Constructed Criticism – Almost Getting There: An Atlanta PTQ Report *2nd*

Read Todd Anderson every week... at StarCityGames.com
Tuesday, January 12th – I had been looking forward to the PTQ in Atlanta for some time, since it was the first live PTQ of the season. I’ve always been more attached to live tournaments as opposed to online ones, as I don’t think I focus quite as much when I’m at home on my computer. When I’m around other people, I can feel my opponent out.

I had been looking forward to the PTQ in Atlanta for some time, since it was the first live PTQ of the season. I’ve always been more attached to live tournaments as opposed to online ones, as I don’t think I focus quite as much when I’m at home on my computer. When I’m around other people, I can feel my opponent out. I can read what they’re thinking, figure out what is in their hand, or even feel out whether or not they think they are ahead or behind in the game, just by a simple gesture, look, or sound. The better players mask these tells and keep their opponent from figuring out what they are thinking, but others will openly show you every emotion on their sleeve, and you can take quite an advantage from this. However, against better players you must know when these are bluffs. This is just one of the things I love most about live Magic.

The other is hanging out with friends that I don’t get to see much, and especially the ones who live a state away. Our friend Will Cruse made the drive to Birmingham on Friday night to stay at our apartment so he could carpool with us to Atlanta on Saturday morning. Kali was planning on coming, but decided that, at 4am, it was not worth her time or money to wake up that early and play Magic cards in a format in which she was not entirely comfortable. I don’t blame her. The worst part is that I’m not even sure I would have been able to get cards for the deck that I wanted her to play. Extended is a real hassle when it comes to acquiring cards you need for a deck, as everyone needs Tarmogoyfs and those are returning to Baneslayer Angel prices in real life, being upwards of $50+. Luckily, I have a ton of good friends who let me borrow cards, and I was able to get together one copy of the deck that I wanted us both to play.

When we woke up at 4am, nothing really exciting happened. There wasn’t a lot of funny things going on that usually go on when I’m preparing for a PTQ. Will slept in the back of the car while Blair and I listened to some music and chatted about the format. He wasn’t very familiar with a lot of the decks that I thought he would surely face, so we discussed a bit of strategy. Blair was planning on playing the Thopter-Tezzeret deck with maindeck Kitchen Finks and Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. I told him earlier that I thought the combination was just a worse version of the deck, and that he should just be playing more copies of the Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek combo, in order to draw it more easily. Thirst for Knowledge lets you discard extra copies of each, so there is no real reason (in my opinion) to run fewer combo pieces. Combo decks are not very good at grinding in this format, as every deck has cards that can just blow you out if you give them enough time. He thought that Kitchen Finks was a solid enough man, and he wanted a Plan B for when his opponents dealt with his combo. I don’t really blame him, and he said that Kitchen Finks did a ton for him throughout the day, so who am I to argue?

Will wanted to play the Emeria Gifts deck that did well at Pro Tour: Austin, mostly because it was a bit off the radar, and no one would know how to play against him. Also, it would give him a lot of chances to outplay his opponents, since the deck has a ton of powerful, synergistic cards that can give headaches to anyone trying to battle it. His manabase was a little off, and I told him I’d make a few changes, but other than that it looked interesting and fun. I don’t really remember his exact list, but maybe he’ll post it in the forums when he reads this for anyone who is interested. While Will did not end up doing well in the tournament, he attributed most of his losses to poor play, since there is a ton of room for error in the deck. Rarely is there a clear route to victory, and figuring out which lines of play to follow can be very difficult in a deck such as that one. However, with more playtesting a bit of fine-tuning, maybe he’ll do much better in the next event. There is another PTQ in Atlanta in 2 weeks, as well as a Standard $5K, so it should be a good weekend.

