Beyond the Norm: 6-0 at Game Day with BGw Solemn Snake – Tournament Report
Hi, /r/spikes! I know that one of the rules of this subreddit is explicitly stated as accepting only tournament reports from Competitive REL or higher, but my Game Day this weekend – phew! Definitely merits an exception to this rule, I never felt so competed against in my life! And that’s including last month’s 13-person FNM (our biggest ever) where I took 2nd!
Let’s start at the beginning. When Aether Revolt first came out and I saw Winding Constrictor, I had the same idea as everyone else – Snake tribal is finally going to be a thing! Unfortunately, Metallic Mimic, Narnam Cobra, and Noose Constrictor weren’t quite enough support (stay tuned next month though for my spicy Modern Snake brew – Ambush Viper is back, baby!) I eventually caved and, though I felt dirty doing it, decided to take a list from online for Game Day and make some small changes. Here’s what I settled on:
4x snek 1x Noose Constrictor 3x Rishkar 2x Gearhluk 3x Tireless Tracker 4x Oath of Nissa 4x Oath of Ajani 4x Fatal Push 4x Grasp of Dakrness 2x solemnity 1x nissa (the zendikar one) 1x BOLAS!!! RAWR! 1x God-Pharaoh’s Gift 24x Lands
EDIT: Apparently, the mods felt that my post was “not up to the quality standards of our subreddit” and “looked like the decklist was written by a six-year old who learned vague rules about words and spelling, but had never seen anything in actual print before.” I’ve reposted the decklist below.
As you can see, this is a pretty classic BG Snek deck with a couple of minor changes, as I decided that the GP-winning decklist I found online wasn’t good enough to take down my store’s Game Day. Let me go over a couple that might jump out at you:
1x Noose Constrictor
What can I say, this is a holdover from the deck being Snake tribal! :D And it’s an absolutely game-ending combo with God-Pharaoh’s Gift! Also, I didn’t have 4 Walking Ballista, so I figured Noose Constrictor was a good replacement that similarly fits any spot on the curve.
4x Oath of Ajani
This card is great! It puts counters on things, which is something you really want in this deck. Additionally, it serves as ramp (along with Rishkar!) into your powerful planeswalkers.
As the de facto best player at my local store, I like to think that I know the metagame pretty well. Pros always say to take that into account, so I did- hard. I was expecting a lot of mirrors, and wanted to include some maindeck hate. It was around 11pm the night before Game Day, and I’d just come home from losing the mirror at FNM; that was when it hit me. Solemnity could turn all my opponent’s cards into vanilla creatures! It makes Walking Ballista uncastable! It turns Rishkar into a 3-mana 2/2 and Gearhulk into a 5-mana 4/4! It basically shuts down the entire deck! Turns out it was a superstar all day long!
1x Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh and 1x God-Pharaoh’s Gift
How could I not play this card?! The biggest, baddest planeswalker in Standard – and I was running 4 Oath of Nissa’s to cast him! After that inclusion, Gift was an easy shoe-in, mostly as a flavor win!
After completing the mainboard, I geared the sideboard to beat the meta I was expecting, and soundly went to sleep. I woke up the next morning and had some toaster waffles (blueberry) and orange juice (NOT from concentrate). I read online that it’s always good to eat healthy before a big tournament! Our Game Day had 14 players (breaking our previous record!), so our tournament organizer decided to do three rounds with a cut to Top 8.
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Round 1: 5-Color Humans
As an experienced player, I knew that the early rounds of a tournament are often the easiest, but not this time! In my first round, I played Mike, a veteran who had played with the actual Jace, the Mind Sculptor – in Standard! When Wizards was banning every card under the sun a couple months ago, Mike was the one who comforted us. We were standing outside in the parking lot after an FNM, talking in hushed voices about our fears that Magic was dying. It was dark, and the sound of rain on pavement was an appropriate backdrop to our mood. We saw Mike talking with a hooded man near his car. They exchanged something, and the man walked quickly away.
“Hey, Mike!” I cried excitedly. “Whatcha up to?”
I’d never seen someone so old (he must be at least 39) jump so high.
“Just buying some – er – cards,” he responded, pocketing the small paper bag of cardboard crack. “What’re you guys up to?”
We poured our souls out to him; with multiple Standard bannings, Magic’s days were surely numbered. He nodded sagely.
