Double or Nothing: PTQ Amsterdam in London *Top 8*

I missed the boat with this build, I really did. Lumengrid Warden? Lumengrid Sentinel? What was I playing at? I figured that the 1/3 guys would slow my opponent down a little to enable me to get to the late game, where my Mirror Golem, Vorrac and Grab the Reins would rule supreme! So how in the world did I make the Top 8?

I don’t get a chance to play sealed deck as often as I’d like. I’m normally running the Pre-releases in Bath and I’m often too tired to go over to nearby Bristol the following day to play. When I have played lately I’ve not done too badly and so this weekend’s PTQ Amsterdam in London, given that I was going to be there anyway, was too tempting to miss.

I stopped over at a friend’s house and got to the venue (The Arc, part of South Bank University Students Union) at about 10am. As with every tourney it started a little late but, with one hundred six players and the biggest PTQ for Amsterdam in the UK, I guess I can forgive them. Here’s what I opened:


2 Domineer

Dream’s Grip

Lumengrid Sentry

2 Lumengrid Warden

Neurok Spy


Wanderguard Sentry

Chimney Imp

Disciple of the Vault

Nim Lasher

Nim Shambler

Nim Shrieker

Reiver Demon

Slith Bloodletter

Wrench Mind


Leonin Den-Guard

Sphere of Purity

Electrostatic Bolt

2 Fists of the Anvil

Goblin Striker

Grab the Reins

Krark-Clan Grunt

Ogre Leadfoot


Fangren Hunter


Journey of Discovery

Predator’s Strike

Sylvan Scrying

Turn to Dust

Viridian Joiner

Tree of Tales

Vault of Whispers

Aether Spellbomb

2 Alpha Myr

Chrome Mox

Clockwork Vorrac

Dragon Blood

Dross Scorpion


Goblin Charbelcher

Goblin War Wagon

Granite Shard

Leaden Myr

Leonin Scimitar

Leonin Sun Standard

Malachite Golem

Mind’s Eye

Mindstorm Crown

Mirror Golem

Myr Adapter

Myr Mindservant

Necrogen Spellbomb

Neurok Hoversail

Nim Replica

Pyrite Spellbomb

Silver Myr

Slagwurm Armor

Soldier Replica

Sun Droplet

Sunbeam Spellbomb

Talisman of Indulgence

2 Tanglebloom

Tooth of Chris-Goria

Vorrac Battlehorns

Vulshok Gauntlets

Welding Jar

Wizard Replica

It was very nice to see the Chrome Mox, but I knew I wouldn’t be playing with it. I was missing really good equipment apart from the Fireshrieker, but did have Granite Shard — a favorite of mine. Mirror Golem and Clockwork Vorrac stood out as my best artifact creatures, but I was missing any of the other really good Golems.

What little White I had was okay, but the fact that I only had three cards total in that color limited it to a small splash at best — possibly including the Leonin Sun Standard. Green was fairly awful. Black, on the other hand, had Reiver Demon and Slith Bloodletter. I like both cards but both need lots of Black mana. If the other cards had been better, I might have considered it. The required commitment to Black ruled them out for a splash.

That left me with Red and Blue. As you can see, Red is clearly very good. Grab the Reins, Shatter, Electrostatic Bolt, the 3/3 Ogre and the Krark-Clan Grunt would all work nicely. Blue too had some excellent cards, the two Domineers standing head and shoulders above the rest. I decided to try and build a two-color deck. Here’s what I put together:

2 Domineer

1 Lumengrid Sentinel

2 Lumengrid Warden

1 Neurok Spy

1 Wanderguard Sentry

1 Electrostatic Bolt

1 Grab the Reins

1 Krark-Clan grunt

1 Ogre Leadfoot

1 Shatter

2 Alpha Myr

1 Clockwork Vorrac

1 Fireshrieker

1 Goblin War Wagon

1 Granite Shard

1 Mirror Golem

1 Neurok Hoversail

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

1 Silver Myr

1 Wizard Replica

9 Island

8 Mountain

I missed the boat with this build, I really did. Lumengrid Warden? Lumengrid Sentinel? What was I playing at? [I’d guess losing. – Knut] I figured that the 1/3 guys would slow my opponent down a little to enable me to get to the late game, where my Mirror Golem, Vorrac and Grab the Reins would rule supreme! With so few quality fliers I chose to play Neurok Hoversail to give me a little extra evasion, and hoped that my Domineers would let me grab some good creatures.

