Does The Clock Really Kill On Turn 3? Why, Yes It Does!

Nice to meet you; I’m Yann Hamon. I have had recent successes on the Pro Tour circuit, playing at Grand Prix: London, Grand Prix: Lyon and Pro Tour: New Orleans, finishing second, first, and third, which is not too bad. Consequently, my composite rating is actually over 2150, and I’m ranked second in the world. Also, I was the second half of the Labarre concession controversy.

I’m going to tell you this story and other interesting ones (at least I hope so) in my report. The report may also contain useful information for your Extended PTQ season – at least until Wizards finally decides to ban some cards and change the format.

Hello, dear readers,

Nice to meet you; I’m Yann Hamon. I have had recent successes on the Pro Tour circuit, and I was the second half of the Labarre concession controversy. I’m going to tell you this story and other interesting ones (at least I hope so) in my report below. The report may also contain useful information for your Extended PTQ season, at least until Wizards finally decides to ban some cards and change the format.

But before I do that, I have to apologize for any poor English you see – many of you may hear my French accent through my writings. Now on to the report.

This report has to start a lot before the tournament itself, when my good old teammate Nicolas Labarre e-mailed me a decklist of a Goblin Charbelcher/Mana Severance deck with this interesting side note:”I played ten goldfish games with this deck on Apprentice, and made six turn 3 kills and three turn 4 kills.” Ouch.

At this point I really had no ideas for this Pro Tour, except the bad Psychatog/ Isochron Scepter deck everybody had found, so I quickly built the deck (essentially by writing card names on Mountain), and started a great series of goldfishes.

After two hundred games dispatched in a week, half in the play situation, half in the draw, I was sure I was going to play the deck in New Orleans. With the deck achieving 44% turn 3 kills, 38% turn 4 kills, and only 18% of”fumble” (which include, essentially, the turn 5 kills), I was more than happy with the statistics. Some playtesting against real decks (especially the almighty U/G Madness, but also The Rock, Tinker/Chalice of the Void, and Goblins), convinced us that the deck was certainly the best in the field in game one. The deck seemed obvious and was very popular among French players, so we were convinced a week before (during Grand Prix: Lyon) that all the good teams would play it, or something built to beat it. But we chose to play it anyway – after all, we had nothing even half as good.

The long flight from Paris to New Orleans was the occasion to develop and test a sideboard, and for the third player who joined us to learn how to play the deck. For all those who are interested by playing The Clock at a PTQ (which remains a really good choice), don’t forget that you’ll have to do your homework, just like Pro Tour veteran Pierre Malherbaud did. Before the flight he didn’t know how to play the deck because he thought the turn 3 kills were too rare. After his required eighty goldfish games (with some explanations from Master Labarre himself), he reached his 40% turn 3 kill, and felt a lot more confident with the deck.

After this flight and a last afternoon of testing on Bourbon Street, we opted for the list we played during the Pro Tour – something halfway, I think, between Nicolas’s starting decklist, and what I’d play tomorrow if I had to do it again.

4 Mana Severance

4 Goblin Charbelcher

4 Tinker

4 Brainstorm

4 Duress

4 Grim Monolith

4 Talisman of Dominance

1 Talisman of Progress

3 Chrome Mox

4 Vampiric Tutor

3 Mystical Tutor

1 Mindslaver

1 Thran Dynamo

1 Rushing River

4 Ancient Tomb

4 City of Traitors

4 Polluted Delta

3 Underground River

2 Island

1 Swamp


3 Defense Grid

2 Chill

2 Lobotomy

2 Stifle

1 Cursed Totem

1 Engineered Plague

1 Platinum Angel

1 Propaganda

1 Steal Artifact

1 Welding Jar

So let’s go to the report already, as there are eighteen rounds to cover!

Halloween Day, Round 1: Dave Williams, Goblin Food Chain

I wasn’t particularly happy to start the day with such a good player, especially because I always have some doubts about my deck at the beginning of Constructed tournaments. I probably wasn’t confident enough at this point, and this match didn’t help me at all.

