Ask The Drama — Two-Headed PTQ

After placing 8th at Grand Prix: Amsterdam, Jeroen Remie and Victor van der Broek had nothing to prove. Their knowledge of the format is unquestionable, and their appearance at Pro Tour: San Diego is a given. Of course, when a pair of flights is up for grabs, then winning a PTQ is always welcome… so that’s what Jeroen and Victor did! Today’s Ask The Drama brings us their hints and tips for the 2HG format, and a little rundown of the Top 10 shows on television.

Either Victor van den Broek and I are the luckiest people alive, or we actually know how to play this Two-Headed Giant format. Most pros don’t seem to like Two-Headed Giant at all, calling it a luck-based format with little skill required and all that jazz. While that may be true on some levels, it’s definitely a format with its own concepts to think about, and I feel you can actually be good at it with a little dedication. The proof? Out of the top bunch of teams that did well at GP: Amsterdam, almost all of them did well again…

Today I’ll talk about my experiences in Two-Headed Giant, as I myself am learning about it every day, and because I (once again) didn’t get enough questions to fill my weekly column, despite being away for a week. I urge you all to keep sending your questions to [email protected], as you, the readers, make this column, and without your help I will be forced to quit the current set-up. If you don’t have a question per se, but do have a nice topic you think I should write an article about, those are obviously also very welcome.

Okay, on to Two-Headed Giant! We entered a PTQ recently, and started with Sealed Deck. We opened what we thought was a fine pool, but nothing too great. Here are our decks:

2HG PTQ Sealed Deck – Seat A
Jeroen Remie

2 Chronozoa
1 Deep-Sea Kraken
1 Jedit Ojanen of Efrava
1 Body Double
1 Candles of Leng
1 Prismatic Lens
1 Hunting Wilds
1 Evolution Charm
1 Pongify
1 Lightning Axe
1 Errant Ephemeron
2 Mire Boa
1 Search for Tomorrow
1 Herd Gnarr
1 Viscerid Deepwalker
1 Veiling Oddity
1 Grapeshot
1 Think Twice
1 Dismal Failure
1 Riftwing Cloudskate
1 Uktabi Drake
1 Mountain
9 Island
7 Forest

2HG PTQ Sealed Deck – Seat B
Victor van den Broek

11 Swamp
7 Plains
1 Calciform Pools
1 Outrider en-Kor
1 Saltfield Recluse
1 Cloudchaser Kestrel
1 Corpulent Corpse
1 Mana Tithe
1 Shade of Trokair
2 Blightspeaker
1 Momentary Blink
1 Trespasser il-Vec
1 Dark Withering
1 Temporal Isolation
3 Rathi Trapper
1 Amrou Scout
1 Urborg Syphon-Mage
1 Stormfront Riders
1 Deathspore Thallid
1 Magus of the Disk
1 Plague Sliver

As you can see, we once again chose to play a combined 39 mana-sources out of 80 cards. The fact is that you cannot win a game if you get screwed or miss some land drops, but you are fine if you draw one or two extra lands. This simply means that it is always better to avoid taking any risks and just play as much mana as possible. My Blue/Green deck looks the most powerful, with all the rare bombs and game-winners, but in reality we won most, if not all, of our games thanks to the rebel engine in Vic’s deck. Chronozoa looks awesome in the abstract, but really just draws every removal spell they will have, and acts mostly like a Phantom Monster that doesn’t really do anything else. They were great at keeping the rebel searchers safe though!

Some notable cards we played:

Mana Tithe
When you have a deck like ours that will often have its mana untapped in the opponents’ turn (to keep up rebel searching), this card can be fine. Of course having two opponents also helps improve the odds of getting one of them with the Force Spike.

Hunting Wilds
While I never got to do anything like make extra men, this card is simply card advantage, and as such perfectly fine even if you don’t have that much to ramp into. Thankfully, I did.

Stormfront Riders
Everyone always acts like this card is a bomb, but in reality I don’t even like it in this deck, which has infinite cheap men. It is a slow and clunky flyer that you never really have time to play properly. Games just don’t take long enough. This (and the Magus) did nothing for us all day.

Uktabi Drake
Flying is awesome, as is any kind of evasion, and the echo doesn’t hurt that much in this format. Every time I drew this guy he did the final points, or at least eight when drawn early. I love him in 2HG.

Notable cards we didn’t play:

Double Conflagrate
Situational removal is not really what you want in this format, and while it can be okay, it never really is quite quick enough.

Might Sliver, Telekinetic Sliver, Watcher Sliver, Poultice Sliver
While I am fine playing slivers that kinda suck to leech abilities, like Venser’s Sliver, or play an infinite amount of slivers if I have a bunch of good ones, I hate playing good slivers without bad ones to profit from it. The only thing that can happen is that you are helping your opponent more then yourself, and losing because of it. I would rather have every card stand on its own merits.

Dorks that don’t do anything, like Thallid Germinator and the like…
Because they don’t do anything. I’d rather have some extra land.

The reason we did so well is because (for some reason) a whole bunch of rebels gives opponents the impression that they cannot really attack across the ground, when in reality we never really had any great blockers. Not that we were ever really helpless, but in this format it is very important to force through every point you can. Tempo is a lot more important than I thought in the beginning, and we won by exactly killing our opponents more often than I would think.

