PTQ Seattle – A Report

Another season, another Pro Tour, another… country? Geneva, Switzerland!? That sounds like an amazing place to hold a Pro Tour. Europe, skiing, and I’ll bet no one is ever late for a round. Who wouldn’t want a free trip out there, and to compete no less.

Another season, another Pro Tour, another… country? Geneva, Switzerland!? That sounds like an amazing place to hold a PT. Europe, skiing, and I’ll bet no one is ever late for a round. Who wouldn’t want a free trip out there, and to compete no less. It wasn’t this guy. Due to scheduling conflicts, the October 7 PTQ was the only local event I was able to compete in. As the only event I, was definitely hoping for a strong performance. Despite the singular opportunity, I was feeling pretty confident. Time Spiral had been released a day ago, yet our playgroup had done at least twenty drafts from the prerelease on. The set had a lot of depth, but using only your best cards over any kind of plan was often a very poor way to go. In essence this set had a lot of nuance, and woe to the person who didn’t respect that. Over and over again, we had decks that looked powerful but were weak on synergy. These decks fell to the players who grasped their gestalt. I believed/hoped there weren’t many competitors at the PTQ would have deciphered this by the time the tournament rolled around.

Early on Saturday morning, much earlier than my circadians forgave, I blurrily woke up and headed to a University of Washington coffee shop. There I met up with Eric Reasoner (yes, that Eric Reasoner) and Brian Wong (yes, that Brian Wong) to go over one more Sealed before show time. The practice Sealed was interesting, not the least of which was its power and its four-color status. Aaron let the cat out of the bag here, but to reiterate, multi-colored decks are eminently viable in Time Spiral Limited, especially Sealed. Prismatic Lens is indeed the culprit, a card that I’m taking higher and higher every day. That practice deck had two Lenses, which basically meant fair game for any reasonable multi-colored configuration. It was good practice, although apparently I spent all my luck in opening a bombastic irrelevant deck. Number one cause of losing Magic games: misappropriations of resources.

Seventy people showed up to play, which seemed a bit under expectation, but no one was complaining. At seven rounds, a 5-2 record had a shot of making it in; a nice treat for those that needed to weather an ill-luck storm. But whatever, that kind of buffer is for jive suckers, not yours truly. After head judge James Lee’s bizarre, vaguely racist opening speech, we got down to business. Here are the 75 I received:

Now what these numbers and letters don’t tell you is how beautiful these cards were. Specifically, Call of the Herd, Spitting Slug, and Thelonite Hermit. The Slug and Hermit were both foil, and Call of the Herd was Call of the Herd. So it looked like there was going to be a bit of a recoup on the tournament fee, which was a good thing because this pool was utter trash.

At first glance, it seemed alright. The Green is top notch, double Griffin Guide, Word of Seizing, Sudden Death, surprisingly robust Slivers… But it’s still total rubbish. The Green is decent but after that the quality falls off decisively. Black had two decent removal spells and absurdly bad creatures, plus it was overall the least represented color. White and Blue had decent spells and creatures, but again, were short on depth. Red came close in the spell department but the guys were seriously under par and the removal was clunky. In short, I had Green to cast things and some other color(s) to stay alive. It sounds nice, but a) that’s inconsistent, and b) none of those colors were great at doing the job anyway. The really annoying part was this kind of pool cuts into the playability of its own cards. For example, Evangelize is fairly solid in Limited if you can remove some of their chaff so that it can actually tag a useful creature. That’s not really a possibility with this deck, so it ended on the sidelines. That’s better than spending five or nine mana to steal a saproling. The other flaw was the slivers. There’s a fair variety here, spread over lots of colors of course. Psionic Sliver and Watcher Sliver are sick together, as is the more standard Watcher Sliver and Bonesplitter Sliver. The issue was again the dearth of removal. I cannot play Psionic Sliver if they have slivers out, and I can’t remove their slivers, and they’ll probably be playing slivers. At least, that was my thinking as I was building the deck.

My decision with this deck, after mucho agonizing and some seppuku contemplation, was to make it a beater deck. Their spells and creatures be damned, I’ll be casting guys and attacking like mad. The deck’s only weakness, if you can even call it that, was instants, sorceries, creatures with toughnesses less than three, and creatures with activated abilities. Clearly if they weren’t packing any of that noise, I was home free. Here’s what I played:

First off all, I hate this deck dearly. Not only is it weak, it’s dull. A lot of my success in the game, and frankly a lot of the fun, comes from outplaying my opponent. This deck has very little opportunity for that. I play guys, I play Griffin Guide and that better be good enough (hint: it wasn’t). Second, this deck was really difficult to make. I don’t mind the challenge, but I clearly misbuilt it. I’m not sure if a Gemhide and two Search For Tomorrow makes this deck four-color worthy. If it does, I don’t even know what I’d put in there. A Mountain for Conflagrate with no way to flash it back? Ugh. The four- or five-color sliver build? Same problems as any other concoction; decent creatures with no way to back them up. I’m not sure exactly how the deck should have looked but I was wrong above: the Watcher Sliver and Psionic Sliver definitely should have been played.