“Let me tell you kids a story about the days of Standard Affinity. You see, Wizards thought it would be fun to make Artifact Lands…”
Anyways, that was a bit off-topic, my bad! Mods, feel free to clean this up a bit!
I don’t really remember what happened in the first round, but I won! Yay me!
Round 2: UR Aggro
Game 1: My opening hand was pretty heavy on Solemnity, but it also had an Oath of Nissa and a Bolas, so it was a snap-keep! My opponent seemed to have a pretty slow hand as well; I played out my Solemnity’s and Oaths, and he didn’t do anything but cycle some blue cards for the first couple of turns. But once Turn 6 rolled around, he started flashing in 5/6 creatures and attacking me! I tried to play some creatures, but he kept countering them so he could stay on his beatdown plan. I thought I was dead, but on the last turn, I played a Verdurous Gearhulk. He attacked his blue gearhulk into mine, and I blocked and cast Grasp of Darkness. He tried to Harness Lightning my Gearhulk, but I reminded him that Solemnity made it so he couldn’t get energy! This put him on tilt, and I guess his deck didn’t have any ways to kill a 4/4, so I won.
Game 2: Having expected aggro, I brought in all four of my copies of Life Goes On. I was shocked when he had no answer to all four of them! I went up to 36 life before he again started hitting me with Gearhulks. He then countered or killed all my creatures (kind of weird for an aggro deck), but eventually, I just cast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger from the sideboard and won! He swore a bit and dropped from the tournament, but I was pretty pleased; I know bringing in a 10-mana creature against an aggro deck seems sketchy, but it was bigger than his blue gearhulks, and did some good work!
Round 3: BG Constrictor (ie the mirror!)
My opponent and I were both 2-0, so decided to draw into the Top 8. This allowed me some time to scope out the competition and grab some lunch! Again, I made sure to get both fruit (Froot Loops) and vegetables (pizza with extra sauce) to be at my mental best.
QUARTERFINALS: UW Draft Leftovers
Game 1: When I saw the UW lands, I assumed my opponent was on control, but it looked like he had actually just put together blue and white cards he owned and built a Standard deck. He played a Minister of Inquiries into a Mausoleum Wanderer. When I realized that he must be planning to mill me with his energy guy, I slammed Solemnity. Luckily, he didn’t put too much pressure on me, because my deck was pretty slow – I got unlucky and drew a lot of lands that came into play tapped! His deck didn’t really do anything, and I won.
Game 2: I tried to be nice and smile in a friendly way when he played Gate to the Afterlife, that crap uncommon from Amonkhet that gains you life when stuff dies. And boy, did stuff die! I used Walking Ballista and a removal-heavy hand to mow down ALL his creatures as quickly as I could. I assume he was desperate, and pulled a real pro move – play to your outs. He sacrificed his Gate to the Afterlife, presumably praying that he’d drafted a God-Pharaoh’s Gift at some point and decided to put it in the deck. Turns out he had! He brought back Angel of Invention as a 6/6! That was some nice synergy, but only one of our decks was truly built to abuse God-Pharaoh’s Gift; I cast mine the next turn, bringing back a 4/4 Noose Constrictor. I promptly dumped my entire hand of 2 Gearhulks and 2 Winding Constrictors into the graveyard. He kept bringing back Cataclysmic Gearhulks (I again pity-smiled at him, trying my best to be nice), but had no way to deal with what, at the end of the game, was a 20/20 Noose Constrictor thanks to Gearhulk + Snek!
SEMIFINALS: RG Ramp
Game 1: I realized very quickly that I was playing against my first “net-deck” of the day- RG Ramp! He managed to play Ulamog on Turn 5, and I conceded.
Game 2: Having read an article on RG Ramp, I had a deep understanding of our matchup and how I was supposed to win: I needed to out-ramp the Ramp player. I played a T2 Snake into a Turn 3 Nissa, making a plant. On Turn 4, I played a Rishkar and a second Snake, ticking up Nissa again. On Turn 5, I used Nissa to put a +1/+1 counter on each of my 5 creatures, tapping them along with my five lands for mana to cast my OWN Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger! The ramp player was really surprised and tried to laugh and make some small talk, but I kept my emotions in check. This was exactly how I drew up the post-board matchup.
