How I won Magic: The Gathering PTQ Cambridge, by Carrie Oliver
My name is Carrie Oliver and on Saturday 15th January I became the second female Magic: The Gathering player from the UK to qualify for a Pro Tour. This is my tournament report for the day and I hope it encourages you to believe that you can qualify too.
I opened my first booster at Worldwake pre-release and I’ve been hooked every since. Just after Christmas a group of us realized that there was to be a PTQ held in Cambridge by our local store and it was Extended format. None of us had ever played Extended, but that wasn’t going to stop us. We referenced the Worlds 13-points-or-better deck lists and got building. I liked the [card]Tempered Steel[/card] deck played by Pascal Maynard that went 6-0. However, I don’t own a play set of [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and couldn’t afford the outlay. On 13 points was a blue-white variant run by Shi Tian Lee. [card]Mutavault[/card]s are no cheaper but I decided to build it without. Cards were ordered and goldfishing and testing commenced.
I actually changed quite a few things about the deck. I realized the black version was just stronger overall, but my edge was in coming out faster, especially with a [card]Windbrisk Heights[/card]. So I made some changes to augment this. Additionally I mentioned the [card]Mutavault[/card]s in store and was kindly lent a play set. Here is my final deck list:
4 x [card]Steel Overseer[/card]
4 x [card]Master of Etherium[/card]
4 x [card]Memnite[/card]
4 x [card]Ornithopter[/card]
4 x [card]Court Homunculus[/card]
3 x [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card]
3 x [card]Trinket Mage[/card]
3 x [card]Mox Opal[/card]
3 x [card]Thopter Foundry[/card]
4 x [card]Springleaf Drum[/card]
1 x [card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/card]
4 x [card]Tempered Steel[/card]
4 x [card]Windbrisk Heights[/card]
4 x [card]Mutavault[/card]
4 x [card]Seachrome Coast[/card]
4 x [card]Islands[/card]
3 x [card]Plains[/card]
1 x [card]Pithing Needle[/card]
1 x [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card]
4 x [card]Burrenton Forge-Tender[/card]
3 x [card]Meddling Mage[/card]
3 x [card]Path to Exile[/card]
3 x [card]Unified Will[/card]
Most of the cards are obvious includes. The [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card] helped up the artifact creature count. They were originally in the sideboard. I don’t think I ever boarded them out–they were good in almost every matchup and a lot of people were upset I was main decking them, generally a good sign. You may question the Elspeth. She only showed up once and was very instrumental in that game. Why did she get included? Because the night before the PTQ when I was finalizing the build I realized I had room for one bonus card. She was that card. I wasn’t planning to actually win so Elspeth seemed like a fun include. On reflection you might want to make room for two as she gave the deck a bit more depth. I ran [card]Trinket Mages[/card] over [card]Rangers of Eos[/card] for two reasons. 1. [card]Ranger of Eos[/card] costs 4 and I like to have won by then. 2. [card]Trinket Mage[/card] gives better sideboard flexibility. Talking of the sideboard, I would probably cut the [card]Burrenton Forge-Tender[/card]s down to 2 or 0–I never brought them in and although I would against RDW, running 4 was an overreaction on my part to how much [card]Volcanic Fallout[/card] hurts.
So here’s how the Swiss went as best I remember it:
Round 1 vs Jund (Matt Parker)
I won the roll and completely dominated Game 1. Sideboarding: [card]Thopter Foundry[/card] -3, [card]Meddling Mage[/card] +3. However, Game 2 was a mull to 5 followed by mana screw. Game 3 my opponent drew kill spell after kill spell. By the end I had 4 lords in the graveyard. I couldn’t really complain.
Round 2 vs Mythic? (Mark Lailey)
I won the roll again. I won Game 1 pretty handily and wasn’t really sure what deck archetype he was playing but he’s running blue and therefore assumed [card]Cryptic Command[/card]s and Jace so I bring in the [card]Unified Will[/card]s over Thopter Foundries and the [card]Pithing Needle[/card] over Elspeth. Game 2 goes very much my way with a turn 2 [card]Tempered Steel[/card] off [card]Windbrisk Heights[/card]. My opponent does get a turn 4 and attempts to cast Jace and I cast [card]Unified Will[/card] in response. For reference, playing a card no one even remembers exists is very fun!
