Tag Archives: ptq

Kicking Off the Standard Season

Here we go again.

It’s another season here on the PTQC and the grinding begins this weekend at the TCGPlayer 5k in Boston followed by a Sunday Funday PTQ.

Right now, public enemy #1 is UW Tapout; a deck that you can barely damage in the early game and is nigh untouchable in the mid-late game due to the hand sculpting card advantage given to the deck by cantrippers Wall of Omens and Spreading Seas, as well as Divination and Mind Spring, and of course Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Those, along with three-time all-star Oblivion Ring, and hall of famer Wrath of God there just isn’t a whole lot you can do to this deck before they resolve Baneslayer Angel or Sphinx of Jwar Isle.

Since I took this gig, I’ve been pushing Jund hard. Play the best deck I always say, and that deck is Jund. Well, unfortunately, it’s not anymore and I’ve been contemplating dumping my Maelstrom Pulses online for a cool 66 tickets though I’m not abandoning the bandwagon just yet. I am however, probably going to sleeve up UW Tapout this weekend at the 5k, so if you’re at the event and you see a better looking guy than you sitting across the table in a bright orange power9pro tshirt, mulligan appropriately.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t been trying like hell to brew up something spicy for one of these two events, because I have. I wish I had a better head start on things but life sometimes gets in the way and I was left with just a couple weeks to prepare for “The New Standard” as you see it called around the internets.

When Prophetic Prism was spoiled, old-school Open the Vaults / Time Sieve popped into my head because of its ability to replace elsewhere flask. I got the team involved because my brother had top 8′d an Australian PTQ with the deck last year and got to seeing if we could make it work in Standard where UW is what everyone is trying to do. We put a list together, tried some different things, and like I suspected it ran shop against UW Tapout. I was struggling against Jund a bit, but I wasn’t really comfortable with what hands I should’ve been keeping and what hands I should’ve been shipping. I passed it across the table to my buddy Steve and he immediately was feeling the deck. One of his big hangups has been that he really didn’t like any deck and he wanted to hit the 5k with something spicy and off the radar. And while Open the Vaults with Filligree Angel is certainly a deck right now, it’s possible to lose despite climbing to absurd amounts of life. The Tezzerator concoction simply never passes the turn back because of Time Sieve.

Mike Siever is not very spicy, and this is pretty much just a drummed up old list with some prophetic prisms and a couple extra glassdust hulk, but it gets the job done. We found that the Hulk is pretty much the key to beating jund. They have so much disruption that it’s not exactly feasable to get the Time Sieve loop going, but if you can beat in for a couple turns with the Hulk while ramping and possibly rocking out an Open the Vaults, you simply catch the Jund Player unawares and tapped out and eventually at 0 life. Depending on how Steve does with this bear I might run it on Sunday.

Another buddy of mine fell in love with a new ROE card: Kiln Fiend. We pretty much spent an entire 24 hours discussing and testing decks with this guy trying to make him work. Sometimes he was just broken. If Jund tapped out for a sprouting thrinax on turn 3, he could straight up end the game with Distortion Strike[card], [card]Lightning Bolt, Burst Lightning; attack take 15, you’re pretty damn dead. Distortion strike makes him very good but in games you don’t draw the card, or in games that your opponent has like, a lightning bolt, things get ugly quick. We sleeved up just about every 1cc spell for red and blue (what’s up Burst of Speed ) and it was just too flimsy against Jund. There’s a possibility that this guy could be really good in Boros because you have a lot of other creatres to use who are strong and Emerge Unscathed takes the place of Distortion Strike, but outside of lightning bolt, burn spells are so underwhelming in standard that Boros doesn’t seem very well placed.

I’ve given MBC some serious thought this week but haven’t had any time to test it, once ROE comes out online I’ll probably sleeve this up virtually at some point and see how it does b/c I have most every card for it and somehow Abyssal Persecutor is like $10 less than it is IRL

I really like Contaminated Ground, this deck is trying to nickel and dime the opponent, and maybe bash in with an abyssal once or twice. Contaminated Ground goes a long way and works as a removal spell for a turn 1 Celestial Colonnade. I love Ob Nixlis and Sorin Markov and this deck is just filled with good stuff. I think if you’re running Mind Sludge (which you should) then just don’t bother with tactonic edge, but this is definitely an archtype that could embrace the edge with a different approach.

My other option this weekend? Mythic Bant. The deck is pretty narrow, but it can sure as shit steamroll people. I haven’t played any games with it, which is against my motto for this season, but it is tournament one with a new set and I have to start somewhere. It does look like a pretty fun deck. If you haven’t seen the version with Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Edlrazi Conscription, I suggest you check it out because that looks like even more of a blast; “does my Sovereigns of Lost Alara Trigger Resolve? +10/+10 trample, Annihilate 2, thanks for playing” sounds like a fun mantra to repeat on the weekend. I think if anything I’d go with the Thronling version because it owns Jund, but I have to come up with a couple Rafiq of the Many if so because nobody ever seems to have that card.

I’ll let y’all know how things go next week, thanks for letting me air out my thoughts on the format and as always feel free to slam me or give me some better ideas.

Mike Gemme
Bobbysapphire on MTGO

PTQ San Juan: Merfolk in Extended *10th*

Hello everyone, and I hope the students among you are enjoying Spring break as much as I am. Friday and Saturday were a whirlwind of Magic-related challenges, and now that I’m caught up on some sleep, I’m ready to recount the story.

We start off in Edmonton (my hometown) at 10:30 pm. One of my buddies swings around my place so that we can meet our other two friends on the other side of town for supper. However, Dave, the guy who is driving only came to the city about a year ago, and progresses further out of town in the opposite direction we need to go. Thus, we end up taking a roundabout trip to the restaurant that takes us almost an hour. When we get to the restaurant, I don’t recognize my friends at their table because they are sitting with 10 others whom I don’t know, and are dressed up like Japanese school girls. Long story short, after a few cell phone calls and facepalms, we sit down and enjoy general merriment until about midnight. When we finally go over to my friend’s place where we’re spending the night, we test for about an hour before attempting to go to bed. Of course our host’s roommate has also invited some other friends to spend the night, so Dave, Matt, and myself end up sleeping on the floor.

4 hours later, we get up and fill ourselves with coffee and hit the road for the 3-0hour drive to Calgary. While Dave drives and Matt sleeps in the shotgun, Brian and I test extended for a good hour and a half on top of spare binders on our laps. This is of course until the truck sputters to a stop in the middle of the highway. The three more academically inclined of us (Matt, Brian, and I) resign ourselves to the fact that we will miss the PTQ, while Dave points out that there is an abnormally strong smell of gas on the side of the highway. Looking down, we see an enormous pool of gas dripping from the bottom of the truck, and Dave is able to reconnect the dislodged gas line and set us back on our way, with enough time to spare.