Game 3: My hand this game had an Oath of Ajani, so it was more conducive to ramping into Bolas. I hit him for three with a Tracker before he wiped the board with Hour of Devastation. I played Bolas and, since I was what professional players call “the beatdown,” minused him to try to maximize damage, putting him to 10 life. He then killed my Bolas with one of the two World Breakers on board, swinging the other at me, bringing me to ONE LIFE! :O With only seven mana and an empty board, I wasn’t sure I had any answers. I drew – Oath of Nissa. I cast it and found a Sorin, Grim Nemesis. I played the Sorin, and then realized he didn’t have enough loyalty to save me from two World Breakers. My heart sank. My tournament was over. I began to extend my hand, and my opponent grinned that smug, I’m-better-than-you-because-I’m-net-decking smile. Rage boiled up within me, and I withdrew my hand.
“TICK UP SORIN!” I cried. “I’LL GO DOWN SWINGING!”
My opponent and the players watching all jumped, moving away from my brave, valiant outburst. I revealed the top card of my library – Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.
“Whaaaat?!” exclaimed my opponent. “Wow, what a top-deck!”
He extended his hand.
What a top-deck?! WHAT A TOP-DECK?! He’s seriously insinuating that I only won because I got LUCKY, and not due to my deck-building prowess?
“I wish I hadn’t missed lethal that turn I attacked Bolas!” he added. “Such a noob mistake; guess nerves got the best of me.” He smiled again. How could he still look so smug?!
And he thinks I only won because HE MISPLAYED?!
I stared at his hand, my heart beating faster than my brain could think. I needed a real dagger to throw back at him. Something reeeal passive-aggressive.
“I’M BETTER THAN YOU!” I shouted, grabbing his hand and shaking it wildly. He recoiled in shock, stumbling and falling over his chair.
“Alright, man, it’s just a game!” He had fear in his eyes. “Good luck in the next round, bro, I’ve gotta go!” He gathered his cards and nearly sprinted out the door. I smiled satisfactorily; now there could be no doubt as to who was the better Magic player.
FINALS: Ramunap Red
Game 1: Daaaaaaamn, this deck was fast!
Game 2: He mulliganned to four cards, and I skillfully played Flaying Tendrils on Turn 3 into Kalitas on Turn 4. After buffing my life total a bit, I cast Infinite Obliteration naming Hazoret the Fervent, mostly because I absolutely hated that card. Scaled Behemoth stonewalled his top-decked hasty threats, and Kalitas finished the job.
Game 3: We go back and forth in a long, drawn-out bloodbath. We’re both top-decking when I play a Solemnity. He literally laughed out loud.
“Is something funny?” I asked, my eyes narrowing. Presumably remembering how good I was at Magic: the Gathering, as witnessed in the previous round, he immediately stopped smiling and shook his head no.
The game builds to the most epic turn of Magic I’ve ever played. I’m at 2 life, and if he untaps, he gets to sac his Ramunap Ruins for the kill. He has a Thought-Knot Seer, no cards in hand, and is also at 2 life. I have a 2/2 Rishkar (due to Solemnity), a Solemnity, and a Fatal Push in hand. I draw for the turn – Walking Ballista. My heart thumps wildly. My hands tremble as the brilliant synergies I engineered into this deck come together one last time. I am a play away from winning Pro Tour Hou- I mean, Game Day. I tap six of my seven lands.
“Walking Ballista,” I announce. My opponent frowned.
“Doesn’t Solemnity - ?” he began.
I chuckled. “Yes, my dear.” I placed the Ballista into my graveyard. Never one for theatrics, I can’t help but indulge a bit.
“It’s called...” I begin, pausing for dramatic effect, “synergy,” I finish as I reveal Fatal Push from my hand, my Revolt being fully operational.
My opponent stared in confusion.
“You know, cuz… Ballista turns on Revolt? For my Push? Target your Thought-Knot and swing with Rishkar?” Ugh. Explaining this ruined everything.
“No, I get it,” my opponent replied. “You’re running Solemnity in your sideboard…? And you brought it in against me…?”
I laughed again. “Mainboard.”
My opponent, along with much of the room, burst out laughing, clearly in awe of my deckbuilding genius, which had culminated in a Game Day victory.
And that, internet, is how I crushed the most competitive field I’ve ever faced by putting my magic touch on an established decklist to gain a huge edge. I hope you enjoyed and learned a lot from my first basically-Professional-REL tournament report! Happy to take any questions or suggestions (deck’s already perfect) about the deck!
Ryan is a grinder from Boston with SCG & GP Top 8’s and a PT Day 2. His fragile self-esteem is built on approval from others, so be sure to tell him what you think of his articles on Twitter @RyanNormandin.