Round 1: David Lewis

I got off to a good start by winning the first game. David seemed sure he had a very good deck, and I wasn’t sure if he was bluffing or not. A few hits with a Neurok Spy, joined by a Silver Myr knocked David down to half of his life, and a Goblin War Wagon helped to finish him off. To be fair David saw far too much land.

The second game went all David’s way. I took a three-spell hand — two good creatures and a removal spell — but went on to draw twice as many lands as spells. David saw both of his Spikeshot Goblins and Leonin Abunas to keep a few late-game artifacts safe from the Domineers I drew. In game 3, David dropped Auriok Bladewarden, then Spikeshot Goblin a turn later. I gambled that he wouldn’t be thinking too early in the day and cast Electrostatic Bolt on his Spikeshot — he forgot about his Bladewarden and the troublesome Goblin went to the graveyard. Even so, he drew a second Goblin and Leonin Abunas again and I drew land after land.

Matches: 0-1. Games: 1-2.

After this game I sat down and took a good look at the deck with a couple of Bath regulars. They too were amazed at how I’d built the deck and we came up with a better plan. Each game 2 and 3 I would take out the Lumengrid boys and bring in a Thoughtcast, Nim Replica and Annul. The Nim is a 3/1 guy, which makes him much better than the 1/3 guys I was playing. Thoughtcast would help me get to my good removal spells and stealing spells, better than any Lumengrid man I could play. With this plans in mind I sat down for game 2.

Round 2: Joseph Sexton

I guessed that some people on five wins and a draw, possibly even five wins and two losses would make the top 8, so I had to make sure I didn’t lose if I wanted to keep my top 8 hopes alive. Joseph immediately put me on my back foot with an aggressive start. I killed a few of his men and started to stabilize with a Wanderguard Sentry and a Mirror Golem imprinting a creature, but Joseph drew a Shatter, killed my Golem, and sent his men in for the game win.

I took out the two Lumengrid Wardens and the Lumengrid Sentinel, and brought in the Thoughtcast, an Annul, and the Nim Replica. I flew out of the blocks, dropping a creature a turn and used my Shatter and Bolt to kill the creatures Joseph could put in the way. The third game went much slower. Joseph and I traded damage early in the game but eventually I managed to stabilize with Neurok Hoversail in play and managed to push through the damage I needed for the win.

Matches: 1-1. Games: 3-3.

Round 3: Martin Chandler

Opinion on Sun Droplet seems divided. Some people love it, some people hate it. There can be no denying that it can be very frustrating. In the first game, Martin dropped Sun Droplet early and I never got him below ten life. He rarely forgot to gain a life and I could only draw 1/1 creatures to attack with. When I finally saw a 3/3 guy, Martin dealt with it. We both stabilized on the ground and he dropped Farsight Mask, making my game even harder to win: Each 1/1 guy that attacked wouldn’t really help and Martin would get to draw a card too!

I decided that my best plan was to wait him out, draw my Grab the Reins and a Domineer, and build up an alpha-strike force. It turned out to be a very bad plan, as Martin drew his Promise of Power and cast it to draw five cards. Then, with only three cards left in his library, he drew and cast Reiver Demon. Most of my guys died and Martin’s forces overwhelmed me.

I boarded out my bad cards for the better ones again and had fifteen minutes to win two games. On turn two I dropped Granite Shard, thanks to Silver Myr and it won me the game. Martin had a hand full of Nim guys and he couldn’t play any of them out. I kept one Red mana untapped and dropped an Alpha Myr to start the beats. We traded a few creatures, but I always had enough to keep the pressure on and a little removal saw me over the finishing line.

The last game was going to have to be quick, and an Alpha Myr again started the attacks. Martin dropped Sun Droplet again, but I kept up the pressure with a second 2/2 attacker. Granite Shard helped me out a little more, dealing with a few one-toughness blockers, but we were running out of time. Unless I could come up with a way to speed up the kill I was going to draw! Luckily I didn’t have to.

At only eleven life, Martin cast Reiver Demon again, killing one of his blockers but leaving a 6/6 guy in play and killing one of my attackers. I untapped and drew Grab The Reins and checked the board. I took control of his 6/6 flyer and attacked with all my guys, dropping him to one life, and pinged him with the Granite Shard for the win. Martin was understandably upset, but we all lose to lucky draws sometimes — I’m just glad it was me winning for a change!

