Cover Photo: Freddie Tan
After 20 years of playing Magic, this is the most successful run I have ever had in my life. The fact that I mainly play brews, jank decks and fringe lists, I am very happy to finally see my name in the rankings without scrolling down the list.
I ranked 27th place amongst 613 players that battled through 13 rounds across 2 days. That’s top 4.5% of the players who participated in 7 rounds of standard and 6 rounds of draft.
I played my tweaked version of 4-color Sifter Wurm, here’s the list I submitted. The deck was introduced to me by my good friend, Julio Espina.
4 Sifter Wurm
2 Consign // Oblivion
3 Cut // Ribbons
2 Thaumatic Compass
4 Gift of Paradise
4 Spring // Mind
2 Struggle // Survive
2 Commit // Memory
4 Hour of Devastation
4 Hour of Promise
1 Arch of Orazca
1 Desert of the Fervent
3 Hashep Oasis
1 Hinterland Harbor
1 Ifnir Deadlands
4 Ipnu Rivulet
1 Memorial to Genius
1 Memorial to War
2 Rootbound Crag
2 Scavenger Grounds
1 Sulfur Falls
3 Walking Ballista
4 Shivan Fire
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
Notable changes to the online version of this deck floating around:
2 Abrades replaced Heaven//Earth in the mainboard because in testing I often find myself “cycling” Heaven for 1 green mana just to cast Earth. This was quite inefficient and Abrade offered more versatility against Kiran, GPG, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary, Gearhulks and kills a lot of early creatures for 2 mana.
A third copy of Cut was added to respect the prominence of Steel Leaf Champion. I wanted a way to kill it regardless if I’m on the play or draw to prevent a T4 Ghalta Play. Besides, I want to see this often so I can rely on Ribbons to finish a stalled game.
Memorial to War replaces Field of Ruin because I can’t afford running too many colorless lands. It’s already taxing to play 4 colors and I don’t want drawing lands that don’t produce color. It does a good job at killing Azcanta which was the real intention for playing Field of Ruin anyway.
Memorial to Genius replace 1 Island in the deck because I wanted my Hour of Promise to function as a “draw spell” by fetching MtG late game and crack it for 2 cards. This has saved me many times across many games when I was running out of gas and needed to find more action to close the game.
The last land I replaced was Ifnir Deadlands instead of the fourth Hashep Oasis. I wanted another removal spell without taking another card slot so I though about putting it in the mana base which I can fetch with Hour. It also helps me cast Ribbons without relying on Gift of Paradise for the double black.
In the sideboard against control, I packed 3 Millstones to reinforce the mill strategy that the deck has via Ipnu Rivulet. I conceded to the fact I will never win the counter wars so I want to reserve the Negates for Teferi and Approach and just let everything else get through. But on the play, I wanted something light to go under 2-mana counter spells and Millstone was a great way to punish the opponent for playing a deck that likes to cast Glimmer, Pull from Tomorrow, Teferi and other draw spells.
I added 1 copy of Sorcerous Spyglass as an insurance policy against Teferi in case I don’t have my Negates. Essentially it’s my 5th Negate which can also shut down Scarab Gods, Nicol Bolas, Gate to the Afterlife, Walking Ballista, Heart of Kiran, Chandra and many other activated abilities seeing play in Standard.
So I went 7-1 in day one going 4-1 in standard and 3-0 on draft. Here’s a quick recap on how the day went (I’m trying to remember it the best I can) and how the matches played out.
Round 1: Grixis Control
Game 1 was 42 minutes long because my opponent was not familiar with my deck and kept reading the aftermath cards I was casting. He didn’t have any creatures except for Champion of Wits, Torrential Gearhulk and Scarab God. All this threats got answered by Struggle, Abrade and even the mighty Scarab God got shuffled away or exiled with Scavenger Grounds.
The opponent also had problems identifying which spells need countering so I would often bait him to counter my Mind so I can resolve an Hour of Promise to fetch deserts and keep exiling his graveyard.
Survive has been an all-star at making sure his graveyard stays clean. Consign also did double duty at bouncing his Wits tokens or Scarab God and then cast Oblivion on my turn to make him discard the God, which gets shuffled away by Survive. He lost eventually from Ipnu Rivulets after he decided to dump his removal at my 2/2 zombie tokens.
I didn’t sideboard to save some time but with 5 minutes left on Game 2, he ended up shaking my hand and laugh about how crazy my deck was and had a headache coming up with a proper sideboard plan.
