When not to play Stock

In May, I played an Elves list that was:

Maindeck (60)
Wooded Foothills
Verdant Catacombs
Pendelhaven
Misty Rainforest
Gaea’s Cradle
Forest
Cavern of Souls
Dryad Arbor
Bayou
Natural Order
Green Sun’s Zenith
Glimpse of Nature
Wirewood Symbiote
Scavenging Ooze
Reclamation Sage
Quirion Ranger
Nettle Sentinel
Heritage Druid
Elvish Visionary
Deathrite Shaman
Craterhoof Behemoth
Birchlore Rangers
Sideboard (15)
Thoughtseize
Surgical Extraction
Progenitus
Pithing Needle
Null Rod
Meekstone
Elderscale Wurm
Cabal Therapy
Abrupt Decay

It was pretty stock other than 3 Forests main deck and an Elderscale Wurm side.

This last Legacy Preservation Series 1K, I played a list that was:

Maindeck (60)
Wooded Foothills
Verdant Catacombs
Pendelhaven
Misty Rainforest
Gaea’s Cradle
Forest
Dryad Arbor
Cavern of Souls
Bayou
Natural Order
Green Sun’s Zenith
Glimpse of Nature
Wirewood Symbiote
Shaman of the Pack
Birchlore Rangers
Craterhoof Behemoth
Deathrite Shaman
Elvish Visionary
Heritage Druid
Nettle Sentinel
Quirion Ranger
Reclamation Sage
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Scavenging Ooze
Sideboard (15)
Progenitus
Thoughtseize
Surgical Extraction
Cabal Therapy
Abrupt Decay
Natural Order
Meekstone
Null Rod
Pithing Needle

A relatively different list compared to a lot of the other Elves decks.  I had a main deck Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, a Shaman of the Pack, 3 Natural Orders, and only 1 Craterhoof Behemoth in the 75.

Several people have told me “Elves doesn’t run 3 Forests” and have asked why I had both Shaman of the Pack and Ruric Thar, the Unbowed main.

Playing the Meta-game

Every month, the LPS 1K meta-game is shared.

I was pretty bad at predicting what was going to show up, but I think my card choices still wound up being valid.

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

I thought people would be playing Infect (there wound up being zero infect players).  My understanding is Karakas is ran side.  With Ruric main, I could steal game 1 without worrying about Karakas.

Locally, people have been playing both RiP Helm Control and variants of Landstill Control (some with Humility).  If Craterhoof isn’t lethal, I could get Ruric Thar.  Ruric Thar deals 6 damage for any non-creature spell cast.  Both Landstill and RiP Helm Control are creature light.  Some of them require 2 or more lock out pieces, so with an early Ruric Thar, they’re just dead on board.

There were people playing blue decks that were heavy on can trips, which is where Ruric Thar also shines.  If you look at the archetype break down, I think he was a decent call.  I luckily didn’t find any games where I hated having Ruric main (although I have in the past).

Shaman of the Pack

Shaman of the Pack wins games, even when your opponent can’t take damage.  With Cavern of Souls, it becomes uncounterable life loss.  I wanted my deck to have multiple outs and methods of attacks.

Several people were running Moat, Elephant Grass, Sphere of Safety, Worship, and Energy Field.  Shaman of the Pack helps to get around those cards.  Shaman of the Pack does not get around Solitary Confinement and is shut off by Leyline of Sanctity.

Against bigger creature decks, we have to go wide, and Shaman of the Pack is a creature that rewards going wide as well.

When I run Shaman of the Pack, I take out a Natural Order.  If I put in an additional “win con”, I take out one to try keeping the deck balanced.

3 Forests

Online and at weekly events, I’ve been turn 1’d Blood Mooned or Ghost Quartered out of the game.  I don’t want to mull away a good hand to play around Blood Moon, I’d rather increase my chances of getting a basic land in my opener.

If my opponent has a late Blood Moon, I can fetch for 3 green sources early in case of board wipes, or if I don’t have any mana producing creatures.

I currently like the 3 Forests, but it may change to a Taiga.

Match Ups

Grixis Delver (2-0)

Both games I had the nut draws, and his Delvers didn’t flip.  Game 1, I just went off.  Game 2, I brought in Meekstone and Progenitus and Abrupt Decays.  I took out 1 Glimpse of Nature, 1 Nettle Sentinel, Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, and 1 Elvish Visionary.  Game 2, he countered my Glimpse of Nature.  I had a Natural Order and won the following turn.

Burn (2-0)

My opponent conceded to get lunch…

Blue Moon (2-1)

This is the same opponent I lost to in the semi-finals.  Games 1 and 3 my opponent had to mull to 4 or 5 cards.  Those games I wound up comboing off.

Game 2, he had several counterspells, and I couldn’t build a board state or cast Natural Order.

Omni-Sneak (1-2)

This match up was bad.  It’s one of the worst for Elves.  I was hoping Ruric Thar would help (opponent Show and Tell‘s Omniscience with intents to can-trip).

Game 1, I start with Ruric Thar in hand.  I keep and build up some board state.  My opponent has a turn 2 or 3 Show and Tell.  I put in Ruric Thar, and my opponent puts in Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.  I think Emrakul is better than Ruric Thar…

Game 2, I have a turn 2 combo hand.