On arrival at the tournament site, we find that WotC has donated a ton of product to the event, and that everyone will get six free boosters just for showing up. Seems awesome.

The time for handing in decklists comes, and this is what I submit.

Here Fishy Fishy

And here is the sideboard:

So as I said in my previous article, I didn’t think that Faerie Depths was a good decision for a metagame filled with Zoo. I came across Marshall Arthurs’ winning list about a week prior to the tournament, and I knew immediately that I would be playing merfolk. They’re a deck that I played in standard, and I’m very familiar with the archetype. Unlike Faerie Depths, I’m almost always playing ahead of my opponent, whereas Faeries needs to play catch up for most of the game.

I only made a few changes to Marshall’s list. The first, and most notable, is the removal of 2 Cursecatcher and a Mana Leak for 3 Sejiri Merfolk. I think that this was absolutely the right call, as I boarded out Cursecatchers a fair bit, and the Sejiri was able to totally turn games around. Seriously, this card is extremely good.

The other change is the inclusion of more basic lands. I knew there would be a fair few players piloting Kyle Bogemmes’ Blood Moon Zoo, as well as Gavin Verhey’s Ultimecia. I believe that the 10 basics and 3 fetches render that plan of attack effectively useless, except for that it shuts off Mutavault. Again we see that this deck is superior to Faerie Depths in its ability to deal with moon effects, whereas faeries would many times just scoop to the 3 mana enchantment or its magus.

The board is almost completely different from Marshall’s. I added Threads of Disloyalty to assist me in the Zoo matchup, and Damping Matrix to hurt Thopter Depths. Wrath of God is a way for me to deal with Elves, fast Zoo, and maybe a resolved Hypergenesis or Living End. Finally, Leyline of Singularity was my ace in the hole against Thopter Foundry decks, as well as Elves and Dredge.
Round 1: vs Arvin (Uw Merfolk)

Arvin is last year’s regional champion from Calgary, and I greet him as such when we sit down. He seems a little flattered that someone who he doesn’t know knows his name, and we make small talk while shuffling our decks. Imagine my surprise when he plays a turn one Island followed by Cursecatcher. My mindset immediately changes into how I can beat the mirror, and I identify Lord of Atlantis as a game changer immediately. I realize that I must use it as an Overrun style finisher, rather than as a source of continual damage. He casts Silvergill Adept on turn 2, and than I respond with Sejiri Merfolk. This is where he becomes aware of the situation as I have known it for 2 turns, and we both have a little chuckle at the unexpected mirror match.

He casts an Umezawas Jitte on turn 3, which I kill with a Jitte of my own. The first strike on my Sejiri Merfolk is holding the fort, but I become worried when he resolves another Jitte on the next turn. After equipping it to his 3/2 Silvergill Adept he pauses and asks me: “Does [Sejiri Merfolk] have first strike?” I reply in the affirmative, and then he does something which defies rational explanation. He attacks with his Jitte-wielding adept while he’s tapped out. I block, and I stop him when he tries to put counters on the Jitte, informing him that his guy died before it dealt combat damage. He realizes the extent of his misplay, and then I play a Jitte to kill his, and overwhelm him in the next few turns.

I board out 3 Lord of Atlantis and 2 Cursecatcher In favour of 2 Threads of Disloyalty and 3 Temporal Isolation. In game 2, I make a mistake early on when I cast Threads on his Wake Thrasher. Shortly after, I realize my mistake and explain to the judge the situation. He gives us both a warning, and our game goes on. It turns out that Arvin didn’t board out Lord of Atlantis, and my Wake Thrasher in able to go all the way with islandwalk.

1 – 0

Round 2: vs Mike (Hypergenesis)

We’re chatting while we shuffle and we discuss which, if any, decks would actually want to draw in this format. I say that the Hypergenesis builds which run Gemstone Caverns might want to and he replies that his deck might also draw sometimes. When he plays a turn 1 Gemstone Mines, I’m not surprised, and I drop a Sejiri Merfolk on turn 2. However, this is where all hell breaks loose, as he exiles a Simian Spirit Guide and casts Violent Outburst during my end step. He brings out Bogardan Hellkite and Progenitus, and I bring in 4 Merfolk Lords and a Wake Thrasher. Then my opponent misplays, choosing to kill off one of my lords with the hellkite damage, rather than hit me and swing for game next turn. He doesn’t realize this until I’ve drawn a Path to Exile for his Hellkite and my team swings in for the win.

I board in Ethersworn Canonist and Wrath of God. I have a turn 2 Sejiri Merfolk again, and he combos off on turn two…again. He brings down Angel of Despair, killing a lord I bring down, and a Progenitus. I have the Path to Exile for his angel, and so it’s a battle of merfolk vs Progenitus. I go to 2 after two successive hydra swings thanks to my lifegaining merfolk, and I try and stabilize on the back of a Lord of Atlantis, Mutavault and the aforementioned Sejiri Merfolk. I draw a Cryptic Command to tap his 10/10 and draw a card, giving me one more swing. On my draw step, a draw another Cryptic, which clinches the game for me while a 10/10 hydra was staring me down.

2 – 0

Round 3: vs Jared (Tribal Zoo)

I lose the roll and find him to have a very fast start consisting of Noble Hierarch, Qasali Pridemage, Wild Nacatl and Knight of the Reliquary. I assume he’s playing some GW aggro deck, and I attempt to stabilize with a 3/2 Sejiri merfolk wearing an Umezawas Jitte. However, he eventually beats me down with sheer numbers and I move to game 2.

I mulligan in the second game, after seeing a hand with double Mutavault and little else[/card]. I only saw Naya colours in the first game, so imagine my surprise when he cracks a fetchland for Watery Grave. In addition to his faster start, which I fend off for the most part, he has double Tribal Flames for 5, which just burn me out.

2 – 1

Round 4: vs Lorenzo (Blood Moon Zoo)

Normally, I’d be apprehensive about facing Lorenzo, as he’s one of the best players in the province. However, I know what he’s playing, and I spent a good hour testing this exact matchup on the ride home with Brian, so I know I’m favoured to win. I play 3 lords on turns 3, 4 and 5, and he resolves Bloodbraid Elf into a Blood Moon. This screws him out of green, while the high number of basics in my deck pay off, and double Merrow Reejerey takes him down.

Game 2 is all about the Wake Thrashers. I play 3 over the course of the game, and he can’t remove them all. This forces him to make a ton of chump blocks, and he draws a fair bit of land near the end of the game which seals the match.

