How to Keep Warm During the Winter

I don’t play much online anymore. Small events don’t really feel fun enough, and leagues are too much of a hassle to schedule. However, I rarely get the chance to play a 4-strip format, and combined with the size and importance of the Winter Derby, getting to be a part of the discussions and hype for a month (which eventually turned out to be two), it made me decide to join. Last time I played the format was the Summer Derby 2021, also the last Derby I played, where I lost in the t8. Just like I wrote, I really like the list I played, especially with a few improvements, and was eager to give it another shot. This is what I went with:

It’s cleaned up, with no more 1-of Berserk, no 3 Chain Lightnings. I figured I needed 4 city and thus could run Balance for more power, but that didn’t really work out as we shall see. Next iteration is back to 3 city and no white, adding another mana source in the process. The maindeck Copy Artifact is a piece of Shops hate and another artifact for the atogs, but it should be swapped with the sb relic barrier, as that card is much stronger against the aggro decks I mostly fear g1 while still being very good against shops. I would also like to get the 4th pixies back into the deck but unsure what I can cut, besides maybe the 2nd psiblast again. I am definitely closer to cutting than adding one of those, since I prefer to keep the curve super low in the 4-strip world, both so I can strip more liberally and so I can care less about being stripped myself. But psiblast is still a powerful card I don’t love to cut. I’m not sure how to solve this.

I also have some ideas for more radical changes, but I have no idea when next I’ll play 4-strip, so that will have to wait in any case.

Regarding the matches, I didn’t take any notes at all and didn’t start writing this until the t8, so please forgive my lack of detail. I compensate for that by doing almost play-by-play of the video matches later on.

My first match is against my good friend Andres Hojman. I much prefer playing against friends, but at the same time, Andres is a very good player and he seems to have my number as he was my sole loss at Lobstercon, so I’m a bit torn. It turns out he’s on GRu with no black, a bunch of elves, and giant growth over chains. Things don’t line up well for me in the match. I have to bolt his kird ape when i have bottle in hand because my only colored mana is two cities, and I have to bolt a factory later which he can save with a giant growth. I’m on the back foot and my deck plays much worse then, so I can’t close before he draws more burn and creatures. Postboard, he also has multiple BEBs against my atogs which otherwise are just a house against him. I was on the play g3, kept city lotus demonic twist atog vise, bottoming a bolt. I had to lotus demonic for ancestral to get mana, because if I played city vise and he stripped me I would have to go lotus demonic for just a land and be unable to cast the twist. So I did so, but then when i finally twisted him for 3 t3 he did have his own ancestral in response, and perfect mana and threats and killed me.

At this point I’m close to just dropping. Not that I’m salty, exactly, but I’m already late at scheduling since I chose not to play during the first week due to traveling over the holidays, so I feel some stress, and my heart just isn’t in the game at all. If I can’t easily get the games lined up, I might just be out. But when some matches do open up in the last few days of the batch, I decide to give it a shot. It’s bad manners to not do my best to play out the entire batch, after all, so I do try. We can say I didn’t regret that decision later.

I play against Brannon Ozark who attempted to cast Counterspell and Serendib Efreet against my Strip Mines and City in a Bottle. It didn’t work out very well for him. Then I face James Tilley and Alex Blanchette, but I unfortunately have no memory of our matches at all except that I win. Okay, 3-1 is still a result that allows me to be live for the elimination rounds so I go on to batch 2.

First I play against Viacheslav Ivanov. He’s on a budget BR deck without even badlands, which isn’t really fair. Strip Mines and power punish that pretty badly, and that’s what happened.

Then Doug Miles on pretty standard Shops (unless I have things mixed up, in which case I apologize in advance). I lose g1 to something like t2 su-chi, t3 two more su-chis, making my lonely pixies a bit insufficient despite it normally being excellent in the matchup. I remember a postboard game where I copy a Tetravus and have removal for his, connect with it a couple of times, then narrowly having to draw burn to finish it after a large number of trikes kills the tetravus and then threatening to killing me. And one game where I Hurkyl, not to a massive blowout but enough of a tempo advantage to get there. The shops matchup isn’t fantastic preboard, and they can always do very powerful things, but in general, I think my plan is quite solid here.

