Well, I took my Mono-Black Clerics deck out again, this time to the Magic Grand Prix. I avoided the main event as I'm not one for sealed, but I entered into two Legacy side events. Each event was an 8 man, single elimination tournament. The winner would claim a box of gatecrash; the runner up would earn himself free entry to another event. It sounded like a great deal, so I signed up. I expected the competition to be even harder than what I faced in my last event, because the Grand Prix could draw people from all over.
In the first event, my first opponent was a deck with red sleeves. My turn one play was Cabal Therapy and firing from the hip I called Lightning Bolt. He turned up his hand to reveal Combo Elves (ooh, that sly devil!). He played a forest and Fyndhorn Elves. I returned with a Dark Ritual and double Hymn to Tourach. That play ripped out his good stuff: a Green Sun's Zenith, Wirewood Symbiote, Deathrite Shaman, and another Fyndhorn Elves. He was basically left with mana producers, lands, and no cards in hand, but I wasn't drawing much either. He played Crop Rotation for Gaea's Cradle and I laid my Graveborn Muse down. He looked like he was going to come back with a Green Sun's Zenith for a Craterhoof Behemoth, but he had to tap out to play it so that was the only thing that could attack. I took its damage that turn, but was able to chump it for the rest of the game. For sideboard, I brought in Pithing Needle. In the early turns I made him discard Green Sun's Zenith and I dropped a Pithing Needle on Wirewood Symbiote. I looked to be in a dominant position, so when I played Umezawa's Jitte he just sighed "that's enough."
My second opponent was some kind of BUG Delver/Deathrite thing. The first game went very long; he opened with Thoughtseize, tossing my Hymn. I hit him with Inquisition and the next turn I drew another Hymn and hit him with that. His Deathrite was causing a lot of pain, but I eventually killed it with Jitte. I killed off one Mishra's Factory and a Creeping Tar Pit, too. There were two major misplays in this game. I forgot to add two counters to Jitte once. The next turn, he could have swung for lethal with the Creeping Tar Pit and Delver, but for some reason he left the Delver behind to block. I survived that and for the next four or six turns I remember hovering between 5 and 1 life, Jitte and Clerics keeping me alive while Graveborn Muse was killing me. My life stayed above zero long enough to win, though. At this point, there was a small crowd gathering to see the "secret tech" deck and I heard a few jokes like "I bet your sideboard isn't prepared for Mono-Black Clerics!" Game 2 went much quicker. With his discard, I decided to sideboard in my Unearth and of course the Pithing Needles for Deathrite. My opening hand had two Needles and an Unearth. He dropped a turn one Thoughtseize and took one of my Needles away. I quickly played the other naming Deathrite. On turn three I played a Priest of Gix and Rotlung Reanimator. We traded Gix for Delver, giving me a Zombie token. Then he played a Liliana of the Veil and made me discard a land. I ignored her and swung right past. Then he used Lili to make me sacrifice a creature, so I chose the Rotlung and got a second Zombie token. On my turn, I played Unearth for the Rotlung but he countered it. I eventually dropped an Archon to seal the game.
My last opponent offered to split the box and I agreed, but suggested we play one round to find out who gets the free entry. I knew he was playing Counter/Top, which is pretty much what killed him. Turn one: Swamp, Dark Ritual, Priest of Gix, Cabal Therapy (Force of Willed), sacrifice Priest to Cabal Therapy for Top, then Hymn to Tourach. I didn't care when he resolved the Counterbalance; I had a Cavern of Souls in hand. You can imagine the rest of that quick game yourself. I'm pretty sure that I could have won the box had we not agreed to split. His deck was running Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek as his primary win condition, and with my discard suite, I'm usually able to shut down combos like that. I would have probably boarded in Pithing Needle (for Thopter Foundry) and Surgical Extraction (for the Sword). I may have even boarded in Leyline of the Void.
My second event was much shorter. It was free entry, but I got blown out of the water by Naya Zoo. Thalia is a pain with first strike and he was able to Lightning Bolt anything I tried to equip the Jitte to. Both games I was unable to cast early discard and by the time I drew into some, he had crapped most of his hand onto the table. Nothing good comes free, I suppose.
So, what did I learn this time?
First, there are far too many cards I am just not familiar with. There were a lot of cases where I said "what does that do?" My opponents are the ones that are supposed to be unfamiliar with my jank, so I need to stick my nose in mtgthesource.com for a few weeks.
I am not using Cabal Therapy to its fullest. Honestly, I am not even using the Inquisition properly. If I were taking my games seriously, I would have been writing down the cards that were revealed. It would help me play around their answers and to make better judgments on whether to play the Hymn or another cleric.
Third, I think I need to replace the Skirsdag High Priest with Withered Wretch. I do not often play the Priest and much less often do I get to activate him. Withered Wretch has more power and is maindeck graveyard hate; what's not to love? Hell, that might even give me room to take the Surgical Extraction out of my sideboard for something else.
Finally, I'm starting to notice trends in my match ups. Combo decks are generally favorable match ups for me, doubly so post board. Control decks seem to be favorable as well, less so around denial and more so against permission. The trouble I seem to have is with aggro decks that really hit the ground running. The question is, can I improve that match up without harming my others? I guess I will find out next time.
Thanks for reading,