3 – 1

Round 5: vs Shaun (Thopter Depths)

Finally, the match which matters the most. Testing has indicated that its 50/50 pre-board, and a slight edge to me post-board, and Shaun is one of the best players around, having been on the pro tour in the past. In game 1 he has a Vampire Hexmage to stop my Cursecatcher and Silvergill Adept, and a turn 3 Dark Depths wins it for him, as I don’t draw a Path to Exile

In game 2, He gets the Thopter Foundry combo online, but it’s too late, as I have the deadly duo of Wake Thrasher and Merfolk Sovereign, which crash in for upwards of 10 damage a turn.

Game 3 I have no chance. He has a turn 1 Thopter Foundry off a Chrome Mox, a turn 2 Sword of the Meek and a turn 3 Marit Lage which dies to path. However, I get overrun by thopters and the lifegain makes it impossible for me to race him.

Round 6: vs Lowell (Red Deck Wins)

This matchup is actually much harder than I had envisioned, but the plethora of lord effects I have become the deciding factor. He can’t afford to leave a Wake Thrasher unburnt, so I have enough firepower (and life) to stay alive and decimate him. My notes have me winning this game at a precarious one life.

In game 2, I resolve an early Sejiri Merfolk, which renders all his Hellspark Elementals useless. I gain 8 life off the one merfolk, and 3 lords end up being the deciding factor in this very one-sided game.

4 – 2

Round 7: vs Colin (Thopter Depths)

Within the first 2 turns, he casts triple Thoughtseize, nabbing a Lord of Atlantis and 2 Wake Thrashers. He attempts to make a Dark Depths token which is me by a Path to Exile. Eventually, my islandwalking army of merfolk overwhelm him, aided by the 6 damage he dealt to himself of the bat.

Game 2 is the perfect draw for me. I play a turn zero Leyline of Singularity, which causes everyone in the top tables around me to look. Colin is dumbfounded by the fact that one of his combos is severely neutered, and when he struggles to get a Marit Lage, I casually cast Path to Exile. I bring in an army consisting of Silvergill Adept, Lord of Atlantis, Merrow Reejerey, and Merfolk Sovereign. His ability to only make a single thopter does him in, and I find myself with a potential spot in top 8.

5 – 2

Unfortunately, I miss the top 8 on breakers and get 10th overall. This is my best finish at a PTQ yet, and come May, I have every intention of winning the ticket to Amsterdam on home soil in Edmonton.

I think that this deck was an excellent meta choice, and not enough people give this deck the respect it deserves. The Sejiri Merfolks were an amazing addition, as was the increased number of basic lands.

The only thing I would change about the above decklist would be to cut a single Temporal Isolation from the sideboard, and add in a Spell Snare, because most of the time I didn’t want to dilute my merfolk count too much, and with 4 path maindeck, it seemed excessive to have 3.

It’s now time to focus on Rise of the Eldrazi, and its impact on standard. Join me and the rest of the Power 9 Pro team with a set review, tales from prerelease and launch parties, and more in the coming weeks.

As always, feel free to sound off in the comments, or contact me via email at zak -AT- power9pro.com, or through my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan. Until next time,



Hype, and testing Grixis in Standard

When it comes to Magic: The Gathering, hype is a strange beast. With the universal language of the internet greasing the wheels, a magic meta can spin out of control in a mere 24 hours. I fell into this trap last night playing in the latest online ptq. Today I’m going to take a look at what transpired over the 24 hours leading up to the PTQ and how I bought into the hype and got burned, and then address some of the same issues I’m dealing with in preparing my friend on the Pro Tour for PT San Diego.

Two weeks ago when I top 8′d my first PTQ, the meta was pretty much one deck: Dark Depths / Thopter (DDT). In the two weeks leading up to that tournament, DDT was absolutely dominant and top 8′s were littered with the list all over MTGO. I was more than happy to sleeve up a very fast zoo deck to beat them to the punch; it was such a good meta-call that I could play sloppy whilst drunk and on no sleep and still go 7-1 losing only to running turn 1 blood moons- but I digress.

The last two weeks have seen the online, Extended meta get mixed up a little bit more. There was a bit more dredge, some faeries, and a little zoo but most of the good players online were still playing DDT. I had tested some different zoo builds in that time and mainly not done great, but I finally settled on one with maindeck meddling mages with damping matrix in the sideboard and 3-1′d a daily event the night before the ptq.

When I looked at the decklists from the event the next day, there were a LOT of zoo decks that 3-1′d or better. And then I caught the lists fromt he Premiere event that started at midnight on Thursday morning and six of the top eight decks were zoo with Knight of the Reliquary, most with maindeck Jitte and one with main deck Blood Moon!

Well my friends and I went into crisis mode: we needed Deathmark in the sideboard; I needed Jittes, probably in the maindeck; my Goblin Guide had to be Knight now that it was going to be outclassed. My Gmail inbox was overloaded during my Thursday workday and the two hours after work leading up to the PTQ was crafting the perfect deck to beat Zoo and probably still be good against DDT.

Guess how many Zoo decks I faced: ZERO.
I even dropped a match to DDT, something I’d only done once and mainly do to mulligans.

Would three maindeck Meddling Mage gotten me past my gauntlet last night? Perhaps, I did face Hive Mind, Pox Rock and Thopter Foundry three times. Did Jitte win me any games? Nope. Did I attack once with Knight of the Reliquary last night? Septuple Nope.

I bought into the hype, and I got burned.

A card that has received a ton of Standard buzz lately is Jace, The Mind Sculptor. I’m expecting to have to face this guy tonight at Friday Night Magic as I battle for 90 in store credit so that I can buy my own 1.5 Jaces.

I have had the opportunity to play with and against the Mind Sculptor on Magic Workstation and so far I’m not buying into the hype.

My friend Jason Ford is Qualified for San Diego after his top 50 finish in Austin and we’ve been testing the balls off of Grixis and the new blue cards in Worldwake and here is some of the things we’ve found.

Treasure Hunt is doing just what you want it to. It’s smoothing out your draws and getting you a spell. Sometimes it flips another treasure hunt and it’s kind of lame and sometimes it gets you through three land and hits Earthquake after your opponent cast Martial Coup and has you dead on board.

Calcite Snapper is better than advertised. I’ve been loving this card. It locks down a board that can’t swarm, and when you’re packing 4 Lightning Bolt and 4 Terminate you can probably keep the swarm down. Then, when your opponent over-extends to push through, you can earthquake his team or drop a land and beat in for four.

Then there’s the aforementioned Jace. We’ve played a bunch of games with Jace and I think a blue deck won when he hit the table once, maybe twice. He’s not easy to protect as a Jund player can simply hold his Blightning or Maelstrom Pulse for when a Planeswalker hits the table. And unless you’re scrying for one right when he hits the table (which isn’t very gamebreaking) and Lightning Bolt will do.

