This tourney report starts at least three weeks before the actual PTQ, as I was trying to decide what to play. I had been experimenting with a U/R/B, a domain variant, and a U/W/B No-Mar deck. I could not decide which deck I liked best. All three decks had their advantages and disadvantages.
I had done enough testing to realize that I hated the dragons in the Crosis and Dromar builds. If I was still in enough control of the game to cast a dragon with counter backup, I should already have won with something smaller. Crosis became Pyre Zombie and Rage, and Dromar became either a Voice of All (except for the mana), or simply ways to clear a path for the UW bears early on. Beyond that, I tweaked everything.
A week before the PTQ, I was still undecided on which deck to play. Domain was a blast when it worked but no fun when the Collective Restraints went into hiding. I had decided on the eighty-six cards I wanted to squeeze into the U/R/B deck, plus lands, of course (and no, I wasn’t going to play a single card over 60, or maybe 61… Or 62 on the outside.) I was seriously considering Benalish Heralds and Angelic Shield in the U/W/B deck. (Okay, Fact or Fiction wasn’t amazing me in what was essentially a beatdown deck. Heralds acted as a wall in most cases, were amazing if they lived a round or two, but sucked against Prophetic Bolt. Angelic Shield meant they lived through a Bolt, at least in theory. In other words, I was really reaching.*)
The Thursday before the PTQ, the team played an IBC tourney at the store. I couldn’t decide what deck to play – so I literally rolled a die. In the end, I played something completely unmemorable, probably U/W/B, with unspectacular results. Third of seven, or something like that. Still not great. I also found that I had tweaked the U/B/R build to be too much anti-creature, and it could not handle Goblin Trenches.
I had a few ideas. Whatever I played had to have enchantment kill. That meant playing the U/W/B deck (with Vindicate) or a dark domain deck with Pernicious Deed, or using Recoil and Lobotomy in the U/R/B deck. There aren’t many other options in U/R/B.
I also knew I wanted to play Disrupt maindeck. Prohibit looked pretty strong, especially with black or white familiars since nearly everything being played in most decks cost less than four and it could counter bears turn 2. I thought that Destructive Flow could be amazing in the format, and actually started designing a G/R/B deck during a particularly dull meeting on Friday, but soon came to my senses. However, by late Friday night, I still hadn’t decided what deck to play.
I got up early Saturday, checked out the web reports of Singapore and London and half convinced myself to play a version of the U/R/W deck listed in the day 1 undefeated list for Singapore, but using Trenches instead of Skizzik. I still hadn’t decided on which deck to run. Then I ran the dogs, but they had no useful advice. (They just like the decks where I use dog treats for counters.)
Minutes before we had to leave, – okay, minutes after we had to leave – I was still undecided. I had most of U/W/R deck pulled and had the U/W/B and U/B/R decks together. Ingrid was getting really sick of the indecision. (She had decided to play the U/G/R deck with three Fact or Fictions weeks ago. She was pretty happy about that, mainly because we only own four Mystic Snakes and four Blurred Mongooses, so that limited my choices.)
At the PTQ, I sat down with the team and told them I didn’t know what to play. No one seemed surprised. Ingrid sat at a different table to registered her deck. Finally, about fifteen minutes before the start time, Ingrid came back, handed me a blank decklist and said something like”Time’s up, dammit, just pick a deck and fill out this list. Now.”
I chose U/R/B. Here’s the decklist:
4 Shivan Reef
4 Salt Marsh
3 Urborg Volcano
4 Nightscape Familiars
1 Pyre Zombie
4 Fact or Fiction
3 Prophetic Bolt
2 Urza’s Rage
1 Yawgmoth’s Agenda
3 Unnatural Selection
1 Pyre Zombie
1 Yawgmoth’s Agenda
2 Fire / Ice
3 Ravenous Rats
The turnout was small for a Midwest PTQ – only 106. That was surprising, but might have been explained, in part, by it being Labor Day weekend, or by the level of competition in Madison and because there was a PTQ in Indiana. Ingrid and I had discussed driving to Indiana – driving 750 miles instead of thirty-five miles – just to avoid the players in Madison, and I suspect others had as well. Several familiar faces were missing.
