This is a tournament report.
I’m sure you’re thinking any number of things right now, and because I am a curious soul, I’ll wax a little on what these things might be. You could be thinking, “Wow, nobody writes random tournament reports anymore. I mean, I can understand writing one if you finished first, but why write when you finished fourth?” Or, you could be thinking: “I bet this is going to be the same boring garbage about car rides and restaurants, complete with inside jokes and general uselessness.” Maybe you’re thinking, “The day of the tournament report is long gone. The Dojo called and it wants its article back.”
If you’re thinking along these lines, you and I are, in some fundamental and yet completely mysterious way, staggeringly different people. Personally, I treasure tournament reports. Not only is my all-time favorite piece of Magic writing a tournament report (Gary Wise“The Long Road Up, which was posted on the old Sideboard.com), but tournament reports themselves are part of my magical beginnings- the first pieces of Magic writing that I did were tournament recaps, and these tentative, vitriolic Type One reports served as my first baby steps towards something very rewarding.
I remember a time when tournament reports were the most common sort of Magic article, and the decklist and card by card analysis contained in such efforts was secondary to the story of the event itself. I’m not saying that Magic writing isn’t better now than it was back then, but I do sometimes miss being able to wade into a forest of random reports and read the afternoon away. Tournament reports are unique amongst Magic writing, in that they transcend the normal boundaries of just how good any given article can be. By achieving a balance between game-related writing and the raw, vibrant joy of life, a good tournament report easily eclipses any other sort of article for pure reading enjoyment. Instead of reading about pick orders or card valuations or Constructed tech, for a while I get to follow a story, a very good story, and I am enthralled.
The things I like about the tournament report are things that some other people hate with a passion. The recounting of something as mundane as a car ride, for instance, is an exercise that this writer will gladly sit through when he is on the other side of the screen. It’s part of the tale. So are the restaurant visits, nights on the town, hushed conversations, introspective walks and sightseeing excursions. These are storytelling facets that set tournament reports apart from most other forms of Magic writing, and I personally find such fare to be a welcome change, a relaxing and cleansing break from the jungle of decklists, the merciless magnifying glass of hardcore strategy.
Tournament reports, though, aren’t all fluff. They contain some of the finest snippets of strategic work ever done, and are not unlike good sportswriting when it comes to putting drama on a page without resorting to traditionally dramatic topics like sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Tournament reports are beautiful, not only because you can read about life and Magic intertwined, but also for the same reason that match coverage is a compelling read when done right. The heat of competition can keep you glued to the edge of your seat more effectively than all the road trip stories in the world.
The report I’m about to write concerns a 99-man PTQ in the town of Garden City, Michigan. It’s a busy little burg with all the charm of the Detroit area rolled into a pothole-riddled package. I did not win the tournament in question, which is upsetting, but I did do well enough that I feel justified in writing this piece. I am not trying to become”The King of the Qualifiers” all over again, but I think I might write a report for some of my PTQ Top 8’s from now on. To let you know what it’s like, and to help me to remember, and appreciate, these events.
This won’t be the tournament report to end all tournament reports. It is a passable report, but not a particularly brilliant one. I’m writing it because sometimes it’s fun to write reports, and tell people how you did. I’m writing it because I want to flex my tournament report muscles. I’m afraid they might become flaccid and atrophied with disuse.
The trip won’t be without red zone adventures or trips to the cardboard learning tree. As we stumble, rumble, and bumble our way towards the finish line of this tale, I’m going to try to give you some advice that will help your own play in Mirrodin-Darksteel Limited. If you’re a PTQ hopeful yourself, maybe you can apply the forthcoming knowledge and also know the unmitigated joy of making a nice, shiny Top 8.
(You get a pin and everything. A lustrous bauble and a box of product. Should you find yourself the recipient of such trinkets and trappings as these, I’d advise you to liquidate them immediately and soften the blow of your travel expenses. You won’t get much for the pin, but the box is like spun gold.)
Excited? You should be!
