We had something like seven guys from CMU (including Turian) attending this PTQ. This was my first PTQ road trip, and for the most part I’d have to say I enjoyed it. The conversation in the car on the way there was a good chance for me to just toss out any random Limited strategy questions that I happened to be pondering at the moment. The ride back afterwards was good too although we didn’t arrive in Pittsburgh until around five in the morning…I think I came pretty close to killing us all during my share of the driving (and it was confirmed by the people in the other car that I hit a good number of rumble strips), but frankly, I don’t remember much of it.
As far as motivation, I really wanted to qualify for Pro Tour San Diego, because over winter break I’ll be living about fifteen minutes from the tournament site. Free Pro Tours are broken, I hear. Anyway, we arrived at the site and had about an hour to sit around, which is when we really began to appreciate what we lost when Rizzo and his Foily Five moved to Maine. Ah well.
I continued my newfound streak of opening broken rares with a Shadowmage Infiltrator and a Cabal Patriarch. Brutal. The support for them wasn’t amazing, but you don’t need much. Regardless, I didn’t get it back, but I did get to build what was by far the most fun deck I’ve ever played in Odyssey Limited:
Broken Rares: 2 for 5
Cephalid Looter x2
Words of Wisdom
Screams of the Damned
Sphere of Grace
Ray of Distortion
Rites of Refusal
Solid but shallow green
Depressing red (three unplayable rares)
This deck had some janky cards in the maindeck, but it was all about synergy and maximizing the use of resources. I don’t have to explain how good double Looter plus double Painbringer can be. Psychatog, the Scout, and occasionally the Infestation were great for getting cards into the graveyard, where I could either keep them for threshold or abuse them for effects. Wrath and Upheaval are always amazing, but Upheaval plus Zombie Infestation and seven lands is absolutely game over. In addition, I was almost always able to Wrath with threshold as opposed to without.
There were 98 players, so we were facing seven rounds of swiss. I’m going to go quickly through these, because I don’t remember most of them that well.
Round 1 vs. Anthony Avitollo
The main thing that I remember about this match is that in Game 1 he had something that I couldn’t block that was hitting me for two a turn. Eventually, I was swinging back for four a turn but it was too late to help. When the life totals were two to eight in his favor, I swung with eight power worth of creatures into one untapped creature of his. All he had to do was block one of them (I had no tricks in hand) but instead he tapped six mana and announced Elephant Ambush with flashback… Hmm.
Normally, I’m fine with somewhat loose play at a PTQ like tapping and untapping things, but in the five seconds after I informed him it cost eight, I decided that I should stick him to it. I guess it’s because of all the Sheldon rulings I’ve read about how when an illegal play is announced, you back up to the last legal position. At that point, he had six mana in his pool because he tapped and then announced instead of the other way. So I enforced that rule, he checked his hand and graveyard to see if he could play anything, and then he scooped. I didn’t feel particularly good about it – but a win is a win, I suppose. Kudos to Anthony for not arguing it at all, although I don’t think he was too happy with me after that, so I made sure to play extra carefully.
Game 2 I beat him pretty handily, making me feel a little better about the way I won game 1. I’m curious though about what other people would have done in the situation. If you’d like, let me know using the email address attached to this article.
Matches 1-0 / Games 2-0
Round 2 vs. Jeff Peters
This match was rather stupid. It came down to me getting manascrewed game 1 and him getting manascrewed in games 2 and 3. Not a very interesting match, but still a notch in the win column.
Matches 2-0 / Games 4-1
Round 3 vs. Carlos Chadha
Carlos and I are now two-for-two on getting matched up at PTQs that we attend together, which is annoying. He offers a prize split, but at this point I’m feeling confident in my deck and whatnot, so I don’t accept.
I don’t remember much at all about this match, except my scoresheet tells me I won game 1 and lost the other two. I guess I wanted to put the loss behind me and concentrate on winning out the tourney. It was disappointing to lose in the third round – but if you have to lose, it might as well be to a teammate.
Matches 2-1 / Games 5-3
Round 4 vs. Justin Board
Around this time my deck really started to kick in, and I also had a better feel for how exactly to play it, as it wasn’t generally obvious. The first game I won fairly handily (eleven to zero), but game 2 was much more interesting. We went through almost our entire decks (I remember at one point I had five cards in my library and he had eight… I was pondering if I’d be able to deck him by Gravediggering up a Looter, playing it, and starting to loot him). I know I Wrathed with threshold at some point in the middle, and he proceeded to drop a whole bunch of broken fliers right after. Luckily, an Upheaval saved me and I dropped Zombie Infestation, then Psychatog to swing in and reduce him from seventeen to zero.
Matches 3-1 / Games 7-3
Round 5 vs. Brendan Bullock
Brendan was a good opponent who was obviously having fun throughout our match. Game 1 he had an active Cephalid Broker but he didn’t draw into much until eventually he dropped a Wayward Angel with threshold. That forced me to Wrath, but I recovered from it faster than he did and finished him off. After I Wrathed, his friend said something like,”Hey, I bet that’s the guy who also has Upheaval and Zombie Infestation.” Apparently, word of my deck was getting around…
For good reason.
Game 2 was a thing of beauty. I think at one point I had both Upheaval and Wrath in hand, but I decide to use the Wrath first when I need a board reset. Eventually, I draw into Zombie Infestation but I keep it in hand until I get the all-important seventh land. After falling to three, I tap the seven lands, Upheaval, floating a black mana, return my permanents, drop a land, play Zombie Infestation, and create three zombies to have six or seven cards in hand which are about to create more zombies at the end of his turn.
