Tournament Report: SCG Open St Louis

Written by Noremac on December 05, 2011

After returning to Magic a couple months ago when I moved to Saint Louis, I've been eagerly waiting for Star City Games Saint Louis Open. It was to be my first major tournament ever. I began T2 w/Innistrad running RDW as it was the cheapest thing to buy in real life. It turned out to be great. The metagame shifted and I started running other lists but always came back to RDW. Once I embraced Volt Charge over Brimstone Volley and then Gut Shot I started winning a lot over the last two weeks. At one point I went on a 12-1 run.

I considered Cuneo UW for a long time but decided I just wasn't ready. The deck is great but requires more play skill and experience than I credit myself with right now.

Arriving at SCG STL, I was still tweaking my list. Here's what I ended up with:

Red Deck Wins
Main Deck Sideboard
18 Mountain
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Stromkirk Noble
4 Goblin Fireslinger
4 Stormblood Berserker
4 Chandra's Phoenix
2 Grim Lavamancer
2 Spikeshot Elder
2 Koth of the Hammer
4 Gut Shot
2 Incinerate
2 Arc Trail
4 Volt Charge
4 Shrine of Burning Rage
4 Dismember
4 Ancient Grudge
3 Vulshok Refugee
2 Arc Trail
2 Traitorous Blood

The end tweaking essentially came down to considering a Koth in the side, which I decided I didn't really need. Maindeck, I was torn between Reckless Waif and Goblin Fireslinger before realizing an unblockable 1/1 was just better than the occasional 3/2 in most of my matchups.

Once registration ended, they announced a delay because there were many more players than expected. They set up a second room in the Mississippian Ballroom and the final player count was 537 players. I resolved to never end up in the Missisippian.

Round 1:

Dan with Kessig tuned for aggro (Emissary, Slagstorm maindeck).

He was a friendly player from Minnesota. We were playing at table 6 and both joked that we hoped we would be back at this table in the final rounds of the tournament.

Game 1

I won the all-important die roll and mulliganed my first hand. I kept a hand with two lands, Grim Lavamancer, Shrine of Burning Rage, Chandra's Phoenix, and an Arc Trail. Not quite a godhand, but solid. The game went back and forth with my board being wiped more than once with Slagstorm but I eventually won out on the back of Shrine. He put a lot of pressure on me with an Inferno Titan that would be lethal the next turn.


  • - 2 Arc Trail
  • + 2 Traitorous Blood

Game 2

I don't remember a lot about this game but the final two turns. He cast Inferno Titan and cleared my board at 13 life. I Traitorous Blood the next turn, pump twice, and end up dropping him to 2. Unfortunately, he swung back the following turn and used Kessig for lethal.

Game 3

The game goes long and I end up winning the turn before Inferno Titan lethal one the back of Volt Charge and Shrine.


Round 2:

Andre with Illusions.

Prior to the match, I caught a flash of a blue card in his sideboard and was feeling confident. Most decks with Islands in them are favorable matchups for RDW.

Game 1

I keep a hand with Stormkirk, Shrine, Arc Trail, and some other cards. He doesn't play anything but a Glacial Fortress tapped turn 1 so I peg him on control. When he uses his Phantasmal Image to copy by Stromkirk the next turn I'm still not sure. I used that opportunity to hit him with Arc Trail and my Stromkirk starts to grow. I realize what he's playing next turn as he drops a Phantasmal Bear. I quickly hit him for lethal a couple turns later with a 6/6 Stromkirk Noble.


  • -2 Koth
  • + 2 Arc Trail

I'm still not sure that losing the Koth is the best option, but it seemed better than anything else. Berserker was another option with all of his Vapor Snags. I knew he'd be siding in Stitched Drakes, so Dismember was an option but I think that's overkill. This is as close to a bye matchup as RDW gets.

Game 2

Quit a game. I Arc Trail his Delver and Lord on Turn 2 and watch him drop back to back Stitched Drakes, the worst thing I could see out of him. They prove irrelevant as I just get there with Shrine of Burning Rage and Volt Charge a couple turns later. I did make a play mistake by Gut Shotting Stitched Drake and rushing to play the Volt Charge on it before allowing responses. My opponent cut me off as I began to tap the lands for Volt Charge and Mental Misstepped the Gut Shot, allowing me to save the Volt Charge. Had he blown me out there forcing me to waste a Volt Charge, this game likely would have been gone very differently.

I'm glad I learned that lesson on a game I ended up winning.


