For those uninterested in a Sealed deck listing, a tourney report, and what I think I should have built instead of the deck I did build: You can turn away now. I personally love seeing lists of cards opened in a Sealed deck, I look through the colours and start building decks on paper before I move on to what the writer really built and look to see why they chose a card I didn’t. I know not everyone feels the same way, but as we’re in the PTQ: Nice season, I thought I’d lend a hand as much as I can, without providing a Wise-like card-by-card breakdown – I mean, I don’t know anything about Limited anyway…
So; Saturday morning, my alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. That kind of time should be reserved for the beasts and birds, not humans who don’t like getting up. I tried to encourage Tarik to come along, but he didn’t want to leave his room, and so I trudged over to meet Chris, who was head judging the PTQ and driving down there. Two hours of foggy, dangerous roads later, we entered Southampton and managed to find Hidden Fortress, where the PTQ was to be held.
I hadn’t been to Hidden Fortress before and didn’t know the guys running it, but they were both very friendly and the shop looked to be a model of a gaming store: Well lit, spacious, and with all the games and books they had clearly arranged on clean bookcases around the room. It makes a real change to go somewhere nice and friendly; I’ve been to too many shops that look dirty, sordid even. Places you wouldn’t want your girlfriend to go – hell she’d probably take one look and leave!
So, we were there before 9 a.m., expecting a 9 a.m. registration open for a 10 a.m. start.
“Tourney is going to start at 11 a.m.”
Hmm. That’s an hour of valuable sleep I’ve missed out on for nothing.
The tourney started to fill up. At only forty places (Hidden Fortress isn’t that big, but have assured us that they’re looking for a bigger venue), it’d been fully prebooked and quickly we hit the limit. A few people didn’t show and their places were quickly taken up by hopefuls who’d shown up”just in case.”
The tourney kicked off without incident and we registered the decks. The deck I registered had some nice green and red cards in it, but not enough to go two colours. White, black, and blue all had a few good cards, but it looked like it’d be hard to build correctly. It ended up in the hands of David Ball, a well-known player in England, and he took it to the semifinals.
After the deck swap, it looked like I might have a good chance. Here’s the list of cards I had to work with:
Cabal Surgeon x2
Psychotic Haze x2
Words of Wisdom
Nostalgic Dreams (foil)
Rites of Spring
Price of Glory
Looking at the colours you can see that white and green have a number of good cards each, but not enough to be a main colour. Red also has some good cards, but most of them are spells, not creatures, and some of those fit into more aggressive decks. Looking at black and blue, we see the bulk of what we’re going to play. Almost all of blue is playable, and offers us some good counters, bounce and creatures. Black has more bad cards, but the majority are playable, especially compared with the other colours.
Here’s the deck I eventually played:
Yes, a forty-one card deck. There are lots of expensive cards in the deck, and so eighteen land seemed very necessary. I didn’t feel that twenty-two cards were enough to play with, and adding one extra land to a twenty-three spell, seventeen-land deck just tipped the balance enough for me to be happy.
I toyed with the idea of adding a third colour – either Kirtar’s Desire, Angelic Wall and Aven Cloudchaser from White or a few of the Red spells. I felt that the Wall and the Desire would give me the defence this seemingly slow deck would need. The Red would give me some more removal, but with only fourteen creatures, I’d have to eat into some of the spells – and in the end, I decided to stick to U/B.
There were a few cards I’d normally play that I left out. I’d normally drop Words of Wisdom into a build like this, but mainly because I’m normally short on good cards – not this time, and so it stays out. I also left out the Stupefying Touch. It’s a cantrip, and a cheap one at that, but it can shut down so many annoying creatures it’s often worth playing. I felt that the spells I was playing were better – in hindsight, I should have chosen it over the Churning Eddy…
So – on to the tourney. I picked up my land and sleeved up my deck. The pairings went up, and I saw my first-round opponent was to be Scott Wills. Scott has represented England at the Worlds at least once, and is a very well-known player. I’d really like to win, but I don’t know my deck yet and he is amazing at Limited. Hopefully, I’ll be lucky.