My arguments against them are totally accurate. To recap: I can never punch through their slivers with my Watcher in play, and my Psionic could easily come back to bite me. Everyone runs Venser’s, Gemhide, and Spinneret Slivers, so the odds of them not playing a sliver are quite low. This is all true, yet completely flawed. This deck needs to get lucky to win; it needs it very badly. Why would I remove myself an opportunity of doing that? So what if they have slivers? I’m toast, and I’m gone with infinite other variations anyway. I might as well make a build that maximizes my opportunity to utilize good luck, instead of treading the line with a consistent and dull build. This deck needed every scrap of power it could muster, and I castrated it. After a G-rated, impotent card pool like this, there’s really not much left to excise. Shoot for the moon, cause anything else is going to end badly. I can say, in all likelihood, shooting for the moon probably would have ended in misery too. It was still the right call to make. At least I know better for next time! (*cry*)

On the plus side, this deck gave me a little challenge. How badly could I undersell these cards? How much pointed complaining could I give hanger-ons and opponents? It’s a fun game, to deride your deck savagely, excessively. Every round I would tell my opponent that this wasn’t just the worst deck in the room, it was the worst deck in any room. Or, showing the deck’s contents may turn someone to stone. Or, the only wins this deck ever received were on the backs of mana problems (mostly true). I was entertaining, to myself at least. If I won, I could tell my opponent that I was wrong, that maybe the deck wasn’t as bad as I thought. If I lost, prophecy fulfilled. It’s not a style one can replicate repeatedly; it would lose all meaning. However once in a while when a pool demands it, you can go on a weird ranting spree to fairly interesting results. Still won’t help you win a game, but a little fun along the way never hurt anyone.

Round 1 – Robert Knight (R/B)

Robert was an older gentleman, and a very nice guy. We exchanged the usual pleasantries (“come here often?” etc.) and got down to business.

Game 1: My deck made a liar out of me when I came out of the gates screaming. Well, really it was just Call of the Herd, but that’s a turn 3 / turn 4 play that looks imposing from the other side of the table. Also assisting the win was Robert mulliganing and being fairly land light the entire game. Of course a deck looks amazing when an opponent has no mana!

Game 2: This one was a little more interactive. My opponent surprisingly decides to go nuts with Sangrophage when the race is not in his favor. And yet… he made a game of it. Plague Sliver, while bringing the life loss aspect to new heights, was certainly bigger than anything my deck could muster. A Griffin Guide pushed things in my favor, although the attack forced me into a slightly more vulnerable place. It set me up so that that either the Griffined creature or the Griffin token and another flier would be enough to win the game on the next turn. Robert made an attack and brought me down to four life, then tapped out to play another (ground) creature. I attacked with the Guided one and as Robert attempted to block, I pointed out the “enchanted creature has flying” clause. He ruefully shook his head and we wished each other good luck. While Robert was clearly inexperienced with Time Spiral, his deck was quite hot with Phthisis, two Rift Bolt and two Plague Sliver. Lucky me.


Round 2 – James Dykes (R/W/U)

James and me have crossed decks a few times over the years. Usually the games end in my favor, unless we’re playing for a major prize or PT qualification. Than it’s all Jimmy James. Round 2 in a PTQ seemed like safe enough territory…

Game 1: There were two major plays involved with this game. The first was my Savage Thallid taking out one of James’s respectable creature and surviving via Crookclaw Transmuter. The second was Griffin Guide on Tolarian Sentinel. That play is a lot less interesting, so we’ll just chalk up the win to flash/combat damage tricks. Oh, and James was color screwed.

Game 2: Out like gang-bangers this game. Call of the Herd into Sporesower Thallid into Castle Raptors into Call of the Herd, all ending with an unmorphing of Thelonite Hermit. In addition James was severely flooded. GGs, and wow is this deck awesome (ha).

