At the Gathering – Running Cold

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Wednesday, October 21st – I had an opportunity to play at a PTQ this last weekend. Of course, by opportunity, I mean I switched work schedules, picked up an extra shift, and made an iron man 18 hour day in order to play in a Zendikar sealed PTQ.

I had an opportunity to play at a PTQ this last weekend. Of course, by opportunity, I mean I switched work schedules, picked up an extra shift, and made an iron man 18 hour day in order to play in a Zendikar sealed PTQ. As a format, I tend to dislike sealed formats. I’d love to be able to play in a draft instead, but as we had Peter Jahn discuss, it’s not exactly a likely scenario. While some options can be assuaged, it’s still not ideal.

So, on to the tournament report. We start in the week buildup, where we have a carload of 4 guys to jump in and take the trip. Christian, Lurch, Kurt, and myself are all intent on that timeless piece of American culture: The road trip. However, Christian came down with something icky, thanks to his family, and Lurch had to travel to Salt Lake to be with his mother-in-law instead of heading west with the guys. Neither one would budge, so it was just Kurt and I leaving at 6 in the morning.

I’m not a morning guy. The only way I see 6am is in the terms “Last night, I was up until…” so for me, this was not ideal. Kurt, being a freshman in college, is on a similar time clock. This sounds like a job for Red Bull! Lo and behold, I, the dutiful driver, managed to get us safely to the site in time to register and scope out the scene. I saw enough PTQ regulars to know I’d need a pretty decent pool in order to take home the Blue Envelope to San Diego. I picked up some new sleeves (The Cuppy Island) and settled in for registration.

After some questions about Priceless Treasures, we registered our pools and handed them in. I didn’t see anything amazing in the pool I registered, and none of the rares were ones I wouldn’t have wanted to have for myself (e.g. Fetchlands, Lotus Cobra, etc.). We all milled around, noting that there was a distinctive lack of basic lands for construction. There ended up being just enough with them opening another box of prerelease lands for us to use. We reseated ourselves for construction, and I verified my pool, which contained these 84 cards:

Cliff Threader
Conqueror’s Pledge
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Journey to Nowhere
Kor Outfitter
Kor Sanctifiers
Kor Skyfisher
Landbind Ritual
Makindi Shieldmate
Narrow Escape
Nimbus Wings
Noble Vestige
Ondu Cleric
Pillarfield Ox
Quest for the Holy Relic
Shieldmate’s Blessing
Steppe Lynx

Aether Figment
Ior Ruin Expedition
Lethargy Trap
Living Tsunami
Merfolk Wayfinder
2 Quest for Ancient Secrets
Shoal Serpent
2 Sky Ruin Drake
2 Spell Pierce
2 Spreading Seas
Windrider Eel

Bala Ged Thief
Bog Tatters
Crypt Ripper
Desecrated Earth
Giant Scorpion
Grim Discovery
2 Guul Draz Vampire
Hagra Crocodile
Hagra Diabolist
2 Heartstabber Mosquito
Mindless Null
Mire Blight
Needlebite Trap
Nimana Sell-Sword
Ravenous Trap
Surrakar Marauder

Bladetusk Boar
Burst Lightning
Geyser Glider
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Shortcutter
Magma Rift
Plated Geopede
Pyromancer Ascension
Spire Barrage
Torch Slinger

Baloth Cage Trap
Grazing Gladehart
Khalni Heart Expedition
2 Oran-Rief Recluse
Relic Crush
Savage Silhouette
2 Turntimber Basilisk
Vines of the Vastwood
Zendikar Farguide

Adventuring Gear
Blazing Torch
Carnage Altar
Expedition Map
Stonework Puma

Crypt of Agadeem
Graypelt Refuge
Piranha Marsh
Scalding Tarn
Sejiri Refuge
Soaring Seacliff
Teetering Peaks

Take a look, and think about which colors and cards you would have played. It’s an interesting pool, I think. The Bombs are pretty obviously in White, but they’re also very greedy for colors.

[Obligatory spacing to provide the reader time to consider the list and create a fleeting decklist]

Okay, pencils down, let’s see what you’ve made. Actually, we’re going to see what I made, which is definitely not correct.

I didn’t really like my options in any colors. I was hoping for Hideous End or Disfigure (or both) in my Black pool, but I felt that Black was strong enough to still play, with Crypt Ripper and double Heartstabber Mosquito. I wanted to play White for its power, but I decided to see if the consistency of Green could help me out instead. This is what I registered:

B/G Flop

2 Turntimber Basilisk
2 Oran-Rief Recluse
1 Grazing Gladehart
1 Surrakar Marauder
2 Heartstabber Mosquito
1 Hagra Crocodile
2 Guul Draz Vampire
1 Giant Scorpion
1 Crypt Ripper

1 Adventuring Gear
1 Blazing Torch
1 Expedition Map

1 Needlebite Trap
1 Baloth Cage Trap
1 Harrow
1 Vines of the Vastwood

1 Mire Blight
1 Khalni Heart Expedition

1 Grim Discovery

1 Piranha Marsh
8 Swamp
8 Forest

1 Conqueror’s Pledge
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Journey to Nowhere
1 Kor Outfitter
1 Kor Sanctifiers
1 Kor Skyfisher
1 Narrow Escape
1 Nimbus Wings
1 Pillarfield Ox
1 Shieldmate’s Blessing
8 Plains

The plan was to win with the Black/Green version where consistency could win me the game, and board out the Green in favor of the White in places where I needed raw power to try to get the match win.