Round 1: Scott Wills
Scott was playing a U/B deck, too, splashing white, and we both settled down for a control match. My deck gave me a few creatures, but not enough good ones to apply much pressure and Scott started to use a little removal and cast creatures of his own to gain control. Midway through the game, I saw my opportunity and cast Upheaval, floating some mana to cast out an Aquamoeba that turn. The Upheaval happened and I dropped my trusty 1/3 guy. Scott played a land and next turn I drew and attacked, making him a 3/1 guy and coming in for three.
What I didn’t realise was that this was a bad move. I was throwing cards away, and in two turns Scott dropped a blocker, then another, then another. Soon I was overwhelmed by his creatures, thanks to the card disadvantage I willingly put myself through. Scott finished off the first game.
“You’re playing very slowly, Jim – we’re not going to finish three games unless you speed up.”
“I know, I’m sorry – but it looks like you’ve got the upper hand now, eh?”
Scott quite rightly pointed out that I was taking far too long on simple things. My real problem was lack of knowledge. In Standard, I know what cards are in people’s decks. I know what they could have in their hands – simply put the options are much less at a high level. In Limited, they could be playing anything in their two or three colour deck, and it takes me far too long to work out what tricks they could have. I’m hoping that more practice with Torment and Odyssey will solve this problem.
I added in my Stupefying Touch for his Healer and a couple of other annoying creatures he had and we kicked off the next game. For the first five turns, Scott was screwed for mana and I dropped land after land, followed by the best creatures I could find. It took a little time, but the early advantage paid off and I managed to pull out a win.
Scott was understandably annoyed – I’d played so slowly in the first game that we had only a few minutes for the next game. I offered the draw, but Scott wanted to play – fair enough. We started and Scott had to mulligan straight away, the game quickly ended in a draw.
I apologised to Scott for taking so long – it is my first Limited PTQ in a long time, and Limited is by far my worst format – he kind of shrugged and left the table. I guess he was disappointed at not getting an easy win.
Matches: 0-0-1, Games: 1-1
Round 2: Rachel Gibley
I sat down opposite Rachel and she was on zero points; I’d been paired down. I crossed my fingers and hoped that my I’d be able to pull out a win.
In game one, I quickly found myself on the back foot, struggling to cope with all of Rachel’s little critters. Crypt Rats, Mad Dog, and lots of friends were beating me in, but I managed to get some good blockers on the table and slowed her to a crawl. I stabilised on eight life and started flying in with some creatures of my own for the win.
Games two and three, Rachel’s deck worked”the best it did all day,” as she said at the end of the tourney. I was on the back foot from turn one, and although she made mistakes in both games – including regenerating her Dirty Wererat every time I blocked it with my Aquamoeba – I just couldn’t cope with all of her small creatures, as she used all of her removal to keep my side of the table largely empty.
Rachel won 2-1. This game started me thinking that I should have played a third colour. The red spells would have given me more spot removal, whilst the white would have given me a little more defence. Without one or the other, my deck came out of the blocks very slowly, really needing five land on the table to do much.
Matches: 0-1-1, Games: 2-3
So, two rounds in and no win to show for it. I’m not out of the running yet, as 4-1-1 should make the top eight, but I’m certainly not favourite for the title right now.
Round 3: Guy Brew
I’m not sure I’ve played Guy before or not, but I’ve seen him at almost every PTQ I’ve been to and he’s a regular Nationals competitor. We’re both in the 1-1-1 bracket, and the winner gets to stay in the running.
Game one was a walk in the park; Guy didn’t see enough creatures to cause me any trouble and I bounced or killed anything looking vaguely dangerous. I finished him off with a Morbid Hunger to leave myself at twenty life.
Game two was a different story: Guy had all the spells and creatures, whilst I could only manage a few. Pretty quickly, a Sengir Vampire had joined Guy’s team and administered enough damage for the rest of Guy’s guys to finish me off.
So a final game with not too much time left on the clock. We both came out of the blocks pretty quickly, but Guy got lots of early damage in. I carefully killed a few of Guy’s creatures and knocked a few more points off his life. Then time was called.
Guy was at nine life; I was at three, and Guy had a Sengir in play. I drew enough fliers to keep the (now 6/6) Sengir at bay whilst my small creatures slipped in to drop Guy down to three life, ready for a Morbid Hunger in my Graveyard to finish him off.
Matches: 1-1-1, Games: 4-4
It was the closest game I had all day, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Props to Guy for being one of the nicest guys on the PTQ circuit in England.
