Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #207 – League Wrap-up and a PTQ

Read Peter Jahn... at StarCityGames.com!
Sort of an end of the year mishmash today. I played in Lorwyn PTQ. I can do a mini tournament report. The leagues I was monitoring ended. I have stats. The two topics fit together like toothpaste and differential equations, so it’s all good.

Sort of an end of the year mishmash today. I played in Lorwyn PTQ. I can do a mini tournament report. The leagues I was monitoring ended. I have stats. The two topics fit together like toothpaste and differential equations, so it’s all good.

The Lorwyn Sealed PTQ first. The season has not quite ended, so a few people may find this useful — and that season won’t end for a long time on MTGO.

Ingrid and I were headed to the Twin Cities for other reasons, but we ended up with time to go to a qualifier. It’s the first sealed PTQ I have played in since — Onslaught, I think.

Basic start to any tournament report:

We drove 300 miles.
We got up at 4am .
We ate food at a restaurant .

We [did / did not] get lost.

That about covers it. The tournament started 10 minutes late, and had 165 players. Eight rounds.

Here’s the pool:

Know how you would have built this?

No white space — some people print these out, and printing white space is the number three cause of global warming. Right after cows.

Here’s what I played. Argue about it in the forums.

1 Surge of Thoughtweft
1 Neck Snap
1 Crib Swap

1 Deathrender
1 Runed Stalactite

1 Peppersmoke
2 Weed Strangle
1 Warren Pilferers
1 Makeshift Mannequin
1 Thieving Sprite

1 Aethersnipe
1 Amoeboid Changeling
1 Benthicore
1 Ethereal Whiskergill
1 Glen Elendra Pranksters
1 Mulldrifter
2 Pestermite
1 Ringskipper
1 Spellstutter Sprite
1 Turtleshell Changeling
1 Wings of Velis Vel

1 Shelldock Isle

Islands, Plains, and Swamps.

Round 1 I get paired against a RG deck. Game 1 he gets out a Changeling Titan, a Giant Harbinger, then Thundercloud Giant clears my board. Game 2 he drops Nath of the Gilt Leaf on turn 4, and we race. Fortunately, I could drop Deathrender, and a mix of Deathrender and a flier, plus some very careful life total management, means I can just edge him out. I win at eight, but six of that life was because I won the clash on a Weed Strangle. Game 3 I have Pestermites and Mulldrifter, and it isn’t even close.

1-0, 2-1

Round 2 my opponent wins the clash on Weed Strangle, and he is the one with the early Mulldrifter — but he has to evoke it. I have some small beats going, and he tries Final Revels. Surge of Thoughtweft wrecks his plans. After that, I curve up through Aethersnipe and Benthicore, and he loses. Game 2 he has Sower of Temptation, then suspends it under a champion. He swings, and I Makeshift Mannequin the Snipe. After combat damage, he gets the Sower back, but my only creature is the Snipe with a Mannequin token, which promptly dies. He is out of gas, but I have a Pilferers in hand and the Snipe in the graveyard, and I win easily.

2-0, 4-1

Round 3, we get deck checked. My opponent and I discuss deck checks, why and how type stuff. We talk about why players might change their decks. One example is that players misbuild their decks, then figure it out later. I have another example: suppose you have Peppersmoke, but no Merfolk or Faeries. You probably would not maindeck the Smoke, but would sideboard it in against weenie decks. My opponent gets a strange look in his eyes, and say, slowly, “I Played against a weenie deck last round…” Sure enough, he forgot to desideboard, and I have won game 1. Game 2 he mulligans to five and plays his first spell on turn 6. I untap, evoke Aethersnipe to bounce his blocker, and kill him with Surge-enhanced beaters.

3-0, 6-1

Round 4 I was on table 1. My opponent arrived, and apologized for his deck. Game 1 he has Nameless Inversion, Tarfire, Giant Harbinger, Thundercloud Shaman, Crush Underfoot, Dreamspoiler Witches, and… but I was dead by that point. Game 2 can best be summed up by turn 5. He has Brion in play, and I play Thieving Sprite. He reveals three cards — hiding one. The revealed cards were Imperious Prefect, Oblivion Ring, and Crush Underfoot.

