Saturday was my first PTQ in a year (school, work, and a girlfriend will do that), and 5 of my friends and I left early in the morning to make the 3.5 hour drive down to Calgary. The event was hosted in the banquet room of a local arena, and we had 129 players, a record for Alberta. The format was Zendikar Sealed deck, and everything went relatively smoothly. We were in the banquet room of a local arena, which while not an amazing venue, still worked well. After swapping our sealed pools, I got to look at the following pool.
This pool looked quite playable, and so I looked through a number of potential builds. The white had some solid removal in Journey To Nowhere, Arrow Volley Trap and Pitfall Trap. However, the only mana fixing that would help me was the Greypelt Refuge, which only made white attractive if I was playing green.
The blue was solid. However, I wanted something more for a main colour, and while there were some excellent playables in blue, there simply weren’t enough of them. Unfortunately the best blue card in the pool (Seastalkers) only shines when you can get multiple activations out of him. Not to say he’s not one of the best blue cards in the set (He is), but it didn’t make me want to play blue as a main colour.
When we get to black, we finally see something of substance. We have our first big bomb (Kalitas) and some removal and solid creatures. I’m a huge fan of Nimana Sell-Sword, and the pair of them makes them even more appealing. Top it all off with Surrakar Marauder and some Giant Scorpions and we’ve got our main colour.
Red also looks very promising, with one of the best bombs in the set (Hellkite Charger), and some nice removal and creatures. We also have a couple more Allies to pump our Sell-Swords if we play black, which is always useful. Again, the red had good potential for a main colour.
I was sorely tempted to play green, and it was extremely difficult to leave the green cards in the sideboard when I filled out my decklist. It had good creatures and a nice little bomb, but I wasn’t able to settle on a list I was happy with that included green.
The artifacts were quite nice to me, providing a Blazing Torch and a pair of Adventuring Gears. I didn’t play Stonework Puma, but I just don’t like a Grey Ogre variant that only has a relevant effect if another Ally is out. However, I wouldn’t fault anyone for playing it, as Allies can be quite good.
Here’s the list I ended up running.
This build aims to be aggressive enough to get the jump on the slower decks, yet have enough late game to win outright in a standstill. There are 5 Allies that were all terrific during the day, with Nimana Sell-Sword topping the list. There are 18 land to ensure that I both hit my bombs and got the most effect out of double Adventuring Gear. Other than that, the game plan of the deck is pretty simple” play guys, play bigger guys, play bombs, win. I submitted the decklist with 30 seconds to go, and was on my way to round 1.
Round 1 vs Jesse (UR Allies)
In the first game I mulligan and Jesse gets a Umara Reaptor and a Windrider Eel and a couple of allies, including Highland Berserker and Tuktuk Grunts. Unfortunately, I can’t deal with his fliers and we’re off to game 2.
I get a double Giant Scorpion and start bashing face with one that’s suited up with Adventuring Gear. Unfortunately Jesse resolves a Gomazoa and is able to Magma Rift one of my insects. He then resolves the Umara Raptor and a Stonework Puma which flies over me and knocks me eventually to 0, although he was at 2 when the final blow was struck.
Round 2 vs Connor (RB Aggro)
Connor and a few of his friends had traveled all the way from Victoria for the PTQ, so it made my 3.5 hour drive look ridiculous (although thery flew). He started off with an Akoum Refuge, and made a turn 2 Bloodghast. Luckily my Giant Scorpion blocked it all day long and prevented the little vampire from ever hitting my life total. Although his forces of Geyser Glider, Gatekeeper of Malakir and Torch Slinger was able to put me at 5, but Hellkite Charger changes the game state to an unbelievable degree. A single swing from the dragon is enough to win game 1.
In the second game, Connro gets stuck on 3 lands, and is using Goblin Guide and an unkicked Torch Slinger to try and beat me down. However, I have a Highland Berserker and Adventuring Gear which get in for some great beats, and my draws eventually outclass him so much that I can finish him off with a Needlebite Trap.
Round 3 vs Nick (GW)
I watched Nick play in the feature match of last round against teammate Sean, so I know he’s packing multiple Steppe Lynx and Cobra Trap, as well as mutiple landfall boosters. Nick gets a turn 1 Trusty Machete, and a turn 2 River Boa, which makes for a discouraging board position. Or, it would have if I didn’t have a turn 3 Gatekeeper of Malakir. Nick gets stuckon 3 land, and I just overrun him.