The people who did attend included pros like Adrian Sullivan, Mike Hron, Bob Albright, Ben Kellerstrass, Dustin Stern, Midwest region champ Pete Hills – and a host of other people with multiple PTQ top 8 pins.** Plus a handful of qualified people, like Bob Maher, Jr. and Brian Kowal just wandering around. I’ll admit to being a bad enough player that names like that scare the hell out of me. It felt more like a GP than a PTQ.
Team C&C brought a bunch of people to the PTQ, including Ingrid and me, Chris Browning with his U/W/R Trenches variant, Pete Hills playing something I didn’t catch, Adam with a U/R/G tempo deck and Shiney with U/W/B. Sheehy, Barry and Corey were all playing the team’s Obliterate/Necra Sanctuary/domain deck that combined the fast mana and 4 maindeck Obliterates from Tuli Jakobson’s double-T8-at-GenCon deck with Collective Restraint, Overgrown Estate, Elfhame Sanctuary, Sterling Grove and the like. It killed with Necra Sanctuary or two Legacy Weapons – one to remove all the opponent’s permanents from the game and a second to prevent getting decked.
As usual, I took very few notes and they were all in my handwriting, so I probably mangled the spelling on these names. Sorry. Ditto if I rewrite history, but I think my memory is pretty good here.
Round 1: Corey Carleson, Obliterate/domain/enchantments
Corey is a teammate, and I had playtested against this deck a fair amount. I had suggested some changes (Evasive Action, Yawgmoth’s Agenda over Restock) that I suddenly hoped he had forgotten about. Corey’s deck was supposed to be unexpected – that was its main advantage, so a round one pairing against a teammate was really bad – for Corey. However, the prospect of a turn 4 or 5 Obliterate – cast by an opponent with Elfhame Sanctuary in play – really scared me, since that was one of the few threats that my deck could not handle. Nothing in U/R/B can really deal with Obliterate… Except Lobotomy, that is. A lot of this matchup comes down to whether Lobotomy nails Obliterate; otherwise, Obliterate stops U/R/B.
Game 1: Lobotomy got Obliterate. Corey kept a hand without green mana but with an Elfhame Sanctuary, Sterling Grove, Collective Restraint, and some other goodness. Bad mistake. I had both Prohibit and Undermine ready by the time he had green mana available, and without the Elfhame Sanctuary his deck is a lot slower in getting domain out. I got a Familiar down, which allowed me to Lobotomy with counter backup early, and I nailed Obliterate. At that point I was in clover, since I had no qualms about playing out all my lands. I let Collective Restraint and Powerstone Minefield resolve, since I didn’t really worry about having to beat down for the win. I countered Overgrown Estate and Necra Sanctuary. The only other threat was Legacy Weapon. When he finally cast one, I Recoiled it during his end step in preparation for Lobotomy. He pitched the Weapon to the Recoil, but it didn’t matter. I ended up recurring the Pyre Zombie for the win. I took four damage from my own painlands, but nothing else.
I dropped the Terminates for an extra Recoil and Lobotomy, and something – I don’t remember what – for another Pyre Zombie. I considered Gainsay, but he only had Evasive Action as a counter, plus maybe Gainsay in the board, so I didn’t expect to see many blue cards that I really needed to counter.
Game two went a little better for him, but not a lot. I had more counters, and he had only 3 real threats: Necra Sanctuary with Sterling Grove, Legacy Weapon, and Obliterate. Once again, though, I nailed Obliterate with Lobotomy. He did get Elfhame Sanctuary out turn 2, and he resolved a quick Powerstone Minefield early, and later a Collective Restraint. However, I have a fair number of ways to win without attacking, so I was not too worried. I countered the first Overgrown Estate, but he had the second. Elfhame and Estate can generate a lot of life. We spend a lot of time with my Pyre Zombie working as recurring landkill while jockeying over Legacy Weapon, Recoil and Lobotomy. I did at least fifty points to him, and was setting up for back to back Rage with kickers, then Yawgmoth’s Agenda and do it again, when time was called.
Matches 1-0, Games 1-0. That’s a weird stat. Ingrid lost to mana problems and weird draws; Pete Hills had to leave because his girlfriend was going into surgery for an emergency appendectomy (hope she recovers quickly, Pete), and the rest of the team did okay.
Round 2: Don Shaum, W/R beats
I lost the die roll. Bob Albright, sitting next to me, asked to borrow my d20. I warned him it was cursed, but he used it anyway and lost the roll, too.