After playing for weeks and weeks on Magic Online with a variety of different decks, including (but not limited to) Zoo, Scapeshift, and Dark Depths, I finally decided that Zoo is what I wanted to play. Knight of the Reliquary was just too good to not play, even if I didn’t have a ton of cool lands to search out with his ability. He was just a huge guy who costs 1GW, and sometimes searched up Ghost Quarter after sideboarding. After testing many different variants, including going 6-2 in an Online PTQ last week with a version playing Steppe Lynx, I figured out just what cards I hated, but not necessarily all the cards I liked. Steppe Lynx and Goblin Guide were both entirely too weak to play, since neither really shines in Zoo mirrors. Steppe Lynx requires you to be either mana flooded to play, or draw incredibly well to apply apt pressure to your opponent. Goblin Guide gave your opponent too much of an advantage whenever he gave them a land for my taste, and he never was up to snuff in Zoo mirrors when facing down a Wild Nacatl or Kird Ape, so I was at a bit of a loss.

I knew I wanted 22 lands in the deck, because I’ve never had luck with 21. Also, getting to 3 mana was hugely important for Knight of the Reliquary, and I figured that with enough fetchlands, I could think my deck out enough so that I stopped drawing lands eventually. I was also sure that I wanted 2 Stomping Grounds, as I felt pretty awkward whenever someone destroyed my land. Additionally, I felt like whenever I used Knight of the Reliquary’s ability, I usually just wanted to retrieve the same land from my deck. I really remember how many times that came up, but I do remember two very distinct times I was incredibly happy with having 2 Stomping Grounds in my deck. I wanted at least 13 (and maybe 14) fetchlands for the deck, to maximize the size of Knight of the Reliquary, as well as always having a land in the graveyard to pump Tarmogoyf. This would also help fuel the Tribal Flames I planned on playing. I never once in the entire tournament wished that I had Grove of the Burnwillows and Punishing Fire in my deck, and Tribal Flames was literally incredible. If that isn’t enough to sway you, then I’m not sure what is.

After some serious contemplating, I finally figured out what the last few slots in my deck should be. Every time I didn’t like a card in my early drop slot, it was because it wasn’t good against Zoo. Last year, the Zoo mirror was literally broken wide open with Ranger of Eos, so I thought that playing 2 Ranger of Eos and 2 utility one-drops would be a great idea. I talked this over with a few friends of mine, and most people seemed to like it. I got a few questions and laughs whenever I would randomly draw the maindeck Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, but he was even more valuable than it seemed, as I’m sure multiple opponents had Lightning Bolt or another burn spell that they just didn’t use because the Forge-Tender stopped them. Figure of Destiny was my other one-drop of choice, since he was pretty good last season. I was not spectacularly happy with him, since I was busy casting spells instead of pumping him, and probably would replace him with the 4th Lightning Helix, which I had to cut to save room. After tweaking the manabase a bit, here is what I ended up playing.

After playing with the deck throughout the entire day, I found a few things about the manabase that I disliked. While more fetchlands were able to get Hallowed Fountain that Steam Vents, I was not able to easily cast Meddling Mage while having Green and Red mana on turn 2. That meant that I couldn’t lead with a Wild Nacatl, and attack for 3 damage on turn two while also casting Meddling Mage. In hindsight, I should have just been playing more fetchlands that got Steam Vents, as opposed to playing the Hallowed Fountain and leaving my manabase the same. I don’t think 3 Lightning Helix is the right number, but I didn’t want to cut anything else for Figure of Destiny at the time. If I had to go back, I would just cut the Figure of Destiny for the 4th Lightning Helix, though. He was underwhelming, and I only made him a 4/4 one time. Last season he was much better because your opponent usually had to use Path to Exile to get rid of him, since Lightning Bolt wasn’t legal yet. Now that is not the case, and they can kill him pretty easily in response to growing him to level 3.

I was really happy with the maindeck Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, but I only sided in the second Forge-Tender one time, and that was against Scapeshift. Their only way to really deal with Gaddock Teeg and Meddling Mage is Firespout, so protecting your team of disruptive beaters with Forge-Tender is invaluable. They do have ways to bounce all of those guys, but if you throw enough disruption at them, they will have to change how their deck operates in order to beat you. For me, the sideboard was really strong. I might end up moving the Ghost Quarter to the maindeck as a 23rd land, since it would have been fine against almost every deck I played against. The Deathmarks were really good, but I’m not sure they were entirely necessary. With Tribal Flames, you have plenty of ways to kill Tarmogoyf, Baneslayer Angel, and Knight of the Reliquary at an early point in the game. I don’t think they should be cut, rather they should be changed to Bant Charm. I really liked the idea of Bant Charm from the 4-Color Saito Zoo decks, as it deals with Affinity’s threats, as well as Dark Depths and Zoo’s large monsters. While it does cost three mana, it is easily castable with the lands in your deck. If you end up doing this, then the manabase should be altered accordingly, mostly to cutting the Blood Crypt for Steam Vents. Last year we all played Oblivion Ring, but Bant Charm really does so much more at instant speed.