Many tournament reports feature a section where the writer introduces his or her travelling companions, and this volume will be no different. It pains me to admit that my constant efforts to be revolutionary in my writing generally lose out to my even more constant need to fill space, but sometimes you have to call a spade a spade, hitch up your trousers, and bring out the trip roster just to bring one more paragraph screaming into existence. It’s tough work, this. So here we go.
There were five of us in the car, and oh, what a group. You probably know that Magic players come from all walks of life- we are castaways, escapees from the great, primordial stew of mainstream existence. Every carload is different. It’s me again with my Bits and Bites. You never get bored, because you never know what you’re going to get.
J”The Muscle” Vanderwielenwas the driver. Before he was a Magic player, J was a stunt biker, brawler, and abuser of numerous substances. He used to be known for his ability to break elbows. He is now known for his ability to pick Grid Monitor over Shrapnel Blast in any draft where he is on my team. I expect him to go back to breaking elbows any time now.
On his right and using his one good arm to change CDs whenever necessary was Ontario Provincial Champion Jean-Marc Babin. Jean-Marc has many interesting quirks as a player, and no Sarnia player is better at needling opponents who forget to make use of key permanents during matches. Jean-Marc was the one who invented the now-standard-in-Sarnia practice of picking up misbegotten opposing cards and”blowing the dust off” of them after a crucial end of turn step has come and gone. You don’t want to forget to use your Granite Shard for that one damage against this man. Even better is the classic question he asks when confronted with a player who forgets such effects as Leonin Elder lifegain or card draws from Compost.
“Making me lose a life from Disciple of the Vault, eh?”he’ll ask, before offering a smiling recrimination to his forgetful opponent via the question:”What’s the occasion?”
Recently, Jean-Marc broke his arm while snowboarding, a hobby that threatens to remove him from Magic entirely once he stops snapping his bones trying to catch”wicked air.” You haven’t sampled all the varied corners of humanity until you’ve met a twenty-six year-old, bespectacled engineer who likes to grind rails and cast Trinisphere in his spare time. Breaking your arm is tough on a Magic player, though. Can’t shuffle, can’t cut, can’t cheat… what’s a guy to do?
The third person in the car was a young man by the name of John Powell, the newest member of our Sarnia PTQ troupe. He acquitted himself fairly well at this event, and will only get better as he gets more play under his belt. He actually looks a little like Tomi Walamies, except he’s about fifty pounds lighter and doesn’t smile nearly as much. Maybe one day he’ll play like Tomi Walamies. Maybe one day I’ll be as funny as Tomi Walamies. I’m not holding my breath on either of those two counts, but I think I will hold my breath for a while anyhow- my stepfather’s dog just came downstairs, sat under the computer desk for about three seconds, and then left with a satisfied-yet-mischievous look on her face. This sort of gaseous warfare is why I keep a canister of”Febreeze” within reach.
Beside John Powell in the nattily neat Acura was Mike”Jersey” Clark. He’s probably best known in Internet magic circles for his set reviews on mtgontario.com, which are widely touted as the most unique of their kind. No one calls him Mike. Many people have known him for years and don’t have any idea that his name is”Mike.” He’s called”Jersey” instead, because he owns over one hundred hockey jerseys, and wears them daily according to a mystical system that takes into account the month and current phase of the moon. He’s also a Level 2 judge, a hot commodity in the region since the judges in Ontario have lately been dropping like flies. In developments almost too strange to be true, one of our Level 3’s got banned for assault, and the most senior of the Level 2’s is quitting because he made a math error in giving out prizes at the Darksteel Prerelease and the TO garnished his entire two days worth of compensation as a result.
Jersey has created over twenty full sets of cards by himself. He will not hesitate to talk about this pet project if threatened, so keep your distance if you run into him, and don’t make any aggressive moves unless you like having two-hour conversations about the significance of imaginary mechanics. If he walks up to me with his”set creation” binder in hand, I trip someone else and run.
