Friday Night Magic: The Winner’s Circle #7

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Hi Everybody! Bill Carrig here in the Winner’s Circle with the winner of the largest FNM in Western New York history, Robert Saraceno! Climbing to the top of the pile in a 118 player event is no easy task. Let’s take a look at the deck Robert played to such success.

2 Whip of Erebos
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
2 Devour Flesh
2 Ultimate Price
2 Pack Rat
2 Doom Blade
4 Desecration Demon
4 Underworld Connections
4 Thoughtseize
19 Swamp
1 Temple of Deceit
4 Mutavault
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

1 Dark Betrayal
2 Doom Blade
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Lifebane Zombie
2 Devour Flesh
1 Pack Rat
1 Pithing Needle
3 Duress


Bill: Looks like we have a mono-black devotion deck. Similar to the one that Brian Braun-Duin used recently to take down GP Louisville. The deck is very strong, but it can be tricky to pilot. Robert, can you tell us how you played the deck and what you did to come out on top?

Robert: The deck wins by using your life total as a resource to generate card advantage and then playing big threats that need to be answered quickly while simultaneously answering the threats your opponent plays.  Underworld Connections and Erebos, God of the Dead let me pay life to draw cards.  Desecration Demon, Nightveil Specter, and Pack Rat are all threats that need to get answered before they get out of hand.  Then there is a mix of removal spells in Doom Blade, Devour Flesh, Ultimate Price, and Hero’s Downfall to answer almost anything that gets played by your opponent.

Bill: So what did you add from Theros to make this deck a success?

Robert: The cards from Theros are definitely the cards that make the deck actually work.  Erebos and his Whip are amazing on many different levels.  They provide life gain, card draw, revival, and the surprisingly relevant not allowing your opponent to gain life clause.  Erebos’ whip especially has great synergy with another important Theros card, Grey Merchant of Asphodel, or as some like to call him, Gary!  He is the reason why devotion matters in this deck and the reason you can use your life as a resource to draw cards without being too scared of dying.  The last most important Theros card is definitely Thoughtseize (who’d have guessed?) because it allows mono-black to answer threats that it can’t actually answer, such as enchantments.

Bill: What’s this decks best matchup?

Robert: Going into the FNM the only matchup I knew that is pretty in my favor was against blue control decks.

Bill: And the worst matchup?

Robert: The worst matchup is probably Red Deck Wins.

Bill: Yes, aggressive red decks can be a problem for a lot of opponents. They can win before your big spells come on line. So were you able to dodge your bad matchup on your route to victory? How did your FNM matches play out for you?

Robert: In Round 1, I beat a green/white agro deck 2-1. It was probably the closest game I had of the night. The first game I think he had to mulligan and didn’t have a really strong start. Then after I got down two Desecration Demons and an Erebos, things ended pretty quickly mainly because the life gain from his Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice was no longer relevant.  In game two I lost after I couldn’t answer a creature bestowed with Boon Satyr among other things.  The last game was very close.  I had boarded in Lifebane Zombies which ate at his hand but I was stuck on three mana.  I had two Lifebane Zombies which could attack for lethal next turn, but he also had leathal damage on board for me next turn in a centaur token and a monsterous Fleecemane Lion.  I had a removal for his centaur but would die to a Selesnya Charm or Bestow on his Lion.  He didn’t have them so I won on the next turn. In Round 2, I faced another green/white agro deck and this time I won 2-0. I won the first game after Pack Rat got out of control and I played Whip of Erebos to stabilize my life total.   Pack Rat is HUGE problem if left unanswered and the tricky option to pump the Pack Rat with Mutavault is an interaction not everyone is familiar with.  The next game Lifebane Zombie was amazing, and along with Desecration Demon and some removal I won the second game. My round 3 opponent played blue/white/red Combooo!!! But I still won 2-0. My opponent’s deck was very interesting and I liked the idea a lot (I’m a sucker for combos).  The first game Thoughtseize let me see that his hand was a pile of removal, then I got an Underworld Connections online and was able to just draw more threats than his removal could handle and answer his Aurelia, The Warleader with Doom Blade.  I did get to a pretty low life though from Warleaders Helix and Boros Charm, but Gary let me get back to a safer life total.  The next game I had Thoughtseize again and then finally saw the Aurelia, The Warleader and Medomai combo that his deck was about.  Fortunately I was able to not let Medomai live for more than a turn, and had Desecration Demon, Erebos himself, and Gary close out the game. For round 4, my opponent was mono-Green and I was able to win it 2-0. My opponent was pretty unlucky this round.  I believe both games he had to mulligan and got stuck on lands, compounded on the fact I had turn one Thoughtseize both games.  Nightveil Specter was both awesome and unfortunate. Awesome for me, but unfortunate for my opponent because whenever I attacked him with it, it would hit a land, which he was in desperate need of.  It was kind of silly.  Both games weren’t really that close because he could just never get anything started because of mana screw unfortunately.

Bill: Yes, mana screw is unfortunately just part of the game. Probably the least fun way to lose since you really can’t impact the game in any way. But it’s pretty funny that Nightveil Specter aided in keeping your opponent off his lands. Oh well, that’s just how it goes sometimes! Anything else you’d like to add? Any shout outs?

Robert: I’d like to give a shout out to all my opponents!  They played great games and opponents who are friendly and personable just make the game way more enjoyable!  Next I’d like to shout out to my friends Nate Hess, Anthony Volpe, and Jon Oh, who are some of my good friends who I frequent FNM with.  And lastly I’d like to shout out to Benji Howard and Noah Yanicki who recently moved to California.  They were the ones who taught me how to play magic and are fantastic friends! I miss you guys!

Bill: You may not know this, but Noah and Benji are some of the first people to ever play the cube that is now being drafted weekly on Wednesday nights at 7 here at Dave and Adam’s Card World. They helped shape it into its current form. We even had to add Circle of Protection: Red and Kor Firewalker to the cube for a short time because Noah would draft the red deck and beat us with it every week! I miss those guys too. Well, thanks Robert and congratulations! I’ll see all of you on Friday for another great FNM at Dave and Adam’s Card World on Transit Road. Maybe I’ll see you in the Winner’s Circle too!

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