No, I did not win that one.

3-1, 6-3

Round 5 I don’t remember very well. My “watch out for” notes list Lash Out, foil O-Ring, and something incomprehensible that looks like “hech.” In game 1, my life total drops bit by bit to four, then goes up to six. His goes 20, 19, 12, win. I suspect that I got a lot of removal, then dropped some fatties and he conceded. I don’t know. Game 2 I resolved a very early Loggers, so apparently he was Green, then did 14 points with the Loggers. Something else arrived to finish him off.

4-1, 8-3

Round 6 I faced an opponent with a sick treefolk deck. In game 1 he beat me to 12, then dropped Timber Protector. I killed it with Weed Strangle, and won the clash. He dropped a Doran, and I Weed Strangled that and won the clash. By the time he could begin to menace me again, my Pestermites had killed him. Game 2 he stalled a bit, I killed things now and then, and then Benthicore and Aethersnipe kicked his head in. He did have a last-ditch blocker, but I had Pestermite.

5-1, 10-3.

Going into round 7, I told Chris that I was okay, so long as I was not paired against Tim Flores. I was. Tim resolved a Smokebraider on turn 2. It did not die. Turn 4 he bounced my guy with an Aethersnipe. Turn 5 he bounced it again with a Foil Aethersnipe. Turn 6 he stacked the creature on top of my library. Game 2 he did it again, but faster. Sunrise Sovereign was involved.

5-2, 10-5.

Round 8, we were playing for pride and a handful of packs, because all of the Top 8 could draw in. He had a decent UR deck, but when he tried to clear my board with Incendiary Command, I responded with Surge of Thoughtweft and he was the only one who lost any creatures. I screwed up his turns with Pestermites and drew cards off Mulldrifter, and won. Both games.

6-2, 12-5. Tenth place.

This event probably boosted my rating, but I am not going to Kuala Lumpur. I’m not happy.

I was happy with my deck. I have had far better success in PTQs and other big events with a solid deck full of decent tricks than with a deck full of bombs. I think I play more carefully when I don’t have a deck that can pull me out of misplays.

Further League Play

Four weeks ago, I joined three leagues to monitor league play. I wanted to watch how many matches were in progress throughout the week, what ratings league players tended to have, and so forth. I also intended to play in the leagues and see how I could do. I joined a Lorwyn, a Master’s Edition (MED), and Time Spiral / Planar Chaos / Future Sight (Time Spiral) league.

Bad planning on my part. The second week of the leagues I was in NYC for Worlds. The third week of the leagues, I was in NYC for fun. The fourth week I was back at work, trying to get caught up after being on vacation for two weeks.

I did not play enough games. In leagues, you play 5 matches per week for points, and then you can play extra matches to rack up tiebreaker points. With three leagues, I needed to play 60 for points matches, plus a lot of tiebreakers if I were close to winning the leagues.

By early in week 4, I had played a total of 7 matches in all three leagues, combined.

I started taking notes on some matches. Here are some examples:

Monday evening, 7pm. No wait. Lorwyn — 1647, UW Silvergill Dowser, etc. Ego Erasure, Pollen Lullaby, Mirror Entity. He was at 9-11. I was completely blown out. Now 2-1 in Lorwyn.

Let me translate. This was early in week 1 of the Lorwyn league. My opponent had a Limited rating of 1647. He was playing a UW deck with Merfolk, Mirror Entity, etc. He had already played his five for points matches (at 9 points, he had to go 4-1 in for-points matches.) He had also played enough tiebreaker games to get 11 tiebreaker points. I lost.

Tuesday am — Time Spiral. Post request 5:30am. At 6:35, take it down and try MED. Immediate game, opponent rating 1854, league score. His first five cards played are Terror, Cone of Flame, Exile, Black Knight, Phyrexian Boon. Game two he does the same, but I just barely pull it out. Ditto game three.

These notes point out a problem: in some of the less attended leagues, it can be difficult to get an opponent, especially outside of prime time in the U.S. (Craig, that’s midnight to 5am GMT, right? [That’s 7pm — midnight EST, so yes. — Craig.]) I put up a request for a Time Spiral league game, and no one wanted to play in over an hour. I did get an immediate game in the MED league. This varies — even in Lorwyn, you can occasionally have long waits for games. In MED, Coldsnap, and Time Spiral, the wait can be hours long. It really varies.

