By Tom Vandevelde
A lot of Gentry was played this weekend, with the Gentry Open Finals on Saturday and the (much smaller) Gentry side-event at the WMCQ on Sunday. I finished a very disappointing 9th (but still played Top 8) in the former, while winning the latter. I was going to write up a report of the Finals either way, so I figured I might as well throw in the second event for free (a figure of speech, I don’t get paid these articles, sadly). So here’s my three-piece tournament report double-header, just for you!
ON SHOWING UP (UN)PREPARED
In the weeks leading up to the event, several of the more experienced players from the League of New and Beginning Players gathered to test properly. This meant keeping track of our results through spreadsheets, playing with focus, testing both pre- and post-sideboard, and figuring out both the most important cards in the match-ups, and how to sideboard. I think the crew did a pretty good job at this, and it showed in our results. We mostly focused on GB Aristocrats, UW Midrange, UR Eldrazi, UR Tutelage, UR and UB Rise from the Tides, BG Delirium and WB Control, having dismissed most of the other aggressive decks (BR Vampires, GW Humans and White Weenie had a hard time beating the early red removal, and red-based Burn lacked the critical mass of burn spells required to consistently finish the opponent), as well as slower midrange decks and ramp strategies such as green-based Ramp (too slow against the aggressive decks) and UG Emerge. We might have dismissed the Emerge deck a bit too soon, however. Although I still think the deck should have trouble against the Whirler Rogue decks as well as Vampires, and can be disrupted by removing its early enablers (a small flaw in its gameplan), I underestimated the raw power of its rares as well as its consistency, and should have put more work into testing the deck properly.
In the end, we could not find one deck among the top contenders that clearly stood above the others, with every deck having pretty close match-ups across the board, much of them being playskill-dependent. A sign of a healthy format. Ian, Lars and Jelle had already decided to settle on GB Aristocrats, UW Midrange and WB Control respectively, while Frederik and Niels championed GB Delirium. Niklas, Stijn and I had trouble deciding, but eventually decided that our UR Tutelage deck which could transition into Rise from the Tides/Thermo-Alchemist post-sideboard gave us the biggest chance to beat the field of slower decks we expected, though we each settled on a slightly different build.
ON THE DECK
Back home, the evening before the event, I mulled my decision over. You see, while I thought the UR Tutelage deck was both good and interesting to play, I did not like playing it, and since Gentry is also about fun for me, that just didn’t cut it. I decided to revisit the Delirium/Emerge Emrakul control deck I had been tinkering with and really liked… in theory. To ‘solve’ the format, I wanted to have access to early removal for the aggro decks, Flaying Tendrils for both the token-heavy aggro builds and the Rise decks, Duress/Negate from the sideboard for the control decks, Caterpillar for the Tutelage match-up, and a way to go over the top of other midrange/controldecks. This deck offered all of those, but had so many interlocking pieces in the balance (different cardtypes for Delirium/Emrakul, early removal vs. unconditional removal, Emerge fodder, both sufficient removal and creatures, a three-colour manabase, etc.) that building it correctly proved to be really challenging. After laying out the possibilities (some 35 different cards) and tinkering with the configuration for several hours, I arrived at a decent shell, which I went to test against my brother’s Delirium deck for an hour or two. Though it performed reasonably, I was still not happy with the exact configuration and wound up rethinking the build and changing cards up to half an hour before the event. In the end, I settled on the following list:
2 Gnarlwood Dryad (U)
3 Moldgraf Scavenger
2 Pilgrim’s Eye (U)
1 Stoic Builder
3 Seed Guardian (U)
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow (R)
1 Sidisi, Undead Vizier (R)
3 Vexing Scuttler (U)
1 Emrakul, the Promised End (R)
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
4 Evolving Wilds
While the deck plays out fairly similarly to the GB Delirium deck, its endgame, fueled by Vexing Scuttler + Grapple with the Past/Corpse Churn/Pulse of Murasa, is slightly superior, and it can power out Emrakul much more quickly, which is essential in both the GB Aristocrats match-up and the Emrakul mirrors. It did give up equity against the UR decks, as I am not playing Autumnal Gloom, which is extremely powerful in those match-ups. What was even more important: I loved playing the deck. It had lots and lots of decision points, utilized the graveyard, played efficient creatures with enter the battlefield effects and could theoretically play Turn 6 Emrakul, all of which I thoroughly enjoy. I had not practiced much (not at all, actually) with the deck though, so I hoped my theorycrafting would work out.
ON WORKING HARD VS. GETTING LUCKY
I arrived in time at the tournament to give my teammate Bob (gratuitous shout-out to Team Wrecking Ball!) some of the cards he needed for his deck and scout the opposition. Apart from the League regulars, I saw Arthur Hugaert, a previous finalist an a very good player, two-time defending champion and all-round entertainer Jelle Ghyselinck, as well as four or five faces I did not recognize. All in all, there were 26 players (3 of whom had a bye), making for 5 rounds of swiss.
Round 1: vs. Mr. Bye.
Last year, I put a lot of effort into trying to get a bye for the Finals. Unfortunately, I finished right outside the Top 3 of the leaderboard, leaving me without the coveted bye. This year, I decided to just get lucky and get a random bye. It worked out. I’m good. (Actually, I did not have to time to play the ladder events this season, and got very lucky.)
During my round off, I got to put in a little bit of much-needed practice with my deck, playing Peter Geernaert, who had a (more deserved) bye as the winner of the Bredene leaderboard. I played his Vampires deck first, and his Husk/Emerge build second, and won both match-ups fairly convincingly, boosting my confidence for the second round.
Tune in for Part II, which will include a brothers’ war, a turn seven Emrakul showing, and a horrible, horrible curse. Sound exciting, right? It is.
May you be lucky instead of good, (Wait.)
Tom Vandevelde has been playing Magic since Tempest, and competitively since Time Spiral. Deckbuilding is his favorite part of the game, which has led to him taking an interest in less conventional formats like League Standard. Alongside his teammates on Team Wrecking Ball he is shooting for the Pro Tour, but you will just as often find him playing Pauper, Pack Wars or Mental Magic, or helping out newer players. You will often find Tom streaming on twitch.tv/wreckingballmtg, where you can actually challenge him to League Standard matches in between rounds! Be sure to come hang out and don’t be afraid to ask questions!