2nd at PTQ Cambridge Report by James Allingham

1619
2nd at PTQ Cambridge Report by James Allingham

Around 10pm on Saturday night this is what is going through my head…

I am at 4 life, my opponent has Tempered Steel, Two Ornithopers and a Memnite. I have a Cunning Sparkmage, Noble Hierach, two Raging Ravines and 12 other lands. This game has gone well so far, my hand is the 3rd Raging Ravine and that is all, oh She is at 20 life too, this could be a bit of a struggle…

Endstep, ping the Memnite. It goes the Graveyard then the spectators erupt with “that’s a 3/3!” wow, what a nice play James, anyway, forget it and focus your not winning this unless you rip the Baneslayer Angel or Sun Titan. Pridemage will buy you a turn or two at least, but hey, I have 14 lands and a Noble Hierach  in play, there are virtually no lands left in the deck, if I top deck Stoneforge Mystic I can assemble the Collar/Sparkmage package, ok so Untap… Draw step? ok… Sejiri Steppe… I hate you Sejiri Steppe…

Extend hand, Good Game.”

And that is how it ends, Carrie burst into tears at this point and I do not blame her, making the PT for the first time must be an amazing experience. But there is always another PTQ I guess.

*****

I imagine you are more interested in the list I played, what I played against and how I side boarded than any amount of whine on drawing 16 mana sources and 3 spells, so here we go.


Creatures:

4 Noble Hierach

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Fauna Shaman

1 Stoneforge Mystic

1 Qasali Pridemage

2 Cunning Sparkmage

4 Knight of the Reliquary

3 Woolly Throctar

1 Kitchen Finks

4 Bloodbraid Elf

4 ">Vengevine

1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

1 Sun Titan

Artifacts:

1 Basilisk Collar

Lands:

4 Razorverge Thicket

2 Copperline Gorge

3 Raging Ravine

1 ">Sejiri Steppe

4 Arid Mesa

3 Verdant Catacombs

3 Forest

2 Mountain

2 Plains

Sideboard:

2 Path to Exile

2 Ajani Vengeant

1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

1 ">Baneslayer Angel

1 Inferno Titan

2 Qasali Pridemage

1 Gaddock Teeg

1 Spitebellows

2 Cunning Sparkmage

1 Dauntless Escort

1 Tectonic Edge

This is obviously a port from the standard list “Boss Naya” with just better mana and a few Lorywn cards to help it along. The original list can be found here.

This list won a 300+ Player PTQ and playing it on Magic Online along with some paper testing it was easy to see why, you force your opponents to deal with a constant stream of high quality threats with a very good, focused plan.

Generally if you get to untap with a Fauna Shaman you are in a pretty good position, but that is not your only strength. I did not feel like any match was unwinnable, in fact other than a different build for the “mirror” I felt I was not out of any game, now I do not have any data to support this, and I can see an argument for being unable to beat a particular card or list however, over the 10 rounds I did not feel unable to compete with any deck and I was able to be pro-active and that was the biggest attraction to this list for me.

I did not take any notes so I do not know the names of all my opponents, I will try to give a flavor of the match rather than a true play by play.


Round #1 – Michael Parker playing Tempered Steel.

Michael wins the dice roll and chooses to play, his first play is Darkslick Shores and Thoughtseize, so I immediately write down “Fae” on my notepad, incase I forget what I’m playing and as a little exercise to get me into the flow of the tournament.

I was very wrong, as his next play is Memnite. Which is fine, I know what I am playing against now, that’s good. I take game 1 with the Sparkmage / Collar combo. In game 2 then he mulligans to 5 cards and I curve out on him pretty hard, I wish him well with the rest of the event.

I believe my final play is an Inferno Titan to kill the guy he left back to block.

Tempered Steel Sideboarding:

Out:

1 Birds of Paradise

1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

3 Knight of the Reliquary

2 Vengevine

In:

2 Qasali Pridemage

1 Baneslayer Angel

1 Inferno Titan

2 Path to Exile

1 Cunning Sparkmage

You are the control deck in this match, you want to use your large men to hold the ground and then drop a bomb at the top of the curve and let that take over the game for you.