Matches: 2-1. Games: 5-4.

Round 4: Pawel Mazierski

After squeaking through the last game I was hoping to get something more positive from this game, but my deck wasn’t helping me out. My opening hand had one land so I threw it back — it was full of expensive spells. The next six cards had no land and even going second I wasn’t going to be that lucky, so I shuffled up and drew another five.

Five Mountains.

Yes, that’s right. Five Mountains. If I had had just one Island I might just had considered it, but I knew I’d be dead. There just wasn’t enough early game in my deck to be sure of drawing what I needed in time to stay alive. I went down to four.

A Silver Myr, Mountain, Island, and a removal spell looked good, but I knew it would be tough. My deck really tried though, giving me a spell then a land, spell, land for a few turns, but the disadvantage of going to four was just too much and Pawel stabilized, killed my guys and stomped in for the win.

Again my bad cards came out, and the good ones came in. Both of us kept our opening hands and Pawel started with Equipment and I with a creature. The next turn Pawel dropped another piece of equipment and I dropped another critter — Goblin War Wagon. I killed a couple of his creatures and he was left with a lone Frogmite. One Domineer later, I had all the guys and Pawel was sitting back with his Equipment, drawing land after land. We moved on to game 3.

Game 3 was much closer. Pawel had me on my back foot for a while, but I managed to get Mirror Golem into play, along with Granite Shard and a few other critters. I stabilized at twelve life, but couldn’t really attack without losing creatures and risking my board control. Luckily for me my deck had decided to pay me back for the first game and handed me Grab the Reins. I threw one of his critters at another to give me enough of an advantage to attack, and two turns later took the win.

Matches: 3-1. Games: 7-5.

Round 5: Luke Ronaldson

Luke is brother to both Ben and Ivan of the Hampton Court Palace team, well known not just in England, but also around the world for their innovative deck building. I could only hope that luck was on my side and that Luke wasn’t as good as his esteemed brothers (as it turns out, Luke is actually ranked higher than Ivan at the moment).

Game 1 went as well as it could. A Neurok Spy joined an Alpha Myr, and both went in until Luke killed the Spy. I dropped a pair of 2/2 guys and killed Luke’s blockers before dropping a 3/3 guy and rushing over for the win.

Game 2 started in a similar vein, but Luke soon took care of my early offense and dropped Arc Slogger. I worked out how many cards were in his library, and sent my guys in before Luke could kill them. I killed a couple of his guys leaving Luke his Arc Slogger and I had two 3/3 guys. I was at seven life. Luke was at seven life. If I attacked again, I could take him to one, and he could only attack back to take me to three. With less than twenty cards in his library, he’d have to have a burn spell in hand to win. If I waited he’d could sit back, play out blockers and eventually kill me.

I took the risk and swung in. As long as he didn’t have burn I’d be ok. He attacked back but had no way of dropping me to zero and I took the game after killing his newly cast blocker.

Matches: 4-1. Games: 9-5.

Round 6: Matthew Harker

Both games against Matthew went very quickly. In each game I played out 2/2 guys and started the beatdown until he cast a Clockwork Dragon to slow me down. I stole it with Domineer in game 1 and killed his only other blocker to take the game.

In game 2, he didn’t have many creatures, but did draw his Icy Manipulator. He kept my Ogre Leadfoot tapped, but I drew a Mirror Golem and imprinted a Creature to keep it free for attacking (there wasn’t an artifact creature in the graveyard). I then drew my Fireshrieker. I dropped it onto a creature and attacked — Matthew had tapped one of my guys in my Upkeep.

In the next turn, I attacked with the phrase”Enter my Attack step” and he tapped the creature with the Fireshrieker on it, which gave me an idea… In the next attack I said, quite plainly”I announce my intention to leave my first main phase.” Matthew then tapped my Mirror Golem. I moved my Fireshrieker to the other creature and attacked him for six.

There are some people that will hate me for this, but it was a PTQ and he is supposed to know the rules. Even so I felt pretty awful and, in the next turn when I said the same thing I stopped him as he went to do it again and explained that he should pass and tap the creature in my Attack phase before I declared it as an attacker. He did so and I couldn’t attack with a Fireshrieker equipped creature for the rest of the game. He cast a few good creatures to slow me down, followed by a Clockwork Dragon.

