California States 2008 – Lark, Lark, drop

Yesterday, I gave a sneak preview of my States deck. Today, I went…and dropped after round four, having hit an unfavorable matchup twice running (can you guess which one?).
This was an eventful States, featuring hundreds of players, a hunt for tables, and a visit from the San Jose fire department. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s still going on even as I post this.
Over on Top 8 Magic, BDM posted about New York States. They had 134 people.
We had 273.
More in the extended.

I arrived at Superstars uncharacteristically close to the 10am “start” time — fortunately, there’s an entire building full of free parking across the street. I wandered in only to see something like this:
The line for California States 2008
That’s the sign-up line, vanishing off toward the far end of the venue, where it wraps back around to the front of the store again. Notice how the tables are all full already?
I filled out my deck list while I waited for the end of the line to come to me. As a general rule, it’s a great idea to have a deck list printed out ahead of time to bring with you. I just write my deck list down in the notebook where I track life totals and take my game notes; that way I always de-sideboard correctly after each match.
Shortly after I stepped into the line, it stopped dead. Eventually, it was announced that we were waiting on more tables. After another delay, more tables arrived, the rest of the line was cleared out, and we waited for pairings. When pairings went up for round one, we all sat down and the announcement came out.
273 players. Nine rounds. Boo-yah.
How big was your States?
Here’s the deck I brought:

36 Spells:
Fertile Ground
Rampant Growth
Jace Beleren
Bant Charm
Esper Charm
Ajani Goldmane
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Wrath of God
Garruk Wildspeaker
Liliana Vess
Profane Command
24 Land:
Arcane Sanctum
Seaside Citadel
Reflecting Pool
Treetop Village
Underground River
Adarkar Wastes
Llanowar Wastes
Fetid Heath
15 Sideboard:
Relic of Progenitus
Oblivion Ring
Jace Beleren
Bant Charm
Ajani Goldmane
Empyrial Archangel