Grixis, mainly, has not been cutting it. The deck is no Jund. It can do some fun stuff and has some strong cards but it has struggled to get the win. After some games there are always times where an Earthquake here would’ve won it, or if this Cruel ultimatum was a Sphinx of Jwar Isle the Blue deck likely would’ve won, but Jund doesn’t normally have those games where it couldn’t draw enough to win. What Jund does is unfair, what Grixis does isn’t.

One thing We’ve taken to doing with some of our standard builds is make a list with a bunch of singletons in it, so that we’re constantly hitting different “game plans” and generally get a taste for things that are working and arent. I would say that counters are not working right now, and spot removal is. I think if you’re playing blue and red, then you should pack Double Negative in your 75 because it’s at worst a cancel.

A couple more things about Grixis: you can leave Mysteries of the deep on the bench, you’ve only got 4 fetches in the deck and while instant speed is good, you’re better off just playing divination if you want to draw two cards.

Cruel Ultimatum isn’t that good. When your only 7 creatures have shroud, there’s a damn good chance you’re not getting a guy back from your graveyard. And playing things like Architects of Will is not even remotely the same as packing Mulldrifter like in the days of yore. A number of times the Grixis player has cast Cruel Ultimatum and still lost because it’s not that hard to play around discarding three cards, and in Jund when almost every creature you play is actaully two creatures, sacrificing one doesnt matter.

The thing that is ending games for Grixis is Sphinx of Jwar Isle. No he does not beat Baneslayer Angel but you have answers for that guy in Terminate and Jace. The only thing Jund has for this guy is double blocking with Broodmate Dragon (unless you’re dead on board already), which is pretty darn narrow.

There is some Buzz about using Everflowing Chalice to get you to Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker but that just further turns on your opponent’s maelstrom pulses. I know I’m focusing a lot on Jund right now, but if you’re not beating Vampires with this deck you need to see if you can beat Jund and UWR and we started with Jund. Grixis couldn’t beat it so we mostly moved on.

This is the list I would run if I was going to sleeve up Grixis, using Cruel Ultimatum Only in the Board. This might get you through Jund, but vamps and other control decks are still a major issue.

My opinion is that the blue decks are going to have trouble finishing games no matter what. Sphinx of Jwar Isle is clearly the answer in my eyes, it’s just a matter of getting to him.

For the record, I would just play Jund. Jund may have some issues with Ajani Vengeant and UWR (though I did get a 9/9 Raging Ravine to take out some Wall of Denials), but for the most part Jund isn’t losing much. I’ve been using Jund and beating the control decks at a steady clip, doing it without Great Sable Stag to boot. A lot of your removal is dead against these control decks obviously, but savvy Jund players are terminating their Sprouting Thrinax with Oren Rief out to make a little army in their opponent’s end step to push through damage and kill planeswalkers.

Thanks for reading,

Mike Gemme
Bobbysapphire on MTGO

San Juan PTQ Top 8 Report – Tribal Zoo

When I found out that I was going to be able to write about cards for a real website on commission after ten years of playing cards, I swore I wasn’t going to allow myself to be one of those writers who drums up his personal life with exuberant stories of booze, broads and ballyhoo. However, my first PTQ top 8 happened to be occur when I was completely wasted, built my deck wrong, and stayed up 32 hours straight: From .08 to top 8.

My Magic weekend started at FNM, which was a draft event. We had three full pods and I split in the finals of mine with the guy I had beaten to get into the top 8 of New Hampshire States last month snagging $35 in credit. I didn’t do anything that night because I had to get up at 630 to make it to Boston for the first flight of the Pre Release so that I could do two and win as many Worldwake packs for team drafting in San Diego as I could. (I have a bad, bad habit of opening packs too often. So far I’ve only opened two Worldwake packs and I have 12 left so, if you see me in SD scrounging for packs, you know that I’m back off the wagon).

I get home around 10:30 (you can read about my escapades here) and immediately crack Lienenkugel Fireside Nut Brown (my favorite seasonal beer) and make some calls to see what’s what. My friend Steviegets is heading out to some bars with his babe, my brother is partying at college and my friend Justin is going to bed early so he can play in the 4am PTQ [/foreshadowing].

I decide to meet up with Steve at the bar and get there first grabbing a Guinness and wandering around for a few until he gets there. Though I’m Italian, I’m currently addicted to Guinness and my liquor or choice is Jameson’s Irish Whiskey; my grandmother would not approve.

Once Steve showed up with his gal and her friends things got a little saucier, apparently some girls were there for a bachelorette party at a random townie bar in central Massachusetts with a limo… so making fun of them was an immediate ice-breaker. Though it was my birthday in a couple days steve refused to do any shots with me, but one of his babe’s friends was into it and we ended up racing jagerbombs. I wish I could remember a lot after that, but the next thing I knew it was 2am in the morning, Steve was gone, the Jagerbomb girl was gone, I was in no shape to drive and I somehow remembered to close my tab that just happened to have all the jagerbombs on it (even when girls say they’re gonna split, they often don’t and I got burned).

I end up getting a ride home from a girl who does not like me and makes no qualms about bitching me out the entire ride home for what happened the last time we saw each other (censored) but let’s just say I took her out for Lobster dinner and never called her again.

So it’s about 3am and Justin is already up for the ptq and he’s amped up to play dark depths/foundry (DDT from here on out). I’m drunk talking to him online and also talking to my buddy and Pro Tour dream crusher Jason Ford who is at college in Minnesota and also wasted. He’s telling me about how he just spent about 70 tix putting Faeries together to play in the ptq. Well I’m jealous and I’m awake (and have been since 6:30) so now I’m playing in the ptq. I steal a bunch of zoo stuff from my friend andy’s account and sent him a pretty simple email: “I stole the zoo deck to play in this _____ ptq.”

So I’m building the deck and I realize that I need a hallowed fountain, so I go back on and take the hallowed fountain because I want [card]meddling mage [/card in my sideboard. here’s the list I ended up with:

Notice the omission of the hallowed fountain. Meaning that I had only one blue source for my 4x meddling mage in the sideboard. Notice that there are only 20 land in a 4x steppe lynx deck.

Here’s the Sideboard

Everyone and Everyone have been playing DDT online lately and I had been talking about extended at the PreRe and how I thought fast zoo would be a great answer to that as I felt it could really get in there if it could survive the first few rounds. This sideboard is pretty standard and every card did work for me during the tournament at some point.

Well it’s 4am and I’m already dead tired, dreaming about things that I can do in between rounds to stay awake but really hoping that I don’t do mediocre and stay up all day for no reason.

Round 1 vs. Failtego – Scapeshift w/ blue

Game 1 I keep Goyf, Path, Lynx and 4 land.