We went 5-1 before we drew in our last round to lock up the Top 4 spot, while everyone else had to play. The rares never really came up, as the rebels really did it for us, and we won many a time because our opponent stumbled on mana, while we never did. Our one loss came when we played around every morph our opponents could possibly have bar one – Fledging Mawcor – and that was what it turned out to be, meaning that our attack dropped them to one and not zero…

As you all may know, our general strategy in draft is still to draft one deck with creatures and another deck that has many spells, a deck that can abuse cards like Mystical Teachings, Cancel, and Cradle to Grave. We usually do this by focussing on these cards the most, but generally we’re just drafting a Sealed Deck cardpool. This time we started by opening Brine Elemental, Lightning Axe, and Jaya Ballard. Everyone seemed to disagree with our picks afterwards – we went for the two Red cards – but we generally value removal over anything in this format, even if the morph can win you games by itself. It is a very late game card though, and thus I feel is not as good as the other two options available.

From there on, we really only got three colors – Black, Blue, and Red – as we tend to avoid White and we didn’t see any Green. The reason for this is that White cards are generally weak in the first set, and only get a lot better in the last set, and I don’t think it can support four teams. You usually end up being short on real quality in that case. The only thing that can really make me want to go White is multiple late Thrill of the Hunts, as I feel that card is just unreal in Two-Headed Giant.

Our decks ended up looking like this:

2HG PTQ Top 8 – Seat A
Jeroen Remie

1 Numot, the Devastator
2 Spiketail Drakeling
2 Viscerid Deepwalker
1 Mystical Teaching
1 Careful Consideration
2 Think Twice
2 Coral Trickster
1 Errant Ephemeron
1 Brine Elemental
1 Strangling Soot
1 Sudden Death
1 Cradle to Grave
1 Shadow Guildmage
1 Enslave
1 Temporal Isolation
1 Foriysian Totem
2 Dreamscape Artist
1 Temporal Isolation
1 Plains
1 Mountain
4 Swamp
1 Terramorphic Expanse
11 Island

2HG PTQ Top 8 – Seat B
Victor van den Broek

2 Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
1 Volcano Hellion
1 Fortune Thief
1 Herd Gnarr
2 Citanul Woodreaders
1 Evolution Charm
1 Durkwood Tracker
1 Utopia Vow
1 Molder
1 Wormwood Dryad
1 Weatherseed Totem
1 Rift Bolt
2 Prodigal Pyromancer
2 Blood Knight
1 Aether Membrane
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Lightning Axe
1 Dead / Gone

Some notables:

Double Coral Trickster
Not only do I think this is a fine man, as tricks are awesome, and like his name says he is quite tricky, but he also fixed this deck’s mana, being able to fix the double-color mana requirement for Sudden Death and Enslave.

Dreamscape Artist
Yeah, that was definitely that decks MVP. I feel the manabase was actually very good, despite looking shady, basically playing 4cBlue. The threats in the other deck made sure these guys would always live.

Spiketail Drakeling
Wow, do people undervalue this guy! He is evasion, countermagic, and tempo all in one. This is an easy third pick, and sometimes higher.

Basically what you see is that during the season, our evaluation of cards has changed. I remember saying back at the start of the season that I loved cards like Wistful Thinking and Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, but now I don’t like those cards at all. They seem fine in theory, and can be fine in certain games, but they also make your deck less consistent. With thirty life instead of forty, and one game deciding a match, I feel like you cannot afford to play many situational cards that can lose you the game if you draw too many. Tempo is important again, thanks to the life total drop, and card advantage a little less so.

The games we played with these decks were incredibly easy, as our draws were very good, allowing us to play early guys and a hideous amount of removal. In the final, our turn 3 Jaya even managed to stick, which was basically enough.

I feel we have a good handle on what we are doing thanks to our tournaments, and we’ve learned a lot. The Pro Tour will finally prove if we’re lucky or good, of course.

That’s it for this week’s special edition of Ask the Drama! I hope I can answer your questions again next week, if I receive some at [email protected]. If you can’t send questions, give me some suggestions for topics…


PS: Okay, I’ll answer one question this week, just for the heck of it:

This one was actually asked by two people at once: Dave Petterson and Peter Gudlewski.

You say that Lost is (possibly) out of the Top 10 TV Shows right now. The obvious follow up question is: What are the Top 10 shows on TV?

I sure hope Heroes is up there, because it is the stone nuts.

Of course Heroes is on it! Here’s the Top 10 TV Shows in my humble opinion, listed in my personal “order of eagerness to watch.”

Friday Night Lights
My own personal Dawson’s Creek, I just love this show too much. I look forward to episodes weeks in advance.

The best show, and just completely unreal. As good as Lost was (for a short while during season 1).

Wow, is Hugh Laurie unreal! I’d watch this show if it was just him for an hour.

The Sopranos
The new episode Sunday left me with goosebumps. Wow.

Veronica Mars
Fun and light-hearted, but also the best mystery-crime show on TV. I tend to like high-school-type shows….

Sure, it has dropped of a little since it started, but HBO definitely knows its stuff.

Arrested Development
I missed it initially, but started watching just last week, and I love it.

Jack Bauer.

Fine, you got me, it’s still in the Top 10, but only because the competition for the lower spots – Smallville and Prison Break – just suck so much right now… I mean, I’ve had it with the conspiracy theories and the “sudden plot-twists,” and Cralks needs to get over his damn Lana crush already, beat the sh** out of Lex, and tap some Lois or Chloe…

And that’s really it for this week. Bye!