Round 3 vs Black/White stuff (Paul P. Tompsett)
I won the roll again. After Turn 1 [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and Turn 2 [card]Tidehollow Sculler[/card] I’ve assumed I’m facing the mirror and my hand also looks pretty bad. However a [card]Bitterblossom[/card] and [card]Sun Titan[/card] later and I’m a) confused as to what I’m playing against and b) dead. Sideboarding: -1 Elspeth +1 Relic.
Games 2 and 3 went much better for me. I can’t remember exact details, but I won.
Round 4 vs Treefolk (James Cleak)
I win the roll again. This is a fantastic matchup for my deck. I hadn’t tested against it and I’d never heard of Doran but when my 1-3 [card]Ornithopter[/card]s are getting in for 3 instead of 1 it can only be good for me. Games 1 and 2 went quickly my way. I don’t think I did any boarding. A quick note about my opponent in this match up was that he was incredibly friendly which made the match really enjoyable.
Round 5 vs Dredge (Eduardo Sajgalik)
I win the roll again (guess my luck is still holding). My opponent is a local that I have never beaten so not feeling super hot about my chances. However this turns out to be another favorable matchup for me… only by one turn in most situations but that is enough. My opponent is unlucky Game 2 when 12 cards are milled from double [card]Hedron Crab[/card] hitting only one [card]Extractor Demon[/card] followed by being stuck on 2 mana. We played a few casual games after and they generally went my way.
Round 6 vs Tempered Steel with Black (John-Joseph Wilks)
This is a sad match up. Its against my friend and basically determines which of us Top 8s (assuming the next round opponent will ID). I’m pretty sure the match up is against me but I do win the roll (sixth time in a row!) and we both know that’s key. Game 1, I come out fast and get in 12 points of damage before the board stalls. In the end I have three more creatures with combined power 8 so I get the kill in. My sideboarding in this match is probably wrong. I brought in [card]Meddling Mage[/card]s figuring I can stick a lord then name it. My hand looks good for that plan: [card]Master of Etherium[/card] and a [card]Meddling Mage[/card]. Unfortunately my opponent sticks two before I can play the mage so I keep it in hand. I kill of one of the Masters with a double block but in an exact mirror of the previous game I have fallen to 8 while my opponent remains on 20. Many plays later and the game goes to time. I could probably have swung for the kill with Thopters, but given I was 1-0 up and in extra turns I figured I’d just pass it out just to be safe.
Round 7 (Ioannis K. Kyriazis)
So I pretty excited at this point I have made Top 8! To put this in context, I was hoping to win 2 matches over the entire day so I’m pretty pumped but still not looking at winning this.
The Top 8
Quarter Finals vs Naya with Conscription (Chifley Cole)
Game 1 I lost the roll (a bad omen?) and I keep a hand I probably shouldn’t. An early Sovereigns resolves and that’s game over.
Sideboarding: -3 [card]Thopter Foundry[/card] -4 [card]Steel Overseer[/card] +3 [card]Meddling Mage[/card]+3 [card]Path to Exile[/card] +1 [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card].
Game 2 I don’t remember so much. I stick an early [card]Meddling Mage[/card] naming Sovereigns and my opponent draws lots of [card]Lotus Cobra[/card]s and lands.
Game 3 my opponent re-boards and I suspect the Sovereigns have gone out but I still name them. Can’t remember anything notable about this game, other than possibly this is the game that I realized my deck really wanted me to win with 3 topdecked [card]Masters of Etherium[/card] in a row. Some days you just get there.
Semi-Finals vs Jund (Ioannis K. Kyriazis)
I had some sideboarding advice about this matchup so I was planning to board out the Overseers and the Thopter Foundries again so when I kept a hand containing these in game 1 I thought I’d probably screwed up. However they did combine to win me the game after my opponent attacked with all three of his [card]Demigods of Revenge[/card] letting me swing back for lethal.
