Shifting up to Boston – 38th Place – By Josh Breau

To say that I was excited for this event is an incredible understatement. After losing in the semis of the PTQ in August, I had a fire lit under me to qualify for the Pro Tour like never before. Modern is a fantastic format and I have not enjoyed playing any deck in any format more than I have Scapeshift. I feel like I now understand the matchups after reading every resource possible and playing the deck non-stop for a month.

 

My list remained unchanged from the earlier PTQ:

 

Spells (36)

4 Remand
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Scapeshift
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Serum Visions
3 Cryptic Command
3 Izzet Charm
3 Snapcaster Mage
3 Telling Time
2 Electrolyze
2 Repeal

Lands (24)

4 Steam Vents
4 Stomping Ground
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
1 Breeding Pool
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Flooded Grove
1 Halimar Depths
3 Forest
3 Island
2 Mountain

 

Sideboard (15)

2 Ancient Grudge
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Obstinate Baloth
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Swan Song
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Batterskull
1 Quicken
1 Spellskite

 

 

I did manage to find more foreign cards for it though! Would love to have the entire deck in French, but that’s probably much easier said than done.

 

Anyway, I will have a primer for it before the Saint John PTQ. I’m almost done with it already, but wanted to write this article while the details were still fresh.

 

We had a pretty smooth ride into Boston, which was nice. Got in at a good time and even had time to play in a grinder. Phil and Alex both had two byes, while Nick had none. Even though I had one bye from Planeswalker Points, there was no reason not to try and get the second. Especially after finding out the grinders were $20 and gave out a playmat worth $40.

 

The grinder itself wasn’t too special. I beat my first round opponent who was playing Birthing Pod. He would always draw his card and immediately move to combat before using his pod. On his board of Entomber Exarch and Birthing Pod, he passed the turn back to me and I drew Snapcaster Mage. I thought a little bit about what to do with it and realized my best out was him attacking. I passed the turn back and sure enough, he sent the Exarch into the red zone. I played my Snapcaster, blocked and on end step flashed back my Telling Time, finding what I needed a few turns later.

 

I then beat my Jund opponent in three games before getting paired against MartyrProc and let me tell you about unwinnable matchups. Turn one Cavern of Souls into Martyr of Sands, followed by untapping and gaining 18 and playing a 6/6 uncounterable Serra Ascendant is rough.

 

I took my packs and mat and went back to the hotel to order Domino’s. I wasn’t familiar with Domino’s in the United States, but apparently you can get an actual mountain of food for like $20. Got some decent sleep that night, which I don’t usually ever do before tournaments.

 

Woke up, showered and left for the venue. I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Sat through the boring player meeting and got some cards signed during my first-round bye.

 

Round 1: Bye

 

1-0 (0-0)

 

Ding!

 

The wait seemed like an eternity, but it was finally time to battle.

 

Round 2: Nicholas Colby (Scapeshift)

 

I started off my tournament with a pretty good hand against any kind of aggressive or creature-based deck, so I was feeling good. When my opponent played a Forest and suspended a Search for Tomorrow, I kinda slumped in my chair. My hand with Izzet Charm and Electrolyze suddenly got much worse versus his multiple ramp spells. He even cast a Farseek at one point, which at least let me know he wasn’t on a completely stock list. He cast a Scapeshift and I Remanded it twice, eventually drawing my own Scapeshift. However, I had nothing left so I just fired off my own Scapeshift, which got countered and he won game one.

 

Games two and three were incredibly easy because my opponent either didn’t play Swan Song or never drew them. In game two, I cast an end step Vendilion Clique which revealed his four-card hand of two Scapeshifts and two lands, allowing me to win. In game three, I just played super patiently and waited for him to try and resolve Scapeshift, won the battle and untapped to cast it on my own turn.

 

2-0 (2-1)

 

Round 3: George Magou (Junk)

 

I think I have played this opponent before, he seemed familiar for some reason.

 

I mulliganed down to five, which was unfortunate, but I was on the draw, so I could have a chance against a slower deck. He played a swamp and Thoughtseized me. That sucks, but whatever. I played my land and passed and he cast another Thoughtseize. Ugh. I was down to just three cards, but I had two lands and an Izzet Charm in hand. I killed his Scavenging Ooze that he played the next turn and his follow-up was Lingering Souls. I drew Cryptic Command and passed back, luckily able to counter his freshly drawn Liliana and to draw a card, which was a 5th land. I then untapped and drew Electrolyze, killed his Spirit tokens and drew Telling Time. I cast it on end step, setting up my 6th and 7th land, then drew Scapeshift the next turn.

