April Power 9 Challenge Report 3-0, 0-3.
April 30th was the first time I accepted the Power 9 Challenge. I’ve had a few vintage decks together for quite some time on Magic The Gathering Online, but due to my former work schedule I was unable to rise to the occasion until now. Magic has always been something that I have wanted to be excellent at but have never had the time to commit to that goal. I started playing when I was about nine years old in 1999 and my first rare was a Humility from a Tempest booster I bought from a used bookstore in Mount Pearl. That bookstore isn’t there anymore, but there is an LSG in the same plaza where it once was that is keeping Newfoundland paper Magic alive. It is run by a man and his family whom I’ve been playing magic against since I can remember. His Kid’s and I battled it out for City of Brass promos at JSS but I don’t think any humility was involved at that age. I was pretty good for my age and I knew it, which lead to me being very annoying for a while I’m sure. Now I’m pretty rusty for my age and it's starting to show too. I wanted to get back to that feeling of playing in the JSS, Provincials(the Canadian States), and Nationals again. Back when I played it to have fun. The week before the event I left my job in Alberta and returned home to Newfoundland to focus on some personal matters and to make a serious run at Magic before I turn 30(currently 26). This was a challenge in its own right given the economic situations unfolding in both Provinces, leaving a job right now seems insane, but I knew I had to do it. This left me somewhat jet-lagged and a bit under prepared for the tournament but I wasn’t about to let that stop me from taking a swing at it.
I decided to go with the shiny new driver that is UWR Mentor. After the Lodestone Golem restriction Mentor was seen by many as the new Vintage menace, so I felt it would be my best option. I didn’t feel like Storm was a good choice for me given how groggy I was and I hadn’t had a lot of practice with the different lines of play in quite a while. Mentor offered a clear and sometimes swift path to victory, and I already had most of the cards from playing UW mentor in the past.
I looked at some of the lists on MTGGoldfish.com and went with this set up. I was tempted to try and ‘make it my own” by jamming in some Diverts because it is a pet card of mine, but my friend talked me out of it with some sage advice. I was told this gem of wisdom “You could play Divert, or you can play spells that actually win games”, and that plan was quickly snuffed out.
The sideboard is almost the same as the source list. However, the list called for two Containment Priests and one more Steel Sabotage. I was in one of those situations where if someone had asked me if I owned Containment Priests I would have snapped off “yeah” and never have given it a second thought. Turns out I did not, and only came to this realization at 3:15 PM local time and the event was slated for a 3:30 start. Instead of doing the responsible thing and just acquiring them I opted for the sweet thing where I jam two cards in there and shrug and say “it’s Vintage who knows” and hoped for the best. The two cards I decided to jam in there were Echoing Truth, against the mirror or the decks running Young Pyromancer, and Levitation for the mirror board stall. That Levitation was almost a Moat after this brilliant conversations between two of Magic’s greatest minds:
Me: “I don’t own priests what should I do.”
Friend: “Jam a moat in there for the mirror, they will never see it coming.”
Me: “What if someone else thought the same thing and they’re gonna get me with their Moat… clearly Levitation is the answer.”
Friend: “How can it not be?’
And that was that.
The Hurkyl’s over Steel Sabotage is there for the much more sensible reason; I wanted to have a spell against shops to either break up their lock or to reset my moxes if the game goes long and I needed extra Mentor triggers to seal the deal. I quickly got the list up to a full 75 and joined the event with a few minutes to spare and waited for my first opponent to present themselves.
Round One: Vs The Clock
Little did I know my wait would extend ten minutes and two seconds into the round and my opponent suffered a match loss and event drop. This was awful for so many reasons, not the least of which was my opponent almost made it back and decided to play first just as he lost the match. Free wins are great, especially in tournaments with prizes as serious as this one, but playing a match of Vintage is way sweeter. Instead of playing some games with the time I had I decided to get up and walk around and stretch out a bit. I knew I would have a lot of sitting ahead of me and didn’t want to fall into a funk. Once I got the blood pumping again I sat down and awaited my round two opponent.
Round 2: Vs UWR Young Mentor
There would be no second round bye this time around. I kept a hand with Jace, Vyrn’s Prodigy, a Monastery Mentor, Preordain, Pyroblast, and three lands. I felt it was an alright hand on the draw in the dark but it didn’t exude strength. My opponent opened up with Library of Alexandria and things were already looking grim. I drew Ancestral Recall which improved my hand drastically, and after Preordaining a land to the bottom and a Force of Will into my hand things were looking up. After some durdling on both sides I managed to resolve my Ancestral and deal with a Pyromancer. I passed back and made what I think was a mistake in not FoWing a gush that also brought my opponent into library range. I then FoWed his follow up Mentor but he had enough permission to force it into play. I was unable to mount a defense and died the following turn to a flurry of spells and an attack for lethal.