Round 3:

Nick with Kessig (Worlds version)

Game 1

I lose a close one to Inferno Titan. I'm really beginning to see how amazing that card is versus me compared to Prime Time.


  • -2 Arc Trail
  • +2 Traitorous Blood

Game 2

I don't recall the play by play but I win this one on the back of three (!!!) Shrine on Burning Rages when he sees no Ancient Grudges.

Game 3

I keep a 2 lander with Stromkirk Noble, Stormblood Berserker, Gut Shot, and two Chandra's Phoenixes. Pretty solid on the draw. I never see a third land and lose to Inferno Titan. This was the first game I saw his Sphere of Suns. Had I seen them earlier, I might have considered siding in some Ancient Grudges.


Round 4:

Matt with RDW.

His deck is a little different than mine playing Reckless Waifs, Hero of Oxid Ridge, Ghost Quarter, and Manic Vandals in the side.

Game 1

I dominate with a turn one Grim, Shrine, and Chandra's [Phoenix].


I really struggled with sideboarding here. It's clear that I should have put more thought into my preparation and had a sideboard plan going in. I go with:

  • -1 Volt Charge
  • -1 Mountain
  • -2 Koth of the Hammer
  • +3 Vulshok Refugee
  • +2 Arc Trail

I'm sure I sideboarded wrong here, and I'd love your thoughts in the comments. I considered putting in Dismember to deal with opposing Vulshoks, but decided to punt that decision to game 3.

Game 2

I feel the pain of staring down a Shrine of Burning Rage on the opposing board. I don't see any of my sideboarded cards and we battle back and forth before he finally Shrines for 8. After the game my opponent told me kept a one lander again this game making this loss even more frustrating.


I kept the same sideboard plan for the play. I didn't feel the need for Dismember, and though I lost to Shrine I don't want to bring Grudge in. This is one matchup where I'm really wishing I had Manic Vandals instead.

Game 3

I played terribly in the middle of this game, but I'm not sure it mattered. My opening hand had a Shrine, Grim, and Chandra with some lands and a random burn spell. Topdecking a Vulshok turn 2 made me think I had this game locked up. By turn 6 I'm sitting with a Shrine on 6, him down to 10. He's got a Phoenix, Reckless Waif, and Berserker with 2 counters. I decide to swing in with my Vulshok to put him to 12, and then drop my Phoenix and a Stromkirk as blockers and then Iíll have lethal next turn. He rips a Manic Vandal to pop my shrine and I fall behind in the race and lose. I screwed up by not just racing him with the Phoenix the turn prior and wasting a Gut Shot to kill a Waif instead of saving it to get my Phoenix back.

I came into this tournament really cocky and thinking I was an above average player. Sitting at 2-2, I'm realizing that's not the case. I want to be a serious, competitive magic player. If I'm going to do that, I need to stop playing online tournaments on autopilot and really focus. I definitely have the raw ability, but I'm not putting in the work. Running the table at my local FNM and with some random players in an 8 man is a lot different than playing at a major tournament like this.


Round 5:

Court with GW Aggro.

Game 1

I have no clue what he's playing and keep a hand after a mull to 6 with Grim, Incinerate, Stormblood, Gut Shot, and two lands. He won the roll and drops a Doomed Traveller turn 1. That's a horrible card for me to face with any hand that doesn't include a Stromkirk. I end up wasting the Gut Shot to make a 3/3 Berserker to get some beats in. I end up losing to two Mirran Crusaders and an Honor of the Pure.


  • -1 Mountain
  • -2 Koth
  • -1 Volt Charge
  • -1 Stormblood Berserker
  • +4 Dismember
  • +2 Arc Trail

This was another matchup where my sideboard plan was iffy. I definitely know what I'm bringing in, but I'm not sure what to bring out. If I had it over again, I'd probably consider cutting the Shrines since they usually just get exiled by Oblivion Ring.

Game 2

I had a near perfect opening hand. Stromkirk Noble, two Stormblood Berserker, Volt Charge, and three Mountains. I curve out well and win over a Timely + Honor of the Pure when I pump my team with Volt Charge.

Game 3-

I keep an iffy hand that I probably should have mulled. He starts off with a turn 1 Champion followed by a second. He's color screwed (all Plains) the entire match. Not mulling, and opting to drop a Shrine turn 2 instead of burning the Champion cost me this game.

I really need to up my mulliganing game. While the hand I kept was great, it didn't have the cards that I need to beat GW aggro. A Stromkirk, Arc Trail, or Gut Shot really needs to be in your opening hand to keep up and I had none. Another lesson learned.