Sideboarding: -3 [card]Thopter Foundry[/card] -4 [card]Steel Overseer[/card] +3 [card]Path to Exile[/card] +3 [card]Meddling Mage[/card]+1 [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card]
This game was slow. After the dust from the first couple of turns settled I have a [card]Tempered Steel[/card] and an [card]Ornithopter[/card] on the board but it’s a slow clock. However then I draw Elspeth for the first time that day. I start getting in for 5. My opponent seems to be struggling to find black mana. However next turn I get greedy and activate a [card]Mutavault[/card] to buff that with Elspeth instead and my opponent answers with [card]Volcanic Fallout[/card]. Elspeth falls to 4. I get in for another two and cast [card]Court Homunculus[/card] after combat. My opponent untaps and plays [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card], cascading into another [card]Volcanic Fallout[/card]. He decided to cast it going to 7 and Elspeth goes to 2. He attacks Elspeth with [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] and I trade the [card]Court Homunculus[/card]â€”although keeping it alive to swing back for an extra 4 would be better. I drop my opponent to 5 next turn and make a solider. A second Bloodbraid cascades into [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card] and my heart sinks as Elspeth dies. [card]Ornithopter[/card] drops my opponent to 3 and I wish I had got the extra three damage by not using the [card]Mutavault[/card] earlier. My opponent untaps, draws and passes the turn. I topdeck a second [card]Tempered Steel[/card] and attempt to swing for lethal. [card]Nature’s Claim[/card] kills the [card]Ornithopter[/card] and my solider runs into a [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card]. Suddenly my board is dead. I start taking damage but I slowly draw into enough creatures and my opponent runs out of answers so I can alpha for those final 3 points of life.
Finals vs Naya (James Allingham)
I’m feeling pretty good at this point. I’ve gone from not even considering I can win this to believing I can. I can’t remember if I won this roll or not. I win Game 1 due to 3 oversized [card]Steel Overseer[/card]s.
Sideboarding: -3 Thopter Foundry -4 Steel Overseer +3 Path to Exile +3 Meddling Mage +1 Relic of Progenitus
I lose Game 2 almost entirely to [card]Cunning Sparkmage[/card] and [card]Basilisk Collar[/card]. Baneslayer just provided the way for my opponent to win actually after he wrecked my board.
I reboard as I’ve decided the [card]Steel Overseer[/card]s should have stayed in and also [card]Pithing Needle[/card] should come in to shut down Sparkmage.
+3 Steel Overseers +1 Pithing Needle -1 Master of Etherium -1 Elspeth -1 Springleaf Drum -1 Something
Game 3 is long and painful. I get some early gas and [card]Path to Exile[/card] a turn 3 [card]Wooly Thoctar[/card]. My opponent only really draws lands and mana dudes but eventually the [card]Raging Ravine[/card]s are active and I have no lord so my [card]Ornithopter[/card]s are just decorations. I draw a [card]Trinket Mage[/card] who goes to fetch a [card]Pithing Needle[/card] to shut down the Ravines and get in for a few more hits. [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card] destroys the Needle and I start taking damage. My opponent is at 6 but I start to feel the match slipping away. A [card]Cunning Sparkmage[/card] sits on the other side of the field preventing my [card]Memnite[/card] from joining the fray. I breathe deeply and draw. It’s a [card]Tempered Steel[/card]. I quietly (though apparently the room was so still everyone heard) thank my deck and play it. My two [card]Ornithopter[/card]s jump into action and a [card]Bird of Paradise[/card] dies bravely. My opponent goes to 4. I’m on 12. There are 2 Ravines on the other side of the board, one with a counter on, and a Sparkmage. I decide to let [card]Memnite[/card] take the hit from Sparkmage this turn just in case so I play it. It gets shot as I expect and I place it in the graveyard. The watching Judges immediately undo this as [card]Memnite[/card] is obviously a 3/3. Nerves anyone? My opponent untaps and draws. Suddenly his hand extends. I shake it and burst into tears.
You can also read James tournament report here.
The PTQ was just an amazing day for me. I far exceeded my expectations and maybe that’s what gave me the edge over my opponents–I wasn’t nervous as I wasn’t expecting or hoping for anything. I definitely got lucky in some matchups and my pairings in the Swiss were favourable but I did play some of the best Magic I have ever played. I am incredibly proud to have won a PTQ and I will go to Pro Tour Nagoya with my head held high. I hope to see you there.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to reading your comments,