I lead with lynx and he casts condescend my goyf on 2. Next turn I drop Kird ape and Goblin Guide and hit in, pathing his tribe elder to get more damage in, seeing as it’s going to fetch him a land anyway. He refeals firespout and repeals my guide. On his turn he casts firespout, I beat in with goblin guide on mine. He gets to 7 land and casts scapeshift and I win.

I board in meddling mages for paths and some ghost quarters in the off chance I can catch him without a basic mountain when he goes off.

Game 2 I keep a 1 lander with lynx, 2 lightning bolt, goyf, goblin guide and tribal flames

I lead with the guide. I draw a land on 2 and lay the goyf. I get him down to 8 and he firespouts and I rip my second tribal flames, playing both in consecutive turns to finish him out.

Game 3 I mull to 5 and keep Nactl, Teeg, Helix, Meddling Mage, which is a pretty bad 5 but if I draw 1 land I can get everything going. Unless that land is Ghost Quarter which was my first draw. My second draw is a verdant catacombs and I run gaddock teeg into remand two turns in a row. I finally land teeg after playing a goblin guide and beating in with it revealing scapeshift on the top. So in my end step I ghost quarters him to take him off mana or take shift off the top. Luckily he searches up the land buying me time and I’m able to get in for the win with gaddock teeg/meddling mage beats.


Round 2 vs. Backstreet playing hive mind.

I keept 3 land, flames, goblin guide and gaddock teeg x2.

I rip goyf with my first draw and decide to play it on turn 2 thinking that hive mind cannot possibly combo off on turn 2. Obviously the guy has rite of flame, seething song x2, hive mind, pact of the titan and I lose with 2 teegs in my hand.

Game 2 I keep 3 land, guide, goyf, helix, lynx.

That’s a pretty gassy hand and I beat up on him pretty fast. He can’t go off on turn 3 and I kill him on turn 4 as a result. No interactions.

Game 3 I keep 3 land, 2 goblin guide, steppe lynx, medding mage

He leads with telling time on turns 1 and 2. I go goblin guide and reveal a firespout so I drop meddling mage naming firespout. On my turn 3 I rip a kird ape and drop lynx, ape, guide and he’s got one turn to combo off and doesnt and I win on turn 4.


Round 3 vs. Nullname playing smallpox.

I keep 2 land, teeg, path, lynx, might of alara in game 1.

He wins the roll and thoughtseizes gaddock teeg away. I drop my links and he casts cry of contrition on it and then putrify to strip my hand. I draw another teeg and play it, next turn I beat in with might of alara to do some damage. He drops Kitchen Finks to recoup a bit then duresses me. I double bolt him in response to get him to 1 but he putrifies teeg and drops a goyf and I cannot catch up to two swings in a row with Goyf/Finks/Treetop Village.

I board in ancient grudges for the rack but that’s about it.

Game 2 I keep a one lander, which wasn’t smart but since he hadn’t cast smallpox in game 1 I kind of forgot about it. I kept: 1 Land, kird ape, tarmogoyf, goblin guide, lightning bolt, path, ancient grudge which is a pretty sweet one.

So i lead with kird ape and turn 2 I put the goblin guide out there. He smallpoxes and I lose the guide and my only land. So my board is just one GIANT kird ape. I don’t know if you’ve ever had just one creature on table, but they expand it to your whole board on MTGO and it’s pretty funny. He’s got no hand at this point so it’s draw, beat for 1, go. Eventually, I draw a bloodcrypt before I have to discard and he topdecks a goyf and starts beating in. I draw a second land, fetch up white and path it. I drop my own goyf which gets answered with a kitchen finks, which I path. He casts cry of contrition leaving me with just helix in my hand. I beat in with goyf before he can come up with a removal and end it next turn.


Round 4 vs. Gmomemo playing All in Red

This guy ended up with the Whammy (9th).

I didn’t rewatch these games, they were too painful.

Game 1 he hit an early deus, I pathed it and beat in before he could do anything other than cast a late blood moon.

it’s about this time I realized I just ran Juza’s list which runs a basic mountain and not a basic forest, which pretty much bones this deck. It was my friend Justin’s idea to start running basic forest in this over the mountain and I wish I thought of it when I was drunk 4 hours ago.

Game 2 he casts a turn 1 blood moon on the play and I can’t do anything but lose.

Game 3 I have meddling mage in my opener, I lay a land but have no play. He gets another turn 1 blood moon and I never play a spell. Lame.


Here’s where my fast zoo vs. DDT theory will burn or bust (spoiler warning: it burns) out as I face 3 copies of the deck in a row.

Round 5 vs. BadDrafter playing DDT

The first game of this match is missing but I remember not playing around EE very well and still winning off of a topdecked path to exile to kill his token when I was otherwise (obviously) dead.

for all three of these games my boarding plan was as follows:

-2 might of alara
-4 steppe lynx
-1 mountain
-1 scalding tarn
-3 Gaddock Teeg

+3 Ghost Quarters
+4 Meddling mage
+3 Ancient Grudge
+1 Yixlid Jailer

Game 2 was a shitshow. I kept Nacatl, Flames, Meddling Mage, Goyf, Helix and 2 lands. He opens with double bob. I have no drop but I name meddling mage on thopter on turn 2. He EEs killing both his bobs and my meddling mage and goyf, leaving me with just Nacatl. He drops hexmage and depths but doesnt crack the token… which a lot of ppl don’t do (I used to not do it, but I learned that there’s usually not a reason to hold it in a lot of cases). Short story: I topdeck ghost quarter, play it, and beat him down with the nacatl and burn before he can find another way to beat me.


It’s about this time that I realize that my car is in the middle of downtown Worcester, MA and I need a ride. I call steve to come get me to bring me to my car and we get back to my place with seconds to spare. he goes home to shower and get coffee and will come back later on.

Round 6 vs. SipitHolla w/ DDT

Again game 1 is missing, but I know I won the game, I’m just not sure how.

Game 2 I have to mull to 4 and never get anything going. he gets the thopter combo when he’s still at 14 and I really just lose. (this is the only game in the swiss portion of the tournament that I lose to DDT)

Game 3 I keept Land, Land, Goyf, Ape, Flames, Ancient Grudge.

I lead with ape and follow it up with goyf. These guys beat in uncontested for a bit and then I cast tribal flames to put the nail in the coffin.


Round 7 vs. Fabian playing DDT

Game 1 I keep land x2, Kird ape x2, Bolt x2, Lightning Helix

I drop my apes and start beating in, eventually I get him to 11 with 3 lands in play and he drops hexmage and depths and pops the token. Luckily I’m still holding my two bolts and my helix, and I topdeck tribal flames for the overkill.

Unfortunately game 2 was missing from my replays =(. I do remember that I almost ran out of time and got disconnected, and reconnected with less than a minute left. I had Meddling mage on Engineered Explosives with a nacatl and then a second meddling mage, steve and I couldn’t really decide what to name. I thought thopter but he said it didnt matter (thought I can’t remember why), turns out he did have a thopter and it slowed me down a bit, but I was able to drop Yixlid Jailer beats to finish the game with less than 30 seconds left.