I was a bit mana screwed early, and Don’s deck punishes that. He was pretty much two colors and got the beats out fast. I was soon swarmed by Goblin Legionnaires. I had to Recoil a Legionnaire on turn 4, and Don shot me in response. Then he discarded a land. I stopped him, saying”Wait, you sacrificed the Legionnaires, so Recoil’s target was gone and Recoil was countered on resolution. You don’t have to discard.***” then I discovered that Darrell, the head judge, was standing right behind me, and he confirmed this. So Don dropped another Legionnaire and continued the beats. During his end step I cast Prophetic Bolt, targeting the Legionnaire because I’m a bad player, and Don again sacrificed the Goblins in response. I reached for my library, started to pull a card off, then froze. I said, very clearly,”The target is gone, so the Bolt is countered on resolution, and I am certainly not going to look at cards. I’ll start my next turn, and draw a card. Okay?” Darrell, who was still standing behind me, chuckled. Had I moved that card another quarter inch, I would have earned a game loss for drawing extra cards.
I was still rattled enough that I tapped the wrong mana during the next end step to Fact or Fiction and died to a Ghitu Fire cast as an instant. It wasn’t really important: Don had two or three creatures in play, I had two life, and I would have had to pull a Void to survive the turn. (Not to mention that I would still have had to do eighteen damage to Don before he could draw a Rage.)
Game 2, I was not doing much better. Recoil on a Spectral Lynx put a big Dodecapod into play. Next turn I had to Void for four, and crossed all my fingers Don didn’t have another in hand. He didn’t, but he did have Trenches, Rage, and assorted creatures. I almost pulled it out, but he found a last-minute Ghitu Fire the turn before he would have died. Not good.
Matches 1-1, Games 1-2: an ugly stat. Ingrid played a little kid and her deck was working perfectly – she always gets her best draws against the people she can beat with bad draws, and mediocre draws when she needs good ones. Corey and Sheehy both lost. Chris and Shiney were 2-0. Other results were mixed – which is a cute way of saying that I don’t remember.
Round 3: Jeff Hegedus, Phyrexian Arena
Jeff won the roll, dropped a turn 2 Ravenous Rats and started beating for one. I considered Voiding for two a turn or two later, but skipped it. The next turn, Jeff played another Rats and Gerrard’s Verdict. Shouldn’t have skipped it, I guess. I was looking hard for counterspells but could not find anything. I Terminated a Lynx and summoned a Familiar to hold off the Rats. Jeff resolved Phyrexian Arena, but I resolved a Yawgmoth’s Agenda (since a lot of my good cards had been lost to Verdict and Rats). Jeff then made a very questionable play: Desolation Angel with kicker. Yes it beats, but I simply played an Urborg Volcano out of my graveyard next turn, took a hit for five, then played a swamp and Terminated the Angel during his attack phase. He summoned a Lynx, but I summoned the dead Familiars and held it off. All the while, he was dying to his own Arena. In the end, I Undermined something for the win.
Sideboarding was pretty simple: I brought in another Zombie and Agenda and took out something, but I’m not sure what. Probably a Lobotomy and a Disrupt or a Familiar.
Game two was pretty much the same. I made a big point of siding in Dodecapods – which I didn’t really have – but he either didn’t believe me or didn’t have any options because he kept in the Verdicts and Rats. Once again, I lost some cards to Rats and Verdicts, then stabilized. He resolved the second or third Arena, and was eventually forced to Obliterate when I was at three life and he was at ten. I responded with Undermine and Rage. Jeff could not find a land on his first turn and died to the Arena before he could get a threat out.
Matches 2-1, Games 3-2. Only Chris and Shiney are undefeated.
Round 4: Craig (his last name is illegible, sorry Craig), R/G Beats
I think this was a straight Rocket Shoes deck – just red/green beats. Craig got out a fast Mongoose and Raging Kavus, and I was soon close to dying. It came down to an end of turn Fact or Fiction that had to find a creature. It didn’t, but it did find a Prophetic Bolt. The Bolt found a Pyre Zombie, which held off the beats so I could stabilize at three life. By then I had a bunch of mana, could counter all further threats, and finally won with a kickered Urza’s Rage.
