Ender’s Game: PTQ-Austin *3rd

This weekend I had the opportunity to play in my hometown PTQ. After some deep thinking decided to play a Doran deck similiar to Massicard’s from Grand Prix-Seattle. The preparation for the tournament consisted of meeting at Bryan’s house around noon almost every day in the week leading up to the PTQ.
Between the Grand Prix and the Boise PTQ I tried most of the decks in the format and really only liked Doran.

There was a very specific set of characteristics that I wanted in the deck that I played.
-First, I want to be playing an answer to Mistbind Clique, which means Path to Exile or Terror. The Doran deck ran Path. On the same line Maelstrom Pulse being in the deck is a big plus. The versatility of Pulse is almost unmatched. It can negate a Spectral Procession or destroy a threatening Behemeth Sledge.
-Second, I wanted cards that were hard to deal with in my deck. Cards like Treetop Village and Chameleon Colossus fit the bill.

-Third, the deck had to have ways to manipulate its draws in some way. This could be card draw or library manipulation. Unlike most previous Doran decks Massicard’s list ran Treefolk Harbinger which manipulates your draws.
-The deck also has some very powerful starts. Going turn 1 Noble Hierarch into Doran puts most decks in a pretty bad spot. He won’t necesarily win the game by himself but at least gives you breathing room while taking it away from your opponent.

The metagame for the tournament was also in an interesting spot. Following Seattle many declared Swans combo dead in the wake of Faerie dominance. Because of this players prepared for Faeries and began leaving their Swans hate at home. In addition to this, decks that could beat Faeries and maintain a decent Swans matchup rose in popularity. Examples are GB elves (which took all four slots of the Honolulu LCQ) and Doran (which won Grand Prix-Seattle and finished second in Sau Paulo this weekend). This in turn triggered the resurgence of white aggro decks like tokens and WB Kithkin (which won the Honolulu PTQ).

The key thing to understanding metagame shifts isn’t determining how it will shift but how far along shifting it is. It is a simple matter to figure out that white aggro beats Faeries. It is not so simple to figure out whether or not you should be running Swans hate or Faeries hate. For example, lets assume you are quite the metagame master and see that Faeries beats Swans combo. Knowing this, you decide to play white aggro to beat faeries. Then over the course of the tournament you get stomped by Swans combo players who didn’t get the memo about faeries. This is a perfect example where being “ahead of the curve” can actually hurt your odds of doing well.

For the Boise PTQ I expected a smattering of everything with emphasis on White aggro and Rock decks. With that in mind I registered the following list.
4 Murmuring Bosk
4 Treetop Village
4 Llanowar Wastes
2 Brushland
2 Forest
1 Swamp
1 Plains
4 Wooded Bastion
4 Treefolk Harbinger
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Knotvine Paladin
3 Quasali Pride mage
3 Gaddock Teeg
4 Doran, the Siege Tower
2 Dauntless Escort
4 Chameleon Colossus
4 Path to Exile
4 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Behemeth Sledge
SB
3 Thoughtseize
3 Deathmark
3 Zealous Persecution
4 Kitchen Finks
2 Pithing Needle

The main difference between this list and Massicard’s list from Seattle is the switch from Wilt-Leaf Liege to Chameleon Colossus. Throughout the past two weeks we had noticed that the format was growing a larger and larger weakness to Chameleon Colossus. I had also been testing Wilt-Leaf Lieges from the original list and liked Colossus better. Liege led to some explosive starts but Colossus is a very hard-to-kill threat. The sideboard included some Deathmarks to help the Gx and Wx aggro matchups. The idea for those came on the morning of the event from Alex Sittner, who eventually won the whole thing (congrats). Anyway, on to the report.