So now I’m in round 8 and kind of freaking out. I’ve been close to a top 8 before, but then I’d been well rested, I’d eaten and hydrated during the day. At this point it’s about 11:30 am and I’ve been up for 29 hours. In between rounds I’ve done stupid shit like dishes, trying to sleep (which didn’t happen once) and talking on the phone to justin and jason. I even played some standard games in the casual room but that just made me more tired.

Round 8 vs. Sergio_Dominaria playing Mystical Teachings

I keep 7 with Kird ape, Land x2, Teeg, Goblin Guide, Steppe Lynx and Might of alara.

I lead with ape which he paths. Then I drop lynx and beat in with it plus might. he drops engineered explosives so I attack and he pops it, then I play tribal flames to get him to 2 and drop a kird ape that I was holding back from when he dropped Engineered Explosives. I swing in with the ape but he plays teaching for Path to Exile tapping out. I drop Gaddock Teeg and he has nothing and Teeg does the last two.

I keep in the Teegs for this game but bring in Meddling mages, Tormod’s crypt and ancient grudges.

In game 2 I keept Kird ape x2, goyf, lightning bolt, flames and 2 land.

my first draw is tormod’s crypt, so I lay it and kird ape, then I pop a fetch hoping to play my goyf but he plays shadow of doubt to stop me so I just lay the second ape. Next turn I swing and he paths one (kind of counter intuitive to his shadow of doubt play) and I fetch up a plains and bolt him and pass. I draw a second goyf so I run the other one out there to get mana leaked in my second main phase. I keep pounding away at him with my kird ape which he decides to repeal. I then drop Teeg and Kird ape holding Flames, Helix and Goyf.

Teeg and Kird ape beat him down to 7 and he drops finks to go to 9. So I helix it in my end step and pop tormod’s crypt with the trigger on the stop so it can’t persist. I rip Goblin guide and swing to drop him to 3 then Drop my goyf hoping to draw out a counter but the goyf sticks and I have 10 attack on table with a tribal flames that can do 4 damage, but he still has 2 mana up so I pass. He taps 5 for baneslayer angel which now puts him out of range of my attacks. I rip meddling mage and drop it, he thinks for a bit and lets it stick. I have a decision to make: he has two mana up. I have seen one counter all game and that’s mana leak, so the odds would say to name spell snare. The odds always end up screwing me, but I name spell snare anyway and go for it with the flames and I win and I’m in the top 8.

I decide to take a shower but keep all the same clothes on, but I feel I might’ve washed most of my luck off of me. I won round 8 very quickly and it was a long wait to top 8. We went over the decks and in the top 8 were five DDT decks, my zoo, the mystical teachings I beat in round 8 and the UB control deck that went 8-0.

I finish in third after swiss and get paired against Tezzerator, the guy that beat my friend in round 4. He’s playing DDT.

I keep Lynx, Lynx Goyf and lands on the draw and rip a goyf so my luck is obviously still around. I lead with lynx and decide to go for the blitz after I rip might of alara and swing for 8, but he has the repeal, so I just redrop Lynx and pass. I swing and drop Lynx and a goyf on 3 with him at 18. He taps out his four lands to play thopter and sword. I play a fetch, cast tribal flames and swing for 12 to put him on 2 and finish him off with a bolt, dealing 18 damage in one turn. Suck on that Loam Lion.

So obviously my luck is still with me and I’m feeling really good after that total asskicking…….

Game 2 I Keep goblin guide, keeping 3 land, bolt, meddling mage, goyf

my first draw is helix. and I lead with the guide. He reveals depths. Turn 2 I swing in and he reveals hexmage, so I cast meddling mage naming Hexmage, which he deathmarks. I goyf then lay a freshly ripped ghost quarters. He deathmarks the goyf and I swing in with goblin guide which he repeals. He drops the thopter combo while at about 14 life and I can’t touch him from there.

I’m pretty bummed that my hot hand got stomped so quickly, but I have high hopes as that’s the only game I’ve lost where I haven’t had to mull to 4 vs. this deck…………………………………

Game 3 I mull to 5 and probably should’ve kept but boy my brother and steve convinced me that I couldn’t win with it, so I kept going to 4 and didnt hit a land. I never got to play a spell that game despite the game going for like 10 turns and my ptq run was over.

After losing, my focus and adrenaline went away and I felt really sick, like hungover. I was up for 32 hours straight, I got wasted and sobered up in an 8 hour span of wakedness (something I think your body usually recovers from when you sleep) and I crashed hard.

Some thoughts about zoo. I’ve ran with it a little bit since then and while it has been good vs. DDT, other things are still out there that give it problems.

One strategy I’ve seen work is to put damping matrix (some people have them in the main, this might be a stretch) and Bloodbraids to try and give yourself more chances to get it out. Damping matrix does blow out DDT a bit, but it’s not that hard to play around because DDT runs Echoing Truth and Into the Roil which bounce it and can be searched out by muddle.

If I were to continue running this list, I’d stick with Steppe Lynx over Loam Lion because of it’s explosiveness. I know I also errantly ran 20 lands, but I’ve run 21 lands since then and have been wholly disappointed as to how much flooding I’ve faced. I know I ran really hot in this ptq and had some really lucky topdecks and got past opponents who I played poorly against, but I felt the deck gave me a lot of chances to do that. I also wouldn’t run might of alara anymore, because of repeal and echoing truth being really popular right now.

That’s it for me.

Mike Gemme
Bobbysapphire on MODO

Luis Scott-Vargas, Pro Tour Champion and Magic-Strategy Coach

Just this past week, we notified Power 9 Pro customers that we’re launching another series of MtG workshops led by Luis Scott-Vargas. We definitely wanted to keep our blog readers up to date too!

I’m especially excited to have Luis Scott-Vargas on as an instructor/coach with Power 9 Pro. It’s taken a lot of juggling of schedules but we finally figured out all the details just in time for an excellent finish to 2009.

If you don’t know Luis (often endearingly called LSV by the Magic community) from his win at Pro Tour Berlin or numerous top 8′s at multiple GPs and Pro Tour events, you may know him from his “Drafting with LSV” series on YouTube/Channel Fireball. Regardless of how you first heard about LSV, his record is extremely impressive.
His most notable finishes include:

  • 1st – Nationals 2007
  • 1st – GP San Francisco 2007
  • 3rd/4th – GP Philadelphia 2008
  • 1st – Pro Tour Berlin 2008
  • 1st – GP Atlanta 2008
  • 1st – GP Los Angeles 2009
  • 2nd – Pro Tour Kyoto 2009

LSV is a great new addition to the instructor base at Power 9 Pro, where he’ll be able to leverage years of article writing as well as his foray into online video. He’s written content for BlackBoarder and Channel Fireball, conducted interviews with WotC and much more. Power 9 Pro Online Workshops are the next step in LSV’s consistently giving nature that always results in a fostering of the Magic the Gathering community and player base.