Kitchen Finks was amazing in this matchup, in game one he pretty much saved me from dying before I did anything. I naturally drew it in both games of the match.


Round #2 –4CC.

I received a Game Loss for registering a 59 card deck. Which was nice, I identified the card which was missing (Basilisk Collar) and added to my deck sheet. I then informed my opponent that it was his lucky day he had won Game 1 and would be on the draw for Game 2.

Game 2 goes on for quite long, and ends up with a board situation whereby I have a Vengevine and a Noble Hierach, and he is on 3 Life and has 9 available mana. I also have a Raging Ravine. So I say Cruel me, and he does! He’s played a land for this turn, so this leaves him with UU, UG or GG as available mana. At 8 Life, I discard my hand and Sac the Hierach, and announce that he is dead on the deck… He agrees but wishes to finish resolving Cruel, I untap announce my plans for the turn and we move onto Game 3.

4CC Sideboarding:

Out:

2 Cunning Sparkmage

1 Stoneforge Mystic

1 Basilisk Collar

1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

1 Arid Mesa

In:

2 Path to Exile

1 Tectonic Edge

1 Gaddock Teeg

1 Dauntless Escort

1 Spitebellows

In game 3 he makes a Baneslayer Angel on turn 5 or so after my Woolly Throctar has started to get some face time with him and dropped him to 11 life, I have an untapped Knight and attack into it with an Exalted Woolly He confirms the size of the Woolly as a 6/5 and I know my plan to Steppe it has failed, he takes his licks and drops to 5, post combat I make a back up Woolly to stand along side my Knight which is a 4/4. He Untaps and plays a Runed Halo naming Woolly Throctar and a reserve Baneslayer Angel, he swings in for 5 putting himself to 10 life. I drop to 15. I activate my knight and drop to 14 creating a 6/6 Knight.

I untap, make Gaddock Teeg, and a Qasali Pridemage to kill off his Runed Halo and say go. I now have 20 power in play, he cannot Wrath or Cryptic. But has two Baneslayer’s playing bodyguard. He confirms my life total. You’re at 14? Yes, you’re at 10, is my reply. He agrees. He then attacks with his team. I take it and say you go to 20 and I got to 4? We disagree briefly before he realizes his error, I think he had read that he was at 14 and I was at 10.  I obviously untap and kill him.

Round #3 – Karim Al Takrouri playing Faeries.

Game 1 I die to Thoughtseize, Bitterblossom, Mistbind Clique, Scion, your dead.

Game 2 I cannot really remember, I got run over pretty badly, I kept a sketchy 6 card hand of Birds of Paradise, Knight of the Reliquary and 4 Lands, one of which was a Raging Ravine. He Thoughtseized me and took the Knight, I Ripped a second off the top. He then inquisitioned me, saw I had nothing, commented saying “if I kill this your sad then” and killed my Knight again with Doom Blade, I then proceeded to die quickly. Faeries is still good ladies and gents. Although I felt I should have probably mulliganed to 5 and I also felt I punted game 1 by main phasing my Sparkmage and letting him flash the Clique in to Champion the token.

Sideboarding:

Out:

1 Arid Mesa

1 Birds of Paradise

1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

1 Sun Titan

1 Woolly Throctar

1 Knight of the Reliquary

In:

2 Path to Exile

1 Gaddock Teeg

1 Baneslayer Angel

1 Tectonic Edge

1 Cunning Sparkmage

I’m pretty sure the second Knight should have come out for the Dauntless escort if you know that they are playing Consume the Meek. They struggle a lot with Baneslayer Angel, but can deal with it. I preferred it to the Sun Titan although that might have been incorrect. I am not happy with this plan and I do not feel I played this round anywhere near correctly which was frustrating.

Round #4 – Cryus Bales playing Grixis.

I win a dice roll! I curve out a bit and Cryus floods a lot and I kill him with some assorted men, I assumed he was playing a control list with Cruel Ultimatium so I boarded in Gaddock Teeg and some other cards. Turns out I didn’t read it correctly as I end up making a huge team into Firespout in Game 2 however Cryus double mulliganed and never managed to find a 4th land drop and so my remaining team manage to get the job done.  This was one of those games where I felt it would have been very interesting if it had been an actual game.

