Jonathan Pechon

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*Top 32 at Pro Tour Osaka



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Jonathan Pechon's
Therapy Sessions

1.14.04  Plugging a Hole

Iíve played a lot of extended through my career. Somehow, itís always been a format that Iíve been interested in, regardless of how ridiculous it became at times (I attended PT-Rome and saw Academy in its glory). Iíve always managed to take the time to play in a qualifier or two, even if the PT that was involved was in a very distant land.

And somehow, through the years, Iíve consistently managed to play a deck that was never really considered the ďbest deck.Ē It was always something I cobbled together from stuff I found on the net, or an obscure deck from a PTQ, or the weird top 8 deck that had no business being there. Itís always been one of those things for meÖI never played Donate in a PTQ, never played High Tide, never played Oath. I justÖplayed other stuff. No explanation, other than, ďI liked it.Ē

So, this last weekend I decided to play at the PTQ in Dallas. Not having extensively tested a deck, I decided to look at what the field was probably going to be. With the decks from the previous weekís PTQ posted over on StarCity, I looked and saw what I considered to be a possible hole in the metagame. Maybe not a giant glaring hole, but something that could be exploited.

With Tog, U/G and some various green beatdown builds flourishing around the state, I looked at what I thought was a relative lack of counters in the environment (not really more than 8 in any deck). The Ponza decks could be extremely fast, but appeared to be smashed out of the metagame by Tog and the green decks (put Cloak on a Troll Ascetic, it feels dirty). And Rock, the consistent performer that always shows up, didnít really worry me at allÖIíve become really opposed to the deck in general, seeing it just get taken out of games too frequently due to mediocre draws. SoÖ


At my team practice (those good olí Texas Guildmages, fighting, and sometimes striving!), Jeremy Simmons was beating up on the playtest decks with his build of Aluren. Not being able to get the deck together quickly, I spent Friday evening digging around trying to find the cards I needed.

Saturday morning, I was still digging. Thanks to Robert Moore and some other friends at the event, I was able to find the last few cards that I needed. I also was able to throw together a sideboard that certainly wasnít terribly well thought-out, but had the necessary tools to get through the day (or so I thought).

To make a quick point, you really should avoid coming to an event without having your deck and/or sideboard put together. Running around frantically ends up causing you to start the tournament in a frantic state of mind, one that really isnít conducive to playing Magic well. Iíll describe what happened to meÖI think that if I was prepared for the event, things would have worked out differently. As it wasÖwell, youíll see.

In any event, hereís the decklist. THIS IS NOT AN OPTIMAL BUILD OF THIS DECK. There were mistakes made, simply due to the haste that I had to use while building the deck and the lack of testing on my part.

4 Aluren
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Living Wish
4 Brainstorm
4 Intuition
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Wall of Blossoms
3 Cavern Harpy
3 Raven Familiar
1 Wirewood Savage
1 Cloud of Fairies
1 Soul Warden
4 Polluted Delta
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Hickory Woodlot
3 City of Brass
3 Island
4 Forest
1 Swamp

3 Pernicious Deed
2 Orimís Chant
1 Academy Rector
1 Cavern Harpy
1 Raven Familiar
1 Wirewood Savage
1 Soul Warden
1 Maggot Carrier
1 Genesis
1 Gilded Drake
1 Monk Realist
1 City of Brass

There are magnificent holes in the sideboard and main deck. I think there needs to be some number of Vampiric Tutors in the deck, and I am not completely certain that the Walls need to be in the deck any longer. Chrome Mox may also have a place here, making the Cloud of Fairies obsolete. I ran out of room and time to realize there had to be *some* form of removal in the sideboard as a Wish target, either a Bone Shredder or a Ghitu Slinger.

Barely managing to get the deck sleeved up, I wander over and find my pairing.

Round 1: Ben Swafford, Star Spangled Slaughter (U/W/R with Meddling Mages, Lightning Angels, FtKís, Fire/Ice, Fact or Fiction)

Game 1 sees a magnificently poor draw on my part turn into a series of mistakes as I incorrectly Wish for the wrong creature, getting a Gilded Drake when I should have been trying to win with an Academy Rector. The Meddling Mage naming Aluren didnít help matters, but it was my mistakes that cost me the game. I quickly realize that my deck really needed a Slinger or Shredder in the board to be able to kill the Mages, and I donít realize my mistakes until right after the round ends.

Game 2, I Therapy him to see a counterless hand and combo out with relative ease. Game 3, however, is an absolute disaster as I incorrectly Wish multiple times in order to force an Aluren into play. I very nearly manage to win the game anyway, if it hadnít been for his drawing 3 Meddling Mages, ending the game with 1 naming Aluren and 1 naming Pernicious Deed (Iíd managed to Deed once, but had been unable to force an effective turn). Seeing 1 Therapy in 3 games (in the game I won) didnít help, but the loss falls squarely on my shoulders.

Swafford ends up going 1-3 drop to finish out his tournament. I felt special.

Round 2: Nagi Hassan, Standard mono-U control

Nagi plays regularly at the store I run events at. Heíd come to the event running his standard deckÖwhich, humorously enough, actually worked out fairly well in some matchups (he ran something like 16 counters, which gave Tog fits). Decree of Silence wasÖfunny.