 

Little early to feel like things are going to go well all day, but this seemed like a good sign.

 

Must have been the good luck charm.

 

Game two, I kept a hand with triple Scapeshift. He played a turn one Inquisition of Kozilek and sighed. He ended up playing a Liliana of the Veil and I discarded both Scapeshifts, having drawn a Snapcaster Mage, while he discarded another copy of Liliana of the Veil. On his final turn, I discarded the last copy of Scapeshift leaving Snapcaster Mage alone in my hand. He passed the turn back and I drew the 7th land that I knew was on top via Halimar Depths to kill him. He showed me the third Liliana of the Veil in his hand which would have won him the game.

 

We talked for a bit after the match and he mentioned his unfamiliarity with the matchup and how some of the interactions like Valakut work, so I was glad to answer his questions about them.

 

3-0 (4-1)

 

Round 4: Josh Blackborrow (Burn)

 

I don’t really have much to say here. He played a turn one Goblin Guide into a turn two Vexing Devil + suspend Rift Bolt in both games, never drawing more than three lands and all gas. I had an interesting choice in game two where I could cast Obstinate Baloth or keep up Izzet Charm, but the latter just seemed like prolonging the inevitable, so I went for the Baloth. He immediately cracked a fetchland and it was quickly obvious he had the Skullcrack.

 

At least I lost so quickly that I managed to sit through the 45 minutes required to get my cards signed by Scott Fischer!

 

3-1 (4-3)

 

Round 5: Alex Schmidt (Robots)

 

Again, not too much to say. He did next to nothing in both games and I won game one at 18 life/2 poison and game two at 17 life/1 poison. I’ve never lost against Robots, but every single time I’ve played it, they’ve had very poor draws. Not sure how to feel about that matchup.

 

4-1 (6-3)

 

Round 6: Jamie Blanchette (Junk Fauna Shaman)

 

I knew of Jamie from the Montreal scene, I remembered him beating us in the trios event at CMT Montreal 2012 with a very similar deck, although he used Steelshaper’s Gift and Swords along with the Fauna Shamans.

 

Game one, he mulled to six, then played a Squadron Hawk and got two more Squadron Hawks. Alright, alarm bells are ringing. I quickly Scapeshifted him to death, only seeing Temple Garden, Plains, Noble Hierarch and 3 Squadron Hawks. I assumed this was some kind of Pod deck and boarded accordingly, although I didn’t bring in the Ancient Grudges since I didn’t know for sure and wanted to avoid having dead cards.

 

We got deck checked before game two and I mentioned I spoke French, so we talked for a bit.

 

I generally avoid speaking French at tournaments because I can gain a small edge by them either not knowing I’m French and saying things that I can pick up on, or via slightly tilting them because they have trouble with English. When they ask if I speak French, I always answer that I understand French. I’m okay with them speaking French, but using the Magic terms in French is weird to me, so I don’t.

 

All that aside, chatting was nice, but we finally got our decks back and proceeded to game two where I was in for a rude awakening. He played a turn one Aether Vial, followed by a turn two Pack Rat. The Pack Rats did all the work, but he did Vial in a Fauna Shaman which gave me some good information.

 

In game three, he again started with Vial, but I had a turn two Repeal for it. The Fauna Shaman came down soon after and I was a bit worried since I had a land-heavy hand and no real way to deal with it. He then fetched out consecutive Fulminator Mages, which was annoying, but a lot better than Pack Rat given my hand. I managed to kill the Fauna Shaman off the top of my deck, which he followed up by playing a Dark Confidant. I drew a Vendilion Clique and immediately started attacking, while he started taking a good chunk of damage off of Bob. I eventually got him to three with the Clique before he was able to deal with it. I was still at a healthy 15 life and I used my resources to stall him while Bob did the dirty work and finished him off.

 

5-1 (8-4)

 

Round 7: Chris Calderon (Geist Twin)

 

Game one, he played a Geist of Saint Traft on turn three, which I managed to kill with a Snapcaster Mage playing as Ambush Viper. He didn’t have any real follow-up after that and even though he did eventually burn me down to 5, I assembled the lands necessary to Scapeshift him out.

 

I thought he was on a different deck, one that plays Geist and permission along with a bunch of burn spells, so I sideboarded with that in mind. In game two, Deceiver Exarch hit me down to 14, before being joined by a Geist of Saint Traft. He always had the answers necessary to deal with my reactive spells and we were quickly on to game three.