There are numerous benefits to the online workshops for players, the most notable of which is summed up by “Learn from the best to be the best.” Truly top-level coaching is hard to come by and here’s your chance to dive deep into relevant discussions on Magic. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions about what cards to include when evaluating your sideboard options–whether prep’ing for an FNM or Grand Prix Trial. LSV himself is excited to share his insights into drafting Zendikar. His perspectives from over 1200 matches (not counting MTGO!) will be leveraged for your benefit. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. The last workshop of 2009 is a “Deck Doctor” format which means you can send in your deck for LSV to make a list of adjustments. See how he would adjust the card base for optimum results for your deck. Talk about an unique experience!

Here’s an example clip from our recent workshop series led by Ben Lundquist.

You can learn more about the workshops at power9pro.com/workshops or in another recent blog post.

Further information about Luis Scott-Vargas is located at wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_Scott-Vargas. You can also read some of his latest articles at Channel Fireball where he also does a weekly video-cast called Magic TV. LSV has also written for notable Magic the Gathering strategy sites Black Boarder and Starcity Games, though his writing is exclusively available on Channel Fireball as of early 2009.

FYI, if you sign up for Power 9 Pro’s (very infrequent) newsletter, we’ll send you a mp3 clip with Ben Lundquist discussing the in’s-and-out’s of the Metagame. This single 2 min clip alone will help you make better choices when it comes to what decks to expect at the next tournament and how to track the best decks in a format. We’re happy to provide this as a small sample of what Power 9 Pro aims to accomplish with our workshops.

As always, we want to hear from you. If you have workshop topic requests, thoughts or concerns, feel free to lets us know in the comments. I can also be followed on twitter where I post updates, commentary and discussions with fellow MtG players. :)

Power 9 Pro Online Workshops

In case you’ve heard a little about our Pro-Player workshops or caught one of my tweets about them, I thought I’d post a bit more info and a couple of clips to give everyone a better idea of what we’re putting together over here. After all, I’m a player, always looking to improve my game and imagine there are a lot more players like me out there. I have to admit I certainly don’t have all the exposure or practice these master players do, but I know that excellent coaching goes a long way to improving my game…Like I said, it’s always great to win. :)

Power 9 Pro’s workshops are your chance to get first hand advice and analysis of Magic the Gathering with some of the best players in the world. In addition to real-time streaming, we limit workshop size to 15 people. This gives everyone a chance to ask questions and interact directly with not only the pro instructor but also the rest of the participants. I can personally say that being able to hear and discuss other players’ questions and opinions has led to a number of interesting discussions. No need to be shy but if you prefer to listen and soak in the information, then sit back and relax.

By delivering the workshop over the Internet, everyone can participate regardless of location–your house, office [after hours of course. ;-)], a friend’s place, local shop, or even sandy beach in the tropics. We can always wish! The software connecting everyone is free of charge, guaranteed to be malware free and best-in-industry. After signing up, you will recieve a link with confirmation time and instructions (you just click the link). You can then stream the audio through your computer or dial a toll free number. Simple and convient. All participants will also receive the full video-audio recording for later review. I’ve found this great for reviewing important points. Here are a couple of examples from our most recent workshops with Ben Lundquist.

Our next workshop series will be starting December 8th at 5:30 PST (8:30 EST) with renowned player Luis Scott-Vargas. You can see the full schedule at power9pro.com/workshops/schedule.php .

I’d love to hear your topic requests and any other thoughts you may have, so let us know what you think in the comments. Also, if you sign up for our newsletter, we’ll send you a free mp3 of Ben Lundquist discussing the fluctuations and changes of a Meta-game; great for trying to calculate what deck to play at your next tournament!

PTQ – Honolulu: Mono-Red Burn

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)

my list:

lands: 20

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

4x incinerate

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.
record: 1-0

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)
record: 1-1

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).

Magic and Winning

so before the news gets to be too stale, just a quick update on the last two PTQs i attended.  i didn’t do so well.  at the ptq in LA on the 27th i went a very sad 2-3 drop.  i was trying to be a bit more creative with my deck builds but it bit in the butt.  <obviously>  since color selection can be so flexible, i really wanted to see if i could pull off something different than previous sealed builds.  i failed.  :\

in LA, i was also able to meet up with my team mate roberto–you’ll come to know him in time when he starts posting here.  he’s got a TON of information that’s going to be really helpful for players looking to get an edge on their game, so we’re looking forward to sharing that with you.

when reviewing my experience at PTQs the last month, i thought that there were a few things i didn’t do correctly on the “preparation side.”  i then came across an oldish article by mike flores that really drove home what i had done incorrectly.  you can get the whole article here (tipped by a mtgsalvation post)but the summary is that you have to “think” and “believe” that you won’t just top-8 but that you’ll win.  it’s pretty common in business and sports that if you aim for “top 5 finishers” that you’ll fall a bit short–this is really true when it comes to sales.   (you have to aim for 2-3x your quota or you’ll NEVER hit quota).  it’s a sad reality of life.

what stood out to me was the mental “i deserve this” that flores touches on.  he also mentions that when he wasn’t mentally prepared, wasn’t intrinically convinced of his superiority AND destiny to win that he’d lose, or fall just short of the goal.  at the PTQ i was actually prepared for (late November), i was also aiming for top8–because i figured that was the “next round.”  Ended in the top16…which is strictly “meh.”

his goal was to win.  and often he would.  i think this is SO important.  i was talking with a friend at the last PTQ (in san jose) who had a great pool.  his pool was really strong.  in fact, he’d beaten out a friend of mine who’s not only won PTQs in the past but he had a pool that looked poised to go all the way.  here’s the clincher.  after round 4 (where he beat friend 1) my friend says, “i’ll be happy if i top 8.”  he didn’t say, “i am going to top 8 with this deck.”  he was aiming for satisfaction at top8.  where did he end with his killer-consistent pool?  10th.  just short of his goal.  good showing, won a bunch of packs but he still fell short of his goal.

next ptq–or in this case Grand Prix LA–i’m going to win.  WIN.

as i mentioned, whether we’re talking sports, business or magic, you have to aim for the highest possible goal.  otherwise, you’re aiming for mediocre.  and nobody wants to be mediocre.

cheers & happy new years.  :)

Late for the Tournament?

we put together a video over the weekend to show how cool the Dragon’s Egg is.  how it has the “get up and go” you need to make it to the tournament tables when you’re running late.  you can take a closer look at the dragon’s egg on our main site. we’ll also be posting another demo video here in the next day or so.

speaking of tournament tables, any one planning to go to any PTQs this weekend?  there’s one in San Jose at Superstars (organized on by Match Play).  In addition to the PTQ (like we need more than that), there’s a vintgage MOX Tournament!

rant:  is anyone happy with the world’s coverage?  pretty horrible in my humble opinion.  randy beuhler did a pretty decent job at commentary post-matches but where’s all the match footage??  there is some footage on youtube (like this disucssion with Luis Scott-Vargas on his draft)…but there could/should be a lot more.