In games 2 and 3, River Boa and Trusty Machete both make repeat appearances, to which I have no answer. This gets even more awkward when a Quest for the Gemblades gives him a 6/5 regenerator. I can’t deal with it, and my hopes of top 8 are dashed. However, if I win from here on out I can still make prizes. I think my deck is good enough, so I do not drop.
Round 4 vs Ryan (RB control-ish)
In game 1 I go the full allies route, with double Sell-sword and berserker paving the way. His creature’s die to my removal, and a timely Goblin Shortcutter clears the way for my allies to take him to 0. My life sheet for Ryan goes 20, 16, 7, 0. Just shows how great multiple allies are.
In game 2 Ryan goes all out, and starts with Plated Geopede and backs it up with Quest for the Gravelord and Shatterskull Giant. I have no answers, and don’t deal a single point of damage.
Game 3 has Ryan lamenting the inclusion of Grappling Hook and Chandra Ablaze in his deck, due to their prohibitevely high costs (a 4 mana equip and discarding a red card respectively). I have a Sell-Sword and a pair of Giant Scorpions, which work great. I eventually cast Grim Discovery to get back Tuktuk Grunts and swing for the win.
Round 5 vs Christophe (RB)
It seems like everyone and their best friend is playing Red-Black today, and Christophe starts the game off with a Vampire Hexmage. He misses about 5 Quest for the Gravelord triggers, and my allied eventually overrun him.
In game 2, he resolves a Vampire Nighthawk, but I have the timely Inferno Trap. I when it looks like he might win (I’m at 10), I draw Hellite Charger and just win in an obsene fashion, bringing him from 19 to 0 in a few swings. Seriously, that card is so awesome.
Round 6 vs Blair (UB control)
Blair has a very nice deck, packing both Sphinx of Lost Truths and Sphinx of Jwar Isle. However, neither see play, as he struggles to play threast and remove my guys while I just keep augmenting my forces. He doesn’t have enough Hideous Ends (he had 2), and my allies just take him to the cleaners. In game 2 I resolve my Kalitas, which slaughters any chance my opponent had of defending himself.
Round 7 vs James (BWR Control)
James lets it slip that he has an Ob Nixilis. the Fallen, He casts double Kor Hookmaster and taps down my blockers, and I go all the way down to 0 without having dropped him below 20.
Game 2 is slightly better off for me, with my Bog Tatters taking put the largest chunks of his life total[/card], and we head off to game three with half an hour left in the round.
It gets to the point where I’m at 1, and he’s at 10. I have a Bog Tatters equipped with an Adventuring gear. I’m sitting on 4 Swamps and a Mountain, and see my great Hellikite Charger staring at me from my hand. I’m thrilled when I pass my turn, hoping to rip the mountain that will win me the game. However, James says he has effects on my upkeep, and casts Disfigure on my swampwalker. Of course. The card on the top of my library? Of course it was the mountain that would’ve won me the game.
While the best card of the day was undoubtedly Hellkite Charger, and unexpected gem was the double Nimana Sell-Sword They arte just so good with other allies that it’s unbelievable. They also don’t die to Hideous End!
I think that the key to Zendikar Sealed is to be agressive, and play your bombs. I can’t stress that enough, because they won me at least half my games. I also think that black is the most played colour in the format, so main-decking Bog Tatters isn’t a bad idea.
My only colour preference coming into this event was that I really didn’t want to play blue, and that sentiment hasn’t changed (Although give me the cards Blair had in Round 6 and we’ll talk). Obviously if you have enough cards to support it, go for it, but I’ve found that the most consistent push is given by green, red and black, and I’m always happy to be in one or two of those colours.
While the final results have yet to be displayed on the DCI webpage, I believe my final place to be around 29th out of more than 120 competitors. Considering that my last PTQ a year ago had me going 1-3 drop, I’ll happily take this result. The next PTQ is in 3 weeks in my home town of Edmonton, and feel free to stop by and say hi. I’ll be wearing a bright orange Power 9 Pro shirt, so I’ll be easy to spot.
Props to Jason Ness and West Can Events for hosting the PTQ, they do an admirable job at this sort of thing.
Any thoughts on this particular deck or the Zendikar sealed format in general can always go in the comments section, or through my email (zak-AT-power9pro.com) or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.