 

In game three, I kept a hand with Anger of the Gods and Snapcaster Mage and got both his turn 3 and turn 4 Geists. He then drew the awkward combinations of cards that this deck sometimes offers, ending the game with a Lightning Bolt, Spellskite and a Splinter Twin, while I managed to Scapeshift with 9 lands, to kill him from 16 even though he had Spellskite and 5 blue mana up.

 

6-1 (10-5)

 

Round 8: Steven Dove (Junk)

 

Continuing the trend of not having too much to say about a match, these were incredibly straightforward. He never had very good draws and I was able to deal with his creatures rather efficiently. An Obstinate Baloth came down in game two which put him to 23, but I untapped and played two Sakura-Tribe Elders, which held the fort long enough for me to get to 8 lands.

 

7-1 (12-5)

 

Round 9: Jacob Gresh (Scapeshift)

 

Sat down for the last round of the day and it turned out to be another mirror match. I quickly got outramped in game one and similarly to round one, ended up having to go for it prematurely because of a weak hand, which cost me the game.

 

Game two was a long, drawn out affair. We both ramped sufficiently and I played an end step Vendilion Clique that got his Scapeshift. He dealt with it in short order, but I assembled the impressive attacking unit of Snapcaster Mage and Sakura-Tribe Elder. I got him down to two and we then started to fight over a Scapeshift, which I won with him having one card in hand. I then attacked on my next turn and he tried to cast Repeal on my Snapcaster Mage, to which I responded by sacrificing my Sakura-Tribe Elder to get a basic Mountain, triggering Valakut for the win.

 

We were down to about 7 minutes for game three and neither of us really wanted a draw, so we played quickly. I managed to draw pretty perfect, hitting all three Cryptic Commands to counter his ramp and bounce his lands, slowing him down immensely, while hitting 8 lands myself to cast Scapeshift with double Remand backup.

 

8-1 (14-6)

 

Felt pretty good to end the day at 8-1, Phil had gone 7-2 so it was even better knowing I wasn’t going back to the venue alone. We went back to the hotel and I wasn’t interested in doing too much. Ate a bit of food and pretty much went to sleep shortly afterwards.

 

Woke up for day two feeling pretty alert and well. Considering I had gone 7-1 in matches on day one, there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to get the 5-1 needed to qualify for the Pro Tour and maybe top 8 if I’m lucky.

 

Round 10: Kevin Jones (Scapeshift)

 

In game one, I kept a slow hand with answers to creatures, which was once again trumped by a turn one suspended Search for Tomorrow. I ended up never drawing a 5th land and lost in short order.

 

Game two played out pretty Standard. We both had our ramp spells and got to 6 lands. He then stopped playing lands, whereas I had found a 7th. On his next turn, he cast a main phase Telling Time, which I chose to Remand. I wanted to stop him from finding more land drops if at all possible. I untapped and drew Halimar Depths, setting up Scapeshift on top. He still had four mana up, so I passed the turn back. He tapped two on his end step and announced Telling Time and that’s when I went for it.

 

“In response to that, Quicken?”

 

“Uh oh.”

 

I started shaking for the first (and only) time in the tournament that I was going to win with Quicken. It resolved and I cast Scapeshift. He tried to cast a Swan Song, but I had Izzet Charm to stop it and killed him on his end step.

 

While shuffling for game three, he was talking about how interesting a card that was, because he was now scared of doing anything on the end step. The fear was struck deep within him.

 

Game three was pretty anticlimactic, he never drew green mana and I just eventually cast a Scapeshift with double Swan Song and Remand.

 

9-1 (16-7)

 

Round 11: Eli Suriel (Melira Pod)

 

I had gotten paired down against Eli, who was 8-0-2, so I initially had put him on some sort of UW or UWR control deck, but to my surprise, he was playing Birthing Pod. I played a Sakura-Tribe Elder and he picked it up to read it. As it was in French, I informed him of what it did, but I wasn’t sure if he had maybe picked it up because it was French. When I cast a Search for Tomorrow on the next turn, which he also picked up, I started thinking he might not be familiar with either the format or the deck. He simply played a few creatures that weren’t relevant and I managed to finally find the Scapeshift with Halimar Depths and Snapcaster Mage + Serum Visions was able to give me it on that same turn.

 

I’m gonna be straightforward and say that in game two, I made a massive mistake of not killing a Spike Feeder with an Izzet Charm, choosing instead to draw and discard two, as I was going to be able to Scapeshift for the win on the next turn. He then untapped and muttered “I guess let’s see what happens” as he cast Archangel of Thune to gain millions of life, forcing me to concede.