Dave won the toss and kept his opening hand. I kept too, having the turn 3 kill already in hand. Dave played land, Chrome Mox, Goblin Recruiter, searching out the usual assortment of Goblin Piledrivers and Goblin Ringleaders. It seemed that he had the turn 3 kill too, and that I had to find something better. I played Ancient Tomb, Talisman, go. During his second turn, he didn’t play a land, but instead cast another Chrome Mox and a Goblin Warchief, with two cards left in hand. It was the end of my first opponent’s second turn, and I had to think for a long time.

With a Mystical Tutor in hand, I had to choose between Mana Severance to go for the turn 3 kill, hoping he had no second land and couldn’t kill me on his next turn, or Rushing River to try to gain a turn or two, returning Warchief and a Mox in his hand. After five full minutes of thinking on my part, Dave called a judge, and I made a decision. The Rushing River plan was too crappy, so I just searched Severance and prayed. Unfortunately, he had kept a land, and killed me next turn on the next turn.

Sideboard: (the same for all Goblin decks):

+2 Chill, +1 Welding Jar, +1 Platinum Angel, +1 Propaganda ; -1 Thran Dynamo, – 1 Talisman of Progress, -1 Mindslaver , -1 Mystical Tutor, – 1 Goblin Charbelcher.

As bad as my first game was, the second one was a lot worse. I couldn’t do anything, cause Dave managed to kill me on turn 5 after playing a Damping Matrix on turn 2. When I played a Duress and saw another Matrix and two Rack and Ruins, I was thinking that it would be a really long and painful day if everybody had something like Dave’s sideboard.

Matches 0-1, Games 0-2.

Round 2: Thomas Neumaïer, Tinker without Chalice

Thomas is a solid German player, but maybe I had a little psychological advantage because I played him for Day 2 the week before in Lyon and won.

This game didn’t start well, because I lost the die roll. In spite of another good draw for me, I couldn’t kill him on my turn 3, because on his third turn he Tinkered for a Damping Matrix when I already had a Charbelcher on the table, and he didn’t have enough mana to use a Mindslaver. The good point was that a Tinker deck is far less impressive with Damping Matrix on the table, so he didn’t play anything dangerous during the next three turns, and that was long enough for me to find a Rushing River for the Damping Matrix and kill him.

Sidebaord: +1 Steal Artifact, +2 Stifle, +1 Lobotomy, -1 Talisman of Progress, -1 Thran Dynamo, -1 Mystical Tutor, – 1 Goblin Charbelcher

In this game Thomas had a pretty slow start – he did nothing other than play a second turn Grim Monolith. When I played my second turn Belcher, he had to find a good solution. On his next turn, he didn’t have enough mana to play Tinker for a Mindslaver and try to kill me, so he searched out his Damping Matrix again. This time I played Steal Artifact on it, cast my Mana Severance, and just waited for my own Tinker to sacrifice the Matrix and kill him. A few turns later I won this match.

After a 2-0 under a Damping Matrix turn 3, on the draw, in both games, I felt a little more confident about my chances to make Day 2.

Matches 1-1, Games 2-2

Round 3: Simone Carboni, Goblins with Charbelcher

There aren’t a lot of things to say about this match. I won the die roll, and quietly killed him on turn 4 in the first game, just like in our playtest games (without Food Chain, Goblins decks often have a lethal one-turn delay against The Clock). In the second game, he didn’t draw his sideboard, and even though he played and had a turn 4 kill in hand, I just killed him a turn before (Do you see a pattern somewhere?).

Matches 2-1; games 4-2

Round 4: Doug Azzano, Junk

Usually during a Pro Tour, you have to face players who can be ranked from quite good to Kai Budde… Even that guy you never saw before who’s playing his first Pro Tour, fought hard in the PTQs this year, and has some decent skills.

Sometimes, though, there is also a more casual player who was really, really lucky in his PTQ, and won his ticket for the Tour with his Goblin deck, or the four legendary monsters he opened in Limited despite three mistakes he made in each match.

Doug Azzano was probably one of those guys.