I have tried to get around the wait by opening multiple requests — one in each league. That can backfire — it is too easy to get into multiple games at once. MTGO tends to get around to pairing league games ever few minutes, then pairs them all at once. I have gotten into multiple matches several times, and have never been able to play both well. I usually concede one immediately.

In leagues, you add one booster to the pool each week. I noted the useful cards I got in each new booster. I also noted the lack of money rares. That’s just me.

Lorwyn booster: Rings of Brighthearth, Elvish Harbinger, Final Revels, Harpoon Stinger, another Lys Alana Huntmaster, Consuming Bonfire, Streambed Aquitects.

MED Booster up: Eureka, Orcish Mechanics, Hallowed Ground, Derelor, Exile, Fissure.

Future Sight booster: Funeral Charm, Tividar of Thorn, Stormcloud Djinn, Sulfurous Blast, Crookclaw Transmuter, Temporal Isolation.

Next Lorwyn booster: Mulldrifter, Sower of Temptation, Thorntooth Witch, Giant Harbinger, Lignify, Captivating Glance

Next MED booster: Crusade, Fire Covenant, Cursed Rack, Feast or Famine, Phyrexian Boon

New Planar chaos Booster: Torchling, Pyrohemia, Treacherous Urge, Dead / Gone, Shade of Trokair, Sinew Sliver, Poultice Sliver

Final MED pack: Dakkon Blackblade, Granite Gargoyle, Juxtapose

Final Future Sight pack: Bridge from Below, Arc Blade, Ghostfire,

I manage to play two more league games early in the final week. I won them both, but by Thursday am — leagues finished on Friday — I had 11 matches to play for points in MED, 15 in Time Spiral and 17 in Lorwyn. I decided to try simply posting game requests, then immediately conceding. I figured I could get enough points (one point for losing, in leagues) to get an extra pack, even by just conceding immediately.

No point is doing that in Lorwyn — I have 17 matches to play there, and all that work would get me is one pack.

Thursday evening I got to play a few matches. My Time Spiral deck was nuts. I finished at 24 points, with 5 for-points matches unplayed. I “lost” six matches — five of which were immediate concessions: I was only beaten in one match that I actually played out. Decks get pretty insane by the final week: here’s mine.

1 Cancel
1 Candles of Leng
1 Conflagrate
2 Dead/Gone
1 Empty the Warrens
2 Ghostfire
1 Orcish Cannonade
1 Shivan Meteor
1 Sulfurous Blast
1 Word of Seizing

1 Coal Stoker
1 Crookclaw Transmuter
1 Dragon Whelp
1 Goblin Skycutter
1 Errant Ephemeron
1 Infiltrator il-Kor
1 Skirk Shaman
1 Stormcloud Djinn
1 Thick-Skinned Goblin
1 Torchling
1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter

8 Island
9 Mountain

Let’s look at the final results for the leagues.


Lorwyn finished with 256 players, of course. That’s the maximum, and the Lorwyn league hit that within a day of opening.

One player finished with 38 points, meaning he went 18-2 in for-points games.
Five players finished at 37 points.
Two player finished at 36 points.

Sixteenth place is the next place packs change. The 16th place player was at 35 points, and beat the player in 17h on tiebreakers.

The thirty-second place player was at 33 points, and beat the 33rd place player on tiebreakers.

Sixty-fourth place was at 31 points. People in the 33-64 range got two packs.

128th came in at 24 points, on tiebreakers. Players finishing between 65th and 128th got one pack each.

I was in 231st place, at 5 points and with 17 games to play, when the league ended. Had I won all my unplayed matches, I would have won the league. Had I lost all my unplayed matches, I would have come in 142nd.


Coldsnap finished with 72 players.

Three players were at 36 points, finishing first through third on tiebreakers.
One player had 35 points, and finished fourth.
Four players finished with 34 points, and took 5th -8th places. Not the difference league size makes. Finishing with 34 points in Coldsnap makes fifth. Finishing with 34 points in the Lorwyn league would put you in the 17th to 32nd range.