Next up is Jon Tschida on The Deck, as it turns out without angels in the 75. Game 1, I get a very good hand that still leaves him stabilizing at exactly 1 life, having to fade a number of draw steps from me but getting there, one of those games I would have loved to rewatch afterwards to find if there were some place I messed up and could have gotten another damage in. I win game 2, despite him starting on Ivory Tower, due to a midgame Mind Twist among other things. It does lead me to sideboard weirdly, bringing in for example Hurkyl’s Recall, since Tower is one of the few things (along with Disk) that I’m slightly weak to when only running 2 Shatters in the 75. However, it turns out that he has only a single tower in the board, but 4 BEBs, so my boarding is somewhat misguided. It doesn’t matter, though. I clearly remember game 3. He starts with tundra, go. I play factory, jet, vise. He takes 2, plays strip mine, go. I strip his tundra, attack, he has to strip me, so he starts t3 with no permanents and 6 cards facing down a vise. He plays city. I then have to tutor for lotus and draw-7 because next turn he might well have UU up, but I take it from there. It turns out he had swords, BEB and mind twist in hand, good cards which did nothing against the actual draw I had.

Finally, then, the win-and-in, playing for t16. Rajah James on the Faetog mirror, or at least close enough, as he was on the Carter Petray school, a similar build as mine though with 12 creatures, including 4 Scryb Sprites, and no black. I just draw better than Rajah. He does get me with 5 damage from a Psychic Purge when I wheel postboard, but it does not matter. He has also boarded in an erhnam djinn but that gets blocked by atog quite well, and also loses to atog forestwalk. I don’t play perfectly here, picking bad racing spots with factories and atog against that, but the atog dominates the Erhnam hard enough it doesn’t really affect the outcome much.

On to the t16 it is! I was trying to get the t16 match in as quickly as possible, already having waited a bit for the batch to end and not wanting to delay the tournament more than necessary. Therefore we chose to play this right away, not waiting for a streamer to be arranged, something I regret in afterthought; there would have been enough time, and I would have liked to have access to the match on video. It’s also just good manners to provide more content for the public. Anyway, I was facing Gijsbert Haaksman on a typical Lion-Bolt-Dib list. I don’t remember any details but he kept in all his dibs and died to bottle and vise postboard, and it felt easier than expected, especially since I was in the draw, something recurring in the t16 due to my 10th place finish from the batches.

On to the top 8, where I play against Xanadude Boston on a strange Troll 12-bolt list. Now we move on to the matches which were streamed, so I can get into much more detail. You could also just watch the video from the stream, but to show a bit more about how games play out and which decisions I had to make, I’m going into play by play a bit.

I hate how I played g1. I mulligan a weak hand with no turn-1 play, into a 6 with 6 lands, into an insane 5: lotus, jet, volc, bolt, wheel, and topdecked another bolt, whereas Xanadude just led on strip pearl. But I had to ship the turn after the wheel, and he had walk into another mox and a troll with B up, as well as stripping my volc. I had sol ring and pixies, took the troll attack, Xanadude having ancestral and quake for 2. I play sapphire and copy it, and play a strip, having drawn twister; I could play it here, but I felt like I needed more colored mana afterwards to do something, and having a bolt in hand I wanted to cast first, so developing my mana with copying a mox seemed better. He then attacked with troll and factory with B up. I had strip and bolt; I was at 14, him at 12. He had sea and volc untapped. There are a number of options here. Taking 5 doesn’t seem great, as being on 9 post twister is quite dangerous against his bolt deck, and that’s if he doesn’t have a burn spell in hand here which he very well could. I could strip sea and bolt the troll in response to regeneration, which is what I went for, going to 12. I could strip the factory, going to 11. I somewhat got the feeling he might have mana drain, and that contributed to my choice, but stripping factory and bolting face seems better in retrospect. It’s probably a better balance between defense and offense.

So I do play the twister, but get a pretty awful hand with something like chain, bolt, balance, city, city, factory, x, having already played badlands for the turn. I then make the unexplicable choice of chaining him into his untapped volcanic and ruby, allowing him to bounce it back, leaving us both at 9. I think I planned to Balance next turn, but it’s still awful, and I have too many lands in hand for that plan to be very effective anyway. Xanadude then continues to pressure me with factories and other things, and plays library and starts to draw, and even though I get strips I have to strip factories to not die, and the balance gets me nowhere since I can’t afford to neither play city nor take the damage. I succumb to his burn a few turns later.