Round 1 RW Kithkin/Boat Brew
One of the advantages that players can get is to always be observant. During shuffling I noticed that my opponent flashed me a Wizzened Cenn which immediately informed me of his deck choice. This goes for every aspect of the game whether it be in game or not.
Game 1
This was over pretty quickly because my opponent mulliganed to six then never hit a second land. The only spell that he played was a Figure of Destiny off a Battlefield Forge.
Sideboarding (all of this is from memory so hopefully it is right)
+3 Deathmark
+2 Kitchen Finks
-2 Dauntless Escort
-3 Quasali Pridemage
Game 2
In this game I get the beats down early but his Siege Gang Commander really slows me down. Earlier in the game I had wasted a Path to Exile on a Spectral token to allow a Kitchen Finks to live which made it so that I didn’t have removal for Siege Gang. This allowed him to get much more value out of Reveillark and eventually kill me with Balefire Lieges from under his Windbrisk Heights. The lesson here was don’t use removal unless you absolutely have to.
Game 3
This game goes better but I dont remember how it played out except that I won.
1-0
Round 2 Jund Rock
After sitting down I recognize my opponent as a Salt Lake player that is at most of the PTQs. After winning the die roll we are off.
Game 1
As it would appear I am getting pretty good at getting my opponents to mulligan and this game is no different. His turn 1 Savage Lands shows that he is playing Jund. Over the course of the game I resolve multiple Chameleon Colossus. My guess is that between his main and side there was no answers to this guy other than lots of blocking. The game ends pretty swiftly when he runs out of gas because of chump blocking Colossus.
Sideboarding
+4 Kitchen Finks
-2 Dauntless Escort
-2 Quasali Pridemage
Game 2
This game both of us are in. We both resolve Colossi but I eventually trump his by sending it on a journey to the Exile zone. After this, my Colossus very quickly takes over the game.
2-0
Round 3
This is another round that my opponent shows me his deck in shuffling. I am flashed cards like Akrasan Squire, Sigiled Paladin, and every other UW creature with exalted. To be honest, the deck didn’t look very good but it was in the 2-0 bracket.
Game 1
I play a Turn one Treefolk Harbinger to fetch a Doran and play it on turn 3. On his turn he casts a Wall of Denial which makes my Doran look very mediocre. Eventually I am able to break through with three exalted creatures in play to boost doran up to a 3/8. By this time my opponent plays out two Battlegrace Angels. I can kill one but am left without removal for the second because I had been forced to use it earlier on a knight creature (2/2 first strikers). He eventually kills me with Battlegrace Angel. He shows me Wrath of Gods in his hand which look very out of place in his deck. This does give me some free extra information that prompts me to keep Escort and Teeg in.
Sideboarding
+3 Deathmark
-3 Quasali Pridemage
Game 2
This game goes much differently. His lack of Wall of Denial makes it much easier to Break through his army of small creatures. That combined with lots of removal makes this game much easier than the first.
Game 3
This is where things get interesting. The game goes back and forth but eventually we get to a position where I am eating creatures every turn with Chameleon Colossus. At one point he tries to Unmake it and I point out that Colossus has protection from black, awkward. Over the course of the game I am able to kill most of his important creatures and we both get into the single digits. The critical point in the game comes when he is out of blockers but has Unmake in hand to my Noble Hierarch and Chameleon Colossus in play. I turn my Colossus sideways as I have been doing the entire game and he says he wants to Unmake the Noble Hierach. I say that I will pump Colossus and he takes ten. At this point he says he wants to do it before attackers so that exalted never goes on the stack. We call a judge over and explain the situation. I thought I would ge the ruling for two reasons. First, he had made no indication of when he wanted to Unmake the Noble Hierarch. The failure to indicate when he wanted to cast his spell is his fault. Second, at the time he cast Unmake, Colossus was tapped. he again made no indication that there was a problem with the current game stat. Eventually the judge rules that he can Unmake it before Attackers due to the lack of communication. The ruling could have gone either way legitimately but upon further reflection I think it should have been ruled in my favor. The fact that it is his spell means that it is his responsibility to indicate at which point in the turn he wants to cast it. By making no indication that the Colossus being tapped is a problem he is effectively casting it in Attackers. Any opinions in the comments section are welcome. Back to the game, he takes eight and goes to three instead of one. Over the course of the next few turns he draws multiple blockers but eventually I run him over with Colossus.
3-0
Round 4 Jund Aggro
I play against another Salt Lake player, but this time I actually know him decently well. All of us had collaborated for Grand Prix- Seattle. I was pretty sure that he was playing Jund aggro because him and two others had played it to three Day 2 finishes (Top 32, Top 64, and 65th place). Shady was the 65th place finisher and the only person in his bracket to miss the money. A week before Seattle I had also beat Shady only to miss the top 8 by tiebreakers and finish 9th.
Game 1
This game goes very quickly (Actually all three do) because I have Harbinger, Doran, Colossus and he can’t deal with all three.
Sideboarding
+4 Kitchen Finks
-2 Dauntless Escort
-2 Quasali Pridemage
Game 2
This game is dominated by his good draw that includes Chameleon Colossus. I was never really in this game because of a pretty slow start and no answer to Colossus.
Game 3
This game I have a very quick start but it gets wrecked by any Pyroclasm effect. I eventually decide that waiting is not to my advantage and commit Knotvine Paladen, Noble Hierarch, and a Quasali Pridemage to the board and get blown out by Jund Charm. The game ends shortly after that.
3-1
Round 5 BW Tokens
Game 1
I keep a very good hand but the only problem is that it is devoid of white mana. Although many do mulligans by feel, when I need something like white or a specific set of cards in the period of two or three draws I do the Math. My “outs” here are 4 Murmuring Bosk, 4 Wooded Bastion, 2 Brushland, 1 Plains, 4 Treefolk Harbinger, and 4 Noble Hierach in two draw phases. Since I drew seven cards there are 53 left in the deck. The odds that I will not get there are 32/53 which can be rounded to 3/5. Then I have to miss in two consecutive draw phases which is represented by squaring 3/5 which yields 9/25. This means that the odds that I will find white mana in two draw phases is 16/25 or roughly 60% of the time. I am willing to take those odds because the hand is strong enough that I should win most of the games that I find white mana. Of course I don’t ever get there and lose that game.
Sideboarding
+3 Zealous Persecution
+2 Pithing Needle
-4 Chameleon Colossus
-1 Gaddock Teeg
I am almost certain that this is not how I sideboarded and that it is also not correct but I don’t remember so it will have to do.
Game 2
I don’t remember anything of this game other than getting run over by hordes of tokens and an improperly sideboarded Puppeteer Clique beating me in.
3-2
At this point I am not too happy but the PTQ is so small that when standings go up there are 13 players in contention for top 8 (two undefeated). I also have the highest tiebreakers in the tournament which keeps my top 8 hopes alive. Looking ahead two rounds I figured out how the pairings would work out. The 3-2 player that was paired up to the bottom 4-1 player (turned out to be me) must win in order for any 3-2 to have a shot at the top 8. If the 3-2 player loses this means that the two undefeated and six 5-1 players can just draw in. If the 3-2 player wins then there is one berth opened up. The next round a 5-1 player would be paired down which would allow another berth to open up if he was defeated. My goal in all this was simple, win the next two rounds and cross my fingers.
Round 6 Five Color Control
As it turns out I was paired up to a 4-1 player. Unfortunately it was Brandon Nelson, a friend of mine from Salt Lake. He asked if I would scoop but I told him I couldn’t since there was still a chance I could make the Top 8. The match was still a blast to play since we played almost identical decks for Salt Lake and identical lists for Seattle.
Game 1
This game eventually does go long. Nearing the end of the game I have near lethal in play after several turns of chump blocking by Kitchen finks. Eventually he starts chaining Cryptic Commands and hits three or four. After one of the Cryptic Commands I play a Gaddock Teeg which substantially reduces the number of outs that he has. He now must draw a Shriekmaw, Maelstrom Pulse, or Bloodbraid Elf into Pulse. On the last possible turn he rips the Pulse that he needs to kill Gaddock Teeg which allows him to cast Cruel Ultimatum. From there winning is academic
Sideboarding
+3 Thoughtseize
+4 Kitchen Finks
-3 Quasali Pridemage
-4 Maelstrom Pulse
Game 2
This game is pretty quick compared to the last one. I get a very fast draw that he has a hard time dealing with and eventually succumbs.
Game 3
For the final and deciding game Brandon mulligans to five but I keep my seven. Truthfully I don’t remember this game very well other than a Thoughtseize putting the hurt on his already small hand. From there Doran and Colossus beat in and finish the game quickly. After the game he tells me I better win the next round and then make top 8.
4-2

