In which we learn to properly fear the card Temur Battle Rage.
In preparation for SCG’s Milwaukee Open, which is the Midwest’s last big Modern tournament for the year, I got out to Kryptonite Kollectibles in Janesville last weekend to jam some Modern with my trusty Grixis Delver deck. I ended up making a few swaps from the list I played at a Madison PPTQ a month ago, because I wanted to try out some new technology and was unhappy with one main deck card:
- I swapped Burst Lightnings for Collective Brutalities. I’ve seen Brutality do some pretty good things out of Abzan decks, and I wanted to give it a shot here. Spoiler: It was decent. Not overwhelmingly great, but decent.
- I swapped my main deck Spell Pierce with a Dispel. There’s at least one playset of cards for Dispel to stop in most top tier decks, and Spell Pierce was pretty mediocre at the PPTQ. The more situational hard counter seems better as a one-of currently.
- I swapped Darkslick Shores for a Spirebluff Canal. The deck doesn’t play any 1-mana Black spells, and the ability to randomly be able to hold up both Lightning Bolt and Thought Scour on turn 1 without taking any damage seems better than randomly having Black mana.
I ended up playing against two Temur Battle Rage decks and a Sultai control deck. Here’s how the matches went.
Match 1 – Vs. Jeskai Creature Storm (or Suicide Bloo, as I’ve seen it be called)
This was a deck that used a bunch of cantrips, Temur Battle Rage, Kiln Fiend, Thing in the Ice, and Bedlam Reveler to chain a bunch of spells together and kill the opponent dead. The match basically boiled down to this:
- My opponent would play non-Bedlam Reveler threats. I would have to kill them or risk being overrun. For the most part, I was able to do this.
- My opponent would play Bedlam Reveler. I was forced to either a) answer the Reveler or b) hope my opponent whiffed on his three new cards.
- In the meantime, I needed to play my own threats and hope they stuck. Tasigur was the best here, because he survived my opponent’s Lightning Bolts.
Game 1 was very rough, because I didn’t draw Black mana until about turn 8. At one point, with three non-Black lands on the battlefield (no, none of them was the Spirebluff Canal), my opponent used Gitaxian Probe and saw these spells in my hand:
- Doom Blade
- 2x Tasigur
- Collective Brutality
I thought about conceding in response to that Probe, to conceal that I was playing Grixis, but I didn’t feel like I was out of the game quite yet, despite how it had been going. I did draw Black mana very soon after that, which let me clean up the board in quick order. My opponent played a Bedlam Reveler but chained into dead air off of it, so Tasigur was able to take the first game home.
The second game, my opponent drew more threats, but I drew enough answers to keep him mostly at bay. I had one turn where I had to sweat my opponent finding a Battle Rage, as his Kiln Fiend had gotten up to 16 power, but he didn’t find it, and I was able to chump with an Ambush Viper Mage and win on the next turn.
Result: W (1-0)
Match 2 – Vs. Zooicide
In the second match, I played against Suicide Zoo proper. I was able to take the first game home because my opponent drew too many lands and not enough threats, and I was able to punish his aggressive fetching with a combination of Snapcaster Mages and Lightning Bolts.
In game 2, I ended up having to mulligan to five cards, but had found one of the Engineered Explosives I’d brought in from my sideboard. My opponent played Inquistion of Kozilek and stripped the Explosives from my hand, and the game went downhill quickly from there. My opponent finished me with a double Become Immense in this game.
A quick note on sideboarding: I was pretty out of it that day, as I was pretty sick, and so I’m not exactly sure what I swapped in and out. I know I swapped in Terminate, exactly one Blood Moon (because drawing more than one would mean I’d wasted a card), and both Explosives. I’m not sure if I brought in Dispel or not; I definitely should have. As for what I took out, I’m not entirely sure. Possibly Mana Leaks and Spell Snares, definitely Electrolyze.
