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Controlling Colorado: PTQ Top Eight Report with UW Control

I have been rocking old-school Jeskai Ascendancy Combo to varying degrees of success this season. I haven't been playing seriously lately due to my dislike of the current Standard. It's not a bad Standard format; it just does not appeal to me. My recent tournament sucess with Jeskai Ascendancy includes two Super IQ top eights, a nice showing during the standard portion of the SCG Invitational in Seattle, and some FNM success.

That being said, last FNM I decided that I was officially sick of the deck. If I had to use one more retraction helix to bounce a goblin rabblemaster, I was going to snap. So I decided to sleeve up U/W Control for the night. I went 4-1, but was still unsure about the archetype. I didn't face a gauntlet by any means. My friend Lenny insisted that I accompany him the following day to the PTQ so I caved despite my doubts about the deck and said that I would go with him. Worst case scenario was that I placed poorly and got to joke around with teammates all day. 

The morning of the tournament I woke up late. My glitchy phone did me the favor of putting my alarm on vibrate (who doesn't want more sleep before a big tournament?). At this point I had twenty minutes to get to Lenny's. After ten minutes of deliberating whether I should go or not, I decide to book it to Lenny's, catching him right as he was about to leave. I was also lucky enough to have my other teammate Sean write our decklists down for us as we barely had time to scamble to the player's meeting.

For reference, said decklists contained:

Round 1: Abzan Aggro

I'm on the draw, he mulls to six game one, and then to five game two. He didn't keep a scry on top the whole match. This is usually a fairly close matchup, but the mulligans made it fairly easy.


Round 2: U/B Control

I love control mirrors — except when they are on the play and turn three Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver you. I did not have banishing light to follow up and he had a second Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and counterspells to back it up. I scooped once he ultimated Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. Game two was pretty interesting. He landed his Pearl Lake Ancient fairly fast and with a mix of fated retribution, banishing light, and devouring light, I was able to land my own pearl lake ancient while pressuring his mana and therefore his Pearl Lake Ancient.

Game three was a back and forth affair until we both messed up. He activated his Tasigur, the Golden Fang and I had to choose between giving him one of his two Dissolves or a newly milled Silumgar, the Drifting Death. My hand contained two Dissolves and one Devouring Light, so I gave him the Silumgar thinking I could devouring light it. Do you see where I messed up? Did you read Silumgar, the Drifting Death? I bet it felt good to exercise your ability to read.

I wish I could read. 

So he immediately plays his new dragon and I quickly say "resolves." On my turn I attack with my Elspeth tokens, he blocks, and I try to devouring light and finally read hexproof. He attacks next turn with Silumgar at my Elspeth (she had two loyalty counters) and he pauses, so in my mind I think he is passing priority, which he did. So I go to pick up my Elspeth and say "resolve damage" implying the end of combat and he says "yeah." He then remembers his trigger a couple seconds later, but by then combat has resolved. I was already winning pretty soundly at that point anyway, so the misplay wasn't particularly relevant to the outcome. 


Round 3: Sultai Control

I knew what my opponent was on right away; being a typical control player, one of his matches went to time earlier in the day and I got to observe. I won the roll and decided to be on the draw due to the attrition-based nature of the matchup. His deck also has thoughtseize in it so I really had no interest in being down a card. Game one he thoughtseizes me right away, leaving me fairly happy that I chose the draw. After the thoughtseize he gets stuck on lands and flounders a bit while I aggressively counterspell his plays. Game two is pretty much the same except that he chooses to be on the play and gets punished for it, getting stuck on two lands while I beat him up with a Brimaz, King of Oreskos


Round 4: Mono-Red

There is a God! I was on the draw for both of our games. I don't remember much about the specific games but I remember that game one I had a ton of my early removal and he still managed to get me to three. He would have killed me if he searing blooded my Elspeth token while I only had three mana open, but he did it on my upkeep letting me Fated Retribution in response and was able to scry into lifegain lands. Game two had myself at twelve life and tapped out for End Hostilities. He stoke the flames me and I'm at eight. I draw for my next turn and tap out for Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and he main-phases another stoke the flames. I top deck a Tranquil Cove and wipe the board again, leaving only one mana open. He mainphases another stoke the flames leaving me at one. I draw Resolute Archangel and slam it for the concession. I usually don't like writing in colloquial slang or abbreviations, but: LOL. 