The fifth guy in the car was me. We were crammed into the back like sardines, and in order to fasten my seatbelt, I had to grope around for an uncomfortably long time in the vicinity of John Powell’s rear end, but we did manage it, and at about 8:00 AM on that fateful Saturday, our merry band was all set to cross the border. Registration was set to end at 10:00 AM, and it takes about an hour to reach Pandemonium Games in Garden City, so the only way we’d end up late was if two things were to go wrong:
a) We get stopped at the border and someone asks Jersey, who is notoriously nervous in such situations, a question
b) There is a detour and our exit is closed, so we have to drive around the area looking for an alternate route
Unfortunately,”A” happened. It’s tough not to get frustrated with the U.S. border guards, but in their defense you have to realize that their superiors are really leaning on them to be careful ever since 9/11. After pulling over, we were asked by a fairly attractive female customs agent for the exact address of Pandemonium Games, and Jersey went through about two or three stuttering sentences worth of non-answer before it became clear that we didn’t have the address. Oops.
Then came the questions, those questions so frequently guilty of assassinating half an hour of my life when it comes time to cross the border.
Us:“It’s a fantasy-based card game.”
Eventually, we got everything sorted out- it went about as smoothly as you might imagine. During the fracas, a group of young men, cleanly shaven, came in for a similar checkup. Their destination: “A Christian conference.” Standing as I was, impotent, stripped of my identification, I couldn’t help but begrudge them such a wholesome goal.
Yeah, you’d better believe they were out of there before we were. I guess finding Jesus beats attacking for two when it comes to clearing customs.
(Hmm, twenty-six paragraphs in, all told, and we are at U.S. Customs at 8:30 AM. Maybe I’d better shift up the gears from”Comatose” to”Slow.”)
You’ll be glad to know that nothing else of note happened during the drive. This means that I won’t have to bore you any longer with mind-rending chapters like “Our Stop At Gas ‘N Go” or “Urination Stop III: The Quickening.” [I still contend that movie does not exist. – Knut] All we did on the way down was listen to music and play that most common of PTQ games – the old standby that I’ve chosen to call”What Do You Want To Open?”
“I hope I open a Molder Slug.”
“Yeah? I hope I open two Molder Slugs.”
“Well, I hope I open three Molder Slugs.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
Playing”What Do You Want To Open?” is a PTQ tradition, though the name itself is a bit of a misnomer. It should probably be called”What Do You Want To Get Passed?” My choice for the game was the following:
- Grab The Reins, Foil Grab The Reins (you can’t get two of a card in a Tournament Pack unless you have a Foil version)
- Arc Slogger, Pentavus, Oblivion Stone
- Spikeshot Goblin, Shatter, Bonesplitter
I know, pretty ridiculous, right? Well, that’s sorta the point of the game. I’m sure you’ve played it on the way to an event. Some other people broke the”WDYWTGP?” format and said that they’d love it if there was a shortage of Tournament Decks (as with a recent Ontario PTQ) and they would be”forced” to play with a deck comprised of three Mirrodin Boosters, two Darksteel Boosters (again, like a recent Ontario PTQ). Then, you’d have a chance to get something like three Molder Slug.
It’s not out of the question. Sometimes I’ve been known to get pretty lucky when opening things.
[Editor’s Note: This section originally contained a picture of a Magic Online draft where Geordie not only opened a Chrome Mox, but opened a Foil Chrome Mox as well. It didn’t make it into the article due to technical difficulties caused by editorial hard drive failure.]
Mise well open up $40 in your first 18 picks.
Obv, my friend. Obv.
***Strategy Capsule: PTQ Preparation***
Five rules to follow when you’re going to be attending a PTQ.
1. Wear comfortable clothing. I once made the mistake of attending a PTQ wearing a really tight shirt. Eventually it became a hindrance. Now I wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes that don’t inconvenience me in any way. So the advice is this: if you have to choose between being comfortable and looking like a male model for the PTQ (or attempting to), choose comfort. PTQs are long.
2. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to make the trip. We made this mistake once. Never again. The further you have to travel, the more”buffer time” you need to make sure nothing goes wrong. If you’re six hours away, look to arrive about an hour or more before the end of registration. If you have to cross a border to attend a PTQ, add about half an hour. Nothing is worse than making a trip and then showing up late and not being able to participate.
