion's Eye Diamond for another copy of Lion's Eye Diamond and then play both artifacts (to avoid them being discarded). Jacob plays a Gaddock Teeg and passes. I draw a Rite of Flame, my hand is now four cards. A Bloodstained Mire, Polluted Delta, Rite of Flame and Infernal Tutor. I play a land and pass. Jacob follows up with a Liliana of the Veil, I discard my other land to her. I draw a Lotus Petal for turn, I decide to play Lotus Petal, Rite of Flame and Infernal Tutor for Grapeshot. I kill the Gaddock Teeg and knock the loyalty of Lilliana down to avoid her ultimate. From here we both draw dead for a few turns. I draw a Ponder, shuffle, draw a dead card. The following turn I draw Brainstorm. Gitaxian Probe, Infernal Tutor and Dark Ritual - YES! I keep Gitaxian Probe and then cast it, draw Infernal Tutor. Search for Burning Wish, get Past in Flames and replay my graveyard. Finish Jacob off with the Grapeshot that was already in the graveyard.
14-3-1 | 7-0-1
Finals: Brendan Mcgrail on Shardless BUG
Game one: Brandon ships back his seven for a new six. I start out with the classic Gitaxian Probe into Cabal Therapy Deathrite Shaman, Shardless Agent, Shardless Agent, Wasteland, Verdant Catacombs and Polluted Delta. I opt to take Deathrite Shaman over the Agents. The reason being that Deathrite Shaman speeds up their game and the Shardless Agents can be slow. This decision bites me in the ass when his Agents hit Hymn to Tourach and Brainstorm. I recover with a Past in Flames into an Empty the Warrens for 14 Goblins. Unfortunately one of the two cards in Brendan's hand is Maelstrom Pulse. I played right into his, "Shardless is good against Goblins" shit-talk. Sigh, time to eat it.
Sideboarding: -1 Empty the Warrens, -1 Chrome Mox, +1 Tendrils of Agony, +1 Bayou.
Game two: Brendan mulligans again and has an extra graveyard hate draw with Planar Void and Nihil Spellbomb. Thats okay, I play Burning Wish for Grapeshot. Brendan plays a Shardless Agent hitting a Deathrite Shaman. I play my third land, Rite of Flame, Dark Ritual, Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, Grapeshot, Infernal Tutor and Tendrils of Agony.
Game three: I didn't take notes on this game, but I face a turn two Hymn to Tourach. Followed by Shardless Agent into Hymn to Tourach. After that I play Burning Wish for Past in Flames. Brendan then plays Shardless Agent into Nihil Spellbomb - wrecked. I lose in the following turns.
15-5-1 | 7-1-1
The Die Roll: 1-4
Ad Nauseam Wins: 4
Empty the Warrens Wins: 5
Natural Storm Wins: 3
Past in Flames Wins: 4
Second place was good enough for $800 credit! A solid day, the long drive was definitely worth it.
I don't think I would change a single thing about my deck list. I was very happy with it overall. The switch to Grapeshot definitely paid dividends and will stay in the sideboard. I dodged some difficult match-ups like Eldrazi and Miracles, even though my sideboard has changed some to improve against these decks.
(Interesting note: there were not any Eldrazi decks in the top 8 of this event and only one person playing the deck hanging around the top of the tables. On a similar note, there wasn't a copy in the top 8 of the Star City Games: PIQ either.)
Thanks for reading, feel free to drop me a message or ask a question using the contact form below. Any questions will likely be featured in an upcoming TES Mailbox article.
Until next time, keep storming.