Sideboard: -2 Jace, -2 Gitaxian Probe, +1 Levitation, +1 Supreme Verdict, +2 Swords to Plowshares.
Given the bolts I thought shaving Jace’s was alright and the Probes seemed poor now that I knew what I was up against. The Levitation seemed great given the double token generators that could clog up the board.The extra removal came in to help keep the number of tokens down in the early game if I were to lose another counter war over a generator. Sideboarding is a big hole in my Vintage skill set at the moment and if anyone has input it would be great to hear.
Game two started out the mirror image of game one. Even though my Province is currently starting to tax books and shutdown libraries all over the island, the Mtgo servers are on U.S. soil and I was able to start this game off with a Library. I Deployed an early mentor off of a Black Lotus and cast Preordain to get a monk. The Preordain turned out to give me a monk and a plan. I scryed Levitation into my hand and went about setting up a board to fly over the tokens that were going to be generated when my opponent untapped with his mentor. I didn’t think there was a Mental Misstep to worry about seeing as my two Preordains had resolved, so I Merchant Scrolled for Ancestral and was able to generate seven monks. I passed back with the aim to be able to untap with my creatures alive and the Levitation resolvable. I lost the fight over a Gush which turned into a Treasure Cruise and a lot of monks. This is what it looked like when the turn was over:
I drew a Misstep and thought Dack would be better bait for a counter than another mentor. Dack was FoWed and I crossed my fingers and tapped my land for Levitation and we were on to game three.
Sideboard: No change.
Game three started with me losing a counter war over a Ponder and learning that Sudden Shock was a card in Vintage. I ended up winning the game when my opponent timed out at this board state:
It would have been valuable experience to play out the game from there. We both had a full grip and I need more practice navigating games from positions like these.
After the round was over I was talking to a friend on skype who was also playing in the tournament and we discussed how our rounds went. It was then that it was brought to my attention that my second round opponent was Steve Menendian. I am very glad I was not aware of this fact during the game. I can only imagine the horrendous plays I would have made under the extra pressure of knowingly playing against Steve. This is something that I think you can overcome through exposure and playing more high profile players on Mtgo to gain confidence. Being oblivious and winning also helps, but given that the game was won by the clock I don’t really count it as a triumph. I also got worried that he would think that I was trying to scum him out by clocking him or was playing to the clock in game three. I later learned that I was just over thinking things thanks to a post on the Mana Drain forums. I found out that Steve was on the phone making plans to go to the beach and said that the Levitation turn was sweet. This gave me one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever experienced. Not only knowing that there was an everyday reason for the clocking, but also hearing someone of Steve’s ability calling that miser’s Levitation turn sweet was just awesome. I didn’t find this out until after the event and at the time I decided to try and get something to eat before the next round began.
Round 3: Vs UWR Mentor Mirror.
After a six minute food delay I sat down for my third round. I’m sure there are some nuances that could be drawn out from this mirror match but I am not the one to do it. In the very few test games I played of this match up I found it most effective to just see how has the goods each game. I was was fortunate enough to come out on top of the three games using this strategy and was relieved to do so. I started to get excited at the prospect of putting up a real result in this tournament and that was probably not a good thing. During the tournaments I’ve done well in to date I just find myself playing the win and in or top eight and after calmly playing out my matches. Anytime I’ve let excitement into the equation it ends up negating any focus I have and makes me over think decisions. This is another thing that I need to work on as a player if I want to make any meaningful mark on Magic landscape. I had the sinking feeling I was about to get an education in this very topic in the coming rounds.
Round 4: Vs Dark Petition Storm
This was the round I was most prepared for in terms of knowing both sides of the match up. DPS is the deck I would have run in this event if I weren’t running Mentor. When the game started I didn’t know what I was up against but my opponent opened up with two Probes and a Lotus. I FoWed the Lotus since I recognized the start from hands that I had kept with DPS and didn’t want to open myself up to him dumping a lot of artifact mana into play and my FoW staring at a stack of Tendrils of Agony triggers. My read was accurate and he played Tolarian Academy, Lotus Petal, Sol Ring, and passed. I was feeling good about my chances right up until I Probed and saw a hand of Cabal Ritual, Tendrils, and Time Walk. Feeling like his hand would come together from any number of cards I decided I needed to try and find a threat. I cast Merchant Scroll for Ancestral and cast it off Lotus into enough bricks to build a chimney. In hindsight getting a FoW might have allowed me to better navigate the coming turns, but I also thought I would draw some spells off the Ancestral. A few turns later the game was over with a large Tendrils on the stack and my hand containing Dack Faydens and Swords. I knew that I could have played better and managed to shake it off and board for game two.