In our games, though, Iím able to force through Aluren with the help of Cabal Therapies, and combo out pretty easily in 2 games. His expensive counters canít really deal with this deck, and his unfamiliarity with the deck made him uncertain about what to even consider countering. It wasnít really a fair matchup.

Round 3: Israel, The Rock

I havenít seen Israel in quite a while, and we exchange a few pleasantries before the match begins. Heís playing Rock, which can be a bad matchup if they manage to rip your hand apart early. However, he again isnít really familiar with what Iím playing until he Therapies me and names an incorrect card. With a pretty solid draw, Iím able to go off relatively easily in game 1.

Game 2, I donít get a particularly explosive draw, but my Therapies manage to keep his hand from doing any real damage to me. He resolves a Deed that Iím not able to do any thing about; I throw away my first Aluren in order to resolve the second. He goes to do something at the end of my main phase; I ask very carefully if thatís how he wants to proceed; when he says yes, I proceed to do tricks with a Harpy and a Raven until I draw a Wish, then (because Iím still in my main phase) Wish for the Soul Warder and Maggot Carrier to finish him off.

Round 4: Jeremy Simmons, Aluren

This is the teammate that first put me on to the idea of playing the deck. I know that this mirror can be one of the most grueling mirror-matches currently in extended. While Tog can be slow, this one is about stress and paranoia. Casting Aluren can simply end the gameÖbut not necessarily for you.

Game 1, I make a critical mistake (again). When he plays Aluren during his turn, he casts a Raven Familiar; I proceed to go off, not realizing that I canít finish the job during his turn (due to needing a Wish). When he plays his Rishadan Cutpurse, I fail to see that I can generate mana with my Cloud/Harpy combo, and scoop the game to him. Another failure due to lack of testing; I really donít know what would have happened if I had seen it, as I am not sure that I could have really won the game at that point.

Game 2, I Intuition for Therapy and absolutely rip his hand to shreds. My only creature that I have is a Cloud of Fairies, though, which I use to flash back a Therapy. I draw a Wish, though, and Wish for Genesis; I then proceed to use the Fairies over and over to finish completely stripping his hand before I start to beat down with the Cloud and Genesis. He doesnít draw anything else relevant to the game and eventually scoops.

Due to a lack of time, game 3 doesnít happen. At 2-1-1, I know I have to win out in order to really have a chance to move into the top 8.

Round 5: Ryan McKenna, non-Scepter Tog

Without the Scepters, this matchup becomes so much easier. If the Tog deck puts Counterspell on a Scepter, the game becomes painfully difficult to win; itís almost easier to move on to the next game. It takes the ability to resolve multiple spells in a turn, and the prayer that they donít have any additional counterspells to disrupt your efforts to go off.

Game 1 was a solid game, though his hand seemed a bit heavy on removal and lighter on counters. At one point I was using Cloud of Fairies with Cavern Harpy in order to make sure I had a blocker for his lethal Tog; however, I was eventually able to resolve Aluren after tapping him out with a Therapy, then combo out. Game 2 was a non-game; he failed to draw more than red and black mana to go with his full grip of counterspells. Unfortunate.

Round 6: (I didnít write down the name, oops!), Rock w/ Ascetic

Evidently, the newer versions of Rock sport Troll Ascetic in order to go on the beatdown. This is definitely a nice addition to the deck; Tog has to have a Wish in order to punch through him, if need be, but he also swings right from the heels. Regenerating from Deed is also a plus.

Game 1, heís once again confused by my deck; he said that he didnít know what the Woodlots were there for. By the time he really gets a grip on whatís going on, Aluren is in play to stay, a Harpy is occasionally in play, and I pick up most of my deck before I find the Wish I need to kill him.

Game 2, I side out most of my walls in order to bring in Deeds, just in case. However, this ends up being a bit of a mistake as his Trolls are now free to wreak havoc all over my face. I get beaten down quickly after some disruption, ending up unable to find an Aluren to go off with.

For game 3, I bring back the Walls and take out a spread of other cards in order to have some defense against his beats. The Walls end up buying me some time against his Trolls, though the game comes down to the wire; heís able to get me down to 7, with a Deed in play. However, he taps below four open mana in order to cast something; on my turn, I am able to resolve Aluren, and heís unable to stop me from going off as I have Raven and double-Harpy in hand.

So, climbing through the bottom of the bracket, I end up 4-1-1 in a field of 54 (I believe) players. And my final result wasÖ..9th. Ah, the 2nd worst place to finish in a PTQ that you actually want to win, heh (the worst being 2nd). Bad tiebreaks, due to Swaffordís miserable performance and the consequences of being in the 0-1 bracket, lead me to my doom.

From all of this, we can take a few things. Aluren is still definitely viable in the format right now; I would strongly recommend playing it, if you can find all of the cards for it (I know Aluren itself can be pretty difficult to find). Itís something that, with the low number of counters that most decks run, you can run through the metagame as it currently stands. Scepter-Tog is probably the most difficult matchup currently, though Ponza can give you a few issues due to its speed. Since itís still relatively fresh, people arenít really prepared for it; that gives you a strong advantage in just about every matchup, simply due to the power of knowledge. What they donít know will hurt them.

As always, please feel free to comment to me regarding anything here. Talk to you all again next week.

-Jonathan Pechon
Sigmundí on IRC (EFNet)
Sigmund on Modo

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