Round 2: BG Snek
The popular archtype from Kaladesh pops its winding head in round 2 which somehow caught me by surprise. He started with a Blooming Marsh into a Llanowar Elf signaling a BG stompy fast opener which I was sort of afraid of because I didn’t have Cut in hand. I quickly Abraded it on my 2nd turn. He then cast Winding Constrictor on turn 2 which sort of calmed my nerves a bit, only to be shown a Rishkar on Turn 3 and successfully get the god draw of having a 4/5 snake anda 4/4 elf on turn 3. I took 4 from the Snake but thanks to the Gift of Paradise on Turn 3, I was at 19 with 8 power on the field. Turn 4 I ramped with Spring and readied myself to take 8 and go down to 11. He played a Walking Ballista on turn 4 for 2+1, attacked me and brought me down to 11 (as expected) and passed the turn. On my turn 5, with now 7 mana (5 natural lands, 1 additional from Spring and 1 from Gift), I cast Hour of Devastation to clear his board (taking 3 more damage from the Ballista, going town to 8) and played Compass to end my turn.
My opponent recovered by playing a Verdurous Gearhulk with 4 counters on it and had 1 card in hand. He passed the turn, signaling lethal. On my turn 6, I played another land (8 mana in total) and passed the turn. My opponent read Thaumatic Compass to make sure it doesn’t flip and send his gearhulk packing, he untapped and draw for the turn. He played a land and still kept one more card in hand and proceeded to combat. I played Consign on the Gearhulk to bounce it but my opponent had Blossoming Defense. With the remaining mana I had, I cast Commit targeting the Blossoming Defense. I survived another turn and untapped to cast Oblivion from the graveyard to remove the gearhulk I just bounced. Played a land and flipped Compass. He drew and played a Steel Leaf Champion (Blossoming was the next card) and passed. On my turn, I played Sifter Wurm, scryed 3, revealed another Sifter Wurm to go back up to 15 and passed. He drew Blossoming Defense, attacked into my Sifter Wurm, pumped it with Defense and both died. I drew the Wurm I scryed and revealed Spring//Mind and gained 9 life (now 24). My opponent drew a Llanowar Elf for his turn and conceded.
Game 2, I couldn’t think of siding anything in because I think I can win the match by running my deck back in without changes but I wished I had another Abrade in the sideboard instead of the fourth Shivan Fire because I know my opponent will play Lifecrafter’s Bestiary.
He started slow with Steel Leaf Champion as his first play which met a quick Cut from my side. He played another Steel Leaf and cast Duress and took out my Hour of Promise only for me to draw a second copy to cast and get to 7 mana on turn 4. He played Rishkar to beef up the Champion and swung in for 6. On my turn, I cast Struggle to kill the Champion and Abraded the Rishkar, clearing the board. He drew blanks for 2 turns (I think it was removal) and I played my Hour of Promise #3 and passed. He did respond with a Ravenous Chupacabra to kill one of my 2/2s but I think he wished he saved it for the Sifter Wurm I played the turn after and ran home with it.
Round 3: RB Aggro
I won the die roll and kept a Cut and Abrade in hand. My opponent didn’t have Bomat on turn 1 but had a Khenra and Crasher on turns 2-3 which I was able to answer with the removal spells I had. I went down to 15 before I got to take down the jackal and the minotaur but a Rekindling Phoenix on T4 was trouble. I cast Hour of Promise to fetch for my Scavenger Ground and passed. T5 Glorybringer swung in with the Phoenix to bring me down to 7. On Turn 6, I played Hour of Devastation and Consiged the egg token to give me some room to breath. My opponent kept the onslaught with a Hazoret on turn 6 and 1 card in hand. He brings me down to 2 and plans to throw the card with Hazoret’s ability on his next turn. On my supposedly last turn, I played the Sifter Wurm I had in my opening hand and scryed 3 lands to the bottom. My opponent was laughing and joked about praying to the gods. I smiled nervously and flipped the top card. My opponent’s laugh turned upside down when another Siftwer Wurm was revealed bringing me back to 9 life (and potentially 16 the next turn). He drew a card, used Hazoret’s ability to shock me and bring his hand down to 1 (the same card I guess he kept earlier), and swung in. I blocked with the wurm and he cast his last card which was Abrade to kill my blocker. I drew my freshly revealed wurm and scryed Commit to gain 10 life and go back to 19. My opponent drew for the turn and played Rekindling Phoenix and didn’t attack. I drew my Commit and passed.
