Double or Nothing: PTQ Houston in Bath

All right, so Jim didn’t do that well at the tourey itself… But he brought back a detailed chart of what did well, what percentages of decks did well, and what the winning decks had in them! Want to know what cards fuel the latest decks? Check it out.

First things first, I have to start off with a correction. In my last article, I attributed the U/W/g Solitary Confinement deck to Mike Rosenburg. Michael emailed me shortly after it was published to put the facts straight. Firstly, Michael’s name is Michael Sean Rosenberg – secondly, the deck wasn’t just Michael’s creation; the deck was the result of collaboration between Michael, Randy Wright, and several other Magic players in their area. Sorry about the name Michael, and sorry for missing out the rest of you. Now on to this week’s article.

After last week’s testing I decided, perhaps unwisely, to play Psychatog. I chose to do this for many reasons: I believed I could beat both mono black and U/G Madness decks; I didn’t want to play the mono black mirror match all day; I have been playing Psychatog since February.

Of all of these the last is probably the one that tipped the choice in Tog’s favour. As a rule of thumb, I don’t take a deck I’m not comfortable with to a tourney – and although I’d played mono Black, U/G Madness, Solitary Confinement, and even mono red decks, I wasn’t happy playing them.

Here’s the deck I took:

OBC Psychatog

Creatures (15):

4x Psychatog

4x Shadowmage Infiltrator

4x Faceless Butcher

3x Mesmeric Fiend

Other Spells (21):

2x Compulsion

4x Aether Burst

4x Circular Logic

4x Chainer’s Edict

4x Deep Analysis

3x Syncopate

Land (24):

4x Darkwater Catacombs

10x Island

10x Swamp

Sideboard (15):

3x Rancid Earth

3x Upheaval

3x Zombie Infestation

2x Envelop

1x Possessed Aven

3x Ghastly Demise

Rather than spend a long time talking about how things went, I’ll give you the short version.

Round 1: Shing Niein Fong playing mono Red burn

Fong came out of the blocks flying and quickly burnt me to death. In game two, I gained control at eleven life and came in for fifteen and the win. In game three Fong, got me down to two life and needed to draw pretty much any burn spell to win. I took 16 life off him for the win.

The only notable points about the match were that I was playing badly and was still asleep and that I won because Fong let me take back a playing mistake. Thanks, Fong.

Round 2: Dan Paskins playing mono Black.

Dan’s already detailed this match in his match report on Brainburst. I’d only differ in his recollection by pointing out that I cast Rancid Earth twice before he manage to cast one – once again, having more land in your deck pays out.

Round 3: Daniel Steenkemp playing BG with Squirrels and Overrun.

In game one, Daniel was screwed for green mana – so in game two I blew up his Forests with Rancid Earth to cause him the same problem.

Round 4: Richard Williams playing G/W ‘toolbox’.

No matter which tourneys I go to, no matter how many people show up, sooner or later I have to play one of my regular playtest partners.

Richard was playing a Green and White deck using Genesis, Tiresome Tribe, Wild Mongrel, Anurid Brushhopper, and all their friends. In game one he got me down to two life before I bounded over for the win. In game two, we reached a standoff – so I kept laying land until I could cast Upheaval. I did so and dropped Tog straight away. Richard got a Tireless Tribe out and held off the Tog for a while, but he had to discard cards to do it and he mistakenly discarded a land with an Anurid Scavenger in his hand. If he’d have held on to it, he could have won that game, forcing a draw in the match.

Round 5: Colin Tipton playing UG Madness.

In the first game, Colin and I stood at opposite ends of a creature-filled battlefield until he drew a Wonder and sent his men flying over the top of mine. In game two, he was mana screwed and I gained control at sixteen life and spent some time trying to kill him with a Shadowmage Infiltrator until Tog joined the party. In the third game we stood, once again, at either end of a battlefield – and Colin drew Wonder the turn before I could kill him. Hey ho.

On three wins and two losses, with bad tie breakers, I couldn’t make top eight and so I dropped – partly to head home and clean up my flat (I’d had friends staying for three days and we’d spent a lot of time drinking and watching videos) and partly to get out of the heat and get some rest.

So – why read this article? What’s in it for you?

Guess I’d better give you some stats and info that could actually help you then. 85 players showed up on the day to play seven rounds of Swiss followed by the top-eight. The top eight of the tourney was as follows:

Winner: David Lewis playing Zombie Infestation/Upheaval.

Runner up: Antoine Hupin (Team PhatBeats) playing UG Madness.

Semi finalist: Sam Gomersall playing mono Black.

Semi finalist: Jimmy Chung playing mono Black.

Quarter finalist: Alan Mai playing mono Black.

Quarter finalist: Gordon Benson playing mono Black.

Quarter finalist: Anwar Trader playing GW Beats.

Quarter finalist: David Ball playing mono Black.

Here’s the breakdown of deck archetypes played:



% of Field

Top 8

% in Top 8

Mono black





U/G Madness










U/W Birds





G/W Beats





Mono Red










U/G/w Madness










G/W Birds





Zombie Upheaval










Total 85 players

So, of the decks that made top eight, 50% of the Zombie Upheaval decks made it – but as only two entered we can’t really draw any conclusions. On the other hand, a whopping 24% of the field played UG Madness and only one of them made it. If you played U/G Madness that day you only had a 4% chance of making top eight!

As you’re probably dying for even more info I thought I’d give you some extra facts about the decks that did well.