I side boarded in Teeg and that was about it I believe.


Round #5 – Sebastian Parker playing Faeries.

I’ve played and hung out with Seb quite a bit including cube in Madrid, he’s always a good laugh and is the first person I have actually spent time with that I have played all day which makes for quite a nice change of pace. This match is also one of the best I got to play, here’s the spoiler however – Faeries vs Naya and we drew the match.

This was largely due to Seb’s insane top decking abilities. And my loose play.

Game 1 I win, I get to grind him out with various aggressive men and eventually he dies.

Game 2 Goes on for pretty much ever, but luckily Seb’s deck had his back and he asked for Wurmcoil Engine;it delivered, he asked for Consume the Meek; it delivered, this was of course when I realized I had a Dauntless Escort in my deck and had forgotten to tutor and play it the previous turn… which was awesome… He then asked for a second Wurmcoil after rolling me when I tried to first strike / death touch it with Baneslayer Angel but he went “Bounce your Equipment, Draw a Card”. Sigh, Gain 5 you Gain 6. Fun times. Should have read that play too and just taken my licks. Anyway I lose eventually and we have around 10min on the round going into Game 3.

Seb makes double Bitterblossom but a few Mistbind Cliques later and its not looking so fantastic, I do however find the Baneslayer again and end up at 36 life, so effectively we end up in the position that time on the round is called, and I need to force through enough damage to kill him. I come up 1 point short. Which was frustrating but I felt Seb played really well to put himself in that positioned and I had punted quite a few times. Luckily the deck is insane and put me in a position to win regardless of how I played.


My record at this point is 3-1-1

So I have to win the next two rounds to make it.

Round #6 – James Cleak playing Doran.

Another person I know and he’s on 9 points and so is technically eliminated too. I ask him to concede he gives me a maybe, I suggest we should play and see how it goes and we are off.

Now I know James from the Oxford play group and most notably from Nationals this year where he made Top8 and we sat up play testing his matchup for him while he got some much needed sleep… we didn’t bother giving him a side boarding plan for the Semi-Final as we were pretty sure barring a miracle the match was unwinnable, we also did not tell him that. He won a Game which is more than anyone piloting his deck managed in testing.

Anyway I won Game 1 by attacking with a Noble Hierach and a Cunning Sparkmage with Doran in play for the last two points of damage. He had left the Great Sable Stag on defense against my Woolly Throctar but did not see the 0/1 attacks coming! I proceeded to get crushed in Games 2 and 3 and with the win “on the stack” he conceded to me telling me I had to win now.  I played horribly and I would not have blamed him if he took the win but he did not and I was very thankful for him not eliminating me.

Round #7 – Tempered Steel.

Game 1 lasts a very long time. I find Basilisk Collar early and so we are just exchanging life link damage and life gain from Thopter Foundry. It ends up with him drawing live with a 7 outer or he is dead, he wiffs and I win Game 1.

Game 2 He Mulligans to 5 cards I keep a pretty insane 7 and proceed to win in short order. I have a turn 2 Fauna Shaman and begin making Vengevines.


The crowd goes wild etc… by that I mean Nicolo Graziano and Matt Light cheer a bit then tell me to go get some food and a drink because I haven’t eaten all day and I need too.

I sting Matt for the money for the Sandwich with some terrible excuse like “I have to go tell Stelios I want to play in the Top 8”

Turns out I walk through the door as my name is called, respond “of course” and go sit in the corner for a bit.  This is only my 5th Top 8 but I understand I get to play Dan Gardner in the Quarter Finals. So I am expecting Baneslayer Angels.

I decide to go sit in a corner and just sing to myself for a bit, Rob Wagner and Russ Davies come over and tell me what Dan is playing, and ask me what I think of the match-up. I think I responded “I can’t beat a Baneslayer Angel, so I’m just going to Vengevine him to death twice before he finds one”

Few other people wish me good luck, I was aware and I did appreciate it but I was also virtually dead on my feet and so if I blanked anyone I’m sorry!