I didn’t play against Dredge, so the four sideboard hate cards were pretty weak. I don’t think Dredge is a serious contender in the metagame, as it can be hated out so easily. With nearly every Zoo deck playing 3 Gaddock Teeg maindeck, it is fairly easy to turn them into a regular aggressive deck as opposed to an incredibly fast combo deck. If you can kill your own creature to remove the Bridges from Below, their deck becomes even less impressive, having to kill you with some dinky fliers and 2/1’s that can’t block. Meddling Mage can help in this endeavor as well, since keeping them from casting Dread Return should be your main priority. If you can keep them off that card, it is very tough for them to win. I had a bit more hate on top of those cards, so I think I would have been heavily favored against them after sideboard, but the situations never arose.

I have played with Aven Mindcensor on Magic Online, and he has been spectacular against Dark Depths and Scapeshift, so I wouldn’t recommend cutting them. They can surprise your opponent with Flash, and they have added value against control decks that play cards like Gifts Ungiven and transmute spells. You could potentially play the much more narrow Angel’s Grace, as it stops combo decks dead in their tracks (including Hive Mind which made Top 4 of the PTQ), but I don’t think that card is nearly as good. I prefer less narrow cards as sideboard options, since they can surprise opponents with their versatility. I sided in Meddling Mage against a large number of decks, simply because the cards I cut were worse, and Meddling Mage became a huge target for any removal they might have had (if had any to begin with). Meddling Mage was surprisingly good against Affinity, since they didn’t have any removal and kept me from having to deal with either Arcbound Ravager or Master of Etherium.

Round 1 against Doug Lambert playing Lynx Zoo

Game 1 was a clear example of how much better my Game 1 was in the mirror. He played out some random dorks, while I matched his dorks but ended the game after casting a Ranger of Eos and a pair of Wild Nacatl, not to mention the very large Knights of the Reliquary that he wasn’t playing (I think he was playing Jotun Grunt).

Game 2 I realized how unprepared I was for Umezawa’s Jitte, since I had cut the Qasali Pridemages and didn’t have anything in the sideboard for it. I figured that having a large amount of removal was sufficient, but this game I ended up getting beaten by a Tarmogoyf after having to waste a lot of removal on smaller guys.

Game 3 the deck did what it was supposed to do, and I was able to win on the back of Doug’s play mistake of Tribal Flames hitting my Tarmogoyf for 4 damage, even though he was a 3/4 with no sorcery in the graveyard. Afterwards, he used Deathmark on it, but then had no answer for my pair of Knights of the Reliquary that followed. I finished him off with a Tribal Flames for 5.


After the round, it was pretty apparent that Doug was mad at himself. We are friends and I told him to buck up and just keep his head on straight for the rest of the tournament. His list was pretty good, so he could do well as long as he didn’t make more mental errors. I gave Kali a call, as she asked me to do so after each round to let her know my record. Doug ended up doing very well through the rest of the tournament, which really helped my tiebreakers towards the end.

Round 2 against Tyler Brook playing Scapeshift

Game 1 he should have taken a mulligan. I put him on Scapeshift immediately after he played a tapped Stomping Ground on turn 1. He tried to bluff Zoo by saying something about Tarmogoyf, but he was pretty transparent about it. I ran out a Wild Nacatl and Tarmogoyf, and killed him with 2 Tribal Flames for 5 each. He didn’t play much, and openly admitted he should have mulliganed after losing the game.