I lost the die roll again, we both kept our hand, and he opened with a Treetop Village – obviously, at this point I thought he was playing The Rock or Oath of Druids. During my turn I played Duress, and he revealed a Naturalize, two Brushlands, a Forest, and two Anurid Brushoppers, so I left him with his two 3/4s. He played the first one on turn 3. I laid some mana, Mana Severanced, and cast a second Duress, which probably saved me because he had just drawn an Armadillo Cloak! After a violent offensive from the Anurid and Village, I killed him and we went to game two.

This one was even more lopsided, because he gave me a fifty-nine card deck. After this he kindly let me have a look in this deck, and among assorted goodies such as River Boa, Exalted Angel, and Rancor, I was surprised (but not too surprised), to find four Soltari Foot Soldiers.

Matches 3-1, Games 6-2

Round 5: Ueno Sazuku, Tinker without Chalice

There is also not a lot to say about this round. My opponent wasn’t playing a Japanese silly tech deck; he was playing a classic Tinker deck, which is certainly a good matchup for The Clock. I won the die roll, cast Duress in game 1 to take a Tinker away, and won on my fourth turn. I saw a Phyrexian Processor in his hand, which is not really the best card to have when I have so many Mindslavers maindecked.

In game two, my draw was pretty insane. He played a Metalworker turn 2, I cast Vampiric Tutor at the end of it, and played Steal Artifact on turn 2 with some help from my Talisman of Dominance. He laid a mana artifact, while I merely played and activated my Mindslaver. Obviously he had a Tinker in hand, and a Phyrexian Processor waiting in his deck. Hmm…

Matches 4-1, Games 8-2

So after my difficult start, everything went right; Nicolas Labarre and Pierre Malherbaud were respectively at 4-1 and 3-2, so the deck performed really well. A great bonus was that with these quick rounds, I had a lot of time to look and hear the incredible stories of this Pro Tour like,”Hey! You know what? Somebody imprinted a Final Fortune on an Isochron Scepter with Platinum Angel in play!”

(What, you didn’t see that deck? It was insane! – Knut)

Round 6: Christophe Gregoire, Goblins with Charbelcher

I lost the die roll again, but in the first game he just had the Mox, double-Piledriver draw. That means a turn 4 kill, and I had better.

In game 2, he drew his artifact removal and a Goblin Recruiter on the play, so he won, in spite of a Chill and a Propaganda on my side of the board. Game 3 was pretty interesting – he was low on pressure, but able to slow me down with Rack and Ruin. Because he destroyed my Monolith, I couldn’t play my Belcher and use it in the same turn, so I just played the artifact and said”go.” He destroyed that too, and his guys attacked for enough damage to surely kill me next turn. I had a Tinker left in hand, but I had to draw an artifact to survive. I obviously drew a Chrome Mox and exchanged it for a Platinum Angel. Five bad draws later he lost, and I was a lock for Day 2.

Matches: 5-1, Games 10-3

Round 7: Daniel Zink, Goblins with Black

Mr. World Champion played an interesting version of Goblins using Vampiric Tutor. That is certainly good for the deck stability – four Goblin Recruiters may not be enough – but that didn’t help for speed, so the first game scenario was classic: I lost the die roll, he missed the turn 3 kill, and never saw a turn 4.

The second game, like always against Goblins, was a lot harder. He played a Piledriver turn 1, Rack and Ruined my mana turn 2, then played another goblin and a Charbelcher the next turn. At this point I had six mana left from my lands, one card in hand and I hadn’t cast Mana Severance yet. After his attack I was down to six. There was no way I could kill him next turn, but in order to be really sure he played a Damping Matrix. Unfortunately for Daniel, that wasn’t his play of the week, because I drew an artifact and Tinkered for a Platinum Angel that he could no longer kill with his Charbelcher. Five turns later the game was over.

Matches: 6-1, Games: 12-3

Round 8: Gabe Walls, YMG Scepter Oath

I don’t remember exactly what happened in this game, except for two things: Gabe was a nice opponent, and I drew more Duresses and Lobotomies than he drew Counterspells.