“It’d be really good if I could top-deck a Domineer again,” I said. I drew the card and showed him the Domineer. His shoulders slumped and I knew the game was mine.

Matches: 5-1. Games: 11-5.

I went over the Attack Phase and it’s steps with Matthew quickly again, but he didn’t seem interested. At 4-2 he was going to have to win the last round and would only have a small chance of making top 8. I, on the other hand, was fairly sure I could ID my way in.

Until I saw the standings.

I was in eighth place. Last of the fifteen-pointers with 45% tiebreakers. For those that don’t know, that’s awful. There were six players on thirteen-points and all of them had better tiebreakers than me. If they all played and I drew I’d probably end up in eleventh place. I had to play the last round. I know that some people don’t accept Ids, but when you’ve been playing Magic for six hours and you’re tired, an ID gives you time to catch your breath. Maybe I just need to play more high-level Magic to get used to it?

Round 7: Hugues Joneaux

Hugues sat down and offered the ID. Given that three of the thirteen point players had higher tiebreakers than him it was a risky shot at top 8. I had to play though, so I politely declined and we shuffled up.

In game 1 I started with a good hand: An Island, a Mountain, an Alpha Myr, Silver Myr, and some other spells. My third land was far too slow in showing and Hugues had the game wrapped up far too quickly for my liking. Hugues offered the ID again, but explained about my tiebreakers and that I would have to win.

The second game was the exact opposite of the first. I dropped an Alpha Myr, then a Neurok Spy and came in time after time, using all my removal to kill his blockers. Eventually he ran out of creatures and I had spare cards in hand just in case.

One game each and the winner of the third would make top 8.

We both kept our opening hands and Hugues went first. I took first blood though, with a Silver Myr nipping in for one. An Alpha Myr soon joined him, and all Hugues could do was play Equipment. Once again he started to stabilize, but both of our board positions were in good shape, so he couldn’t gain any real advantage. I managed to steal a creature, but he bounced it back to his hand. Annul killed it on the way back down, and we both sat and stared for a while.

Finally Granite Shard hit the table and I started pinging my way to victory. It’s not pretty, but a win is a win, pretty or not.

My luck didn’t look like it was going to hold as Hugues drew and played both a Loxodon Punisher and a Vulshok Battlegear. The next turn I drew Grab The Reins, but couldn’t play it with Entwine because Hughes had a Wizard Replica in play and I only had seven lands! The next turn I dropped Mirror Golem, careful to play an eighth land to play around the Wizard Replica, but was now down to thirteen life thanks to the Punisher. I needed to draw one more land!

I didn’t draw the land, but drew Shatter instead. I looked at the board. Hughes was on eleven life and it looked like I could kill him! The Mirror Golem couldn’t be blocked and a ping from the Granite Shard on my side would put him to seven — exactly the toughness of his Punisher.

He attacked and I blocked with the Golem but he moved the Equipment to a 3/3 monster and I still didn’t have enough mana to play the Grab the Reins with Entwine and play around the Wizard Replica! I looked carefully, checked my math and cast Shatter on the Wizard in his end step and pinged him for one, taking him to ten. I drew another land, played it out and moved seven lands into a pile.

“You have Grab the Reins?” Hughes asked knowing he would lose if I did. I showed him the card, threw his man at him to knock him to four, attacked with the Golem and pinged him for the last point of life to take the game.

I won! I was in the top 8, my first top 8. I wanted to run around and shout, but I tried to keep my cool instead and waited to see who else would make it with me. The final top eight was as follows:

1 Mathew Mccarthy

2 Jim Grimmett

3 John Ormerod

4 Hao Wu

5 Ramon Baba

6 James Fryer-Kelsey

7 Ben Ronaldson

8 Eoin Brosnan

As I’d played my last match I came in second with eighteen points. Matthew had six wins and a draw and was on nineteen and John O was on seventeen with five wins and two draws. Everyone else in the top eight was on 16. If I had drawn the last game I wouldn’t have made it.