Game 2 I side in Meddling Mages and Aven Mindcensors, as well as the second Forge-Tender. I sided out Path to Exiles and Ranger of Eos, since they are too slow to matter. Game 2 I get to a board state with Gaddock Teeg, Meddling Mage naming Firespout, and Meddling Mage naming Scapeshift just in case he gets rid of Gaddock Teeg. Since his only real out at that point was Into the Roil, I should have named that, since Gaddock Teeg locked out Repeals. He ended up using Into the Roil on the Meddling Mage naming Firespout, then destroying all my creatures with it except for Tarmogoyf. Luckily, he had so many cards to prevent me from killing him, that he didn’t have a lot of cards to search his deck for Scapeshift. This gave me infinite time to just kill him with dorks.


Round 3 against Ed Green playing Punishing Zoo

This match is a bit odd. Game 1 I had a really fast draw that allowed me to destroy him with Ranger of Eos after fetching some Wild Nacatls, but he could have killed me at any point had he topdecked a Lightning Bolt. Treetop Village and Noble Hierarch really ate up my life total, and my Tribal Flames were sorcery and unable to deal with the problem. However, he ended up having to block with the Treetop Village, and this allowed me to finish him off with a pair of Tribal Flames.

Game 2 I sided in Deathmarks, and used them to kill a pair of Knights of the Reliquary. I got him to the point where he was dead on board with no cards in hand, and only 1 Punishing Fire on the graveyard with 1 Grove of the Burnwillows in play, but he topdecked Baneslayer Angel while I had an empty hand. I was sitting at only 6 life, so the Angel swing and Punishing Fire killed me if I didn’t topdeck anything. I thinned my deck with a fetchland and topdecked….a Verdant Catacombs.

Game 3 was pretty awkward for me. I knew he had Blood Moon because after Game 2 he flipped one off the top of his deck, and immediately put it back and cursed under his breath for the mistake. This let me search out my Plains with my second fetchland on turn 2, and I cast a 1/2 Tarmogoyf before he could cast Blood Moon. However, I should have cast Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender and Kird Ape, which would have put him too far behind on the board to want to play Blood Moon on turn 2. I could have used the Forge-Tender to protect the Tarmogoyf from burn, and eventually killed him with it. But, with the play that I made, he was able to play a creature and a Lightning Bolt to kill Tarmogoyf, and eventually a Blood Moon sealed my fate. Baneslayer Angel helped.


Round 4 against Marshall Ashford playing UWG Martyr

I knew what Marshall was playing, and I knew it probably wasn’t a great matchup for me. Aggro decks in general are pretty horrible against Martyr, as they pack tons of removal and life gain, two things traditionally bad for decks trying to race. I was not very confident in my chances, but I could still win if Marshall’s draws were sub-par. Game 1 that exact scenario happened, and he mulliganed into a hand with 3 Plains, Kitchen Finks, and Martyr of Sands. My creatures just raced him, and he never drew Blue mana before I cast Gaddock Teeg. This shut down his Gifts Ungiven engine, as well as his Wrath effects, keeping him from being able to gain control of the board.

Game 2 I sided in Meddling Mage, since they were pretty good at naming his spot removal for Gaddock Teeg (who was the clear MVP). Marshall ended up having another fairly mediocre hand, which he revealed with Martyr. He stalled on 3 lands after using Mulldrifter, and I got in some beats while he played Kitchen Finks. I thought about it for a while, but figured using Path to Exile on Kitchen Finks was the right play, even though it gave him the fourth land to start casting business spells. I had Gaddock Teeg in play to shut down his mass removal, and resolved a Meddling Mage to name Path to Exile. He never drew a fifth land or a way to deal with Meddling Mage or Gaddock Teeg, and lost to a swarm of weenies. He showed me after the game that he had Bant Charm and Path to Exile in his deck for answers, but he had topdecked the Path to Exile after I named it with Meddling Mage.


Round 5 against JT Hendricks playing Dark Depths (my friend… and nemesis)

I’ve never beaten JT in a sanctioned match of Magic. At this point we are both 3-1, and the number of players in the event is just over the cutoff for 8 rounds. This means that most, if not all of the players at 6-1-1 will make Top 8. I have really good tiebreakers at this point, as my previous opponents are all doing well, and I just offer the draw to JT. I know his deck and it isn’t a great matchup for me. He decides that the offer is fair, as a loss will eliminate either of us at 3-1, and a draw will keep us both in contention.