Now, however, while boarding, Xanadude realizes the library is in fact supposed to be in his sideboard. We don’t really know how to handle that, but along with the streamers we settle on replaying game 1. I like that, getting a second chance now that I’ve warmed up a bit. I didn’t want to get a win that I didn’t deserve, but I also didn’t want to take a loss to a card which wasn’t supposed to be in his deck either. (We did play with open decklists, of course, but I didn’t catch this in time, being too absorbed by the game I guess.)

I made another mistake early in the next game. My starting hand, on the draw, after I took a mulligan and Xanadude mulled to 6 and kept, was this: atog, trop, pearl, vise, shatter, bolt, volcanic. I had to choose whether to bottom the bolt or the shatter. Even though the vise was unlikely to do any damage, I wanted to use it to turn on the atog, as a 3/4 atog handles any factory or order he might have early on, as well as surviving a bolt. Considering this, I decided to ship the bolt, so the shatter could potentially kill a crucial mox in his 6-card hand, considering his weak mana base. I think that’s pretty much the wrong choice, though. Bolt is so much better to just get out of my hand. He starts volc and bolted me when I led with the vise, then a factory, then sea dib when I played t2 tog. At this point I had drawn factory and twister and deeply regretted not having the bolt over the shatter. Thankfully, Xanadude chose to attack with his factory so I could shatter that, and he stripped my factory, so when I drew a strip mine I twistered with him on dib and sea as the only permanents. I also got another mox and vise on the twister, and that was enough against a slow hand from him.

I board out bottle, barrier, copy and something else for blasts, terror and shatter. Maybe a pixies for an avoid fate. I’m not sure what to expect besides terrors, but could see disk or even flux, so didn’t want to go too much all in with artifacts which have to stay on board. Xanadude leads on sapphire factory walk into swamp and a factory attack. I mulligan into ancestral, and go trop ancestral, then mox vise. He has sea and order and attacks me, but no red mana. I sadly don’t have a bolt for the order, but a factory and pixies. He has terror and attacks me down to 12, but has no more mana. I then play badlands and anoher pixies. My hand is lands and a psionic blast and a terror. I represent bolt/shatter here quite heavily, though it’s quite obvious I don’t have a chain for the order. He attacks with the order with BB up, so I take the trade with my factory. If I take it and psiblast it next turn, I’ll be too low once he draws red for his presumably burn-heavy hand, and he’s still on 20 at this point, meaning we might be in for a long game where he will have time to leverage that burn. He then passes, still no more mana to play. I draw walk, play it and a land, hit for 2, then attack for 2 on my next turn as well, playing factory. If he attacks, I can afford to psiblast the factory now, I feel, having 4 for the crackback. Now he draws the red, playing out a troll. He expects me to have BEB, but it does resolve; I do have the terror though, and I draw a strip for his red. I attack, evening scores at 12 each. Xanadude draws ancestral, my vise still not having done anything this game, and he just goes up to 6. But still no more red, just an order, which I psiblast. I attack again, and he has to decide which one he wants to psiblast; factory is handled by strip and factory, while pixies is handled by chain. He chooses factory. And he then mostly draws mana the rest of the game, and my atog takes it down a few turns later.

Now for a short intermission.

Okay, back, a week and a half later. Semis against Julian Riedl on an aggressive Erhnamgeddon list. Here is the video.

In game 1, I keep lotus, walk, twister, city, strip, balance, bottle. A very, very good hand that could play out in different ways. It also turns out, some of those ways are not great, because Julian starts by mulling to 5, then playing tundra, sol ring, lotus. I draw a vise. Twister seems insane to play here, especially since I can just wait, so I play strip vise go. He strips my strip, passes. I draw regrowth. Play city and pass. He plays a dib. I draw chaos orb. I thought I had to either pass or go for twister. However, I could have played lotus, orb, regrow the lotus, which is probably the best; second best would be to wait, since I’m in no real hurry, and third best is to go for it, which I chose. So I lotus regrow walk and twister, playing taiga vise post twister, then following that up with no more mana but the other two vises. Julian then proceeds to have drawn no instants, taking 12 from the vises! I have a chain in hand, so as long as I get anything else I should be good. But he then attacks with the dib, plays balance to go down to 4 cards, then follows it up with a land and a bird. I draw another city, play an atog and chain him to 4. Julian draws Ancestral, drawing into and playing serra and elf. I attack with atog which gets sworded; I was very surprised he didn’t block with Serra first, or just chumped with the bird. Maybe I should have sacced some vises to the tog, but considering a future draw-7 and him being at 4, the last vise is the difference between him having 5 cards being lethal. I’m really not sure. I then play the factory I just drew and a tutor. I probably should just have tutored last turn instead of playing the atog, it seems horrible in retrospect, having the wheel here, as I know he at least had a chumper in the bolt. So, rewatching I realize I should have had a real shot at winning this. Anyway, then Julian plays geddon, and I die to the creatures in a few turns having no artifact mana in play.