Sideboard: -2 Swords, -2 Probes, -2 Jace. +2 Tormod’s Crypts, +2 Disenchant, +2 Rest in Peace.
I still don’t know if taking out Probes is ever right and I’d love to hear some suggestions on the boarding. Crypt seemed like an alright answer to Yawgmoth’s Will or turning off spell mastery for Petition. Rest in Peace seemed like a no brainer and the Jace’s came out to try and limit the awkward draws that can result from that combo. Disenchant had wrecked me in the past in games where I would leave out a little more artifact mana than I should when playing storm. I also knew the likelihood of defense grid was high and needed an answer.
Game two saw me draw a great opener containing Library, Ancestral, FoW, and Fluster Storm. The Library was my only land but I took it as a sign from the Newfoundland Economy gods that I should appreciate libraries while I have them. I drew everything I needed when I needed it and my opponent wasn’t able to fight through my counters in time to survive the Monk army I had amassed and it was time for the next game.
Sideboard: No Change.
Game three I had Misstep, Fluster, Crypt, Gush, and some lands to start the game. I felt like I couldn’t send this one back but didn’t feel that great about it either. A Jace off the top gave me a little more direction and I Countered a Sol Ring and a Duress on my path to resolving Jace on turn two. That Jace would be the last spell I would resolve this game as my opponent played out his hand of artifact mana and cast Wheel of Fortune. I declined to cast my gush which I’m not sure was the correct move; I didn’t want to add to the storm count if I didn’t have to and if I got to untap my board was going to be abysmal. I didn’t draw any castable spells off the Wheel and my opponent promptly stormed me out. I drew two cards to see what I would have gotten off the Gush and the cards would not have helped. That doesn’t mean my play was correct and I’m not sure if I can pass the turn there without casting the Jace. I spent a bit too long dwelling on those choices and took a little bit of the tilt with me into the next round.
Round 5: Vs Grixis Pyromaster
This round really ended up being only one game long. I had a strong opening hand on the draw and FoWed a Lotus turn one thinking I could be against storm again. I was incorrect and found out immediately I was playing against Grixis when an Underground Sea, Mox Ruby, and Young Pyromaster followed up the Lotus. I chose not to FoW the Pyromaster because it meant pitching Ponder, the only real spell I had left in my hand. I resolved the ponder and set up to have FoW up and cast a Jace the following turn. My opponent cast another Pyromaster which I tried to counter but was unsuccessful. I cast the Jace and a Probe to see that the only card my opponent had left was a Flusterstorm. I decided to cast the Moxes in my hand so I wouldn’t build up storm against myself on my next turn and passed. My opponent drew and played a land leaving just the Flusterstorm in hand and sent in his team. I untapped, drew Dig Though Time, and made a plan. I had enough mana to flip my Jace during his upkeep, cast Dig, and pay for the Fluster. It would mean losing my Jace to his attack but I didn’t see a better line at the time given the Fluster he was holding. I passed the turn and cast the Dig and got it countered by his Flusterstorm. You read that correctly. My Dig did not resolve and I was left flabbergasted. If it was nerves, tilt, jetlag, the alignment of the stars, or a combination of them all. Whatever it was led me to tapping UUB and delving for five instead of UU and delving for six. I knew the moment that I didn’t need to click every card in my graveyard that something had gone wrong.
I wish I could say I shook this one off too and recovered for the next two games but that was not the case. I was extremely tilted and just ran it back for game two without sideboarding. I mulled to six and just played through the motions and lost. I let a Pyromaster resolve uncontested on turn one with two castable FoWs in my hand thinking I would just Swords it. Not thinking about the fact that my opponent would get at least one token out of the exchange if he had any counter. He did have the counter and had another Pyromaster to further his board. I got him down to just the one token but that little guy was enough to clinch the round.
Round 6: Vs Dredge
After tilting off during the last round and feeling pretty miserable my friend, whose house I was at, said we should go get some fresh air. Being on an Island does have the advantage of fresh, salty, cold, sea air that slaps you in the face and tells you to straighten up like when your mom finds you with firecrackers as a kid. I was feeling better being outside and my friend reminded me that this was the first of these tournaments and that going 3-0 to start was nothing to scoff at. Even though I had kinda fell apart in the later rounds I was still locked to get my entry fee back and still had another game of Vintage ahead of me. Vintage is sweet so I went back inside resigned to have a fun game of if nothing else.
And then my opponent played Bazaar of Baghdad and that dream was dead. Not really, he gave me the working over that Dredge is suppose to for game one and I was determined to take him down in the next two.