3. No one does this because it’s inconvenient, but you really want to bring your own food if expenses are an issue. A couple of sandwiches and some cans of pop will be fine. Eat a big breakfast, pack a lunch bag, and leave it in the car. Pick it up between rounds. Not only is this healthier if you’re on a diet (nothing healthy has ever been sold at a PTQ, this includes booster packs), but it’s far cheaper. Fast food and nickel and diming vending machines will get you every time.
4. I’ll try to be delicate about this. You don’t want to use the bathroom facilities at any PTQ for anything more complicated than a quick whizz in between rounds. This means you do any and all”advanced” excretory business at home, where you can take your time. Have everything ship shape the morning before the event.
5. Deodorant and anti-perspirant is a must. Not for the benefit of others, though that is a concern to some. What you really want to avoid is the gross feeling of your own sweat dribbling down your aspirating sides as you try to figure out how to attack correctly in Round 7. This is especially important during a summertime PTQ, where the place heats up in a hurry due to the shuffling of many, many human bodies.
6. Brush your teeth. Just do it.
7. You’re going to want to bring dice, counters, and so on. This is especially important with the dawn of Darksteel, where Arcbound creatures abound. As far as life tracking goes, only pen and paper is acceptable. No substitutes. I can’t stress that enough.
8. Practice the format. Have a reason for being at a PTQ. Some people play at PTQs for fun, because their friends are going. The truth is that PTQs are way overpriced. If you haven’t practiced the format and you have no idea what you’re doing, you’re basically throwing your money away. If you can afford that, knock yourself out – I hope you have a ball. If not, though… don’t waste your time attending PTQs where you are just going to lose.
Anyhow, the trip was uneventful, and we arrived with fifteen precious, bladder-emptying minutes to spare. Mike Guptil, my favorite tournament organizer, was on hand to welcome us to his event, and it was with some satisfaction that I cast my eye upon his bounty of free pens and scorepads – a hallmark of Guptil-run events. When you can show up without a life tracking device and get rescued by the T.O., you know you’re in good hands. I used my non-urinatory time to do some quick scouting for good players that would threaten by shot at all the glory. Imagine my despair when I glanced over to a nearby table and saw the lanky, sweat-suited form of Tim Aten.
I said hello, hoping he wouldn’t catch the glint of fear in my eye as I patted him on the back on the way to my seat. Well, okay. I wasn’t really afraid. It’s always nice to see Tim, who doesn’t write all that much anymore (foreshadowing?) and besides, who says I’m even going to play him (foreshadowing?) or, really, even interact with him much throughout the day (Foreshadowi… okay, okay, I’ll stop). Other notable players that I saw included Aaron Breider, who always beats me (Foresh… okay, sorry, I promised), Aaron Cutler a.k.a.”Cuts,” a talented player who I have never played but whom I did mistake once for that Valentin guy who won a GP, and Eric“Danger” Taylor, the noted player and theorist whose works I’ve supposedly been violating like the most sordid and remorseless necropheliac ever to pick up a shovel.
We sat down to register. I know, I’m as excited to write this part as you are to hear about it. The deck I registered was solid, but without bombs. I alphabetized everything and fired it into the lunchbag for some other guy to try and figure out. About fifteen minutes later I received the cards I’d be building with.
Here’s the pool. This will take me a while to get down, since Aten mixed up all my cards when he grabbed them and started playing DC10 after Round 7. And lost, might I add. He drew Tanglebloom, his opponent drew Tangle Golem. Fear the alphabetizing.
Raise The Alarm
Ritual of Restoration
Roar of the Kha
I was impressed with the White, but to understand why it’s good instead of merely average, you have to check out the artifact section. There, you’ll see Razor Golem and Soldier Replica, adding another couple of creatures to the stack. The fact that both Razor Golem and Leonin Den-Guard are insane with Equipment in general and Leonin Bola in particular was not lost on me. White is just solid from top to bottom – you’ve got two quality creatures from Darksteel (Razor Golem and Loxodon Mystic) and a bunch of great stuff from Mirrodin was well.