Game 2, I mulligan a few hands with very weak mana all the way down to 4 cards, where I get Ancestral, Twister, Bottle, Taiga, Strip, Bolt, Atog (I think, it might have been a vise over one of the last two). I bottom the Twister, thinking I will likely be stripped or have to strip before drawing blue, and Bottle is basically the best card in the matchup preboard. I play strip go, he goes island ancestral emerald; I play taiga, he plays trop dib. So I get to bottle right away, drawing another taiga which is mostly just useless. Julian has elf walk but no more mana and no white. Then he plays timetwister! His hand must have been mono arabian and white, but still, he had so much time to draw out of it, whereas I had one or two cards, so I felt like I just was back in the game. “From tilt mode to happy mode”, as Åland so correctly put it. Julian tries to play city where I point out my bottle in play, so he just strips one of my taigas and passes. I then play a factory, two moxes, an atog and strip a land. Now Julian has a plains so he can actually kill tog or bottle. But he goes lotus braingeyser. I then play trop timetwister, a vise and chain his elf (he was still at 19, just wanting to constrain his mana). (Mano and Åland talk about a miser’s Berserk here, and I want to point out that I did run that last time, in the summer derby; it was sweet, but ultimately not consistent enough.) He plays savannah, pixies, walk, taking another one vise damage, passing with 5 mana up. He might have a ton of instants here, but also just a ton of arabian cards as the bottle is still up. He snap sworded my tog when attacking, I then play a pixies and pass. My hand is something like psiblast and regrowth here, planning to regrow twister when I get the opportunity. And Julian obliges, playing Braingeyser again; I psiblast face (I could probably have taken out his pixies, when my board is pixies and factory, but I’m planning on drawing a bolt post-twister if I want to). I’m not really scared of anything here, being ahead on mana, having enough artifacts against geddon, enough threats on board against twist. I strip his white, bolt his pixies and attack him to 8. Julian then plays his own twister, having drawn again only arabian guys. He draws lotus, so I’m hoping for no mind twist; he has a strip for my factory, but I’m still not badly positioned with my pixies getting him into burn range and then just topdecking bolts before he gets me down all the way from 18. And the twist would leave me with two cards still. But he only plays bird and orb and passes. I then mind twist his hand, revealing that he indeed did have twist that he didn’t cast, along with regrowth and recall. Then it was over next turn.

Okay, sideboarding time. I have no idea what he will do, whether he would board in flux, or moat, but I hedge by shaving a vise (at least on the draw), shaving pixies (as he doesn’t have factories), keeping all burn and adding the second bottle as he just doesn’t have enough threats if he cuts a lot of those guys. I obviously add the avoid fates, they’re meant for white removal, there are enough of them here. I mulligan again, he keeps 7. He goes trop go. I factory, ruby, pass. I do have REB for potential flux or dib here. He has plains pixies. Then I play another factory and bolt the pixies. He goes trop dib, I play bottle but no more land, as all of my other lands in hand are cities of brass. Julian has flux, but that’s fine since I need to get my city online; I then attack with two factories into Julian’s one white, but he doesn’t even have one sword. I have ancestral into a psiblast for his angel, and another city along the way. (Mano and Åland are talking about me not deserving to draw psiblast there, over shatter or copy, but I obviously don’t have those in my deck anymore; and the reason I don’t like psiblast that much in this deck and only run 2 is that I prefer a super low curve in the 4-strip world. I do like the card quite a bit in 1-strip, as I’ve shown over the past few years, running 3 main and 1 sb a lot in RUG or UR. Stop hating on me!) Julian passes, I twist his hand of a tutor (no black) and two disenchants, opening up my two factories for next turn. I regrow Ancestral too, just burying him in cards.