He stared at each other for a couple of seconds and my opponent decided to swing with the bird. I took it and went down to 15. At end step, I bounced Hazoret with Commit and untapped. I attacked with the wurm and bring him down to 13. A Ribbons at the graveyard dealt the last 13 damage.
Game 2, I sided in 4 Shivan Fire and took out 2 Commits, 1 Spring and 1 Cut because I wanted to be faster on the draw in case he opens with Bomats and Soul-Scar Mages.
On the play, he didn’t have a turn 1 play which allowed me to play my desert first instead of the basic I was saving for a turn 3 Gift of Paradise. Turn 2 he played Heart of Kiran and me without an Abrade. I again played another tap land and passed with a Desert of the Fervent untapped. He played Scrapheap Scrounger on T3 and crewed Kiran to swing in for 4, I go down to 16. He played a Soul Scar Mage and before he ended the turn, I cast Shivan Fire on the Scrounger. T3 I played my Gift to go back to 19 and passed. His next play was Rekindling Phoenix, crewing Heart of Kiran and swung in for 4 including the Soul Scar. I needed a way to stabilize but I wasn’t able to because the Phoenix would come back despite having an Hour of Devastation in hand.
I ran my deck back in for Game 3 and didn’t have any Shivan Fire in my opening draw but I kept 2 Spring//Mind, 3 lands, Compass and Sifter Wurm.
This time around, he had 2 Bomat Couriers in his turn 2 turns which was bad for me but his subsequent plays were less scary. Ahn-Crop Crasher joins the fray but he seemed to be stuck on 3 lands while I just kept ramping with Spring and get to Sifter mana. He eventually had 9 cards underneath both Couriers and attacked to bring me down to 7 life. He drew his fourth land and cast Chandra, Torch of Defiance.
He was thinking of using Chandra’s mana ability to pop both Bomats but chose not too and resorted to dealing 2 more damage bringing me down to 5. I drew an Hour of Devastation between turns 2 and 4 and wiped his board clean along with the cards underneath his Bomats. Chandra goes down with them with only 5 loyalty points.
I played Sifter Wurm the next turn and revealed Hour of Devastation to go back to 10. He played Phoenix and passed. I attacked with my Wurm baiting his Phoenix to block and get his egg fried with Hour but he chose to take 7 and the race was on. 13 vs. 10. He attacked with his Phoenix bringing me down to 6 and cast Soul Scar on defense. I cast Mind at his end step. On my turn I again attacked with my Sifter and he blocks with Soul Scar and takes 5 and goes down to 8. On the last turn of the game, I cracked my Hashep Oasis and pumped by wurm to 10 power and punched through his 8 remaining life and won game 3. My opponent from Bacolod was impressed with how well positioned the Sifter Wurm deck was in an aggressive meta in the right shell.
Round 4: Mono Blue Fliers
I lost the die roll and was shocked when my opponent played an island and cast Siren Stormtamer. I wrote about this mono blue flier deck in my previous article and knew what was coming. My opponent’s start was explosive. Turn 2 Warkite Marauder into a turn 3 flashed Nimble Obstructionist then turn 4 Favorable Winds and Lookout’s Dispersal for backup stopped my Hour of Devastation from keeping me alive.
For game 2, I knew the Walking Ballistas had to come in for some target practice and they did a fine job at shooting down anything my opponent played. Without Favorable Winds to boost their toughness, I merely had to play and land and passed to keep his board presence clean.
Game 3 however, I didn’t have my Ballistas or the additional Shivan Fire I sided in and lost to the same explosive start my opponent had in game 1.
Round 5: Mono Red (last standard match for day 1).
I was on the play and kept a relatively balanced hand of lands, Gift of Paradise, Consign, Abrade and Hour of Devastation. My opponent had a good start with Soul Scar into Kari Zev, then Ahn-Crop Crasher. I spent my Abrade on Kari Zev and played Gift on turn 3. His Bomat eventually had enough cards underneath while I tried to ramp into Hour of Devastation. My opponent didn’t know what cards I was playing in the deck and ran a Hazoret out with 2 cards in hand.