It was at this point I decided to do a tourney report so I would be forced to analyze my mistakes. I decided if I talked about them publicly it would help me to actually learn from my misplays and follow through on my pledge to improve.


Round 6:

Greg with Worlds Kessig

Game 1

I win the roll and keep a decent hand. Two mountains, two Phoenix, two Gut Shot, and something else. I Gut Shot his Birds and topdecked a Shrine to drop turn 2. I miss the third land drop for a turn when I topdeck a Chandra, but win quickly on the back of Shrine and two Chandra's Phoenix three turns later.


  • -2 Arc Trail
  • +2 Traitorous Blood

This is the one matchup I'm sure on my sideboard plan. I've often flirted with adding a third Traitorous Blood to the sideboard for this matchup, but I think its overkill. Unless they are running Wurmcoil or Batterskull, the Grudges should stay in the side even if they are Sphere and Solemn heavy.

Game 2

I kept a very aggro hand with Stromkirk Noble and a couple of Volt Charges. My biggest fear is a turn 3 Slagstorm before my Stromkirk gets out of range. His face as I drop the Stromkirk and demeanor when I follow it up with a Goblin Fireslinger convinces me he doesn't. I blow him out in combat step a couple times with Volt Charge. I made a mistake a turn later by not burning his dude precombat with a Volt but he had no action so I won quickly. He confessed to me he kept a hand that pure ramp and no action. Definitely a bad keep versus RDW.


Round 7:

Stefan with Delverburn

Before the match began, I noticed the 4 Delver of Secrets that he set out next to his deck box. This was a great sign because basically any deck that runs Delver is a good matchup for RDW.

Game 1

He leads off with a Mountain and a Stromkirk Noble so I'm convinced that he's Delverburn. I kept a solid hand with Gut Shot and early drops. I quickly took over the game and popped Shrine for 10.


I didn't sideboard at all in this match. I briefly considered bringing 2 more Arc Trails in but decided since he's likely just running 12 creatures that wouldn't really do much.

Game 2

I keep a hand that has no early action but has a Shrine and a Chandra, plus two Volt Charges. I figured as long as I stuck the Shrine I'd be golden and even if I didn't Chandra's and the burn put me in a good position. I rolled him quickly, popping Shrine for 8 late in the game.


At this point I started feeling a lot better about myself. 4-3 is definitely nothing to be proud of but having a winning record is something at least. With only 3 rounds left and no side events firing I decided to play the rest of the tournament.

Round 8:

Jeremy with a standard Kessig list.

Before the match began, he noticed that he had forgot to desideboard. As he was pulling things out I couldnít help catching sight of Thrun and Ancient Grudge when he dropped them. I was excited for my chance to prove that Kessig is a good matchup for me.

Game 1

I lost the roll, which is definitely a setback versus Kessig. I lead off with a Goblin Fireslinger (holding back Stromkirk Noble and Grim Lavamancer) expecting him to burn the Fireslinger. He did not disappoint with a Galvanic Blast on his main phase. I then topdeck Shrine which I drop. After that, the match goes as expected. Turn 3 Chandra's Phoenix followed by little dudes, then Volt Charge to the face culminating with a massive Shrine pop.


  • -2 Arc Trail
  • +2 Traitorous Blood

Game 2

I keep a hand of Stromkirk, Lavamancer, Stormblood, Chandra's Phoenix, Shrine of Burning Rage, and two lands. I don't remember this match that well, but I do remember playing the best magic I had all day. I won over two Slagstorms, Thrun, and an Ancient Grudge.


Round 9:

Turner with Township Tokens

Game 1

My opponent keeps a 2 lander with two Pilgrims and a Bird of Paradise. I burn them all one by one and punish him for the slow start with Chandra/Shrine for a quick 1-0 start.


  • +2 Arc Trail
  • +2 Ancient Grudge
  • -2 Koth
  • -1 Mountain
  • -1 Shrine

This was another matchup where I struggled on the boarding. Sideboarding is really dependent on the decklist and I won so quickly I didn't see a lot of his. I boarded in the Grudges because I knew he had Splicer, the white Shrine, and maybe a Sword post board. I considered Dismember for Hero of Bladehold but decided to hold off.

Game 2

He got off to a great start and I kept a hand with to much burn and not enough creatures. I eventually lose to Sword of War and Peace and tons of Myr tokens. I definitely regretted not going all out on the Ancient Grudge plan. However, being on the play put me in a good position to win the third game.


After losing to the Shrine and Sword I decided I needed a playset of Grudges.