I am perhaps too pleased by planeswalkers as a card type, and the ability to have multiple planeswalkers in play at the same time. The idea behind this four-color deck was board control, card advantage, and a win through some combination of Soldiers, Beasts, and Villages. I also put in the two Profanes so I could just come over the top to finish the game.
When planning for States this year, I tested against five-color control, faeries, and a couple aggro builds. Based on recent events (both locally and otherwise) and my impressions, I guessed that I’d be running into five-color control, faeries, kithkin, and Red Deck Wins. As it happens, my four-color card-advantage monstrosity is pretty solid versus aggro builds and five-color control. The faeries matchup is a little sketchier, but I figured I could swing it. I decided, however, to basically cede Lark, guessing that I wouldn’t hit much of it.
Ah, well.
Round 1 versus Stephen, playing Reveillark
Oh, hey. Reveillark!
On the play, Stephen mulliganed to five. Unfortunately, Lark is pretty good at recovering, filled as it is with card advantage of its own. Over the course of the game I beat Stephen down to 8 entirely on the back of a flying Elspeth soldier, but he recovered via Mulldrifters, Larks, and a backing of Cryptic Commands. As he said after the game, he had ridiculous draws. But then, he went to five to start, so it all evens out.
For game two, I took out all four Esper Charms and Ajani, and put in four Negates and the Relic.
In game two, Stephen stalled briefly on three land as I played out Liliana Vess, then began to grind his hand down to nothing while I swung in with Garruk’s beasts. With his hand gone and time running down on the clock, Stephen conceded and we moved on to game three.
Game three began with an early Kitchen Finks from Stephen, which I promptly Condemned on its attempt to attack. I attempted a Garruk, which he countered, then followed his Mulldrifter with Liliana. I ground his hand down with Liliana as he in turn tried to build up momentum by playing out Mulldrifters and backing them with Glen Elendra Archmages. I played constant defense, trying to attrition away both his board and hand until I could swing things around and go on offense.
Unfortunately, time was called with our life totals at 17 all, and neither one of us could manage a win in extra turns.
Stephen remarked that he expected my deck would do quite well against five-color control.
0-0-1 (1-1-1 games)
Round 2 versus Peter, playing Reveillark
I was on the play here, and Peter mulliganed to six cards. He played an early Fulminator Mage, taking out one of my many nonbasics. Regardless, I was able to quickly play out Elspeth, even swinging twice with a flying Soldier. Unfortunately, Peter’s deck revealed its true colors as a Tidehollow Sculler (taking one of my removal spells — a Wrath, I think) was followed up on by an evoked Reveillark. With Cryptic Command backing things, I was unable to keep the growing team on Peter’s side from thrashing my hand (Scullers), taking out Elspeth, and then swinging for the win.
Sideboarding was the same as in round one.
In game two, Peter took some early harm from painful lands to first attempt an Esper Charm (countered by my Bant Charm) and then resolve an Esper Charm, trying to dig deeper into his deck. In the mean time, I landed Garruk, cranked out some beasts, and went to town. Peter Negated my attempted Elspeth, but that did not keep beasts and Treetop Villages from beating down, and we were rapidly one all.
In game three, I committed an enormous no-no and kept a six-land hand with a Treetop Village in it. Although I drew into gas including Infest, Peter led with a Tidehollow Sculler (goodbye Infest) and chased it with another Sculler, taking away another piece of removal. From there, I didn’t draw enough useful cards to get past Cryptic Commands as Tidehollow Scullers beat me all the way down to nothing.
This one was entirely my fault. A reasonable hand might well have had gas even after double Sculler.
0-1-1 (2-3-1 games)
Round 3 versus Bryce, playing multicolor Planeswalker control
As game one opened, Bryce played a Finks, which I Banted away after it hit me once. I then hit him back with a Treetop Village, only to have him play another Finks and Ajani Vengeant. As it happens, Ajani is awfully good at keeping Treetop Villages restrained. From there, my poor Village was locked down, and the Finks beat in for a while until Bryce played Chandra and started to ping me. I knew I was on a clock then, but I was stuck with weird mana in this game, and died to Chandra’s ultimate with triple Liliana and double Wrath in hand, all unplayable.
For game two, I sided in my Oblivion Rings to deal with the Planeswalkers, as well as pulling in another Ajani so I could “legend” out his Ajanis. In this game, I had weird mana problems again, never hitting the double black to successfully play my Liliana Vess, but managing an early Ajani followed by Garruk. Garruk’s beasts, boosted by Elspeth, smacked in regularly. His Chandra met my Oblivion Ring, and the beasts continued in for the win. At one point he played double Pyroclasm to sweep my beasts, but he couldn’t clear Garruk, and that was enough.
For game three, I sided in my Empyrial Archangel, figuring that by this point he wouldn’t have kept much relevant removal in. He led with an early Finks, which I took a point of mana burn to Bant Charm away. I played Elspeth and then launched in with a flying soldier and played Garruk, making a beast. An EOT Thresher pinged Elspeth, then hung out to block…until I Oblivion Ringed it away. Bryce played out multiple Mulldrifters hoping to draw into solutions, and I countered with the Archangel. Here’s that board position:
Board position!
The Space Marines are Elspeth’s soldiers.
Then I played Liliana, and poor Bryce was done.
1-1-1 (4-4-1 games)
Then the Fire Marshal showed up. Here’s his truck:
San Jose fire marshal
I don’t know the whole backstory here, although I suspect it’ll turn up in a Riki Rules column sometime soon. I imagine, however, that someone nearby noticed the roughly three hundred people spilling out onto the sidewalk in front of the venue between rounds (the judge staff had us all go outside, then check our pairings on the way back in at the beginning of each round). After a protracted delay, things restarted without apparent disruption.
I have to say, I was kind of expecting something along these lines. There were a lot of people there.
Round 4 versus Jack, playing Faeries
Jack came from Los Angeles for States this year. In case you’re not down with California geography, that’s about 350 miles.
In game one, I hit Jack twice with Treetop Villages, losing each one to an Agony Warp on the second swing. I followed with Liliana Vess and began grinding Jack’s hand down. He tried to beat back with Mutavaults, losing one to a Condemn. I played out Elspeth and stared the flying soldier beats. He played out a Clique on his turn (I think…I recall him playing it at an odd time and ending up tapped out). With him tapped out, I sent a flying soldier in, then Profaned him out.
In game two, Jack stared EOTing Sprites and Scions, and I burned removal on them, not wanting him to get up to Sprite critical mass (about four faeries in play, pretty much). Unfortunately, this was followed by Clique and then Clique beats. I wasn’t able to recover usefully in time, and that was that.
I think I’d checked out at this point, as I actually pulled all my Epser Charms in siding for game three, then stopped, realized I’d pulled my only way of killing a Bitterblossom, and put them back in. Yeah. Checked out.
Jack played a second-turn Bitterblossom, so I would have felt especially dumb if I realized I’d taken the Charms out then. Naturally, I didn’t draw into one anyway, and Sprites and Scions overran me, even though I did manage to stick a Garruk.
1-2-1 (5-6-1 games)
At this point, I knew I’d checked out, and I had a friend’s event to go to if I wasn’t winning, so I dropped. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon when I left — with five rounds and a top eight left to go. Again, I imagine Riki will cover this at some point, but California States must have finished awfully late (or early on Sunday morning, depending).
Overall, I think my deck choice was great fun, but too complex. It likely would have done well through a day of mostly five-color control and aggro, but Lark, Lark was enough to screw up my day from the start. The mana base is also too iffy, as I had a couple really annoying draws where extremely useful cards were stuck in my hand for the entire game.
On the plus side, my deck did effectively blank out significant portions of my opponents’ decks, which I had hoped would happen.
I may be back at Superstars for their 1K next week, with a new, different, and fun build. I enjoyed this year’s States, even with the bad matchups and some poor keeps on my part. Everyone I played against was nice, and the fire department visit was an interest break in the day.
I look forward to next year.