This was great for me because the 5 life saved game me time to cast Hour of Devastation to take down his entire board including the God. He subsequently played Another Hazoret (which explains why he couldn’t dump his hand fast enough last turn) and now had 1 card in hand to swing in. I eventually found myself somewhere in 4-5 life (not sure exactly) but a top decked Sifter Wurm gained me 7 life revealing Consign//Oblivion. The wurm bought me 1 extra turn by keeping Hazoret at bay. I drew Consign on my turn and passed. My opponent played Ahn Crop Crasher on his turn and exerted to mute my Wurm and swung in for 8, negating the life I gained. before end step, I cast Consign on my wurm so I can cast it again next turn. I did exactly that and revealed Hour of Devastation and gained 5 life going back to 8-9.
Since the Ahn-crop was exerted, my wurm can at least keep the Hazoret at bay as long as my opponent doesn’t draw another Crasher. My opponent drew for the turn and evaluated what’s going to happen next with the Hour of Devastation on top of my library. He conceded to save time for game 2.
Same as the Mono U fliers, I needed to be fast on the draw so Shivan Fires come in and slower spells like Commit, Spring comes out.
Game 2, I died on turn 4 after my opponent had 3 Soul Scar Mages, Khenra and Hazoret while playing Lightning Strike to trigger Prowess. I didn’t see any Shivan Fires that game.
Game 3, we both had slow starts where he played Bomat on Turn 3 behind a Khenra on turn 2. My start was Ipnu Rivulet, Infir Deadlands, Compass, Hinterland Harbor (tapped with no forest), and Gift of Paradise in hand. He played Scrounger on turn 4 and kept chipping away with his Bomat and Khenra bring me down close to 10 life. I eventually cast my Gift of Paradise to fix my lands and gain me back some life and a Glorybringer came down on the opponent’s side to bring me down from 13 to 6. Without fail, Hour of Devastation saves the day by killing everything in the battlefield and me with 2 mana up. He decides to eternalize his Khenra to bring me down to 2 but a Sifter Wurm the turn after revealed Spring and get me back to 11. The game just went my way after that.
4-1. Standard was put on hold and we proceeded to draft.
My draft deck was Red Black lifegain. I was able to draft 3 copies of Vampire Neonate, 2 Skymarch Bloodletter, 1 Epicure of Blood, 2 Viashino Pyromancer, 2 Lava Axe, 2 Sovereign’s Bite, 1 Electrolize, 1 Lich’s Caress and other fodders.
The game plan was to sit behind early Vampire Neonates and block small creatures and drain them. Use Skymarch Bloodletter and Viashino Pyromancer to get those free damage in and finish the game with Lava Axes. It was a solid plan and I won each round the same way, 2-0-ing the first 2 rounds.
The last round of the day was going to be my most difficult. I was facing Matt Paluay, a good friend of mine, who I know had a lot of draft practice leading to the Nationals. He drafted a go-wide Boros aggro deck behind Ajani, Inspired Charge and Heroic Reinforcements. I got crushed in game 1 with small beats that flew, 2/2 vigilance knights and well-timed Inspired Charge and him having a Guttersnipe dealing the needed 2 damage to close the game.
Game 2, I was able to get behind my Neonates and sided in a Macabre Waltz so I can afford chump blocking and get my creatures back and slither myself out of an attrition war with more powerful creatures.
I won game 2 through a more careful blocking and attacking approach and my Epicure of Blood together with the Bloodletters helped me punch through the damage. Matt attributed the wrong sequence of playing Onakke Ogre on Turn 4 instead of Hostile Minotour to bait my removal on the 4/2 and get his Minotaur deal 3 more damage over time was key at winning the race. I am just glad he made that mistake or else the life totals would have been to close comfort: from a 14-0 life total win to a 1-0 life total win is a scary thought to imagine.
Game 3, I Jedi-cut Matt and he drew 7 lands on his opening, and then 6 lands on his first mulligan. He went to keep 5 cards and scryed to the top. He managed to get me down to 10 life despite not having enough cards to begin the game thanks to Inspired Charge taking down most of my blockers. However being on the draw with a full grip of cards help me seal the game with Macabre Waltz bringing back the Bloodletters and Neonates and drain him for lethal.
Closing day one with a 7-1 record.
I was honestly surprised with my finish after day 1. I have never day two-ed a GP and I never knew the feeling of seeing your name on page 1 of the standing after the last round. I was pretty excited for day 2, hoping to draft a pretty decent deck and continue the dream.
Are you excite for day 2? Let me know by leaving a comment on the page.
See you in Day 2 of my Nationals journey.