 

I was shaken up after making such a bad play, but I quickly came to my senses that this was not the time to dwell on it and focus on game three. And although we were getting close to extra time, he missed many land drops and I managed to quickly land the Scapeshift just as the round was ending.

 

10-1 (18-8)

 

Round 12: Eric Poirier (Scapeshift)

 

I had seen that I was sitting at table three when they started announcing the feature matches for the round:

 

“Table 1… X vs Y. Table 2… X vs Y. Table… 7.”

 

Whew. A feature match would’ve been cool, but even though I keep telling myself it’s no different, there would certainly be added pressure.

 

I lost the die roll and he started off by suspending Search for Tomorrow. Woo, another mirror! I had a hand with decent ramp, but also a few counterspells. My opponent however, cast all four Search for Tomorrow as well as a Sakura-Tribe Elder, quickly hitting close to 12 lands. He jumped the gun first on Scapeshift, which I stopped with Remand, but I still didn’t have a Scapeshift. When he went for it on the next turn, I cast Remand again, drawing Telling Time. He chose not to try again on that turn and I found Scapeshift off the telling time, along with a third Remand. I had 12 lands myself at this point, so Scapeshift with Cryptic Command, Remand and Izzet Charm as back up ended up being good enough.

 

Game two was much of the same, a lot of early ramping, but I had the Scapeshift in hand. What I didn’t have however, was any permission. I kept a land, a Search for Tomorrow and a Sakura-Tribe Elder in hand for a long time, in an effort to bluff having relevant spells. I found a Telling Time and cast it on his end step, finding Swan Song and Remand. I then managed to draw a second Remand, a Cryptic Command and an Izzet Charm in consecutive turns, suddenly having all the cards necessary to fight. By the time he decided to go for it, I had even drawn a second Swan Song, so I won the fight handily and got him on my next turn.

 

11-1 (20-8)

 

Wow, 11-1. Just had to 2-1 from here on out to achieve my goal. I was getting slightly nervous as I had gotten this far, but I was still oddly somewhat calm. I remained focused on the task at hand.

 

Round 13: Wesley Hovanec (BUG Infect)

 

I kept a hand with double Repeal, a Scapeshift, Sakura-Tribe Elder and some lands. He lead off with a Noble Hierarch on turn one and when he played a turn two Plague Stinger, I wasted no time sending it back. The next time he cast it, I chose to wait. I had no other way to deal with it, so I wanted an answer to 10 poison coming in at my head. On the very next turn, he cast Might of Old Krosa on the Stinger and sent it in for 6. I announced no blocks and when he went to grab his pen, I cast Repeal before damage. I thought I had gotten him, but he cracked a fetchland and cast Vines of Vastwood with kicker, getting me for 10.

 

In game two, I kept a seven card hand that consisted of Valakut, Mountain, Anger of the Gods, Izzet Charm, Electrolyze, Repeal and Sakura-Tribe Elder. This hand, given that I would draw any land other than the second Valakut or the second Mountain would be insane in the match-up, but I never drew a third land the entire game. To add insult to injury, he kept a very slow hand light on threats and pegged me down with an Inkmoth Nexus and only one pump spell.

 

11-2 (20-10)

 

Round 14: Jackie Lee (UWR Control)

 

There’s always that weird feeling when you get paired against someone who’s name you recognize, but this was a little bit better of a feeling because Alex had played against her in day one. Knowing she was on UWR was a nice boost considering the matchup is strongly in our favour.

 

Jackie was real nice, asking questions like where I was from, how long I had been playing, making small chat about things, etc. I don’t think there was any attempt to gain information, but I made sure not to give anything away.

 

I kept a hand with four lands in game one and never really drew any more for a few turns. She played an end step Restoration Angel early, which along with a few burn spells, made short order of me.

 

She started off with a mulligan in game two and my hand was pretty stacked. She ended up missing a few land drops while I held Restoration Angel at bay with Remand, but she finally hit the second white she needed to cast Leyline of Sanctity. That card is real annoying, especially after having sideboarded out Repeals, but I did have a Cryptic Command in hand. Sure enough, on my next end step, she went for Restoration Angel and I answered with Cryptic Command, countering it and bouncing the Leyline of Sanctity. She then tried to replay it on her next turn, but I had Swan Song up to counter it and cast Scapeshift afterwards.

 

Game one had been quite the lengthy affair, so we were now pretty low on time for game three. I ended up drawing all three Cryptic Commands in that game, using them to stop her Restoration Angels and Snapcaster Mages. She ended up being low on cards when I drew Vendilion Clique, so I passed the turn back. On her next end step, I cast the Clique, revealing a hand of Sphinx’s Revelation and a land. Having Swan Song and Scapeshift, I happily let her keep the Revelation and won on the next turn.