The sideboard plan against permission deck may be more interesting for you now, as three Defense Grids, two Lobotomies, and Steal Artifact came in (and also a Platinum Angel against Blue-Black decks), instead of the Thran Dynamo (which shouldn’t be in the deck at all), a Chrome Mox, a Rushing River, and the three Mystical Tutors – you can’t go out that fast against Counterspell, so you can’t afford to lose too much card advantage.

Matches: 7-1, Games: 14 -3

Labarre was at 6-2 and Malherbaud at 5-3, so the return to our hostel was a happy one, even though we had to ignore the Halloween party to try and get some useful hours of sleep.

Saturday, Round 9: Emanuele Canavesi, Psychatog

Emanuele was undefeated before this round. I won the toss, and killed him turn 4 with Duress backup and enough mana too deal with Force Spike and Mana Leak – two spells that merely allowed him not to lose on turn 3.

Game two I mulliganed down to five (which should happen a lot with this deck, but wasn’t the case Day 1). I managed to force him to discard a card, but had no way to go off. He played a Tog with nothing left in hand. I had a Monolith, a Swamp, two Underground Rivers and an Ancient Tomb. One turn later I played a Mindslaver, tapping my Monolith. He countered it. Then we both passed the turn.

At this point he could put me down to one with his Tog, and leave me with just one Black and two colorless mana available. In order to keep an Accumulated Knowledge in his graveyard, he put me down to two instead. Then I drew Tinker, cast it with one of my Underground Rivers, searched out a Platinum Angel, and won five turns later.

Matches: 8-1, Games 16-3

Round 10: Richard Hoaen, Goblins

At this point we had access to the decklists, and I wasn’t really happy to see that Richard played Damping Matrix, Mogg Salvage, and Pulverize in his board.

He won the die roll and kept. I mulliganed and kept something that could kill him turn 3 if I topdeck the right cards. Surprisingly, despite a turn 2 Recruiter, he missed a land drop and wasn’t able to kill me on turn 4. I didn’t miss him on my own turn 4.

Goblins players, I have a piece of advice for you: If your hand can’t kill a Charbelcher deck by turn 4 in the first game, take a mulligan.

Game two was one of the awful kinds of matches you can get against Goblins after sideboard, where, despite Propaganda on your side, their Damping Matrix and artifact removal are just too much for the deck to handle.

Game three it was my turn to make a stupid mistake – he had a low-pressure start including a turn 2 Sparksmith, and on turn 3 I could play Duress before playing a Charbelcher and killing him next turn, with Tinker backup. I saw Damping Matrix and a Pulverize. Then, for no reason, I took the Matrix, even though I knew I didn’t have the time to play the combo again if he broke the Belcher. So he played a goblin and his Pulverize, and I lost. If I took the Pulverize I could have Tinkered for an Angel, and his Sparksmith would have been shut down by his own Matrix.

Matches 8-2 ; Games 17-5

Round 11: Gabriel Nassif, mono-Blue Charbelcher

As you may know, Gabriel played the mono-Blue version, which has a better mana base but fewer Tutors and no Duress, and just loses in the pseudo-mirror match. He won the die roll, but unlike him, I found the turn 3 kill.

In the second game he feared my Lobotomy, so he tapped out turn 4 to play a Charbelcher with no Severance, but with Annul in his hand. I just played my own Goblin Charbelcher, and killed him on the next turn.

Matches 9-2; games 19-5

Round 12: Adam Horvath, Tinker with Chalice

Adam had an interesting way to beat me game 1: After his turn 1 Metalworker, I Duressed him to leave him with only a Phyrexian Colossus and mana. He played the Colossus on turn 2, then the big monster and his Metalworker dude attacked me the next two turns, so I couldn’t cast the needed Vampiric Tutor to kill him turn 4.

Luckily for me, I had two nutdraws in the other games… Especially in game 3, when, despite a first-turn Chalice for one in his part, I managed to cast Severance and Tinker on turn 2.