Round 5: Abzan Aggro

There wasn't much special about the match except that I did feel like a jerk for rushing my opponent. He was playing much slower than a normal opponent and I find myself tilted whenever this happens because I know most people don't realize that they are stealing my share of time and therefore do not concede when the match eventually goes to time. I lost game one and managed to recoup games two and three off of Elspeth, Sun's Champion with counter magic. That is usually how U/W Control is going to win against Abzan Aggro. Siege Rhinos and Wingmate Rocs are fairly easy to deal with, but the two drops that never die (Rakshasa Deathdealer and Fleecemane Lion) need to be dealt with in a proactive manner.


Round 6: Abzan Aggro

I got the pair down so I actually had to play unlike the other undefeateds. He got me game one off of a Sorin, Solemn Visitor that I could not answer. Games two and three pretty much worked out exactly like the previous match. 


Round 7: R/W Aggro

We just drew into the top eight. This left me as second seed and him as first seed which I was fine with, especially since he later lost his quarterfinals match leaving me the dominant seed being able to choose play/draw for each match. 

6-0-1 Going into top eight

Quarterfinals: Abzan Aggro

AGAIN! I was a little bored with the matchup by this point but I was a bit glad because I was inexperienced with my deck. The gameplan I had formulated seemed to work out. This guy shook things up, though. He realized that I depended heavily on my Elspeth, Sun's Champion to win agianst him. In one of our sideboarded games he sided in Drown in Sorrows and one or two End Hostilities. This ended up hurting him more than helping, but I commend him for thinking outside of the box.

Semifinals: U/W Heroic

I chuckled a bit when this matchup was announced because a teammate offered to play against me with U/W Heroic during round 7 when I drew, but I declined. I claimed that I wanted to incubate myself. It ended up not mattering though, because this matchup heavily favors me due to boardwipes and the upside of counterspelling away his heroic creatures.

Game one we both mulligan and I end up being able to stifle his draws long enough to make him look like a bad white weenie deck. Game two he mulls to five on the play, weirdly gets ahead of me with a bunch of Ordeal of Thassas, but ends up losing because he forgets a ton of triggers due to what seemed like fatigue.

Finals: Mono-Red

Remember when earlier in the article I said "There is a God!" Well he has a sense of humor... I was very disappointed to find out that my finals opponent was a mono-red deck that I was more than likely not going to get lucky against. I did not get lucky. I believe I played to the best of my ability, with the only real misplay being a keep that had early interaction but only two non-scry lands. The correct play could have been to just get greedy and hope for a better six. The other speculative "misplay" could have been shuffling up Nyx-Fleece Ram in my sideboard. I hated it the whole day. This could have been bias but it just got targeted by hammerhand all day and blocked one of three 2/1s netting maybe 3 or 4 life at best during a game. Another Soulfire Grandmaster, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, or Arashin Cleric would have been much better all day. You don't even want the card against Abzan Aggro or Jeskai Tokens due to both decks' compounding natures. 

All in all I as very pleased with my performance despite missing out on a coveted Pro Tour invite. I had a ton of fun and all of my top eight opponents were exceptionally sportsmanlike. My finals opponent even took a picture with me imitating the revelers in stoke the flames

Left: Robert, my opponent. Right: Stephen Garcia, the weirdo who wanted to take this picture.


Just to wrap things up, I want to congratulate my opponent for his top eight performance and his PT invite. I would also like to thank Enchanted Realms Games and Gifts, Team Power Nine, God, and my friends Sean and Lenny for all the support during the tournament!

Thanks for reading and good luck with all of your endeavors!
- Stephen Garcia (@apex_simplex)

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