Round 6 against Patrick Vincini playing Steppe Lynx Zoo

I saw this guy playing the round before and knew he was playing Zoo, and knew my hand was awesome when it contained 2 lands, 2 Wild Nacatl, 2 Tribal Flames, and Lightning Helix. I was on the play and led with the 3/3 kitty, and continued the beats while he developed his board with Wild Nacatl and Tarmogoyf. I swung with the two Nacatls, putting him at 9 life, as he had taken 2 damage from a Stomping Ground. I had 9 points of burn in hand, but my plan was a bit foiled when he used Molten Rain on my only White source. Luckily, he didn’t have a Plains in play so his Nacatl was only a 2/2. I used Lightning Helix on his Tarmogoyf, and continued to attack. When I topdecked a White source, Lightning Helix killed him on turn 5.

Game 2 I sided in Deathmarks and sided out Gaddock Teeg, since he was fairly useless. He had sided in Earthquakes (which I didn’t know about), and it almost blew me out. However, he made a pretty huge mistake in using Earthquake for 5 to kill my Tarmogoyfs, but not my Knight of the Reliquary. This put him in burn range as long as I drew a fetchland to pump my Knight, or another burn spell to finish the job. Luckily, I drew the fetchland and did 8 damage with Knight and 3 damage with Lightning Helix for exactsies.


Round 7 against Alex Sharfman playing Affinity

This match was pretty bad for me, since I had no dedicated hate in the sideboard or maindeck for artifacts. Path to Exile was less effective than normal, since almost all affinity decks play one Island now, simply because of the large number of Path to Exiles and Ghost Quarters in the format.

Game 1 I mulligan but have a solid opener, but no Paths. He uses an early Thoughtseize to strip a Lightning Helix out of my grip, but I have a lot of solid creatures in play. I get him to about 8 life when we stall out. He knows all of the cards in my hand except for one, and goes for the Ravager kill with Modular targeting a Blinkmoth Nexus, but I have the Lightning Helix. He said he went for it because his entire hand was lands, and didn’t want to give me infinite time to find an answer. His play was probably correct, but it ended up in my favor.

Game 2 he just rolled me with Path to Exile and multiple Arcbound Ravagers after I used Meddling Mage to name Master of Etherium. He obviously topdecked both Ravagers, but I can deal with Ravager much more easily than Master of Etherium, since Master is just really big and pumps your team while Ravager is only big if you sacrifice a lot of cards to it.

Game 3 he mulligans to 5, and almost destroys me. He uses Thoughtcast to get some power on the table with Frogmite and Arcbound Ravager. I get him down to a really low life total, and figure out that I can attack with everyone and put him to 5 life, and use the two Lightning Bolts from my hand to kill him. He ends up having Negate (!!!) for the second one, and counters the lethal burn spell. This also let him kill my Meddling Mage in combat that named Master of Etherium, and he was one point shy of being able to kill me on a counterattack. I drew blanks for a few turns and we went to time. I drew a Knight of the Reliquary that gave me a Ghost Quarter to keep from dying to Blinkmoth Nexus, but needed to draw a burn spell. He attacked with Master of Etherium for 9, but could not use Modular tricks to kill me at 15. I calculated it over and over, and deduced that he didn’t have Lightning Bolt, Shrapnel Blast, or Soul’s Fire since that would have put him at an incredible number of colored spells, and he was a good enough player not to be playing such things. This left me with a bit of a conundrum, as a counterattack was lethal if he didn’t have the third Path to Exile, and he may have just miscounted on his attack with the Master of Etherium. After thinking out my entire next turn before I drew, my draw step yielded a lethal Lightning Bolt, and he scooped after I cast it. Whew.


The next round should be win and in, as I’m sitting in 8th place with really good tiebreakers at this point.

Round 8 against Mike Huttman playing Steppe Lynx Zoo with extra Land Destruction

Mike is a guy who, like many, tries to be really innovative when it comes to open formats like Extended. He takes good decks and changes cards to make them throw his opponent off, while still having a lot of power behind them. He has made the Top 8 of every PTQ I’ve seen him at in the last 6 months, which is no easy task (since most PTQs in the south are over 150 people).