If I had it to do over again, I would probably start out at White/Green, which has the slight mana fixing and early defense of Green with the power of White. What would you have built out of this? And where so you think it ranks on the power scale of possible pools, on a 1-10?

I won’t bore you with the details of the tournament, because I went 0-3 drop. I waited to drop until after round 3 because there was a decent chance two people could get in at 5-2, and I know some of the crowd is not familiar enough with tie-breakers that there was an outside chance I could sneak in with some luck and a 5-0 streak. Of course, neither one occurred. I was 3-0 in game 1’s, which tells me I may have done something right, but 0-6 in games 2 and 3. I lost every game in which I tried the Black/ White build, and 3-3 with the Green/ Black version. I can only imagine what I might have done with the Green/White version, as even now it feels like the right choice.

I do want to point out one series of plays that cost me the first round. In game 2, I have a Surrakar Marauder and a Heartstabber Mosquito in play with an Adventuring Gear. I played a land, and swung with the Heartstabber Mosquito, but forgot to swing with the Surrakar Marauder. I missed two damage, and my opponent went on to win the game at 1 life. I was on tilt pretty bad after that play, but managed to stick a Guul Draz Vampire with my opponent at four with a Vampire Lacerator out. On his upkeep, he goes to 3 from the Lacerator, as I’m at 10. You see the error? Yeah, we didn’t. We both thought that the Vampire Lacerator dinged him until I was under 10, and he took me down to two on combat. I swung back for lethal with my 3/2 Guul Draz Vampire, when a bystander called a judge to get things correct. Now, I don’t know how far we can back up to correct the life total, but the judge wouldn’t let me take back my declared attack, even though he had vastly changed the circumstances. I probably should have appealed, as I would have made vastly different choices had we done the trigger correctly. Instead, my opponent goes to one, and then kills me on the return. To say that I was less than pleased is an understatement. Any judges out there care to weigh in on the situation, I would appreciate it. I did think it was odd that the bystander caught it immediately after I declared my attack. If you’re watching, and you know better, wouldn’t you catch it right then? It felt a little weird to me, like when you get slow-rolled, I guess. I don’t know, but thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Moving on to slightly happier thoughts, I decided to test the draft waters. I sent out a group text to my local players asking if they wanted to draft that night, as Kurt only survived one round later than I did, and we were looking at an early trip home. We decided we would jump into the first draft that filled, whether it was on site or at home. After a pretty pathetic response on the home front, we managed to hit the onsite draft.

And I rare-drafted the hell out of it. I drafted a total of 10 rares, including a foil Mythic. Signals were non-existent, no one seemed to be in any sort of consistent color, so I took rares and the best cards I could. I ended up with this monstrosity:

2 Crypt Ripper
2 Shoal Serpent
1 Vampire Lacerator
2 Hagra Crocodile
1 Giant Scorpion
1 Heartstabber Mosquito
2 Sky Ruin Drake
1 Welkin Tern
1 Malakir Bloodwitch
1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
1 Hedron Scrabbler

1 Vampire’s Bite
1 Summoner’s Bane
1 Into the Roil
1 Lethargy Trap

1 Expedition Map

1 Rite of Replication

1 Soul Stair Expedition
1 Ior Ruin Expedition

7 Island
8 Swamp
1 Piranha Marsh
1 Jwar Isle Refuge

I won the first round pretty handily, with big flyers and a Malakir Bloodwitch stopping a Green-White deck cold. In the second round, I had 3 mulligans in two brutally quick games. In the first I never saw more than the three lands in my opening 6, and in the second, I saw 8 lands and 3 spells. I’d like to say I made some mistake, but I think you keep a 3 spell, 3 land hand at 6, and I think you keep a 3 land, 2 spell hand at 5. I never really had a chance to mess this up. I mean, I’m sure I would have, but sometimes, you’re just not running hot. Hopefully, my lack of luck had a karmic balance with another writer of this site (wink wink, nudge nudge) and his running hot, but I doubt it.

In talking with one of the Top 8 players, Brandon Houk, before we left, he defined the format as “speed and bombs,” which may seem true, but I don’t think you can count the speed side of it. This is a somewhat fast environment, but I think you need to focus on having evasive beaters, big butts to hold the defense, and bombs. I don’t think speed is nearly as important as he does. I think it should more accurately be described as Shenanigans and Bombs, as I see a lot of synergy in the set that can play very well to create crazy advantages out of nowhere. Like the Landfall +4/+4 trample Baloths going crazy in one turn off of, in order, cast Khalni Heart Expedition, play and crack a fetchland, Harrow, and then cash in the Khalni. Yeah, that’s now a 28/28 trampler coming at you. Don’t have Hideous End? GG, sir. There are some very powerful effects in this format, and I look forward to drafting it for the next few months, and hitting some more PTQs.

Until next time, this is Jeff Phillips, reminding you: Don’t make the Loser Choice.