Beast Island vs the DFC

I have a slight obsession with Guardian Beast. So I wanted to build a dedicated deck around it, which we rarely see. And let’s face it: flipping Orbs has got to be one of the most fun things ever, bar none. I had been theory-crafting the deck concept for over a year, but it’s only recently that I’ve acquired the fourth and last member of my Beast family: 

Can you hear them, too? «Ululullluuuulululu»

I was then left we no other choice than to make it work. « Beast Island » went through all sorts of iterations. Including the one from my locally infamous Run of Shame at Le Corail (Québec city) in february. What could possibly go wrong with running Power Monolith alongside Beasts and Orb? We’re doing the flashy thing, so why not opt for a Blood Moon transformational sideboard while at it?

Beast Island (v. Monolith Moon Hybrid) @ King of le Corail, Québec city, Feb. 2019

Except Guardian Beast didn’t only protect the Monolith combo, I would soon find out. It also straight up prevented it from happening. And under Blood Moon I locked myself out of more games than my opponents. I now fondly look back to this event as my worst tournament showing ever; a 1-5 record for 21st place finish … out of 22. But it did bear its lessons.

Back to the drawing board, I eventually came up with something less exuberant, more grounded. It was a toolbox-control oriented version that I ran at Montréal’s Tundra Wolves Challenge II in march. There I placed 17th (out of 35 players), with a 3-3 record. It’s fine, if average. We’re improving, at least. Deck pic game also improved:

Beast Island (v. Toolbox-Control) @ Tundra Wolves Challenge II, Montréal, March 2019

Good? But « good » isn’t enough. I kept at it. Also this is lots of fun! But eventually found out the hard way that Beast Island had an abysmal The Deck match-up; I could never out-control them, and they had the artifact hate upper hand to boot. We really had to be the ones who were asking the questions, and they had to be serious questions. A massive overhaul ensued, and a couple nights of playtesting with fellow Wolves later, we put together a version that felt like it had more game across the board. A version that we would streamline for the upcoming Ottawa tourney. World, I present to you Beast Island v. 7.1:

Beast Island (v. 7.1) @ Dazed and Fused-Con, Ottawa, April 2019

Enters Dazed and Fused-Con, the first event hosted by Ottawa’s Capital Chaos crew. Being only a couple hours drive away, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing these guys show up at many of our casual thursdays, monthly tourneys, yearly championship and of course at the Tundra Wolves Challenge. They pretty much feel like part of the family. Saying we were glad to pack a minivan and take the trip up to the DFC would be an understatement. Hyped as hell would be more accurate — fuelled by the amazing N00bcon stream we had watched well into the night, the night before. And the DFC did not disappoint.

For their first, LG and Pat ran a nearly perfect event if you ask me. MC’ing and logistics, smooth as can be. They had secured an amazing location in the Clocktower Brewery Pub. Everything from the food and drinks to the cosy atmosphere, solid wood tables and ample space was top of the notch. Turnout was 24 players, which is spot-on for an event to feel both like a « real » tournament but also like an actual social thing where you get to meet cool people for real. There was an intimate, community feel to the gathering which I very much enjoyed. Sweet lads, sweet event. But how did Beast Island fare?

Round 1 I played Chris, an Old school format newbie, yet competitive Magic player otherwise. He was on a Monoblack Bad Moon aggro brew featuring sticky and recursive critters à la Nether Shadow. Well fast Trike(s) spelled bad-news for them weenies. Guardian Beasts scaling up with his Bad Moon army also formed a nigh impenetrable fortress for him. On top of that, what’s critical to us: there was not much hate to be played around in postboard games. Taking this one home, 2-0.

Round 2 I played David, who was sporting a very personal take on big Monoblack Control, curving out from Wisps and Ritual Specters into heavy hitters such as Tetravus and Nightmare, with Icy Manipulator and Drain Life backup. Most of which was extremely crisp Alpha stuff! Game 1 I somehow managed to survive a Turn 1 Vampire, if barely. Into the grind, my Beasts would brawl with his Factories, and bash-in when the occasion arose. I eventually slung an otherwise lethal Drain Life back to face in Fire form FTW (trick which involved a Mana Drain if it wasn’t clear). Game 2 was another grindy one, but I eventually pulled on top with my unfair cards. Win 2-0.

Round 3 was against Lorenzo, an excellent URb Troll-Disco player. Game 1 was tight; a midrange fest with Trolls and Beasts attempting to out-aggro one another and Lightning Bolts flying around, with Disks more or less collaterally neutered. But Lorenzo eventually put up a wall of countermagic and locked me out of any relevant plays FTW. I would need my Red Blasts. Looking back at Game 2, I think not having worked on this match-up much, if at all, as far as sideboard plans go, did sting us. I basically ended up overboarding, and that’s all she wrote. Takeaway: for these midrange grinds, keep the boarding lean. Loss 0-2.

Round 4 I’m up against Jason, who placed third at Tundra Wolves Challenge II last month. He’s a solid player on a serious deck (UR CounterBurn). I hadn’t tested this matchup much either, but I was expecting it to somehow grind out too. It’s Old school after all. So I kept my boarding lean. And it payed off. To sum things up, I had superior deck velocity thanks to Sages and synergistic elements, I was playing the bigger critters but also slinging the bigger burn spells. With Red Blast backup to punch through countermagic, this time Beast Island prevailed. 2-0 and feeling good.

For Round 5 I’m paired with Pat the Hat who’s rocking big UW Skies. This perhaps was the deepest, chess-like MTG game that I’ve ever played — with layers and thinking turns ahead and stuff. Where we both had the answers to anything anyone of us would present, it ended up being the tiniest of tempo plays that would add up to the win. One game it was a Beast unexpectedly grunting in, that swung the clock around and won me the race. The other it was systematically taxing his City of Brass mana when I could and stalling his Efreets (but keeping them in play). He got cornered into taking inevitable exactsies with actual 16 seconds left to the clock. Heart pounding! Win 2-0.

I walk into Round 6 with a 4-1 record to find out that I will face James D., who is the only player in the room that’s still undefeated. My odds of placing first if I beat him are good. Also, he’s my Nemesis. Bad news is, he’s playing The Deck. Good news is, I’ve playtested a ton against it. The plan is basically to lose Game 1 and catch them off guard with Hurkyl’s Recall and Black Vise shenanigans (which have proven tough to deal with for them) for postboard games. This should give me a fighting chance. But this is my board state and hand on Turn 2 (+ Time Walk turn) of our first game:

Virtual turn 2 active Guardian Beast + Chaos Orb combo, with backup Beast and Braingeyser

James is impressed. He scoops it up a couple turns later. Feeling all giddy, for Games 2 and 3 I move forward with the sideboard plan that I know inside and out and backward. And then promptly proceed to not draw a single mana source for 15 consecutive turns one game and having to mull down to a suboptimal 5 the other. While The Deck is running full steam. Nemesis status maintained, I guess.

I end up placing fourth (4-2 record), my only losses being to James D. who is crowned DFC champion (The Deck, 6-0) and to Lorenzo (URb Troll-Disco, 5-1) who places 2nd. While 3rd place goes to James S. (UR CounterBurn, 4-2). But anyhow, it’s a spiritual victory to me. Taking Beast Island all the way to the Top 4 was already way beyond my expectations for a « brew » status pile such as this. More importantly, I have slung spells that I love, gotten to flip infinite Orbs, chill with amazing people, and just had an overall total blast at DFC. So much so, I wasn’t even out the door that I was already looking forward to our next gathering of Mages!

A bunch of happy Canadians at the 2019 DFC (T.O. pic)
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