Round 7 GB Elves
Earlier in the tournament I had watched my opponent play which made me feel like I had the edge in the matchup. He didn’t have too many of the scary cards from Elves and ran red for something in his sideboard.
Game 1
This one is a long and drawn out affair taking about thirty minutes. Over the course of the game I am able to gain a substantial advantage because he doesn’t fully understand/see card interactions until it is too late. For example he blocked my Treefolk Harbinger with Chameleon Colossus with a Doran and two Noble Hierarchs in play. Suffice to say his Colossus was beat to death by trees. He also did not put lethal damage on an attacking creature because of Doran’s ability which makes creatures deal power as if it was their toughness. I also caught a break when he forgot a Nath, the Gilt-leaf trigger, allowing me to keep the second Doran I had drawn. Through the course of the game enough of these errors piled up and led to me winning after a non-lethal Profane Command which allowed me to win on the crackback. The game should have been over much earlier but I missed the fact that I could have killed him by Pathing his Treetop after animation and attacking with a game winning Colossus.
Sideboarding
+3 deathmark
+4 Kitchen Finks
-2 Dauntless Escort
-3 Quasali Pridemage
-2 Maelstrom Pulse
Game 2
This game goes along much quicker. After some battle back and forth I eventually gain control of the board with Doran and Colossus
5-2
Now I just wait for standings to go up. Right before that Stan told me that I had made it and snuck into eighth place.
Quarterfinals: BW Kithkin
Game 1
This game I get an early Doran which sets the pace for the rest of the game. He eventually deals with it but by this time I have Colossus. I tutor another one up with Harbinger and start chomping through his creatures. Eventually it gets to the point where he has used all of his Ajani counters and is left with two 4/4s and two 3/3s (a Knight of Meadowgrain and Figure of Destiny). When I attack with my two Colossi he double blocks both with 4/4s on one and 3/3s on the other. I Path to exile his Knight of Meadowgrain to keep him at one life and pump my other Colossus to kill his tokens. When he doesn’t draw more gas we are off to game 2.
Sideboarding
+3 Deathmark
-3 Chameleon Colossus
Game 2
Again I have a fast start to punish his slow one. This game is much easier than the last one because I draw multiple Maelstrom Pulses. The game ends when I Pulse two Glorious Anthem and Path to Exile a Wizzened Cenn.
Semifinals: Five Color Control
Game 1
During the previous rounds I had gotten a chance to look at my opponents deck (parts of) and didn’t think it was a very good matchup. Normally cards like Chameleon Colossus are problems but he had cheap white answers like Condemn and Runed halo. The game goes as I expect and I am able to mount an offense but get crushed by his late game Cruel Ultimatum.
Sideboarding
+3 Thoughtseize
-3 Maelstrom Pulse
Game 2
This game is an example where this deck just mulligans itself out of the game. My seven is 4 land, 2 Noble Hierarch, and Behemeth Sledge. I shipped it back because I didn’t think I could win the game with it and was rewarded with unkeepable hands until my four card hand of 2 land, Pridemage, and Doran. I thought I might be in it until he Esper Charmed away my hand. After that I almost scooped but kept on playing but eventually lost.