Sideboard: -4 Misstep, -2 Probe, -Jace. +2 Rest in Peace, +2 Swords, +1 Supreme Verdict, +2 Crypt, +1 Echoing Truth.
This seemed right to me which probably means there could be a more tuned set of cards to take out. I wasn’t really focused on being correct here and more so just wanted to have fun so I didn’t sweat it too much.
Game two I had Crypt, Gush, Dack, Pearl, and some lands and felt alright on the play. The Crypt was able to get me through two Bazaar activations before I was able to gush into Rest in Peace and end the game a few turns later.
Sideboard: No change
Game three my opener had Rest in Peace, Mox Sapphire, Volcanic Island, and some other spells that I wasn’t thinking about. I decided to just keep and hope I drew a white mana source in time. I drew it a few turns later, but by then my opponent had two four two power creatures on the board and I couldn’t answer them in time to pull out a win. It was still a pretty great game that really made me feel like I was fighting off the zombie hoard but I just couldn’t run fast enough.
3-0, 0-3 is almost my mantra at this point and I think I might as well make it official. Not to embody being salty or as joke about being “ so unlucky.” When I attended University in Halifax I took a number of religious studies courses while I was in the “what do I want to do with my life” phase of my degree. One of the most illuminating courses I took was about Buddhism and Hinduism. When my professor got to talking about mantras he emphasised that they weren’t always one word, like om, or musical, like some of the more deeply spiritual Hindu mantras. Some mantras are about fears, mistakes, or doubts that you’ve experienced or dread experiencing. You make one of the negative things your mantra in order to bring it into your Being rather than trying to expel it. If you remove the fear and negativity surrounding a thing you can make it a part of your strength. You can wear it like armor rather than have it be a dagger that you, or someone someone else, can reach inside you and twist. This Power Nine Challenge was the first step for me towards forging that armor and making real strides towards being a better player. I’m glad I could share some of that experience with you guys and I hope it was entertaining.
I don’t feel like I'm at the stage where I can be offering advice on how to play Vintage, but I know for sure that I should be looking to receive it. So any constructive criticism on the game or on my writing would be greatly welcomed here or via PM. Special thank you to TMD's own IslandSwamp for making the post that finally got me writing and for helping me edit. This would not have gotten written if it weren't for his help and guidance. I look forward to reading any reports you guys have for the May event that I was unable to play in.
Have a good one and draw well,
Congrats on playing in your first P9. I hope you keep playing in them!
Here's some feedback since you said you were interested in hearing from people.
I believe your list is based off of @chubbyrain 's and is also similar to mine. In general, I'd say your biggest problem is that you are over sideboarding and IMO taking out the wrong cards.
If you are playing against a deck without spheres/wastelands and you need to take out a card, take out the basic Island. I don't think I have ever cut more than 1 probe. Some people don't like probe, but if you are playing a deck with them in the maindeck you are disrupting the flow of the deck by taking them out.
I would not cut more than 1 JVP, and I don't think I'd cut any. As your screenshot indicates in your game against @smmenen if you cut the filtering you can end up with a hand clogged with removal spells when you want card draw/selection.
I think you are boarding in too much graveyard hate. The crypts are actually in the board so you can play them on turn 1 without disrupting your game against storm. I would instead sideboard +2 disenchant +2 crypt -1 island -1 JvP(?), -2 StP
You definitely do not want 4 StP. Sometimes I leave 1 in if I expect them to have Elesh Norn. Other than Norn and to a lesser extent Kolaghan, there's not really anything you want to be StP'ing. You need to carefully look at their deck game 1 to figure out if you want to leave misstep in. Also after game 2 you should see if they bring in claim and reevaluate your decision on the missteps. Obviously it hurt you to not have the priests here.
I hope that doesn't sound too negative. Vintage is a tough format if you are not familiar with it. Conversely, the more you play the more you are rewarded for your experience.
@diophan That is the exact kind of advice I'm looking for. My sideboarding is a huge weakness in my game right now and those comments are a huge help. I never would have considered taking out the basic island there. The transition from a Vintage enthusiast to Vintage Player isn't going to happen overnight that is for sure. This kind of feedback helps my progression immensely , thank you.
The kind of oversideboarding @diophan is talking about is really common in vintage (probably in magic). If you can get a handle on that you'll be ahead of the curve. Just make sure you follow it to it's natural conclusion. If you don't have enough cards in your deck to take out in order to fit, say, the Echoing Truth ... then that Echoing Truth could have been something more useful in another matchup. Adding cards to a sideboard without considering what you need to cut for them is a critical error I see people make all the time.