***Strategy Capsule: White***
- Hallow is very sideboardable against Grab the Reins, Fireball, and other elbow-dropping Red removal spells. Thanks to Aaron Cutler and Tim Aten for this advice.
- Raise The Alarm is very good in general, and even better when you have good Equipment. Echoing Courage plus Raise the Alarm is going to be breaking people in half in Darksteel Limited for months to come.
- Just in case you didn’t know, Loxodon Mystic is quite good. He’s not exactly the fastest creature on earth, and for that reason he’s better in Sealed and a little slow when it comes time to fight off the very focused decks at the draft table, but the ability is a good one and the ability is very reasonable.
2 Echoing Courage
One Dozen Eyes
Reap and Sow
Relevant artifacts include Tangle Golem (this guy is just huge) and Elf Replica. The thing that attracted my attention here was the One Dozen Eyes (very splashable, very powerful) and the great combat tricks including Tangle Spider (surprise!) and the trifecta of great pump spells. Echoing Courage in particular is almost illegal with One Dozen Eyes. There really isn’t an unplayable card in this group, unless you count Reap and Sow, which is very, very weak. A heavy Green commitment would allow me to play Tangle Spider, Slith Predator, and Wurmskin Forger, but two of those three cards aren’t even that good.
***Strategy Capsule: Green***
- Oxidize, Tangle Spider and Tangle Golem (which is listed under ‘Artifacts’) are all very good spells for Limited play. Oxidize is especially deadly, allowing you to remove almost anything with little to no loss of early game tempo. In this way, it’s a lot like Deconstruct, but even better.
- Echoing Courage is very underrated right now. I get these late in MMD drafts, and I’m not sure why that is, because they’re pure gold in an aggressive deck, especially one with multiple copies of Raise the Alarm. If you’re drafting G/W (not that I recommend it), this combination will really put the pressure on. It’s also insane with One Dozen Eyes, as mentioned above! Works with Nuisance Engine tokens, Spawn tokens, and everything in between.
- A lot of people dismiss Slith Predator as junk, but he’s playable if you’re heavy Green. Just watch your mana.
Confusion in the Ranks
Grab the Reins
So basically, I had ten Red cards in total, and five of them were Spikeshot Goblin, Electrostatic Bolt, Grab the Reins, Echoing Ruin, and Barbed Lightning. Works for me! Seriously though, this Red is very good, with five first picks out of ten cards, and one of the best cards in the set in Grab the Reins. Spikeshot Goblin is merely”okay” in some Sealed Decks, but if you check out my Equipment in the artifact section you’ll see that he’s going to be a world-beater for me on this day.
***Strategy Capsule: Red***
- Just a few words about Barbed Lightning. It’s insane! I play B/R aggro decks pretty much exclusively now in draft, and there is no Red common I’d rather have. An entwined Barbed Lightning on turn 4 or 5, followed by an attack, will put you so far ahead that it’s hard to lose. Barbed Lightning reminds me of Agonizing Demise from Invasion. Remember that bad boy?
- Shunt is a card you won’t see often, but it’s playable, according to Aaron Cutler and Tim Aten, who have more experience with the card than I do. Shunt is the sort of card that’s hard to use well against a good player who has seen it once, but in Sealed or Booster draft that shouldn’t be much of a problem.
- Echoing Ruin is the second best Red common, after Barbed Lightning. It’s very, very good and should always make your deck. Nothing revolutionary there, I know – but I want to cover all the bases.
Burden Of Greed
I put my Black off to the side in about two seconds. Four creatures, two of them mediocre, and some underpowered spells.
***Strategy Capsule: Black***
- I don’t think much of Scavenging Scarab. I don’t think I’ll ever put him in one of my B/R aggro decks, since options like Echoing Decay, Grimclaw Bats, and Nim Abomination are all far superior. Burden of Greed and Hunger of the Nim are both pretty awful, too. What else is there to say?
Awful. About as deep as the kiddie pool at the YMCA.
