Tales Of The PTQ Grind

Ken Bearl has been on the PTQ grind and wants to share his best stories from many weeks of travel with you!

So in an effort to try and qualify for Pro Tour Honolulu, I’ve been playing in as many real-life PTQs as I reasonably can. Reasonably may not be the word for it, since as a married man with three kids, I shouldn’t be playing in as many as I have been. Of course, if you asked my wife, one is too many, so I guess everyone’s point of view is different. Sadly I haven’t won any of them, and I dislike Sealed Deck write-ups, but I have collected some cool stories to share with everyone.

PTQ 1, Fargo October 8th

So to avoid the driving in the morning and considering that it was pretty nice weather for fall in Minnesota, I decided to drive out with my family and go camping this weekend. Also when someone asked me how I got there, I would just answer, “I abandoned my family in the woods, after chopping up some kindling for my wife to start a fire with since I’m not going to get back until late.”

Sadly I went 1-2, but since I was in town, I went to Kmart to get a new air mattress, since our old one had a leak. Since it was fall, all the air beds where on sale; the cheap one was marked down from forty to thirty-five dollars, and the Coleman camping one was sold out. I was about to grab the cheap one, when I noticed the hundred-dollar Aero bed marked down to forty dollars. Now that isn’t going to make me want to go to Kmart anytime soon, but that was a hell of a deal.

Chicago October 22nd

In an effort to again include my family since it was MEA weekend, which means the kids didn’t have school on Thursday or Friday, we did a family vacation to Chicago. I actually decided to not go to the PTQ, since if I did, my wife would have just stayed at the hotel all day. She doesn’t like cities and was really nervous when we were in Millennium Park, which isn’t really even the city. However it was probably a good thing I didn’t go because they ended up with 228 people, so it would have been an extra round if I was there.

I did hear that it was held in an indoor soccer field where they used the arena system to time the rounds, with the buzzer sounding when time ended. So while that would have been neat, I still had a lot of fun not playing, instead touring Lincoln Park Zoo and Navy Pier.

PTQ 2 Madison, WI October 29th

I got up at 3:30 in the morning to head out with the crew Matthias Hunt, Jason Schousboe, Kyle Stoll, and Jesse Westphal. After round 1, I realized that I should have played U/W instead of G/W, so I did the swap every round.

Round 4 after starting 3-0, I drew up my opening seven and realized I had not reset my deck. Not wanting to be one of those guys and cheat my opponent, I called a judge, expecting to get a game loss. To my surprise they gave me a warning and told me to de-sideboard. I guess they can downgrade it to a warning from a game loss at their discretion. So I got to 5-0 and then lost to bad hands after mulliganing both games. I won the next round to be 6-1 and had the best tiebreakers, so I got paired up against a 6-0-1. Sadly Matthias was 5-0-2 and got paired down; all the other 6-1’s had to play, so if I drew and Matthias won, I would take ninth.

Matthias’s opponent scooped to him since he didn’t want to dream crush, meaning I had to play. I lost a close game 1 and was getting beat up by a lot of fliers in game 2, so I offered the draw on the chance that he would take it and maybe one of the 6-1 matches would go to time. He readily accepted, which his friend questioned because he was beating me pretty handily. He replied that he just wanted to make top 8 and didn’t care how he got there, in which case it makes sense to draw since I could have Divine Reckoning and make a comeback if I drew it. So I ended up in 9th; at least since he drew with me I got more packs because Legion Events pays out based on record.

PTQ 3 Minneapolis November 5th

I started 3-0 with a pretty cool 4-color deck that was splashing for Kessig Cagebreakers and Falkenrath Noble. With two dual lands, Shimmering Grotto, and Traveler’s Amulet, the mana was really good, and both of my splash cards were awesome with my Divine Reckoning. It is such an awesome feeling to drain someone for eight with Falkenrath Noble and Divine Reckoning.

Round 4 I faced Scott Markenson who was playing U/B.

Game one he set me back with Silent Departure, and at two life I stopped his team with Bonds of Faith and Claustrophobia. He drew and played Manor Skeleton, so I was thinking, okay I’ll be at one, but he moved the Silver-Inlaid Dagger to the Manor Skeleton to finish me.

Game 2 I had a couple cards in hand to his one and Abbey Griffin on my side to his Invisible Stalker, Typhoid Rats, and Markov Patrician. So I cast Divine Reckoning, and he chose to keep the Invisible Stalker like I thought he would, which was fine because I was at like 15 life. So of course he drew the Silver-Inlaid Dagger next turn, but I’d be fine. I’d just cast Moon Heron next turn to swing the race in my favor. So his turn he played his land and Corpse Lunged my Moon Heron; sigh daggered again.

I won round 5 and lost round 6 to Charmbreaker Devils recurring Moan of the Unhallowed instead of the Harvest Pyre the first two times. Those were his only two cards in the graveyard, so the Harvest Pyre was a dead card, and if he would have gotten it back, my Lantern Spirit could have won the race.

PTQ 4 Cedar Rapids, Iowa November 11th

Once again woke up at 3:30 am to pick up the crew of Jason Schousboe, Sean Weihe, and Nose. The store was excellent and right next to a Donut Land, which I thought should have had a better selection with a name like Donut Land. I guess I’ll just have to find a Donut World and see if it would be the wondrous place I imagine.