Round 3 – Mike Gurney (R/G/B)

Mike’s a guy I’ve known for years; a consistently strong competitor. He’s rather famous in the community for his stern exterior, but shining heart of sensitivity underneath. Through ridiculously bad luck, he was my first opponent to not have mana troubles. Whatever.

Game 1: I go through the song and dance of how my deck is utter $#%%, can’t win a game to save my life, blah blah. Mike pointedly asks me how I could be 2-0 if this were true, and I cleverly retort with a suggestion that he quit stalling. Then I remind him my deck sucks, and he should retire from the game forever if he loses. Mike’s a tough fellow but I knew forcing him into a retirement match was a higher level than he was used to playing. He came through like a champ.

My opening draw wasn’t bad, precisely, but it was kind of a one trick pony. Those elephant tokens needed to deal a heck of a lot of damage or things were going to crumble. Sadly, Mike played a second turn Deathsower Thallid, a.k.a. a creature with an activated ability, which was bad enough. A triggered ability on top of that was just a nightmare. A Clockwork Hydra later on really hammered the point home that Mike was playing with creatures that did stuff, and I was in deep crap. I still made a game of it though. A morphed Fledgling Mawcor gave me some tricks. My plan was to just throw enough guys into his thresher of a deck and hope to get him to one life for the special action kill. Thelonite Druid had a big role to play. To get those saprolings through, I had to make this horrid attack into Mike’s saproling and Thallid Germinator, just to kill the token so he couldn’t sacrifice it to his Deathsower to kill the Druid. Why not unmorph the Mawcor to remove the Deathsower? Because if I did that, there was no way I could win. I needed Mike to take some extra damage, get some card advantage and go to one life, thinking he was safe against a G/W/U deck. There was a Corpulent Corpse un-suspending, Scryb Ranger was beating down and kicking ass with Clockwork Hydra, and whoops, there’s a Stormbind. I needed to make my moves pronto. Pitiful card advantage was not going to do anything this game. So end step, I flipped up the Druid and made a bunch of guys. In came everything except the Mawcor morph, which mysteriously stayed back. The Druid died to the Hydra ping, but this was part of the plan. Mike made the right blocks to absolutely own me, but it meant two saprolings were coming through unblocked. Damage? No, Mike still had some kill to throw at one. My Thrill of the Hunt? Kill the token again in response. That left one token coming through, with a Thrill of the Hunt still in the grave. Flashback resolve? Mike thought about it a bit, wondering if he wanted to throw his last card at the token. C’mon man, I’m G/W/U, I can’t deal direct damage! Alas, Mike did throw his last card at the token, keeping himself at three life. Swift death followed.

Game 2: Sadly I was never in this one. Mike’s Stormbind, Scryb Ranger, and cards that did stuff were just too strong against a deck that didn’t. Mike tried to convince me at the end of our match that my deck was better than I gave it credit for:

Mike: “Your deck is great! Call of the Herd, Spitting Slug, Thelonite Hermit…”
Me: “True true. Umm, how did I do again?”
Mike: “Well in the first game you got me very low in life before I killed you…”
Me: “Right, I remember now. Good luck in the rest of the tournament.”
Mike: “Thanks, you too. Hug?”
Me: “Always.”

It was magical.


Round 4 – Brian Peterson (R/G/U/B)

Game 1: The never-ending speech of deck quality paled a little bit when a turn 1 Search for Tomorrow yielded a turn 3 Sporesower Thallid. In my defense, as I pointed out to Brian, his turn 3 Scarwood Treefolk was definitely going not going to die, at least not by my hand. So of course we got into a race. The 4/4 token maker certainly trumped the 3/1 lose life guy, except Brian kept playing cards while I was getting very flooded. Brian’s cards weren’t amazing or anything, but had a bit of merit off sheer quantity. My guys were bigger, or would be until his Errant Ephemeron came into play. Luckily enough, I found a Griffin Guide to swing the race in my favor for the win.

Brian: “Griffin Guide?! That card is awesome!” Me: “Is it? Hmm, I guess the deck’s a little better than I thought”. A kind lie. Everyone hates losing to awful decks, although not as much as playing one.

Game 2: This game was actually my favorite of the day. Not only was I able to use my brain while playing, it actually mattered. I lead into Sporesower but Brian played enough guys that made me not want to trade and/or race. I drew and cast a Castle Raptors, to which Mr. Peterson put on a quizzical face. In response to the Raptors, or whenever the priority window opened up, Brian called a judge over. Curious, I looked over things to make sure the card counts and whatnot were kosher. Everything was in order, and Brian didn’t seem to be that kind of guy anyway. I put on a beatific expression and waiting for the judge to arrive. When he did, Brian asked him a kind of subtle-not subtle question about when precisely Castle Raptors was its stats. It was a really awkward wording, which was flummoxing the judge, so I stepped in.