***Strategy Capsule: Blue***
- Neurok Prodigy is good, but not that good. He’s just a 2/1 flier in a world of Longbows, Spikeshots, Wails of the Nim, Arcbound Stingers, Grimclaw Bats, and Neurok Familiars. Play him if you get him, but don’t expect miracles. Vedalken Engineer is better if you’ve been drafting correctly, with lots of artifacts.
- Quicksilver Behemoth is very playable. Don’t let the drawback scare you away – he’s especially good at taking down large green men. I’m not saying he’ll dominate the game for you, but the Behemoth will make your deck more often than not.
- “Lenny…without that dental plan, you wouldn’t have that Bonesplitter in your tooth!” Yoink! Should you maindeck Carry Away? I’d say you can afford to do that, but the question of maindeck vs. sideboard isn’t too important as long as you know when to sideboard it in or out.
Chalice of the Void
Scale of Chiss-Goria
Sword of Fire and Ice
Talisman of Progress
Tooth of Chiss-Goria
Dee gee. Sword of Fire and Ice is called the best card in the set by many, Bonesplitter is great, Platinum Angel is a big flier that can steal wins, Leonin Bola (a.k.a. the Elbowla Virus) is just ridiculous, and boy am I happy to see Darksteel Ingot, which I love in Sealed. Tangle Golem and Myr Enforcer are big fatties that can come out on the cheap… this is powerful stuff!
***Strategy Capsule: Artifacts***
- First thing is first: the Elbowla Virus. It’s crazy. I love the card. Leonin Bola is better than Vulshok Morningstar in most cases (though with Spikeshots you still want the Star) and can dominate entire games, especially where opposing Equipment is concerned. Opposing Loxodon Warhammers are useless with an Elbowla on the table. Look at it this way – what do you use Icy Manipulator for in this format? To tap opposing creatures, right? The Bola is about as good as Icy Manipulator, and it’s sometimes better.
- Sword of Fire and Ice is completely unfair and you usually win the game if it even hits once, but you probably already knew that. I never played it on turn 3 all day, preferring to wait until turn 5. A lot of my games featured a turn 4 Skyhunter Patrol or Clockwork Condor, turn 5, cast Sword and equip, kill your guy, draw a card, you take X amount of damage.
- A lot can be written about the Arcbound creatures, but I think the best common Arcbound is the 1/1 flier, which I didn’t have. I had the 1/1 for one mana, which is a rare Limited-playable 1/1 for one to join my Disciples of the Vault. I really hate the 2/2 haste for four, and the Bruiser and Lancer seem slow to me.
- Surestrike Trident. I didn’t play it, but I heard some stories about it on the day, stories where a valiant hero would be laid low by a”Trident you, untap, equip, Trident you, equip another guy, Trident you, good game” to the tune of about seventeen damage. That suggests the card has potential, but boy is it slow.
- To those of you still picking Platinum Angel over Spikeshot Goblin and other Tier 1 commons: stop it. Spikeshot won me games, Bonesplitter won me games. My day was like one long lesson on why Platinum Angel isn’t that good. Even in Sealed, where artifact removal is at a premium and most decks only have two or three pieces, she never lived more than one turn. Many games, I didn’t have enough mana to cast her. She’s good, she can sometimes steal you wins, but to paraphrase a rookie Dennis Rodman on Larry Bird: “She’s an Angel. That’s the only reason she gets [credit]. She ain’t God, she ain’t the best pick in the pack.”
I took almost all of the deckbuilding period to figure this one out.
Here’s the deck I ended up playing:
One Dozen Eyes
Raise The Alarm
Leonin Den Guard
Sword of Fire and Ice
Grab The Reins
1 Great Furnace
You’ll notice that I went three colors, despite the fact that I could have easily been two. After the Swiss had concluded, no less an authority than Tim Aten opined that I was”being greedy” in playing One Dozen Eyes, Oxidize, and Echoing Courage, and that I should have played the two Arcbound creatures and Shunt (or Roar of the Kha, or something like that) instead. I think it’s okay the way it is – especially playing Darksteel Ingot and drawing first every game. I only lost one game to color screw the entire tournament, and the power level of the cards I brought to the table was second to none.