For g4, I cut another vise for a pixies as I had seen flux. Reb was already in, he’s likely to have enough of dib+flux+psiblast along with the power to make one of it worth it. I mulligan again. Julian goes city pearl go. I taiga go. I think I have reb, city, bottle, avoid fate or something. He plays pixies, I go city walk, into tutor for ancestral and stripping Julian’s tropical; normally I like to cut his white mana since he has so little of it, but I can bottle his city later and he also has a pearl for white anyway which I can’t kill. He plays dib, I play ancestral into factory bottle, killing my city and his city and dib. I do take a lot of damage from his pixies, but he’s stuck on a plains and pearl for mana. I avoid fate to protect my factory from a swords. He draws a tundra. I have falling star in hand, but at 11 to 17, I’m still willing to trade damage with factory against pixies, waiting for him to play another guy. Eventually, after I have stripped his tundra, I bite the bullet and just falling star it, since I think I have drawn Timetwister and want to cast it soon. I play a tog, but then Julian casts Moat, turning off my tog and factory. So Twister time it is. I like to find the Chaos Orb, but also just burn is a real plan here, despite being on only 2 vises in the deck. But I just draw more Atogs. However, Julian also draws only ground creatures and birds, presumably hosed by bottle still, not having seen any removal for it. I falling star his three birds to turn off some tutor, timetwister (which he probably doesn’t have in the deck anymore) and braingeyser draws. I ancestral into some more atogs. Nothing much is happening. He balances away the togs and three lands and a balance out of my hand. I have chain and psiblast in hand, probably should have cast chain a bit earlier in case of a mind twist. I do cast it then, and tutor for wheel. Here I screw up. Julian’s at 8, and I have demonic, psiblast and terror in hand. My thought is that I psiblast him to 4 and then wheel into burn, as I can’t really finish him easily otherwise if he has a swords; but I could just have tutored for the other psiblast, and terrored his pixies in response to a potential swords (being okay with the small risk of him having two swords). I do draw a very good wheel hand though, and it’s over.

Time for the finals! I play against my good friend Koos Cramer, who won the winter derby last year. While winning such a huge tournament back-to-back would be an incredible feat, he was going to have to fight for it! The video can be found here.

My opening hand for game 1 is quite interesting: City, Strip, Sapphire, Orb, Copy, Walk, Balance. No idea how to navigate it so I get value out of the Balance and then can kill all his mana, but there are multiple options, and ideally of course involves copying orb. Slightly weak to a lion, but it can be worked out. Probably something like sapphire strip walk, city orb, then next turn copy orb ideally with 2 mana up if he has 1W up, then the turn after that balance and start going after his mana with strip and orbs. However, none of that comes to pass. Koos also keeps 7, but then only plays tundra go. I draw Vise, which makes things easier, as I just play that and strip his land. He then plays volc chain go. I draw Ancestral, so things aren’t fair anymore. Afterwards I just play the city and pass. He goes city tutor lotus dib.

And here I screw up. I play strip mine and chaos orb, passing with a city up, wanting to play copy next turn, willing to take 3 from the dib in the process, instead of killing the dib when Koos is tapped out. This is fine I think. But instead he plays a strip mine and strips my city, and suddenly if he has a DO or disenchant I can’t kill the dib at all which is a disaster. I should definitely have considered that possibility but I missed it. Thankfully. Koos doesn’t have the removal spell, and I get to cast my copy next turn. He has a REB for that, but then I can at least kill the dib. I did have balance as well, and could maybe have leveraged that a turn or two later, but wouldn’t have been as good.

What I should have done was play the orb with the city, leaving the mox up. One damage for taking control later seems worth it, as I was already planning to let him get a dib attack in before orbing it. I just didn’t consider strip mine enough.

(Now I also start to question whether I really had Balance in my opener, but no idea what it would have been otherwise. It means my first plan was even weaker to a lion, but otherwise doesn’t affect the reasoning too much.)

Anyway, after that exchange Koos plays a second city and passes with two cards. I draw regrowth, regrow ancestral, play it, then play another strip mine and take his volc. He plays tundra and passes. I then play factory, ruby, tutor, time walk. I could have gone for a draw-7, with Koos being on about only a couple of cities, but that can always go badly. I could also take an atog with 3-4 artifacts in play, but with Koos on 15 that’s quite slow. I go for Bottle, stripping the tundra, playing bottle to kill his last two lands while one of mine as well. Koos has a DO in response, but he’s still left with no permanents and one card, where I have factory, ruby, sapphire, city, and a bolt and a psiblast in hand. Koos does draw first a land, then a strip mine for my factory, but then I get a pixies and finish with the burn.