I sideboarded out the Lobotomies and brought in the Rats, Fire/Ice, and the last Pyre Zombie. Rocket Shoes empties its hand too fast for Lobotomy to be very useful, but the two-for-one inherent in Rats is very good in this matchup. So is Fire/Ice.
Game two he also started fast, with Mongoose and Raging Kavu. He quickly drew and played another 3/1 Kavu, but I had a Fire by then and they both died. Kavu Chameleon was also making repeated appearances, but was getting Iced and Recoiled. I finally killed the first with Prophetic Bolt, but could not deal with its brother in time. Eventually a Mongoose got through for the win.
Game three was similar, but a Void for two nailed three Mongeese early on and Pyre Zombies began holding off the world – well, at least they were holding off a Kavu Chameleon, since I had the mana free to put damage on the stack, then fling it to finish off the Kavu. He beat me down to eight, but I got the win with Undermines, Rages and Prophetic Bolts.
Matches 3-1, games 5-3. Not exciting, but okay. I can’t remember where the rest of the team was. Ingrid had some amazingly bad draws while her opponents’ decks worked perfectly well. She dropped at 1-2, then got paired anyway and drew four lands in two games, so she ended the day at 1-3. Corey was at 1-3 (my tiebreakers! Argh!!), and Chris was still going strong at 4-0.
Round 5: Dan Flood, enchantment city
Dan, Rob Castro and maybe Brian Kowal had a hand in designing this deck, and it was pretty cool. Cool enough that Adrian Sullivan, sitting next to me, said”Pete, you’ve got to lose. This deck should be in the top eight.” It was cool – it ran a lot of saclands, Obliterate, Phyrexian Arena, Dega Sanctuary and a bunch of other cards I cannot remember. But I figured my deck belonged in the T8, and I wanted to win.
Game 1: I Lobotomized Obliterate very early, but not before Dan had a Phyrexian Arena in play. Then I ripped another Lobotomy off the top, and when Dan dropped Dega Sanctuary, I had Undermine. Arena and no lifegain is a bad combo. After that, I just sat back and countered his win conditions (Planeswalker’s Fury, Yawgmoth’s Agenda.) Dan dropped another Arena and the damage killed him before he could deplete my counters – even with drawing three cards per turn.
I sided in Lobotomy and Recoil, and sided out something, I’m not sure what. I think Dan had Evasive Action, but little else that could counter, so it was probably the Disrupts.
Game 2 was insane. Dan blew a tap land to cast a turn 2 Arena, but my opening hand had two Lobotomies and two Undermines! Dan got one of the Lobotomies with a turn 3 Addle, but I nailed Dega Sanctuary with the second and topdecked a third to remove Planeswalker’s Fury. By then I had a bunch of people watching, and they just groaned when I cast it.
The next turn, I Voided to clear out a couple Arenas and a bunch of other three-drops. Dan could not draw land, even with drawing two cards a turn. After that, Dan’s life total just kept dropping. I made a couple of play errors – like discarding my first Agenda to keep a hand full of Undermines and counters and failing to Void for two when I could have – but it made little difference. I got hit twice by Rages – once with kicker – but Dan had to Obliterate twice to hold me off. The second time he was at two life. He Obliterated, floated one white in response, then dropped a land and Aura Blasted his own Arena. Very nice play, but it merely prolonged the inevitable. At that point, bystanders told us that time had expired. I had a Familiar and land at the top of my library – and would have been able to kill him two turns before being decked. In any case, I had won the match. Sorry, Adrian.
Matches 4-1, games 6-3. Chris was going strong, and Adam and I had outside shots at the top 8. Corey was getting bad draws, which was not helping my tiebreakers.
Round 6: Bob Albright, 5 color good stuff
I should say at the outset that I am a bad enough player that I still get psyched out playing some people some times. It happens when I play Bob Maher, Jr.; I got psyched out playing Aaron Forsythe at GP: Detroit. And I usually get it playing Bob Albright. I just go in knowing I cannot win the game. It’s getting better and there are a lot fewer people I have this mental block about, but it does put me at a real disadvantage.