Game 1 is pretty awkward for me, as he uses Molten Rain to kill a Plains and a Stomping Ground, putting me pretty far behind in lands. However, he doesn’t have much gas to follow up the plan. He uses an Ajani Vengeant (!) to kill my Wild Nacatl, and I use a Lightning Bolt to kill his Ajani so he can’t shut down my lands. I topdeck a Green source and cast Tarmogoyf at 5/6, to which he never draws an answer. He plays a few blockers, including a Goblin Ruinblaster (!), but I draw a Lightning Bolt to kill him from 3 life.

Game 2 I mulligan into a hand with Kird Ape and 5 lands, which I think is probably good since he is probably planning on destroying some of my lands. I draw some removal, but not another creature before he kills me with Jotun Grunts and Wild Nacatls.

Game 3 I’m on the play and get a fast start with Wild Nacatl, Tarmogoyf, and Gaddock Teeg (which I had left in due to him playing Ajani Vengeant). His only players were Steppe Lynx and Wild Nacatl, and I used some burn to off them while I sent in the attack squad. Knight of the Reliquary played clean-up as a 5/5, and Tribal Flames sealed the deal, locking me for Top 8.


I call Kali and she squeals when I tell her how I’m doing. She promises a champion breakfast in the morning, win or lose. In my mind, I’ve already won. JT also made Top 8, and I secretly hope he loses so that I don’t have to play against him. I’m pretty sure I can’t beat Dark Depths without a lot of luck. JT is something of a local master, and I have literally never beaten him, though I have two ID’s with him. Maybe today will be different.

Top 8 against Brian Eason playing UB Faeries

This sucks because Brian loaned me most of the cards for my Zoo deck, so I feel bad about playing him. I win the die roll, and we’re off. I lead with a Kird Ape after a mulligan and get to beating. He plays a turn 1 Bitterblossom off Chrome Mox, and I start beating with dorks. I play a Gaddock Teeg and Tarmogoyf, which threaten lethal quickly as he doesn’t have a Spell Snare. He plays a Jitte on turn 2, which is pretty bad for me considering he has Bitterblossom in play. He doesn’t block with his token so he can start attacking with the equipped Faerie, but I have Path to Exile for it. He doesn’t have an answer and I eventually race his Jitte with a swarm of creatures.

In game 2, he plays Bitterblossom on turn 2, and Mistbind Clique on turn 4. This is pretty bad for me, but I have Path to Exile and a follow up Kird Ape. He ends up trading Mutavault and Bitterblossom tokens for most of my team, and has Spellsutter Sprite and Flashfreeze to counter some of my creatures. I lose the race against double Bitterblossom, and we’re onto game 3.

Game 3 starts with me playing Kird Ape, Tarmogoyf, Gaddock Teeg, and finally Meddling Mage. He doesn’t have much of an answer, as Meddling Mage named Mistbind Clique after I used a Lightning Helix to kill a Spellstutter Sprite in response to its effect (he had ran a naked Spellstutter Sprite into play already) which made it do nothing. He then used Deathmark to kill Tarmogoyf, but never drew another answer. After I topdecked Tribal Flames, it was over. His draw in Game 3 wasn’t that great, but I don’t think Faeries is a bad matchup for Zoo if you play the right cards. Meddling Mage and Gaddock Teeg can be very problematic for them, as you can name Doom Blade, Mistbind Clique, or Jitte with Meddling Mage and effectively shut down their biggest threats. Gaddock Teeg also kills their Cryptic Command and Damnations after boarding, so they can’t effectively wipe away your squad.


Top 4 against Joseph Greer playing Affinity

He mulligans to 5 in game 1, so it isn’t very difficult. I use some burn spells to kill Arcbound Ravager, and attack with some Kird Apes and Tarmogoyfs.

Game 2 he mulligans again, and I have another solid hand with Path to Exile, Tarmogoyf, and 2 burn spells. He runs out some dorks, and I topdeck Meddling Mage. I play it first, since I want to keep him off Master of Etherium, since he didn’t play a turn 2 Arcbound Ravager. He never puts up much of a fight, and I end up killing him from 10 with double Tribal Flames.