“My opponent would like to know if there’s ever an opportunity to cast Strangling Soot on my Castle Raptors after they come into play before they’re 3/5, and there isn’t”. Brian kind of recoiled at this, but confirmed my ruling with the judge. Now I don’t look down on Brian for not knowing the rule, but asking a question like that and asking it in front of an opponent is giving away too much. The idea of standing up and talking to a judge out of earshot is probably counter-intuitive, but that option is always there. In fact, it’s recommended. The net result of Brian’s discussion was Castle Raptors staying home for a few turns, until I drew Thrill. The tempo advantage/card advantage/life swing was far too much to come back from, and Brian was out of the picture.


Round 5 – Dan Diamant (R/W/U)

As satisfying as the previous round was, this one was completely frustrating. I misspoke above; I did use my brain in this round, it just didn’t matter.

Game 1: I made a judgment call/misplay in this one, one that probably cost me the entire game. Early on I’m flooding a bit, but still holding my own with a Thallid-type and a Guided Tolarian Sentinel. Finally I found another threat, and two of them at that, with Call of the Herd. Now I have some creatures out and I’d really prefer to have a Guide on an Elephant token instead of the Sentinel. While I can Rescue the Guide back to my hand, if Dan had Snapback, I was going to sink like a stone. So instead I just attack with everything for good damage, figuring I’ll know whether he has bounce or not via my tokens smashing his face. The damage was full but on Dan’s turn, with my Sentinel tapped, he cast Temporal Eddy on it. Crap.

I realized a couple of things as he Time Walked me into oblivion. One, I didn’t really consider the possibility of Temporal Eddy; my bad. Two, the reason I was playing around Snapback was because I had one in my hand. When you think about cards that wreck you, you’re going to first go to the ones you can see with your own eyes. I noticed this exact principle watching a different match. A G/B player had out Deathspore Thallid against a G/x player with two lands. The G/B didn’t attack into his opponent, fearing Ashcoat Bear. As it turned out, the Thallid player had an Ashcoat Bear of his own in hand (the other guy didn’t). This tendency might be something to keep in mind if it seems like your opponent is playing around a trick they themselves could cast. It certainly did me in.

However, that was later. Despite the ruining I took off Dan’s spell, I was still definitely in it. My guys were accumulating and Dan was getting some flood issues of his own. Dan started playing fliers and racing me as best he could, but that Snapback caused a key shift in tempo near the end. In fact, Dan had no cards in hand at the very last stages, when the numbers were definitely in my favor. He needed something like two or three blockers to stay alive, and my creatures were all bigger than his.

“Oh, that was a good draw”

Dan tapped seven for… Triskelavus?! Ah yes, the nut high. A few tokens block and shoot me, and the fliers deal the rest. Stinger.

Game 2: Dan starts off with a Dandan… fairly appropriate. I’m in a position where I can trade and save some life points, but there’s no way this deck wins if I’m treading water. So I take my damage like a man, twelve points in fact. I’m totally okay with this, as I’m developing the board. My Fledgling Mawcor eventually shoots the fish dead with no loss of cards to me. Dan’s draw is awesome though, with Telekinetic Sliver, Venser’s Sliver, and Teferi, Omni-Bomb of Zhalfir™. Oh, and an Orgg. Yet despite the awesome combo of Flash, Orgg, and Opposition, I’m still making a game of it. Partly this is due to literally the best draw this deck could produce, and partly because Dan really didn’t grasp the implications of his Teferi. He was playing some main-phase guys, and seemed overly concerned with my potential in-hand tricks. Regardless, his guys were impressive. Still, between 3/3s, 4/4s, and fliers I was dealing decent damage back. Dan’s creatures got me to two life but I actually looked to be slightly ahead in the race. Then…

“Oh, that was a good draw”

Tap XX, Conflagrate for the win. ARGHHHH!


Round 6 – Kyle (B/U)

Kyle’s deck seemed fine, although everybody’s looked like God’s gift compared to this one. Kyle’s deck was strong enough, and he probably deserved to be higher in the standings. Still in play with a 5-2 hope, this round did matter.