If you look at my spells, every one of them is a potential first pick, with the exception of Darksteel Ingot and probably Echoing Courage (which isn’t to say it doesn’t trade with first picks on occasion, or have a first pick-style effect on the game). With card quality like that, I decided to go all in and just make every spell in my deck a bomb, and manascrew be damned. Truth be told, the manabase was actually fine, with only three forests and three green cards, plus the Ingot. Drawing second every game made sure I wouldn’t have any troubles, and sure enough, I rarely did.
Echoing Courage was given the nod over Predator’s Strike because of the tremendous synergy it has with Raise the Alarm and One Dozen Eyes (which was always cast as five 1/1 Insects).
The last card I added to the deck was Clockwork Condor. It was the right choice. I was creature light with only twelve men, and I needed something with evasion to suit up with my Sword of Fire and Ice, which the Condor often did. If I had it to do over again, I would not build the deck any differently.
***Strategy Capsule: PTQ Deckbuilding***
There are two schools of thought. You can build for consistency and go two colors, or you can build for power and go three colors. It’s a rare deck that can do both, and that deck is a true PTQ dream, a free ticket to the Top 8. Building for consistency means you’re setting out to build a solid deck that will never have mana troubles. You will take fewer mulligans than your opponents, and get color screwed far less. This sort of deck will generally have two or three”filler” cards as you approach the bottom of the barrel with regards to quality, but that weakness is more than compensated for by the consistency gained from such a build. With the abundance of artifact creatures in MMD Sealed, a two color deck is always an option.
Building for power means you take away those three filler cards and throw in the three most powerful splash cards you can find from a tertiary color. In the case of my deck above, the three cards are from Green, and they won me multiple games throughout the day. However, I also lost games due to taking extra mulligans for incorrect colors of land in my opening hand, or getting color screwed (as with Game 2 of Round 3, where I should have mulliganned). These decks always, always want to draw first in order to avoid color and mana screw. It’s still fine to play sixteen land as long as you’re always on the draw when given the chance.
You’ll want to have twelve or thirteen creatures in your deck – anything less is really pushing it. With ten creatures in your deck, you’re just asking for trouble.
On with the show.
Round 1 vs. Ervin Tornos w/ R/W/G (Sun Standard + men)
Ervin was a nice opponent – a PT hopeful from six hours away, trying to parlay his JSS success into something concrete at a higher level. He’s one step up on me, then – I don’t even have JSS success.
I won the roll and decided to draw, same as every other time I’d win the roll that day. He opened up with a Leonin Den-Guard, and then a Wizard Replica, after which I cast Raise the Alarm with Echoing Courage in hand. I attack, roll over his Replica, and he takes three. Turn 4 I cast Clockwork Condor, turn 5, Sword of Fire and Ice and equip, hitting him for a total of six and drawing a card. He did start to mount some offense with three toughness creatures like Tel-Jilad Exile, but I drew into my Spikeshot and gunned him down before things could get out of hand.
In between games, Ervin pulled a six or seven card sideboard switch, taking out such platinum hits as Rust Elemental (which he was, understandably, not happy to be playing) for more powerful Green cards including Pulse of the Tangle.
This game, Ervin got an early Leonin Sun Standard, but only one plains. I played out Spikeshot with Bonesplitter (fair), but he cast Shatter on the Splitter and started to mount an offense against my Bottle Gnomes. Unfortunately for him, I topdecked Sword of Fire and Ice and put that on the Spikeshot. He still had only one Plains, but plenty of high toughness men, and it looked like he might be able to make a game of it until I drew Electrostatic Bolt for his large Tangle Golem (which he cast for two mana – ridiculous!) and then Blinding Beam to take the pressure off, while I gunned down his team. Loxodon Mystic and Leonin Bola made an appearance, and I was able to rumble through for lethal damage in short order. After the game, I revealed the top three cards of my library to him, and they happened to be Grab the Reins, Barbed Lightning, and Echoing Ruin. Sickening.