If you haven’t noticed yet, I really love Tribal Flames. That card is just amazing. After this match I see JT beat his opponent playing Hive Mind combo. Neither matchup is very good, but I’d rather face a random deck than a deck I know I’m not very good against. Hive Mind can’t easily deal with both Meddling Mage and Gaddock Teeg, but I also saw him cast Blood Moon and Firespout against his Zoo opponent in the first round of Top 8. Maybe Dark Depths was a better matchup for me…

Finals against JT Hendricks playing Dark Depths

Game 1 I mulligan a one-lander into a solid six-card hand, but without Path to Exile. I try to bluff it when JT has the nut draw of turn 2 Dark Depths and Urborg into Vampire Hexmage. However, he calls my bluff and I’m dead on the spot.

Game 2 is a drawn out affair where I get an active Knight of the Reliquary, and use it to tutor up Ghost Quarter. However, he uses Beseech the Queen for Pithing Needle and shuts me down. I have drawn a Path to Exile after he had used a few discard spells on me, so he doesn’t know about it. He uses Doom Blade on my Gaddock Teeg, and Damnation shortly after. He goes for the combo when I have lethal on board, and I show him the Path. A few turns later he dies to a topdecked Tarmgoyf.

Game 3 is rough when he plays Vendilion Clique and a Chalice of the Void on 1. He counters my Tribal Flames on his Vendilion Clique with Muddle the Mixture, and plays Engineered Explosives on 2, since he knows I have two-drops in hand and a Meddling Mage in play. I don’t draw enough gas, and can’t cast creatures or race. I draw a Knight of the Reliquary that gets killed by Slaughter Pact, and I figure that my only way to win is to jokingly blow the counter off the top of his deck. This gets a laugh from the crowd, but I end up topdecking a Lightning Bolt on the last turn that is countered by Chalice of the Void. JT wins yet another PTQ, and I don’t.

I learned a bit about my deck from this tournament, but mostly that I like it a lot. A few cards need to be changed, but other than that it seemed really solid. I felt like my sideboard and the Gaddock Teegs gave me good game against Combo, and I the Rangers of Eos gave me a plan in the mirror. Bant Charm might be the best card for beating everything in the format, so I might audible into the 4-Color Saito Zoo deck for the next PTQ, but JT beat a guy in the quarterfinals playing that exact list, so it might not be worth it. Hopefully, the lack of Dark Depths and its difficulty to play will keep people from playing it too much, since it is very unforgiving. Even I am not confident in my abilities with the deck, since I have played it very little and can get none of the cards for it.

What I do know is that the Top 8 consisted of Dredge, Hive Mind, 3 Zoo variants, Dark Depths, Affinity, and UB Faeries. No Zoo deck was the same, and the format is clearly healthy and diverse. The better players in the tournament were helped by their skill, and that is something I am really fond of in a format. As long as you have ways to beat anything, you can get a little lucky and play well and just get there. I wish I had gotten lucky in the finals, but I know I made some sideboarding errors that really cost me. Knowing he has Chalice, and he will definitely name X=1 to stop Path to Exile, I should have sided out Lightning Bolt instead of Lightning Helix. I could have potentially kept myself in the game against JT had I done this, but I don’t think I was going to win anyway. I had a lot of dead draws, and no way to deal with Chalice of the Void. I was really missing Qasali Pridemage throughout the tournament, so he might get the nod back into the deck. I like that guy a lot, but I just figured you played either him or Gaddock Teeg, and the latter was just incredible all day.

Overall, I had a fantastic experience, and felt like I played some of the best Magic of my life. I minimized my mistakes, and the ones I made were very subtle, and usually a judgment call. The deck could have been a few cards different to make it a bit better, but it performed well, and I can’t ask for too much more than a finals appearance in its first outing. I have a solid deck for the PTQ in two weeks, but not so much for the Standard $5K. Hopefully we’ll be able to brew something up again and shake up the world again! Kali has been itching to battle Standard some more, and it always makes me smile when people ask, “Hey, aren’t you Kali Anderson?”

Thanks for reading.

Todd Anderson
strong sad on MTGO