Mono Black

All of the mono Black decks that did well (except for one) played with four main deck Rancid Earths; the exception played three. All of the decks played at least three Diabolic Tutors and at least three Tainted Pacts, some choosing to play four of both. All of the best decks played with twenty-six or twenty-seven land and only three Cabal Coffers.

None of the better decks played any main deck Faceless Butchers, although three or four made it into most of their sideboards. All of them played four sideboard Braids.

UG Madness

All of the decks that did well played some Envelops in their main deck. The only deck to make top eight played four main deck Envelops – and, given the field on the day, you have to say that it was the right choice, as over a quarter of the decks were mono Black. Catalyst Stone also makes an appearance, but only in about half of the good decks.

In general, the U/G Madness decks were much more different from one another than the mono Black decks were – but all of them played Wonder, Aether Burst, and at least three Deep Analysis in the main deck.

G/W Beats

The decks that did well – including the deck that made top eight – played Brushhopper, Genesis, and Glory, as you’d expect. It also turns out that Jarrod Bright was right, and that decks playing with Tireless Tribe did better than those with Patrol Hound in the main deck as a Madness enabler (along with Wild Mongrel, of course).

The decks that did well also made some use of Living Wish to get key, situational sideboard cards as and when they needed them: Toolbox rules!

GR Beats

Although G/R made a good showing at 8% of the field, the decks were all very different and they didn’t do as well as they obviously hoped. Most played with some of the red punisher cards – and, like the mono Red decks, discovered that Wrath of God isn’t nearly so good it your opponent can choose to pay six life to stop it happening… Especially when they have a 6/6 Wurm on the table! Whilst U/G Madness remains popular, GR will have a hard time winning.

UW Birds

The good birds decks were U/W ones, but they all suffered thanks to the fact that all the good mono Black decks played four main deck Mutilate and had another eight spells to stop them from getting to three creatures (to stop Battlefield Screech being flashed back).

All of the good decks had a smattering of counter spells and bounce and played Glory. The decks were divided over the use of Divine Sacrament and Soulcatcher’s Aerie, and some even played a mixture of both. There isn’t enough data to reveal which one is really better.

Confinement decks

All of the Solitary Confinement lock decks played Blue, White, and Green using the Genesis/Solitary Confinement lock for a decking win. Some of the decks played Laquatus, but not all. All of the decks took time to win – and given the fast wins of UG Madness and mono Black with a turn 2 Shade, they were all vulnerable to”just needing that one more turn” to get the lock.

Finally, the winning deck: Zombie Upheaval. As with all of the information above, my observations come from looking over deck lists and watching games and looking at the final standings for the day. I can’t publish any deck lists because I don’t have permission to. I can let you know that, in a field full of creature kill, the Upheaval/Infestation combo win is a good one.

The deck plays creature removal like mono Black, but has counter spells and card drawing thanks Blue spells like Concentrate and Circular Logic. In fact, it’s not that dissimilar to a Tog deck that’s been pre-sideboarded against mono Black!

I’m heading over to another PTQ in a week’s time and I’m not sure what I’m going to be playing yet – but based on my experiences on the day (Deep Analysis was amazing, Compulsion was very good, Syncopate and Circular Logic weren’t as good as I’d hoped) I’m going to add the following deck to the test gauntlet, replacing the Tog deck I was testing.


Spells (35):

4x Innocent Blood

4x Chainer’s Edict

4x Aether Burst

4x Rancid Earth

3x Deep Analysis

2x Zombie Infestation

2x Upheaval

4x Circular Logic

4x Envelop

2x Compulsion

2x Diabolic Tutor

Land (25):

4x Darkwater Catacombs

9x Island

12x Swamp

All day I’d wished I had more creature removal – and now that I don’t have to worry about my own creatures, Innocent Blood fills the mould nicely. I’d also found that Faceless Butcher was often too little, too late. The Blood can be cast a lot earlier.

Deep Analysis and Compulsion give me the card drawing I need to get to an Upheaval and Infestation, and the two Diabolic Tutors can help me to find either of them should I need them in a hurry. They also make the deck a little more consistent and help me find potential sideboard cards when I need them in games two and three.

The other spell I wished was in my deck all day was Rancid Earth. I sideboarded it in almost all the time, and wished I’d had four instead of the three I played. To support the 1BB casting cost, I’ve upped the number of Swamps in the deck. Only Upheaval needs UU to cast anyway, and by the time you want to cast it you should have it available with thirteen sources of blue in the deck.

I’ve taken a leaf out of the UG Madness decks’ book and added Envelop to the main deck. With all the sorceries in OBC, there’s rarely a spell you can’t cast and they just might help break the”who goes first with Rancid Earth in hand wins” symmetry.

Whether this deck does well or not still remains to be seen, but it takes the best parts of mono Black (cheap creature kill and Rancid Earth) UG Madness (counter spells and card drawing) and adds the phenomenal finishing power of Zombie Infestation/Upheaval.

I’m going to play around with this deck and try out a few other configurations. Tainted Pact has been playing very well for many people, so I might drop the Compulsions and give it a try. There are no main deck Haunting Echoes – and although they certainly fit in the sideboard, I’d like to see one main deck. Dropping a few more Islands and adding more Swamps and some Tainted Isles might allow me to play Mutilate and Mind Sludge, but mono black does it’s job well enough without adding blue… And you’ve got to ask what it brings to the deck.

Anyway, I hope you all have fun over the next week and I hope the info included above helps out a little.

Cheers, Jim Grimmett.

Team PhatBeats,

Team Diaspora and

Level 2 DCI Judge.