 

12-2 (22-11)

 

She asked me if I was going to play it out for top 8, to which I responded yes and she wished me good luck. I found all the Maritime guys to try and wind down as much as possible, but it all came down to this next match. The standings showed me at 17th and Jacob Wilson at 18th. Barring something like the 15th and 16th having already played each other, I’d be playing against a Platinum pro.

 

Whatever, just wait for the pairings and don’t worry about it.

 

Round 16: Jacob Wilson (Melira Pod)

 

Both matches on the adjacent tables were concessions, which certainly gave more room for a crowd to form around us. Game one got underway with myself having a decent hand. Ramp, a Cryptic Command, some lands and a Scapeshift. He didn’t do too much while I set up my combo. I played a Serum Visions finding a second Scapeshift, which I left on top. I played my 6th land and passed back. He resolved a Birthing Pod and found a Sin Collector to take the Scapeshift I had in my opening hand. I calmly untapped, played Sakura-Tribe Elder to get my 7th land and cast the freshly drawn Scapeshift to win the game.

 

In game two, he lead off with Hierarch into Voice of Resurgence. My hand consisted of double Anger of the Gods and a Snapcaster Mage, so I was feeling pretty good about the situation. He played a Burrenton Forge-Tender and I had no other way to deal with it, so I fired off an Anger of the Gods, which he promptly sacrificed it to stop. On his next turn, down came a Birthing Pod and the Sin Collector to take my second Anger of the Gods. No biggie, I untapped, played my 4th land and passed. He untapped, drew and played a fetchland, finally getting a source of black mana and casting Thoughtseize. My heart sank as he took the Snapcaster Mage. I managed to get up to seven lands to sweat drawing the Scapeshift, but it was never there.

 

I kept my seven pretty quickly in game three, but he thought for a long time before keeping. I played a few ramp spells before having a Scapeshift taken from my hand via Thoughtseize. He eventually found a Voice of Resurgence, followed by a Kitchen Finks, which were threatening to end the game quickly with Gavony Township. I cast a Telling Time, finding nothing as well as a Serum Visions finding nothing.

 

He then cast a second Thoughtseize, to which I could respond by casting Izzet Charm to draw two and discard two, but given that I only hand one land in hand, it wouldn’t really get me anywhere, while it would give him an Elemental token off of Voice of Resurgence, which would become a problem if I used Cryptic Command to tap his team into drawing an Anger of the Gods. I knew my top three cards were Cryptic Command, Misty Rainforest and Relic of Progenitus from Halimar Depths, so I simply let him take the Izzet Charm.

 

I drew Relic of Progenitus. He attacked me down to 11 and then I drew the Cryptic Command. He hit me down to two and I drew the Misty Rainforest. On his next turn, I tapped his team and drew a card, another blank. I untapped, and drew a blank and cracked Relic of Progenitus to draw a card. Mountain was not going to win the match and I extended the hand.

 

12-3 (23-13)

 

It sucked to have gone that far and lost. Even more so than in Quebec since the Pro Tour was one win away, unlike the two wins I needed there. I ended up finishing 38th, netting a pro point and a cool $300. I guess finishing 38th out of some 2,400 players isn’t all bad, but it really stung for that night. All in all, I was happy with my play and am starting to feel like I am playing a lot better and with a lot more focus.

 

I was two wins away in Quebec, one away in Boston… definitely hoping that Saint John will be the one!

 

Very necessary props and slops:

 

Props

 

– Again, a very special someone for the good luck charm. It helped me clear my mind before each round just seeing it. ily <3.

– Phil, for providing a brand new car for the trip that was baller on gas

– Everyone in the car for being bros

– Everyone from the Maritimes at the tournament itself for the encouragement and support

– Everyone from the Maritimes watching back home and giving me thumbs and nice comments on my Facebook updates

– Domino’s for being ridiculously cheap in the States

– That random place in the Portland mall outside Best Buy with Pretzel Hot Dogs, holy molly

 

Slops

 

– The venue’s food services. $6.00 OJ, are you kidding me?

– The United States of America for still having one dollar bills and pennies. Get with the times.

– Mother nature for putting us through the dumbest rainstorm I’ve ever seen on the way home

– The American dude at the border patrol for trying to make us lose our cool

– Jacob Wilson for peeling the black mana to Thoughtseize me in game two and keeping the 5 land, 2 Thoughtseize hand that crushed me in game three 🙁

If you somehow managed to make it through the entire thing, thanks for reading!

Josh

 

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