Matches 11-2; games 21-6

Round 13: Hans Joachim Hoh, Tinker with Red

I won’t be too long on this match because it was a Feature Match covered on this very site. There was a lot of tension, essentially because Joachim threw the crowd a pretty unfair”Do you like it?” after a spectacular Metalworker, Stroke of Genius, Tinker, Bosh, Iron Golem series of plays on the 875th turn after an incredible board-full-of-mana-and-no-action-on-my-side series of plays from me, (and to be fair, a Damping Matrix from him).

Game two I mulliganed down to four. On turn 3 I cast my last card, Mana Severance, with a Monolith and three Islands in play. During his turn, he played a Dynamo, and then a Gilded Lotus, tapping his Rishadan Port in the process. Obviously, I drew Tinker and won.

In game 3, I just drew some Duresses to dispatch his few active cards and won.

Matches 12-2, Games 23-7

Round 14: Stuart Wright, mono-Blue Charbelcher

The winner of this match would make Top 8, and I knew I had a pretty good matchup because his deck had too much mana, no defense maindeck, and nothing after sideboarding that could be compared to Duress and Lobotomy.

Nevertheless, he won the die roll, and killed me turn 3 before I could do it to him. The second game was identical, except the exact opposite.

In game three I didn’t kill him early at all, but it wasn’t a problem, because I had three Duress in my first hand and topdecked the fourth.

Matches 13-2, Games 25-8, and we can stop the count now because I was a quasi-lock for Top 8.

Round 15 Nicolas Labarre

I was really, really happy to concede to Nicolas at this point, even if I still needed a draw to be locked in the Top 8. After all, it was a good thing to be in the Top 8 with a friend playing exactly the same deck. We decided to split entirely if we had to play each other at this point.

Round 16 Eugene Harvey – Intentional Draw

Quarterfinals Nicolas Labarre

Now let’s go to the phantom quarter.

I was second at the end of the swiss, and Nicolas was seventh, so we had to play together. Bad times. We also had to change our plane, which appeared to be a real problem, because nothing was left for Monday for less than fifteen hundred dollars. After some discussions we arrived to the only logical conclusion – we had to try to play on Saturday evening, so one of us could make his plane, get back to work on time and save $750 for each of us.

We went to the DCI, and explained our situation as clearly as possible. Their firsts reaction seemed positive – it seemed that they preferred a real match on Saturday evening to a non-match on Sunday. But after a long briefing, they arrived to the conclusion that it wasn’t possible to play on Saturday, because it would have created a precedent, something we totally understood.

After we checked with all the judges around to be sure there wouldn’t be any sanctions if one of us didn’t show up, we played the quarterfinal ourselves, outside of the Magic area, in a comfortable food court in the Convention Center, with some French players as witnesses.

The match went to five games, with brutal”topdecks to kill you before I die” on both sides. I was especially lucky to draw a Mana Severance and kill him, just before he killed me in the fourth game, when Nicolas was already up in the game count by two games to one.

My Sunday on the Pro Tour was pretty strange. I came to the site at eight, and found a return ticket when the others were playing their quarterfinal. Then, like you may have seen in the match coverage, Rickard Osterberg and his Tinker Stax deck crushed me in three straight games. I didn’t even have a chance in this match. In the third game, after a double mulligan on my side, he managed to kill me turn 3 with a hasted Bosh he played on turn 2. Perhaps I had been lucky enough during the last seven days.

A Side Note For The Players Who Are Interested In The Clock For The PTQ Season:

This version is still quite good. In my mind, you have to exchange the Thran Dynamo for another Talisman of Progress, and the Rushing River for a Chain of Vapor, and you then run with it. Just check before the tournament that you can consistently kill on turn 3. As my report has shown, this is the real strength of the deck.

The Tinker Stax deck is actually your worst matchup, but it’s far from unwinable. Another problem could came from really heavy-metagamed decks, like a version of The Rock with four maindeck Uktabi Orangutan or the like – but hey, you can’t have a deck that beats everything, can you?

Best of luck at your PTQs,

Yann Hamon