  • -1 Arc Trail
  • -1 Volt Charge
  • +2 Ancient Grudge

This might have been overkill. I think I probably should have an Arc Trail in and just added a third grudge.

Game 3

I rolled off to a great start with Stromkirk, followed by Shrine and Phoenix. Another Shrine the next turn provided backup for the Oblivion Ring I expected on the first. I ended up winning a long game with the second Shrine after a Timely Reinforcements and a Hero nearly took me out.

I'm still not sure how to board in this matchup. This deck definitely plays Hero and I need some number of Dismembers post-board. I'll consider it.


I feel good going into the 10th round. I've shaken off my prior proclivity for misplays and buckled down to win three straight. One more puts me at 7-3, a respectable showing for the day.

Round 10:

I get paired versus Corey, a friendly player who says he's from STL as well. We chat as we shuffle and after I comment how bored I am with the Kessig matchup having played it 4 times today. He then reveals he's playing Kessig. Given I'm 3-1 and won the die roll, I feel confident I can improve my record versus Kessig to 4-1.

Game 1

I'm forced to mull to 6 and keep a hand of Stromkirk Noble, Gut Shot, Chandra's Phoenix, and three mountains. While not amazing, it was a solid start on the play. I proceed to rip 3 lands off the top of my deck, a Stromkirk, and then two more lands. I drop him to 8 before he gets Prime Time out and I just lose.


As usual:

  • -2 Arc Trail
  • +2 Traitorous Blood

Game 2

On the play again I keep a hand with two lands, two Fireslinger, Stromkirk, Volt Charge, and Stormblood Berserker. I'm not going to get much better so I keep.

I run out the Stromkirk and Berserker. All I needed to do was topdeck a mountain before he hit three lands and Slagstormed so I could Volt Charge in response and save my dudes. I didn't draw it, and proceeded to be Slagstormed a second time later on. I ended the game with two lands still in play, a fistful of burn, and my opponent wrecking me with Inferno Titan.

While disappointed at the loss, I felt good about the match. I wouldn't take any of plays back or my keeps and that's really all you can ask for.


Ending the day 6-4 is much worse than I hoped, but not bad for my first major Magic tournament. I learned a lot about myself as a player and how I can improve. I can't wait for a chance to put those lessons into action.

Moving forward, Iíve promised myself I will never enter a serious tournament again without a written sideboard plan (that I donít have to always stick to but will help me prepare) for the 5 biggest decks in the format. I will also make my prep much more serious and start taking notes.

Now that the tournament is over, Iím pleased to see the winners list was just a handful of cards off mine. With RDW winning the tournament, Iíd make these changes to my list moving forward:


No change.

I prefer the extra land and the two Koths over the three Galvanic Blasts Iíve seen in other lists. Koth is incredibly especially paired with Volt Charge and I wouldnít leave home without him.


  • -1 Ancient Grudge
  • -1 Arc Trail
  • +1 Vulshok Refugee
  • +1 Sword of War and Peace

Iíd love to fit another Koth in the sideboard, but I donít feel like thereís room. If anything, Iíd cut the Sword for it. However, I expect a rise of RDW with the win and the Sword will do double duty in many of your white aggro matchups.

Thanks for reading. Iíd love your comments on my first article, my deck, and my performance.

Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

by Shagy on 2011-12-05 05:22 CET

I love RDW, solid article!

by Conkisstador on 2011-12-05 06:41 CET

Was it worth reading after "This is as close to a bad matchup as RDW gets." ???
RDW showed up at Worlds in numbers BECAUSE it dominated the 'best deck' in Illusions.

by Noremac on 2011-12-05 06:48 CET

It should say bye matchup, not bad. I'll have it edited.

Thanks for catching that Conkiss, I'm quite aware. I wish I'd seen more Illusions yesterday.

by Top8eR on 2011-12-05 07:06 CET

I was there too haha.

by tchiseen on 2011-12-06 02:38 CET

You played 0 control matchups?

by Noremac on 2011-12-06 02:53 CET

And Illusions only once tchiseen. I wasn't lucky at all in my pairings.

by Alprazolam on 2011-12-09 02:59 CET

Yeah my buddy Denny Dowty won that with mono red he told me he won because i wasnt there lol

by Top8eR on 2011-12-09 03:29 CET

Do you know Casey too then Alprazolam?

by on 2011-12-17 00:34 CET

It seems that you sideboarded unlegal in round 4,5 and 9. You are not allowed to sideboard in more cards than you take out.

Also, consider Devil's Play to act as fifth shrine.

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