Game 3, I mess up.  I have a lot of discard spells, but he hides some stuff with Brainstorm.  I get him to discard some spells along with Emrakul (I believe).  I know he has Sneak Attack, and he had hidden a Show and Tell with Brainstorm.  He casts Show and Tell and puts in Griselbrand.  I probably should have attempted to flash back Cabal Therapy for Sneak Attack, but I didn’t (I wanted a lethal Natural Order).  He draws cards with Griselbrand finding an Emrakul, activates Sneak Attack, and I become sad.

Imperial Painter (2-1)

I’m not too familiar with this match up, but I’ve been told after the Sensei’s Divining Top ban, it’s become even more favored.

Game 1, my opponent lands a turn 1 Blood Moon.  I have 1 basic Forest, a Deathrite Shaman, fetches, and not much else going for me.  I lead with Nettle Sentinel to get in some beats, but he plays a Goblin Articifer and a Ethersworn Canonist along with a Lotus Petal.  I wind up getting Reclamation Sage, but the Articifer is able to swap the things I hit or target out and onto the battle field.

Game 2, I’m on the play and I fetch for basics.  I also have a Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay.  I’m able to control the board and play around Blood Moon.  I have a quick Natural Order for the win.

Game 3 was similar to game 2.  I also started off with a Reclamation Sage.  Nettle Sentinel, Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid, Rec Sage, into Wirewood got me a concession from my opponent.  He felt he had no outs.

UWr Helm Control (ID)

We found out we could draw into the Top 8, so we did.

UWr Helm Control (2-0)

You can watch the match here.

Game 1, Shaman of the Pack shines.  I wound up playing a bit too aggressively into a Supreme Verdict.  I knew what my opponent was on and was trying to hold onto my Green Sun’s Zenith in case I needed to get Reclamation Sage.  I did mess up sequence.  I dumped out my hand even though I had a Glimpse of Nature, but I was hoping to have a lethal Natural Order.  My opponent wipes my board with Supreme Verdict.

I wind up recovering my board and finding a Shaman of the Pack.  I miss activating my Deathrite in response to Rest in Peace.  I was wondering how I lose this, and my concern was a board wipe.  My opponent fetched Red, and then cast Rest in Peace.  From that, he doesn’t have Supreme Verdict, and is probably going for Energy Field, which I have an answer for.  I probably should have bounced my Shaman of the Pack on my turn. That would have opened Deathrite to produce black, and I’d have 2 ways to untap Deathrite to drain if my opponent did have Swords to Plowshares.

My opponent was at 2 life, so I should have gone for the Deathrite activation, because if there was a board wipe after Rest in Peace resolves, my chances of winning are lower.  Luckily, there was no board wipe, and Shaman of the Pack gets around Energy Field.

Game 2,  I brought in 3 Abrupt Decays, Null Rod, and a Pithing Needle.  I took out Scavenging Ooze, Natural Order, Glimpse of Nature, Elvish Visionary, and a Nettle Sentinel.  I started with a Reclamation Sage in hand.

My goal was to grind my opponent, and play around board wipes.  I played pretty slowly only putting out a Heritage Druid and applying pressure with Pendelhaven.  My opponent activated their Engineered Explosives after I applied more pressure with Shaman of the Pack.  I think they Pyroclasmed to early, but Pendelhaven could save 1 of my creatures if they waited, and they’d be at a much scarier life total.  Fetching for Bayou also implies I have an Abrupt Decay in hand.

I wound up shuffling for a while.  My opponent asked if I could concede, and calculate if I had earned enough points to qualify for the invitational.  I didn’t have enough points, so I stopped shuffling and swung for the win.

Blue Moon (1-2)

Andy got his revenge for our earlier game.  You can watch the match here.

Game 1 was grindy.  Shaman of the Pack helped to get there.  Pendelhven was also an MVP.

I sided in Meekstone, Progenitus, Abrupt Decays, and Pithing Needle.

Game 2 was super grindy.  My opponent flipped 2 Delver of Secrets, and I started with a Meekstone which kept them tapped.  Scavenging Ooze worked wonders in this game.  Meekstone + Scavenging Ooze + Quirion Ranger let me keep attacking while my opponent is stuck blocking.

However, True-Name Nemesis and a flipped Delver are unblockable if they can attack, and taking 6+ from the previously flipped Delvers put me at a dangerous life total.  True-Name Nemesis also can fog the Ooze.

Andy was able to build up a board state and find a Lightning Bolt.  This game, I played a morphed Birchlore Rangers, and I should have swung with it earlier.  This would have traded the Delver and Birchlore, letting me eat 2 creatures and getting out of the danger area.  I also forgot to eat Andy’s graveyard before passing back after he landed a Grim Lavamancer.

Game 3 was nerve-wracking.  I was playing around Forked Bolt, keeping Pendelhaven on keeping creatures alive duty.  My opponent landed a True-Name Nemesis followed by a Grim Lavamancer.  I needed to keep my clock faster than Andy’s so I swung.  He blocked, and I didn’t want to trade.  I wound up using Pendelhaven to keep my creature, which let my opponent cast Forked Bolt the next turn.  From there, I was unable to stabilize.

Some thoughts

I posted this thought on reddit, and I think it applies to deck choices as well.  You have to build your deck to prepare for what you think you’ll see.  Where do you want to go, and how will you get there?  I think Julian’s lists are great for an unknown meta.

Personally, I like to play lists that are slightly different.  If you play too stock, skilled players can predict your ideal lines and play around them, or force you to play into them and response appropriately.  Random choices or card swaps aren’t good, but if you have an idea of the meta game, it can help.

I mis-predicted the meta though… no infect, not too much draw-go control… I suck at magic…

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