Quick Update

I wasn’t able to attend the States competitions this weekend.  I did do a bit of playtesting with a friend.  He had two deck variations, both very control.  One was a Cruel-Control, the other was a Plainswalker deck.  Piloting a Doran deck, I was winning most of the matches.  I decided to pass on the trip to San Jose though, as my deck still had a number of weak points.  It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized my deck really just needs a Reveillark (well, 3 to 4 of them) to really pump up the power on it.  I mean, so what if they kill my doran?  I can just bring it AND a stillmoon cavalier back from the graveyard…this was sort of a duh moment.  Has anyone played a Reveillark-Doran.dec?

PTQ Update

In my last post I mentioned that I’d only be competing in two PTQs in December.  With a little LOT of finagling of the plans, I was able to arrange my trip to LA such that I can also attend the PTQ at Superstars on Dec. 20th.  Woohoo!

I should have the Dragon’s Egg with me at all three of the tournaments so I look forward to meeting you and showing off the Dragon’s Egg.  :)

Tournaments I’m attending

Just wanted to put down a quick note about which tournaments I’ll be heading to for the rest of 2008.  Unfortunately, it looks like I won’t be able to attend the States type 2 tournament this Saturday. Mostly because I don’t have a deck put together.  I’m also not well equipped to compete–meaning, I don’t have the right cards to make a real run at it.

I am planing to attend two PTQ-Kyotos this month:  December 6th at Matchplay (linked above) and on December 27th in LA (hosted by SunMesa Events).

I plan to bring a few Dragon’s Eggs with me to LA when I fly down on the 18th (maybe on the 21st if I decide to compete in another PTQ in San Jose on the 20th).  (I’m suppose to fly down and spend the week with my grandparents and mom).

Glenn Godard was recently featured in an interview with a number of other prominent tournament organizers (on the mothership–was going to link it but the Wizards/Magic site is so horrible.  It takes WAY too long to find anything–I’ll bitch about this in more detail later; incentive for you to come back).  ;-)

PTQ-Kyoto At Superstars

This past Saturday I had the great pleasure to compete in the Pro Tour Qualifier: Kyoto at Superstars in San Jose. We had a pretty good turnout considering there was a PTQ: Kyoto a few weeks ago in Sacramento–I wasn’t able to go. :( I believe there were 188 players; I finished 16th which I was pretty surprised about considering I had a few early match losses that were pretty devastating.

A bit about my deck since that’s what’s interesting. Before getting into a decklist (I forgot to write it down before taking it apart, I’ll be better about that next time, sorry), a few quick notes/observations:

I hadn’t had any real Shards of Alara sealed exposure before this PTQ–I’d purchased a few tourney-packs and boosters to open up and “see what the pools would be like” because I’d heard that most people were building pretty slow, clunky decks. That definitely proved true but with a cause. With all the mana fixing available, people are very inclined to go for four and five colored decks. This is just crazy to me. Even in my limited exposure with sealed, the best decks seem to stick with two colors and a splash. (Has anyone won any big, highly competitive tournaments with a four or five color deck?–and I’m talking about Shards here.) As I mentioned, I’ve not been able to compete in any sealed Shard tournaments but I have drafted a few times and keep coming back to a blend of Bant-Naya as the best combination. I can see Jund + X also making a great combination. Cards like Drumhunter in combination with exalted-Bant affects make for nastiness once we’re able to plop down a 5-powered creature (which is easily accomplished on turn 5 with Drumhunter in play. I drafted a very sub-par Esper deck for my first draft but find that the good comons like the Tidehollow Strix are always nabbed up early.

On to the deck and then onto more specific notes about my play and card MVPs.

First the bombs: Battlegrace Angel, Sigil of Distinction, Wildnactal, 2x Knight of the Skyward Eye, Sight-Caste Sorcerer (I’ll explain why I like this guy so much in a second), list of MVPs is rounded out by the Drumhunter which in my opinion has to be one of the better cards to nab in any limited deck.

Deck-specific notes: Obviously the Battlegrace Angel and the Sigil of Distinction are straightup bombs–but I’m not convinced they’re not even close to the most powerful of the cards available in Shards (limited play). There are so many ways around both of those cards–and that’s where the design of the set is really well done. I have to hand it to Wizards that they did well makign sure the set had plenty of limited bombs to attract the masochistic side of all Magic players with the work-arounds with commons that balances the game and provides players with the comfort that their deck “can compete.”

I was talking with a few players and they don’t seem to value exalted creatures as highly as I do. The entire day, keeping my exalted creatures on the board not only allowed me to get in a few early pings while my opponents were busy playing obelixs and land-sacrificing but also mid-to-late game, allowed me to squeeze attackers through, avoiding blockers because the additional +1/+1 (or +2/+2 when I had two on the board) was too overpowering. All the great articles I’ve read in the past (by far more experienced players than myself) always indicate it’s only about the extra one or two we can squeeze through each turn. I’m pretty convinced that my deck was extremely efficient and were it not for a few mistakes, it was a much better deck than 16th (probably not top-8 though).

My biggest play mistake was swinging in a turn too early in Match 3. (My first two matches were total blow-outs, lasting 15 min max). My opponent, later discussing the game with me, admits that he was very quickly losing board control because of the Drumhunter and the two 5 powered creatures I had on the board. My mistake was attacking into him, leaving myself completely exposed to get attacked. I saw that he had a 5/5 on the board (the Feral Hydra) but had forgotten that it’s pump-able. I was at 6 life, he pumped the Feral Hydra and swung for 6. This game loss cost me the match because the next game was a total-mana screw.

The next match which I lost followed this one. I started with a game loss for showing up two minutes late. (Is this normal? I thought I got more like five minutes or something and ten minutes for a match loss). Either way, I was upset and not clear-headed and stayed in on a hand I should have mulligan’d due to color/land issues (right curve but wrong colors–doh!).

Next four matches, I blew my opponents out of the water. Just totally steam-rolled them. I think one of the matches went to three games.

I had a great time but kinda kick myself still now for messing up on the play mistake; live and learn. In the end, it was amazing getting to play and discuss Magic with all the great players. I even made a couple of new friends!