Round 4: Phil Pettifer
Phil is a good player. Even more than that: he’s a really good Limited player, and beat me last time I played him (at a PTQ for LA). I don’t know what he’s playing, but I’m sure it’ll be a tough game.
Game one, we both had a slow start, but Phil provides the early beats, dropping me to ten life. I drop my Grotesque Hybrid to try and slow him down, but he has the answer in hand: Faceless Butcher. Luckily, I have seven lands in play and an Upheaval in hand. Next turn, I play the Upheaval, returning the Butcher to Phil’s hand and making my 3/3 Hybrid the only permanent in play. I lay a land and say go.
Three turns later, Phil is beginning to recover, but I have knocked him down to eight life and cast a bunch of other creatures. One removal spell in his end step removes a crucial blocker, and my guys come in for the win.
Game two I stuck with a two-land hand and quickly ran into problems. I got up to three land, and Phil dropped a card he’d sideboarded in: Braids, Cabal Minion. I quickly killed it, but not before I’d lost a land. Luckily for me, I ran into a land glut, allowing me to cast a few spells to slow down Phil’s attack until I hit seven mana. Upheaval hit the stack and Phil picked everything up, whilst I dropped a land and played Aquamoeba. A few turns later I was in the lead again, having dropped a few land, played some more creatures, and attacking with threshold-enabled Wererats. The game ended quickly after that.
Matches: 2-1-1, Games: 6-4
That match was won by a power rare. Phil didn’t make any mistakes, he didn’t open himself up at all, and both times I cast Upheaval I was on the back foot – Phil was clearly in control. Although you can win matches without ’em, power rares really help you win those tricky match ups.
So, I’m still in it; next round, please?
Round 5: Ralph Tittensor
My notes on this match are a little shaky, but I was in control for most of the first game. I opened a hand with my Shade in, and so cast a bunch of creatures to try and get Ralph to use up lots of removal. As soon as I had some spare mana (as Ralph was playing Green/Black with a Red splash for burn), I dropped the Shade. It went all the way, swampwalking its way to a game win. The next game, Ralph had a bad land glut as I cast spell after spell. We stalled for a while, but the Shade popped into my hand, I cast him and rode him to victory – swampwalkers are so good in this format…
Matches: 3-1-1, Games: 8-4
What a comeback! After being 0-1-1 on round two I’m 3-1-1 and I only need to win the last game to make the Top 8! Fingers crossed.
Round 6: David Lewis
David was playing a Green/Red/Blue deck, pretty much even in the colours, and the only way I can describe what happened is that I was run over. David’s deck had answers to every card I cast. Game one, he won at nineteen life; game two, he won on 18. He cast creatures, killed my creatures, and countered every emergency spell I tried to cast.
Matches: 3-1-2, games: 8-6
David ended up 4-2 and came in 12th, so neither of us made Top 8. As I finished 14th of 40 for the day. I watched the finals, as I had to wait for Chris to drive us home, and we eventually got back at 1:30 a.m. in the morning. Tim O’Donnell won and so you’ll be seeing him at PT: Nice.
Throughout the day, I had niggling thoughts that my deck could have been better – and I’m now convinced it could have been much better – with the addition of three red cards. Unlike Type II, Limited is slow enough to allow you to draw the wrong coloured land, and you shouldn’t be afraid of playing three colours. I put too much emphasis on having a two-colour deck when I should have splashed.
In hindsight, here’s the deck I should have built:
I’d drop the Dreamwinder because, although a 4/3 guy, he often ended up blocking and killing a creature. The Lunatic can do that just as well, as well as take out an annoying Healer or Decoy. The Thermal Blast is plan better than a Churning Eddy, but the Sonic Seizure and Restless Dreams serve different purposes. The Dreams let me get a few, key creatures back when I need them – but I often found myself with few cards in hand. The Seizure will help me kill annoying creatures and free up the skies a little more – as I have six fliers (including the Hybrid) to do my dirty work for me, it will also allow me to play games with the Wererat and Horror should I need to gain threshold fast.
All in all I had a great day, and probably learnt a lot about some of the Torment cards. I got to watch a boatload of OBC get played and picked up a few ideas for decks.
Hopefully you enjoyed this report, and I hope you had fun building your own Sealed deck. If you think there are other builds that are better, please feel free to email me. I’ll look forward to any info you can throw my way.