***Strategy Capsule: Trading Creatures***
One interesting play in the game was when he cast Pulse of the Tangle, and I could prevent him from getting it back in hand by sacrificing my Bottle Gnomes. I didn’t bother, because I had a 3/4 Spikeshot Goblin and his 3/3 creatures were pretty much useless, so any time or mana he wanted to spend getting more 3/3’s was just fine by me. I was actually hoping he’d recast the Pulse that turn and tap out, making his Leonin Sun Standard a non-issue for the coming combat. Instead, he cast a two mana Tangle Golem and left a Plains and a Mountain open.
If you are in a game and find yourself in a position to deny your opponent a creature by sacrificing one of your own (Wizard Replica creates this situation fairly often, so does Goblin Replica), make sure it’s a good trade before you pounce on the opportunity. In this case, my ability to kill a three toughness creature at any given time was reason enough for me to hang on to my Gnomes. If he’d had more Plains to go with his Sun Standard, I might have thought differently. If you get a chance to trade your Wizard Replica for something like Fangren Hunter, I say”do it!” Unless the Hunter happens to be irrelevant (maybe you have a Spikeshot with Sword of Kaldra on the board, or something).
Mmm…Sword of Kaldra. It turns all your Longbowed guys into Visara the Dreadful!
Yay, so far, so good. 1-0. Time for Round 2 – where the men get separated from the boys!
Round 2 vs. Stephen Cieutat w/ 39 Card Decklist
Much to the amusement of Tim Aten, who chides me every time he sees me for using judges to get flimsy victories (he has done this ever since a recent Extended PTQ where one of my opponents got a game loss, and another a match loss), poor Stephen had only registered thirty-nine cards, and had to go off to the corner to have an unpleasant talk with the judge.
***Strategy Capsule: No Dumb Errors!***
Let’s be honest with each other. No one wants to do all that checking that judges have you do when you get the cardpool that some other guy registered. Sometimes he didn’t alphabetize it, and even if he did, you just want to get started on deckbuilding. I understand, my friend. I do. But look…just do it, ok?
1. Check the contents of the deck, card by card, when you receive it.
2. Check the contents of the played column, twice, after you finish registering what you are going to play.
It’s an extra three or four minutes. Just do it. I beg of you. There aren’t enough PTQs per season to justify throwing away rounds to stupid mistakes just because you think you’re above error checking. Yes, I know it’s boring. So is med school, sometimes. But you still have to do it.
I spent the round watching my friends to see how they were doing. J was facing down a guy with seven creatures, a Leonin Sun Standard, and eight mana on the table, four of it White. The previous game, he’d been beaten down by his own Platinum Angel, which had been stolen by Memnarch! Of all the indignities. Jean-Marc won his match against a girl who tried to cheat him (not very ladylike) and then dropped because his deck was awful.
Tim Aten sought me out after his match and once again needled me (jokingly) about getting cheesy match wins at PTQ events. This time, I decided to fight back.
“You’re one to be talking about easy wins. Your last opponent busted out a turn 2Omega Myr!” (This had, in fact, just happened.)
Tim, straight-faced: “At least I’m willing to go through the motions.”
I also visited the Pandemonium Games”urinal o’ doom” before the beginning of Round 3. It’s a mixed bag with their facilities – when you show up for an event at Pandemonium, you never know what you’re going to get in terms of bathroom cleanliness. Sometimes, as with most PTQs, it’s at least reasonably immaculate in there. People flush, the sink has been wiped down recently, and there are no tattered commons lodged in the drain. (It’s fun to have something to aim at, but I don’t think such a fate is what Rosewater had in mind for those extra copies of Magnetic Flux.)
Sometimes, though, you have to work hard keeping your gorge down. This happens most often at Prereleases, and often has been the time where I’ve had to brave unflushed, crud-clogged fixtures, always dusted with that light sprinkling of stray pubic hair – a little something extra for your entry fee. *Shudder*. If that urinal could talk, man. What tales it’d have.
Oh, time for Round 3.
[Editor’s Note: This exciting saga is continued in Part 2 and kicks off with an epic battle against the nefarious Tim Hoyt Aten!]