Would you like to scoop now, or scoop later?
Zombie Infestation (with a little help from Upheaval)
Needless to say, he scoops even though he’s still at sixteen. What a combo.
Matches 4-1 / Games 9-3
Round 6 vs. Adam Minnear
I know that Looter/Painbringer gets going at least one of these games, if not both. Eventually it’s just a matter of attacking for three or four every turn while the Painbringer, Looter, and Scout combine to remove whatever creature he plays. Both games aren’t very close.
Matches 5-1 / Games 11-3
Round 7 vs. Mike Patnik
Another CMU opponent, but this time I’m happy about it. We start looking for Turian, since he’s usually the one to figure out who can draw in at these events but he’s nowhere to be found. I’m pretty confident I can draw in due to my relatively good tiebreakers, plus Mike wants to get food, so I figure I’ll just take the draw, get some food, and find out in an hour if I got in.
Then the top table decides to play, which changes the math a bit in my favor, I guess. Carlos convinces Kenny Hsiung to draw, which is great for Carlos but not so good for Kenny considering his horrible tiebreakers. We leave, get food, and come back to find out that Patnik, Carlos, and I are in as 3rd, 4th, and 5th seed respectively, but Kenny didn’t make top 8. Ouch.
Matches 5-1-1 / Games 11-3
Top 8 Draft
I was pleased enough to have third seat for the draft, as I find it to be one of the sexier seats to choose your colors from. I picked Barbarian Lunatic from the first pack (first seat drafted a green card, second seat drafted a blue card) and never looked back, staking out green as my second color almost immediately. What I say next you will probably have a hard time believing: The draft ended up with only two green mages. Yep, you read that right.
An Odyssey Rochester draft with only two green mages: My first round opponent and me. How broken.
At one point, Aaron Breider to my right thought about going into green (he was mainly heavy blue at this point), but we were already into the second set of picks and I made a point of taking the best green card out of the next two packs. After the first one he gave me a look as if I’d just hate drafted him, but that after the second time he gave up on going green.
The insanity of this draft meant that I ended up with such gems as: Third-and fourth-pick Roars of the Wurm, fifteenth pick Lithatog, three Muscle Bursts, three Barbarian Lunatics, and double Wild Mongrel. At one point I actually managed to wheel Muscle Burst and Wild Mongrel (!) after Carlos took Squirrel Nest out of a strong green pack. Unbelievable. So all this boiled down into the following deck:
Muscle Burst x3
Roar of the Wurm x2
Wild Mongrel x2
Barbarian Lunatic x3
Druid Lyrist x2
Quarterfinals vs. Carlos Chadha (G/W)
Here’s my chance to get revenge for my earlier loss. It’s also a battle between the only two green mages at the table, so it promises to be interesting. I think my deck’s stronger (the green is certainly more solid and he can’t handle Roar of the Wurm), but he thinks the matchup is fairly even. He does have Squirrel Nest, so I side in a Druid Lyrist for games 2 and 3.
Again I don’t remember much about the actual games, but I know that I had a poor draw Game 1 and we got into a race that left me at zero and him at seven. That was a little disconcerting, but I knew that my deck should pull through and win this matchup.
Game 2 is a long one, with double Embolden being played (each with flashback, of course) to keep Carlos and his creatures in the game. Eventually, though, I overpower him with a greater number of threats and it’s on to game 3.
I think I finally drew one of my Roars of the Wurm this game. Carlos again had double-Embolden and whatnot, but I won the game at a comfortable life total and moved on to the semifinals.
Semifinals vs. Amos Claiborne (W/U)
In the first game, he keeps a hand with only islands and never gets a plains. His life total drops quickly (go figure) and soon he scoops, so we move on to game two.
Second game I have a slow draw and he gets out an active Hallowed Healer, a Looter, and one of those guys who protects his permanents from instants and sorceries. Ouch. I have no way to get damage through and eventually he takes me down through the air. I probably could have played this one a little better (at one point I walked a Firebolt right into that guy’s ability), but I don’t think I could have done anything to win it.
Third game I get tempo going and he’s never able to stabilize. I know I made at least one bad play (Refreshing a 4/4 Wild Mongrel that was fighting a 2/4 Mystic Zealot… But at least I got to draw a card, right?), but it doesn’t really matter.
Finals vs. Liz Lempicki (W/B)
The finals are best three out of five, but I’d like to change it to out of two out of three (which we can do if we both agree) since I don’t really have any sideboard cards against her and I’m sure she has some for me. She rightly decides to keep it at best of five, though. Both of us want the slot, so we just agree to split the money with $50 going to the loser so that they don’t walk home empty-handed.
There isn’t much to say about the games except that my deck overwhelmed hers three times in a row. I knew she had Second Thoughts, so I played around it when she had five mana open (by not sacrificing everything to a Mongrel or Lithatog), but I just had too much tempo in all three games and never even took a single point of damage. She played pretty flawlessly as far as I could tell, but I think letting me play first every time was a mistake and I’m not sure that siding in Dedicated Martyr was the best play, either. Both times it came out it was just a Mongrel speed bump, gaining her three life and protecting her from two damage. So in that case, it’s on about the same level as a single Life Burst, and who plays that?
And with that, I was qualified. Thanks to Dhuse for the ride up and Turian for providing the other car, the other CMUers for good conversation, my opponents for good games and everybody for good times. The moral of this whole story is either”Zombie Infestation plus Upheaval is fun” or”If there are only two green drafters at the table, make sure you’re one of them.” Your choice.
See you in San Diego.
Yegg on IRC