ptq season was short for me so far this year: one opportunity this past weekend. nonetheless, i did spend a considerable amount of time debating my deck choices. after taking in all the factors (time to prepare, familiarity with the meta, obstacles to getting a deck together, testing, etc), i decided to stick with mono-red burn (like i played at GP-LA in January). the deck is extremely straight forward though in “tight situations” it becomes really difficutl to gauge whether it’s “to the dome” or “time to remove a creature.” basically, if it’s for creatures then the game is nearly decided and only top-decking a shrapnel blast is going to save me. a friend of mine said it’s good to think of mono-red burn as a wanna be combo deck…only it’s a combo with 6 to 8 pieces. meaning the mono-red deck needs to hit 6 to 8 spells to the dome to win whereas some decks only rely on two to three pieces for the win (such as riptide lab + vendilion clique/spellstutter sprite)
11x basic mountain, 3x darksteel citadel, 2x blinkmoth nexus, 4x great furance
creatuers + spells: 40
4x mogg fanatic
2x seal of fire
2x shard volley
4x spark elemental
4x lava spike
4x keldon marauders
4x magma jet
3x smash to smithereens
3x shrapnel blast
3x sulfuric vortex
3x flames of the bloodhand
3x pithing needle
1x shattering spree
3x pyrostaic pillar
4x ensnaring bridge
4x volcanic fallout
one of the things i noticed right away is that the meta is considerably slower than it was @ GP LA. there teps and elves were still running rampant, albeit a bit more balanced by a slew of zoo and fae decks. since then, we’ve seen zoo slowly transform itself into naya-zoo (starkington post has a good example), and the slight bump in the mana-curve to bigger fatties. at least locally here in the san francisco bay area, there’s also been a decrease in the number of elves and teps players. many, many of these players moved to an aggro build. in fact the migration to aggro decks spilled over to fae players because i remember seeing very few fairie decks. generally speaking, the meta seems quite a bit slower, making mono-red more viable imo.
my sb options were specifically geared at: TEPS/EVLES (pyrostaic pillar), Affinity (pithing needle, ensaring bridge, shattering spree andvolcanic fallouts so i could [potentially] clear an early board–more on that below), Zoo (ensaring bridge — though i should have brought in either the pithing needle or the shattering spree in addition so i could hit jittes…) and fae (volcanic fallout).
match 1: slide.dec
game 1: turn 3 sulfuric vortex. turns off his life gain and helps my tempo. i just burn, burn burn to his head.
game 2: no vortex but i’m able keep up, despite gaining four life from a loxodon hiearch (which has made a resurgence in decks big time. it was actually a pretty exciting match. at the end of turn 8, i was at six life and he had 6 on the board (two from an eternal witness and four from the nobel hiearch); my opponent was at 11. end of his turn, i incinerate. i had two shrapnel blasts in hand. just need to top-deck an artifact. top deck an artifact land (great furnace), and am able to cast both shrapnel blasts for the win. whew, very close.
match 2: affinity
wasn’t too excited about my game one options. lost game one. figured that i had a pretty decent sideboard against him. i take out the sulfuric vortexes (no way am i keeping that card in hand. it would essentially force my game into affinity’s favor); i put in volcanic fallouts with the aim of being able to clear the board (lots of x/1 and x/2 creatures in affinity). i pulled out all of the spark elementals–figuring that affinity will always have a creature to block w/ basically making the spark elemental useless. in its place, i put in 3x pithing needle (anti-ravanger and cranial plating tech) and 1x shattering spree.
game two: his board was fairly full turn four when he declares attacks but a volcanic fallout solved that mess. he’s forced to sac creatures to save his ravanger. i also smash to smithereens his ravanger next turn. being affinity, he’s able to setup again pretty quick but a pithing needle on a cranial plating is able to buy enough time to win the match. (the pithing needle was actually the artifact sacrificed to the shrapnel blast for the win).
game three: i mulligan to 6 because my hand was completely landless. i keep the hand of six consisting of 1x pithing needle, 1x shattering spree, 1x mogg, 1x lava spike, 1x keldon marauders 1x artifact land. i was nervous but i figured pithing needle and shattering spree AND mogg were an attractive 6-card hand. unfortunately, lady fortune wasn’t smiling upon me during this particular game. i don’t hit my second land drop until turn 4 (i’m on the draw, haivng one game two). in fact, i was forced turn three to using the shattering spree on his cranial plating. his board was perfect for even a single replication of the spree. bummer for me. despite this weak-sauce game, i played tight and was only a few points (3) from a win before he was able to simply put a bunch of creatures on the table for the win (such as)
match 3: loam-rockfeatures pleasantries such as raven’s crime, life of the loam, loxodon hierarch, and knight of the reliquary.
game 1: he establishes control very quickly. beats down with TWO 5/5 knights of the reliquary. i removed one w/ a shrapnel blast but never able to recover nor able to keep up w/ his tempo.
sideboard in 4x ensnaring bridges, pull out 4x spark elemental. despite the disjoint in 4x 3cc for 4x 1cc, i figured this my best sb option since he’ll be dropping creatures that will quickly make the spark elemental a dead card. this choice was good as i was able to drop a turn three ensnaring bridge. he plays fatties, including a loxodon hiearch (able to gain life because there’s no vortex on the table nor flames of bloodhand in hand). i actually had the temp and then i made a critical mistake: to keep the pressure, i shrapnel blast, sac’ing one of the bridges. he krosan grips the other. doh! (and DUH). he plays jitte, attaches to a heiarch and proceeds to beat down. he quickly moves from 4 life to 10 (while i quickly go from 20 to 0).
at this point in the day, the gig’s up. i’m out. the group i rode down with was only doing okay at x-1′s so i figure there’s no reason to drop since i’ll just be sitting around.
match 4: naya-zoo
not a very interesting matchup. game one i was blown out to a quick draw (2x nactals, and 2x kird ape). ouch. sideboard in the bridges again, out went the smash to smithereens. i didn’t take too many notes during this match because i was already out. game did go to round three…but i lost.
one of hte guys from the SF group ended up x-2 after this round, so he was going to head back. i hitched a ride, ending my ptq-extended season.
after a day of playing, the single best card in the deck is without a doubt sulfuric vortex–it’s simply too good against the meta, establishing tempo against fae, slide, and loam. wish i’d run 4. when building i decided i didn’t want to see two vortexes in any one match so i dropped to three. i think seeing two from time to time would be well worth the risk if only to establish a better rate of turn 3 sulfuric vortex drops.
i’m definitely not upset about including the smash to smithereens maindeck. there’s more than enough artifacts to justify the inclusion, and over all i’m much happier with the build i went into the PTQ (at superstars) than what i played at GP-LA. my only disappointment was the mana-screw match 2 (game three) and the critical play mistake of using the shrapnel blast before i was ready to win (meaning, it’s not an issue to sac the ensnaring bridge if you have the win right at that moment).