Game 1 I failed to counter when he Iced my Salt Marsh at end of turn, so then he Iced a second land so he could Harrow with impunity on his turn. After that, I stopped drawing lands and he was able to hit me with Prophetic Bolts, resolve Fact or Fictions, and Absorb my futile efforts at a comeback. I thrashed around for a while, but card quantity and quality eventually won out. He had a wide selection of lands, Lay of the Land, Harrow, Mystic Snake, Fact of Fiction, Prophetic Bolt, Rage, Absorb, Goblin Trenches, Evasive Action (brutal in Domain decks like his) and assorted other good stuff.
For the first time all day, I sided in the Gainsays. Not that it mattered.
I kept a hand with three Salt Marshes and assorted other stuff. We both played out lands, then Bob Iced a Salt Marsh and dropped Destructive Flow. It took him a little time to kill me, but I couldn’t do anything. By the end of the game he had Trenches in play, almost enough land to play Rage with kicker, and a couple counters in hand. I had one Swamp, one Island, and one Mountain. I had resolved a Bolt and an Undermine, but that meant nothing. I lost.
Matches 4-2, Games 6-5. I’m out, at least as far as having a realistic shot at the top 8. Adam is also at 4-2. Chris is still in good shape.
Round 7: Joe Michalets, W/B/R Arena
Joe was a lot of fun to play against, both when he was doing well and when he wasn’t. That’s pretty amazing – I can usually manage the first, but not the latter. Joe also mentioned that he read, and liked, my articles – it’s great to hear that. Thanks again, Joe.
Joe won the roll and opened with a fast Verdict on turn 2, but I had Disrupt. Ravenous Rats and Lynx followed while I searched in vain for counterspells. I got the Lynx with a Terminate when it attacked, but Verdict resolved. Finally I had to Void for Rats, which also claimed a Death Grasp, but another showed up soon after. Soon, I was down to about six life, and I told Joe”If you kill me with Ravenous Rats, I’ll never be able to admit it, and you won’t see your name in print.” He laughed and cast Desolation Angel with kicker, but I had Undermine. Or maybe I nailed Desolation Angel with Lobotomy – either way, it did not resolve. Then I found a Pyre Zombie and stabilized. Undermine, Rage, Pyre Zombie and Prophetic Bolt soon finished him off.
I sided in the other Pyre Zombie and the Fire/Ices – my answers to quick beats, and probably the Lobotomies, since he had, as I recall, Rage, Obliterate and Desolation Angel. All of those are bad against a deck that counters things and doesn’t like to have its mana destroyed.
Joe had about the worst last game of the day possible. He dropped two lands, then froze. By turn 8 or nine he had four mana, but only two colors. I had Lobotomied him to see a hand full of three casting-cost spells, then cast Void for three. I was soon swinging with a Familiar and a Pyre Zombie, then with a second Pyre Zombie. Joe never developed the mana to do anything until it was far too late.
Final result: 5-2, Games 8-5. Chris made top eight, but mulliganed both games against a U/W/R deck that outdrew him. Adam was 15th. I was 16th. I don’t have top 8 lists yet, but Steve Port should get them up on the Legion website reasonably soon.
All my opponents were nice people, and fun to play against. Thanks, folks.
Did any of you notice that I went 5-0 playing against decks that ran no, or at best very few, counterspells? Guess I’m good against tier two decks. So that’s my secret to breaking IBC – don’t play against decks that do more than splash blue.
Play of the day: I heard this one from Ingrid: how to kill your opponent with Captain’s Maneuver. Bob Albright was at six life. His opponent was Ben Dempsey, playing a U/W/R deck. Ben cast Captain’s Maneuver on himself for three. Then he tapped his three painlands all for colored mana, redirecting the damage to Bob. He used that three mana to play Urza’s Rage on Bob for the last three points of damage.
If I made plays like that, I’d be concluding this article by asking for advice on playing at Pro Tours, instead of saying that I will be playing at the Odyssey Prerelease and GP: Minneapolis. See you there.
There’s another IBC tourney this Thursday, then more PTQs. I’m not sure what I’ll play…
* – On the other hand, Zvi just posted an article on why Fact or Fiction is not good in New Solution, which is similar, but not identical, to my U/W/B deck. So maybe I wasn’t completely up a tree.
** – Including yours truly.
*** – What can I say? I’m married to a level III judge in training. Ingrid reads the Comprehensive Rules for fun. Just the other night I asked her to dry the dishes, but she said she had to finish the section on static triggers first. Now that’s dedication.