In Coldsnap, Sixteenth was at 31 points, on tiebreakers.

Thirty-second was at 24, on timebreakers

Sixty-fourth was at 3 points — meaning that the player had played either two or three matches in the entire four week period. That person still won two packs.

I monitored the league, but did not play in it, so I have no results.


The MED league had a final total of 104 players.

First place had 39 points — meaning a 19-1 record in for-points games.
Second finished with 38 points.
Three players finished with 37 points.
The sixth place player had 35 points.
Seventh and eight had 34 points each.

Sixteenth place was at 32 points, on tiebreakers.

Thirty-second place was at 27 points, on tiebreakers.

Sixty-fourth was at 11 points.

I finished at 18 points, with 8 games to play. That was good for 56th place and two packs. Had I played, and won, all the rest of my matches, I would have been tied for seventh or eighth. That might have been a stretch — I went something like 4-2 in the games I played out. Winning out would have been unlikely, even if I had had the time and could find the opponents.

Time Spiral:

The Time Spiral league finished with 91 players having joined. All but a half dozen of those participated, to the extent of playing at least one league match.

The first and second place players finished with 38 points.
Three players finished with at 36 points.
Four finished with 35 points. Note again the difference a smaller league can make. A record of 15-5 put four players into the Top 8 of this league. In Time Spiral, a record of 15-5 meant you needed good tiebreakers just to make the Top 16.

Top sixteen went down to 33 points in time Spiral, but sixteenth edged out seventeenth on tiebreakers.

Thirty-second was at 29 points, on tiebreakers

Sixty-fourth was at 18 points, on tiebreakers.

As I mentioned, I finished at 24 points, with 5 unplayed for-points matches. Had I won out, I could have made Top 16, and won more packs. I actually tried, but I could not get enough matches. Even Thursday night and Friday morning — the very last days of the league, and generally the time when the most players are around, trying to get in some last matches, I could not find opponents. I averaged a half hour waiting before someone would respond to my match request on Thursday night — and an hour on Friday morning.

Everyone wants to play Lorwyn, so those leagues fill very quickly. It usually takes a day or two to go from the league opening to hitting 256 players.

The other leagues grew over time, but participation never really amounted to much. The other leagues never even hit 128 player — meaning every player in the league won at least one pack. Here’s a graph of league size over the four weeks the leagues were in play.

I also tried to track players in each room at various times. Note that the number of players in a room does not necessarily correspond to the number of players involved in, or waiting for, matches. You can be involved in a match, and change to another room (e.g. draft room, clan room, etc.) and not appear in the league room. Likewise, you can put up a match request, then visit another room. I did this often — request a match in the Time Spiral league, then go to the Coldsnap room to collect data. With those caveats, the number of people in the room does tie to number of available players in the league. Here’s what I saw:

The ratings of the players in the leagues varied. I saw players with ratings in the 1900s, and a player with a 1410 rating. The ratings varied, but I was able to record the highest, lowest, and average (mean) ratings in the rooms fairly often. Max and min mean less when there is only one player in the room, but here are the results for Lorwyn and Coldsnap. The vertical bars stretch from highest rating to lowest rating, and the diamond indicates the average, or the rating of the only person in the room when the bar is absent. (I did not include myself in calculating rating or range.)

I did not bother graphing the Time Spiral or MED leagues — far too often I would see no one in those rooms, which means the graph is mainly empty.

One final graph: I tracked the number of matches actually in progress at various times during the period. Here’s that graph.


Well, the project seemed interesting when I started it. With hindsight, I would have avoided doing this over Worlds. More importantly, I just checked out the Wizards MTGO site. Wizards has a countdown clock for version III. It will launch in 36 days, as I write this. It will also launch without league functionality, but the leagues may/will be added later. At the point leagues are finally launched once more, it will be interesting to see these statistics are still valid.

Probably not — if Wizards does actually get MTGO vIII running, it will finally be able to actually advertise the program and recruit new players. That should mean more players, and higher participation in everything.

We’ll see.


“one million words” on MTGO