So round 1 game one my opponent Severed the Bloodline on my two Avacynian Priests, which was not a very nice start to a PTQ. I won game 2 despite him casting Grimgrin, Corpse-Born twice: the first time I Rebuked it; the second time I cast Harvest Pyre for five with the untap activation on the stack, and he didn’t want to sacrifice his Avacynian Priest to put an additional counter on Grimgrin or didn’t know he could. I finished him by casting Village Bellringer to untap my Moon Heron with Demonmail Hauberk on it after he used his Avacynian Priest to tap it. I don’t remember game 3, but it felt great to beat a deck with Grimgrin and Sever the Bloodline.

Round 2 faced Noah Root

I won game 1 and in game 2 I snap kept the hand with Spectral Rider, Angel of Flight Alabaster, Selhoff Occultist, and 4 Plains. He got stuck on two lands for some time, while I had no Islands and a lot of blue cards in my hand.

So he was at 13 life and just played his third land. I think he had two Plains and a Swamp. In play I had a Spectral Rider that he had cast Bonds of Faith on, Avacynian Priest, and Angel of Flight Alabaster. I cast Demonmail Hauberk and had to figure out what to do. I figured since he didn’t  play anything when he hit three land that he probably had a Rebuke. So I sacrificed the Spectral Rider to equip the Avacynian Priest and attacked with just it for five; he of course had to Rebuke it.

He again passed with no play, so after getting back my Spectral Rider, I had to wonder if he had a second Rebuke. If he didn’t have it, I could play and sacrifice the Spectral Rider to equip the Angel and kill him in two swings. Of course he could also have a Smite the Monstrous, and if he drew a land next turn he could kill the Angel, and since I still didn’t have an Island, he could get back in the game. I decided to just attack with my Angel unequipped, and he didn’t have a second Rebuke. So I played my Spectral Rider and passed.

He drew and played his fourth land and had the Smite the Monstrous for my Angel. I then drew an Island and played a Moon Heron after attacking him to seven with Spectral Rider.

After drawing his fifth land, he cast a Manor Gargoyle. So on my turn I sacrificed the Spectral Rider to equip the Demonmail Hauberk to the Moon Heron and swung for lethal. I felt really good about how I played that game, since if I had just played recklessly trying to kill him before he drew land, I probably would have lost.

Unfortunately I lost round 3 to a good opponent with a very good deck. Game 1 I decided to cast my Battlefield Geist instead of leaving Dissipate up, and he played Geist-Honored Monk. I think it was still the right play, as I needed the threat to put pressure on him.

Game 2 I lost to Reaper from the Abyss; he also told me he had Bloodline Keeper in his deck.

After losing I got to hear about how Dave Yetka, who you may remember from my States report, won after mulliganing to two cards on the draw against his opponent’s seven-card hand. Now the first thing I asked him was why he mulliganed to two; don’t you just stop at three? He said, “Well I figured I’m in the 0-2 bracket, and each hand didn’t have any land. So I just wanted to see if there was any land in my deck.”

Turn 2 his opponent played a Gatstaf Shepherd that flipped, since his two-card hand didn’t have any land. However she was severely mana flooded, and after the Gatstaf Howler attacked him down to five, he drew his third land so that he could stabilize with his Fiend Hunter and double Brimstone Volley. Since she kept drawing land, he was able to win; he said, “She basically hit her twelfth land drop on turn twelve.”

In round 5 I didn’t play well after getting into the play mode of my opponent who was just having a good time. He really tried to help me out by never using Mikaeus, the Lunarch to put a counter on itself. After the match, his friends told him his mistake, and he was like, “Wow Mikaeus is even better than I thought.”

On the bright side Jason Schousboe was 5-0 and double drew into the top 8. As he drafted, we went to find some good pizza. We ended up at Tomaso’s Pizza, which had excellent reviews online and was packed on a Saturday night. We ended up getting the deep dish, which was quite good and very filling.

So we got back at the site, and Schousboe had drafted a good G/W deck with Creeping Renaissance and Dearly Departed.

Sean was buying some black-bordered City of Brass, and the head judge was behind the counter. The judge clearly stated that he wasn’t there to help sell cards. So being the smart ass I am, I said, “So you’re just there to answer any rules questions about cards in the case.”

“Yeah that’s it,” he said.

“So any Humilities in the case?” I replied.

“Nope! They’ve all been ripped up or burned.” He snap answered.

Well Jason ended up winning, and he wrote a report here. It was pretty cool since he made top 16 at GP Denver earlier in the year but couldn’t afford to travel to Japan, so now he gets a chance to actually go to a Pro Tour.

So after all those PTQs, I didn’t have a top 8. I felt like I should have made top 8 in all but Fargo. Either through being more focused or by taking a different line of play. I also went to a PTQ last weekend, but I’ll cover that in my next article.

I’m thinking of taking a long road trip the weekend of the SCG Invitational and going to some more PTQs. It was really tempting to go to Charlotte for the Invitational, but I didn’t get my plane ticket soon enough, and now it’s just too expensive.

Also it’s great to talk to everyone who likes the articles. Hopefully I’ll find more time to write in the future, but it’s hard with a family and work being so busy.

Ken Bearl

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