Game 2, we both mulligan, me twice. One hand didn’t have any stable mana, the second one had like 6 sources. Koos plays city lion, I play city chain, having some other plan but having to kill the lion asap. He then plays factory sol ring, and I’m very scared of a dib to which I lack answers at the moment, but he plays tutor and passes. I’m expecting ancestral. I have my own ancestral, though, playing a strip and taking out the factory right away. If he attacks with it I definitely need to strip it anyway, and I don’t aim to strand ancestral against a deck with that many blue sources. Koos just plays tundra and ancestral. I play factory pixies, which gets chained and Koos passes, clearly quite flooded and with a hand full of white removal. He has two tundras, a city and a sol ring to my city, factory, pixies, with him on four cards and me at five or so, but considering my low curve, it’s about even. He chains my pixies. I have another factory and an orb. My plan is, at some point, I might be able to attack with two factories when he only has mana for one removal. Koos cycles walk into lion. I chain it, Koos not choosing to take 2 from his cities to chain me back, me being at 17 and him at 16. I guess he puts me clearly as the agressor, which would be correct. I regrow my ancestral. (Regrowth does so much work for me here!) Koos plays strip and chooses to not strip my city, my only blue source, but with no pressure at all, he imagines me drawing blue in time and him getting more value from stripping one of my factories. I was expecting power sink at that point, but he might have been correct. So I’m quite ahead on cards here. After ancestral, I play ruby, sapphire and tog, then time walk. I have the two moxes, one ruby as the only untapped source, two factories and the chaos orb. Koos psiblasts my tog. I think about it a bit, but having no other threat in hand I decide to cash in the moxes for that (having two factories, a badlands and a city still). In response to the second sac, he then bolts it as well. Now this is closer. I floated a mana when I saced the ruby, but it only takes three artifacts in total to make it survive the bolt and psiblast. But is it good enough when I’m close to out of artifacts? I think it is. So I activate a factory with that mana and sac that as well. Koos thinks for a while, then allows it all to resolve. It does mean I tap out and can’t use the orb anymore, so I expect it to be killed too. Maybe I should just have sacced that over the factory. In fact, though, Koos should have stripped the factory in response to me saccing it, so he should have just have gotten the orb for free then, I suppose. I will have a glorified squire, but it does turn on all my other artifact draws. The orb wasn’t doing that much in face of potential artifact removal anyway, and Koos being high on mana, unlikely to ever having to tap out. On my walk turn, Koos forgot to strip on the turn before so I got in two free damage with the factory feeding the tog as he strips on my upkeep. I draw shatter, killing the sol ring. Koos draws factory, but I had played a strip on my walk turn before. I saved it, but also for the reason I actually needed some mana there. I draw vise, Koos DOs it but i fizzle the lifegain and the squire doing some beats. Koos is down to 6 when he draws a dib. I pass, but i was on 15, going to 12. He’s on 5 from the dib, but I attack, bolt him, and he dies in his upkeep.

I clearly won on card advantage here. Regrowing ancestral was important, sure, but I also got ahead on cards in certain small ways I think, being able to trade my mana for his cards with my lower curve through the tog and so on. But I definitely drew better these games.

Okay, sideboarding. It’s complicated. Will he have flux? Probably not. But can I count on it? Do I want to keep the barrier? His mana isn’t the best, but it’s awful against flux. Will he shave dibs? Probably. But he also has the full 5 arabian lands so probably has to keep the 4 cities. 0 dibs 4 city might still mean 1 bottle is okay. But maybe not 2? With 0 dibs he might have too few threats, so I assume he will keep 1 or 2 at least. I eventually arrive at this:

+2 avoid fate
+1 reb
+1 terror
+1 bottle
+1 shatter

-1 copy
-1 balance
-1 barrier
-1 vise
-1 atog
-1 psiblast

Cutting the atog is the hardest part. It does trade with lion, but against 3 swords and 2 beb, I can rarely afford to sac anything without avoid fate up, and a potential flux does lower its midgame utility a bunch. I am also going down on artifacts. On the other hand, it does do work against DO on bottle, and sometimes I need to sac my own bottle after it’s killed a dib to unlock cities in hand. Maybe I should just not add the extra shatter and keep the last tog. On the play, I was planning to keep all the vises.