Game 1: Shadowmage Infiltrator. Oh man, is that creature going to draw Kyle some cards. My hand was fine with Spinneret Sliver, Griffin Guide, lands, and Cancel, but Finkel is an absolutely beating against this deck. What else to do but race? Turn 2 sliver turn 3 Guide versus Kyren Sniper enchanted with an Ophidian Eye, or something. I actually use the alternate casting cost the Snapback here, simply because I was short Islands and felt minimizing his card draws gave me time I needed. It’s not like a 4/4 flyer is impossible for B/U to deal with, but perhaps I could deal enough damage that a 2/2 flier could finish the job. Of course I drew two Islands in a row, making the Cancel look a lot better, but oh well. When Kyle was at twelve life (and I had drawn those lands), I drew a second Griffin Guide. The math was decent even though by this point Kyle couldn’t help but have a bounce spell or removal spell, or at least a chump blocker to continue finding more cards. Shockingly, it worked out. The 6/6 Sliver was somehow never bounced, blocked, or killed despite Kyle up a bunch of cards with perfect mana. Not that I was complaining.

Game 2: The other portion of Kyle’s deck came out this time, the part of the deck that does stuff. Firemaw Kavu, with its grand three abilities was far too much for my Treva-style to handle. In the late game, in my amusing attempt to stay alive, I cast Triskelavus with a mana up. Now at the time Kyle was beating me with Drifter IlDal, highly vulnerable to my Triscuit. In a flash of brilliant but sadly pointless awareness, I noticed Kyle was looked very eager for me to pass priority. Why? Why else but our favorite mechanic… Split Second. So sounding like a goon even to my own ears, I told him I cast Triskelavus and not giving up priority made a token and not giving up priority after the token resolved, sacrificing the token to kill Drifter. Would I have liked to make him tap a Blue during his upkeep? Sure, but any Sudden Death or whatever would have finished me. Sure enough, Kyle did show the Wipe Away later on. I was very proud of myself before I died a horrific death.

Game 3: This game I got Kyle all the way down to 18, before he cast Tendrils of Corruption and went back to 20. Finkel hit play on turn 3 again, and this time I didn’t have anything approaching a racing mechanism. Two Search for Tomorrows led into lands, lands, and then more lands. Lands block for $^#^.


That was fun and all, but it was definitely dropping time. Two losses could have scraped into the Top 8. After three losses, I’m just trying to avoid my rating getting quartered (either mathematically or the one with horses).

However… I wasn’t quite ready to call it a day. For one, I had some friends in the Top 8. For another, I was on tilt. Now my buddy Eric, whom we had spent coffee and time practicing to no avail, also finished in last place. He also wanted satisfaction. It was a tricky puzzle, but the answer was there at the Magic Arsenal booth. Honest-to-God, English packs of Legends. What to do with them? Well, why not MindMaster? Kelly Digges‘ engaging one pack versus one pack format. We might have been the first people on Earth to MindMaster with Legends, probably for good reason. One game, standard rules, winner takes all. Unless someone opened Moat, Mana Drain, Nether Void, Chains, or Ring of the Immortals. Those were off limits, and the opener got to keep them. Everything else was fair game.

My pack/deck sucked. Not sucked like the Sealed deck sucked, but it was pretty bad nonetheless. Eric needed a truly awful, Glyph-happy booster to even give me a chance. The one cute card that could approach stealing a win was Storm Seeker; not a bad card when their starting hand is fifteen cards. The crowd, which was fairly sizeable by this point, found this very amusing. That was nothing to the chants of approval Eric received when he opened and flashed his Moat. Now Moat was pretty bad to see, since it meant I couldn’t attack for the win. Also, if Eric had a single flier, I couldn’t win period. Hopefully Eric deck was trash

But it wasn’t, no no no. It was the opposite of trash; it was Eric Deck-esque. Eric had the unstoppable Emerald Dragonfly, which instantly meant I couldn’t win. Then he played Giant Strength on it. Then he Force Spiked my Storm Seeker, to the applause of the crowd, those turncoat bastards. Then Jasmine Boreal. Then Chain Lightning, with Pyrotechnics backup. It wasn’t just an insane MindMaster deck, it was a pretty good Standard one. I was decimated of course, but the beating was so absolute I was laughing with everyone else. Besides, what was I playing for? Revelations and Mountain Stronghold? I did manage to cast a Glyph of Destruction, a move I hadn’t done in about seven years. In a weird historical repetition, Eric actually had the obscure narrow answer in Holy Day. Fun format.

Things would down. Mike Gurney ended up beating Dan Diamant in the finals. The day, while unsuccessful in a tournament stance, still ended on a positive note. We learned some stuff and had a few laughs. No matter what kind of complaining front one puts on, you really can’t ask much more than that.

Good luck with the rest of the season.

Noah Weil
[email protected]