We were seated for the draft, and the head judge went over the rules before we began. You can’t play the person next to you in a draft until the finals, and you start off playing the person”opposite” you in the top eight. We were seated in the following order: Matthew, Hao, James, me, Eoin, John, Ramon and Ben. Matthew, the first place finisher, then got to pick where the draft would start and chose to place himself in the fourth seat, often thought of as the best seat to be in. That put me in the seventh seat. Not the best, but not the worst.

We started the draft and the player to my left picked a White card, with very little good stuff left in the pack I chose a Black card. A few picks later I had a handful of Black spells and a few good artifacts. In my pack, I opened a good Red card and picked that — hoping to be able to stay in Black and Red, as neither of the people sitting next to me had picked those colors yet.

Over the next few boosters the Black all but dried up, and I started seeing good Blue cards, neither of my neighbors were picking Blue, yet so I dived in there and settled in to try and draft Blue, Black or Red. Hoping that one would become a major color and I could make one a good splash.

As it happened the three players to my right started picking Black and a little Blue here and there, but I managed to pick up enough good Red and Blue cards to solidify those colors. I never really saw any good Black cards and decided to drop out of the color altogether.

I only remember two big mistakes I made in the draft. I picked a Myr Retriever over a Myr Enforcer and I chose a bad Black card over a better one earlier in the draft. I never had a chance at any Blue fliers or Cobalt Golems and I ended up with a ground-based deck. I picked the Retriever because I had picked a Skeleton Shard and decided that card advantage and recursion was a really good idea, ignoring just how good a 4/4 body is in this format! Here’s the deck I put together:

1 Neurok Spy

1 Thoughtcast

2 Wanderguard Sentry

1 Electrostatic Bolt

1 Grab the Reins

1 Krark-Clan Grunt

1 Ogre Leadfoot

1 Shatter

1 Slith Firewalker

1 Spikeshot Goblin

1 Alpha Myr

1 Bonesplitter

1 Goblin Replica

1 Hematite Golem

1 Myr Enforcer

1 Myr Retriever

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

1 Skeleton Shard

1 Tooth of Chiss Goria

1 Vulshok Battlegear

2 Yotian Soldier

1 Swamp

9 Mountain

7 Island

I had a second Thoughtcast I could have played, but I figured that one would be enough. I added a single Swamp to help out with the Skeleton Shard. If I could get the Shard and the Goblin Replica going, I’d probably be able to win any match!

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. My luck and patience had run out. I made several really bad playing mistakes against Ben and, like the former English Champion he his, he capitalized on them and crushed me in game 1.

I had a few early critters — including a Slith Firewalker — and was beating him down until he cast a Rustmouth Ogre. So what did I do? I cast Grab the Reins to take control of it and attacked him back to knock him to eight, though I’m not sure quite why. I guess I figured I’d be able to keep up the pressure. I didn’t even blow up one of his artifacts when it dealt him damage!

Ben cast a few more blockers and started attacking with the Ogre. I chumped for a few turns — not using my mana — until I only had artifact creatures in play. What I should have done, while I had the time, was cast the Skeleton Shard I had in my hand. My one Swamp was in play and I could have chumped with an Alpha Myr or a Yotian Soldier each turn and put it back in my hand — giving me time to get some removal or deal with the Ogre. I wasn’t thinking because of where I was and how excited I was. My composure from the tourney had gone and, to be frank, I was playing pretty bad Magic.

In game 2 I took a good starting hand. I had three Mountains, Shatter, an artifact man, Bolt, and some big Blue spells. I figured I had enough removal and creatures that I could cast that it was worth keeping. I saw my next land on turn nine, just before Ben kicked my head in and knocked me out of the top 8. Maybe if I had played the first game properly I would have won that and then would have had a third game to try and win the match.

In the other quarterfinal matches Eoin beat Matthew, Ramon beat Hao and James beat John Ormerod. In the semi-finals Eoin beat Ramon and Ben beat James, and then Eoin beat Ben in the finals for the prize money and the slot.

All in all I had a fantastic day. I came second in the Swiss, added 84 points to my Limited ranking and got to play in my first PTQ top 8. I need to play a lot more to get as good as some of those who were there and I need more experience in the top 8 to get rid of my jitters, but at least I know I can make it against a tough field. I’ll be playing in only one Kobe PTQ at the most. Extended doesn’t really interest me, but next Limited season I fully intend to make as many as I can get to. Fingers crossed, I’ll make top 8 again sometime.

Cheers, Jim Grimmett.

Team PhatBeats.