My hand g3 is full of power: strip, emerald, lotus, tutor, wheel, orb, chain. I draw twister. Not that wheel is that amazing in this matchup, on the draw, but drawing it alongside lotus is obviously insane. Koos again doesn’t have moxes, just tundra lion. This makes it simpler, since I need to chain it; otherwise, I might have done something like t1 orb, t2 chain wheel. But maybe this is still wrong to go for it, maybe I could take the damage as a tempo play to get more ahead later? He definitely doesn’t sandbag a mox for the t2 dib, so the worst thing he could have would be another lion, in all likelihood. There’s also the issue of the Lotus being the only colored source, so if there was no lion, I could have tutored for ruby to have one extra permanent post-Wheel instead, but now that’s not really an option. I play jet sapphire walk vise. On the walk turn I play emerald, factory, strip the tundra. My hand is three cards, shatter, tropical and badlands, which means I’m in fact quite flooded, so if Koos gets a good hand, with a combination of moxes and threats so he doesn’t die to the Vise and likely can just handle my factory, I need to topdeck some good cards. And the tutor and both draw-7s are in the graveyard already. A tog would be good, but postboard there’s a ton of removal for those. Koos then plays pearl, ruby, jet and goes in the tank. I’m starting to plan to shatter whatever he keeps untapped (red or white) to probably get in with the factory. It turns out his hand is mind twist and tutor but no lands. He decides to tutor for lotus to take my hand, once again using tutor as a lotus petal, and I don’t really love that. Maybe just twist for 2 is the play here? It would mean he is going to take 2 from the factory, but that should be doable. I don’t know. His play leaves me without red mana, but I have the rest of the colors. I do draw pixies which is one of the best things I could have done. Koos chains the pixies, passes with white removal up, so I pass. He plays tundra. I play volc, pass. He casts a dib, him at 15 to my 20. I play pixies and pass. 14 to 17. He has a factory too. Two cards to my one. I have an avoid fate, not sure if I draw it here or the turn before, and when I attack with the pixies and he swords it, I decide not to protect it. My thought was I could then wait until he attacks with his dib and his factory, having a removal spell for my factory, getting to blow out his factory with mine through the fate. But what if he doesn’t have the removal, or chooses not to attack to just race me with the dib and the factory on offense? Then I suddenly have no plan at all! This was a clear slip-up, and I should just have protected the pixies, winning the race against the dib. At least the commentators didn’t know that I had it in hand so they couldn’t call me out. He attacks, his 13 to my 16. I draw a bolt which again saves me from my earlier misplay. I attack with factory, as I now can kill his factory, so now I use the avoid fate to protect my factory from the second swords he happens to have. Koos attacks with both now, and I bolt the factory. He is on three cards, me on two. Attack with factory. He has drawn a DO now. I’m on 13 vs 10, then chain Koos to 7. Dib takes him to 6, me to 10. I pass. He plays another dib. I draw another vise. He attacks me, 4 to 4, but he doesn’t have the psiblast for the kill. I, however, topdeck the bolt, and that’s it. I did have a number of outs here, with all the burn being lethal, reb and terror and bottle being redraws, and so on, but I still had to get lucky; but that’s how the game goes.

I got lucky, here and throughout the tournament. But it’s a deck that’s very easy to get lucky with: it utilizes strip mines and power better than just about anything. (I need to work on my tactical play though, as I discover so many bad lines when I rewatched my video games, which is especially obvious when re-reading what I’ve written now. I probably should just learn to slow down at harder decision points.) I also believe the deck doesn’t really have any bad matchups among the commonly played decks. It’s possible to build a deck with a good matchup against this, sure, but that’s another thing (I’d start with power, swords, a low curve and creatures which don’t die to bottle and at least some who survive bolts, but exactly where that ends is unclear).

I am very happy I won. I would like to thank all my opponents for the games, the commentators and streamers (especially Åland and Simon) for their insights and putting in the work, and I would very much would like to thank DFB for organizing. Without him, there would be no Derby series. And I would like to thank everyone who congratulated me after my win, and all of you for reading. Until next time.


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