In game 3, I finally got to escalate a Collective Brutality, pitching an extra land to both kill a Wild Nacatl and strip a Battle Rage from my opponent’s hand, which felt great. Eventually, I was one turn out from killing my opponent, and was dead to only exactly Temur Battle Rage, as Young Pyromancer had created a couple chump blockers for my opponent’s attackers.
My opponent top-decked Temur Battle Rage and killed me. Oh well. Gave it the ol’ college try.
Result: L (1-1)
Match 3 – Vs. Sultai Control
This match was a real big mess on my part, because I was starting to feel super out of it due to sickness. The fact that I managed to win it is kind of absurd, but I also chalk it up to hanging in there and being able to set aside and overcome my own mistakes.
Game 1 went relatively easily. I was primed to turn 1 Thought Scour into a turn 2 Tasigur. My opponent played Inquisition, and I used my Thought Scour in response, to make sure I had Tasigur online.
My opponent took my Mana Leak with his Inquisition, to set up his double Damnation hand. I proceeded to draw the other two Mana Leaks in my deck. My opponent did not win this game.
I sided in Blood Moons and extra ways to deal with Tarmogoyfs and Tasigurs, as well as swapping Electrolyze for my extra Kolaghan’s Command. Then game 2 happened to me.
My opponent and I both ended up mulliganing to six cards. The hand I somehow decided was worth keeping was a Young Pyromancer and five lands. This was decidedly wrong. I then got rewarded for my land-heavy keep by drawing no other spells except one Mana Leak all game. This game was not close. This game was not fun.
Game 3 was where everything should have gone off the rails, but somehow I brought it back in. I missed a Delver trigger early, on turn 3. The Delver would have flipped off of a Collective Brutality that turn. That Delver never actually flipped that game.
I told myself that this was fine, and that I could still win. I ripped my opponent’s hand apart with Collective Brutalities and Kolaghan’s Command. I got the opponent to discard his fifth land, which would have let him cast a pretty lethal Thragtusk later in the game, and I eventually matched him Tasigur for Tasigur and Snapcaster Mage for Snapcaster Mage.
I crawled back into the game and went on the offensive, attacking my Tasigur into his Tasigur because I knew that I would get overwhelmed in the late game, and that if he let the damage through I might be able to win. I activated my Tasigur and got another Tasigur back, which I did not quite plan but decided was a good thing, since Tasigur was going to be key to any victory anyways. This is how I rationalized this.
My opponent let my Tasigur through once, and I did some other incidental damage, and I got my opponent down to 4 life. My opponent finally drew his fifth land, but it was a Hissing Quagmire, and so entered the battlefield tapped. I was pretty much on the ropes, but wasn’t ready to give up.
On my turn, I was one land away from being able to chain Kolaghan’s Command into Snapcaster Mage into Kolaghan’s Command to do the final 4 points of damage. One land away, which seemed like such a joke in light of the previous game. Thragtusk by itself wasn’t going to shut me out of the game, but it was going to put my opponent pretty far ahead. I passed the turn, holding Tasigur back to block at this point, as I figured I had to protect my life total, which was also low.
On his turn, my opponent played Engineered Explosives for two and then passed. I played Kolaghan’s Command to deal 2 and return Snapcaster Mage at the end of his turn, and then I played the Mage and used Command to burn my opponent out.
Turns out my opponent was playing around Mana Leak for a good portion of the game, and didn’t want to throw his Thragtusk at it (which he probably should have regardless). Luck is a thing.
Result: W (2-1)
I felt okay coming out of these matches. I am still considering bringing in one extra Terminate over one of the Mana Leaks in the main deck, but everything else felt pretty smooth. My sideboard was reasonable for each match-up, and outside of the misplays that I attribute to sickness, I played pretty well and played to my outs as much as I could. I hung in there and won games that I honestly should not have won.
I am hoping to not have to claw quite so hard for my victories next week, but I’m also just hoping to have as much fun and play against as cordial opponents as I did last week. The group at Kryptonite is always good to play against, and this time was no exception.
Now, on to next week and the main event!