Quarter Finals – Dan Gardner playing UW Control (With Baneslayer Angels).

I can only really apologise for this entire match. It was a comedy of errors from my part and I am pretty sure if we had both had reasonable draws I would have lost. Dan struggles to find his 5th Mana for Baneslayer and I beat him up a bit with Vengevines, by the time he finds a land I have plenty of Mana and an active Fauna Shaman, I tutor for Stoneforge Mystic. Then draw Cunning Sparkmage for my turn. I did have a creature to pitch if I had too but it did save me going through the motions, I played the Stoneforge, got the Collar played it with 5 mana available played the sparkmage and Dan conceded. Got there… Just.

Game 2 Dan Mulligans to 4 cards and I keep a decent 6, I make a turn 3 Ajani Vengeant, which gets Oblivion Ringed, Dan follows Oblivion Ring. I take the opportunity to resolve a Fauna Shaman. Dan then makes a Baneslayer, Which I can deal with, I just tutor for my Spitebellows, So I activate my Fauna Shaman and go searching for my Spitebellows… which I of course forgot to board in, so I sheepishly find a Qasali Pridemage after about a week looking through my deck. And ship the go. The second Baneslayer comes down and I concede.

Game 3, I’m feeling pretty bad at this point, I sideboard in the Spitebellows and take out a Cunning Sparkmage. My opening grip is pretty insane and I start to make hay from very early in the game, leading Noble Hierach into a Vengevine, which proceeds to go to work reducing Dan’s life total rapidly. The most important factor behind keeping this hand was it had early pressure along with a Path to Exile for the Baneslayer Angel which would inevitably show up to ruin all my fun.

On turn 7 Dan is at 4 life facing down 10 power of attackers with only a Wall of Omens in play. So effectively he has to have Day of Judgement or Baneslayer, and Day would straight lose to any two creatures re-growing Vengevine. So I suspect he has the Angel which he slams down into play, however he just cannot find and untapped mana source and has to ship the go with only a single UW land untapped. I endstep Path the Angel and Dan concedes. I felt I got really fortunate in this match along with Dan getting rather unlucky.

Semi Finals – Karim Al Takrouri playing Faeries.

This match is overshadowed by a single incident, I end up taking the match 2-1 in very typical Faeries vs Naya fashion of I either get a quick start and put too much pressure on or he has some time to get setup and begins time walking me with his 4 mana spells.

However the incident is as such in game 3:

My board is Vengevine, Mountain, Plains, Copperline Gorge facing down against

4 UB lands, Mutavault and Jace the Mindsculptor on two loyalty.

Last turn he bounced my Woolly Throctar, so that is known information too, in my upkeep he announces Cryptic Command as bounce Copperline Gorge, Draw a Card. He then attempts to change the modes to bounce Copperline Gorge and tap all creatures I control.

Now this begins a lengthy Judge call which ends up going in my favor, I do not really wish to get into who was wrong and who was right, but I believe that the correct outcome was reached in the end, needless to say I killed Jace, made Woolly and won two turns later.


Finals – Carrie Oliver playing Tempered Steel.

And I go onto lose the final, neither of us had a good draw in game 3 and Carrie’s deck loved her more than mine loved me.


Changes:

If I could make London for the next PTQ I would play the same list with the following changes:

Sideboard:

-2 Ajani Vengeant

+1 Path to Exile

+1 Elspeth, Knight Errant

The main deck is very tight at the moment, but I could see dropping the Sejiri Steppe because most people will assume you have it anyway and playing 24 lands with 8 accelerants, giving you an extra slot for a main deck Elspeth or something similar.

Carries take on Tempered Steel seems quite interesting while it is nowhere near as all in aggressive as the original list but the Windbrisk Heights and Mutavaults provide a powerful Phase 2 and 3 plan which I think overall improves the deck quite a bit. It will be fun to see if the changes are picked up on and if that helps to take the deck in a different direction.


I’d also like to include a shout out to the guys I travel to these events with for being just awesome and to the Judging and Event staff for running a great event.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to reading your replies,

James


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