Overall it was a good tournament for me. Although I didn’t get the result I wanted (to win the PTQ), it was definitely nice to do well after crashing in Seattle. I don’t know what I would recommend for Standard right now but Swans Combo seems well positioned and would have been a great call last Saturday. Any comments or pieces of advice are welcome!

4 thoughts on “Ender’s Game: PTQ-Austin *3rd”

  1. Nice report, too bad about losing in the semis. Against 5CC, you can stabilize really fast with your nobles and the sledge. I have a PTQ for Austin in July, but I haven’t decided on a deck yet.

  2. Not sure what you mean by stabilize because I am the beatdown and he is the control deck. I just didn’t think that hand could beat a decent draw. Sure it applies some pressure and Sledge is good and makes every card a threat but I really wanted a faster hand. I still dont know what is the right call on that hand because I don’t want to be biased based on the result.

  3. Very detailed report. Great to read with a fair share of thrills actually.
    Bummer about the last loss but it sounds like you managed your match ups well. Do you ever play semi questionable hands in playtesting to seehow things shake out? The opening hand was def shot but actually a degree better than the 4 handed. Double heirarch with slege won’t win but maybe provide time for you transition to stage 3? Nonetheless you rocked it out. :)

  4. Definately agree about the seven better than four. Unfortunately I have not yet unlocked the secret to seeing into the future. The problem I had with that hand is that it was relatively easy to answer and his stage three (nonsense like Cruel Ultimatum) is much better than my stage three (keep doing stage two stuff). I tend to mulligan a little more aggressively but dont know if it is right.

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