My story starts something like this:
(on MSN messenger)
Wednesday, 16th February
Matteo: Oi B
Marco: What b I’m busy
Matteo: Build me a sick UW deck so I can win the PTQ on Saturday
Marco: Nah CBA just play fae
Matteo: But I hate that deck… oh well :(
Thursday, 17th February
Marco: Oi Barnopolos, King of the Barns
Matteo: No that my name
Marco: I’m brewing you a sick UW deck so you can win the PTQ on Saturday
Marco: Sent you SB guides n everything. It’s like the deck Dan played in London but with a more tuned maindeck and the Mystic Package in the board
Matteo: Awesome tytyty
Marco: I’ll send you sideboarding guides on Facebook.
Friday 18th February
(On mtgUK chat)
Mark Aylett: Anybody have info on where the PTQ is tomorrow?
Matteo: TBH it’s not even worth going
Mark: Why’s that?
Matteo: Because I plan to win it
Mark: Is that so?
I’ve done that once before. Before a PTQ for Kyoto in 2009 Jonno Randle posted on the now defunct Twincast forums asking about the PTQ, and I replied to let him know it wasn’t worth turning up because I planned on winning it. After drafting the worst-looking top 8 deck ever I’d just resigned myself to losing, but after beating Peter Dun and his 2 Tower Gargoyle 2 Sanctum Gargoyle Esper deck with my 0 gargoyle Esper deck, and then Mark Glenister with his 5 Nacatl 2 Naya Ultimatum deck, I didn’t even consider the fact that I could lose the finals. As it turned out, I didn’t, and that Pro Tour turned out pretty well for me.
I had the deck mostly built thanks to the ever-awesome Tu and other Manaleak guys having lent it to Marco who lent it to Dan who lent it to me (village bike deck). Having sorted through my folders for Mystics and Swords I was left needing only a couple of cards, which were promptly offered by the ever-awesome Tu via his ever-awesome sidekick Joe Fletcher. The list I played was this:
4 Baneslayer Angel (OBVSIES)
3 Vendilion Clique
2 Wall of Omens
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Sun Titan
1 Glen-Elendra Archmage
4 Cryptic Command
4 Mana Leak
3 Path to Exile
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Poppa Jace
1 Baby Jace
1 Day of Judgment
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Mystic Gate
4 Tectonic Edge
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Arid Mesa
1 Scalding Tarn
Marco told me to change the Flashfreeze for a second Spell Pierce before the tournament but I didn’t get the memo – still, I think that’s correct as there aren’t so many green-based creature decks that FF is better than SP against and that you shouldn’t beat anyway. I’d also change 1 of the Feast and Famines for a Body and Mind, because against Faeries that plan is how you win and F+F gets blocked quite handily by Mistbind Clique. You should still find F+F first 90% of the time, but you rarely need 2 and the second one is better to be different for a little versatility. I chose to go with two F+F in case the first got destroyed, but that’s rarely going to happen against Fae or Scapeshift decks, and the mirror will only have a couple of Oblivion Rings that they want to use on Planeswalkers / Titan anyway.
The morning of the tournament, me and housemate Tidus Barnfeatures were kitted out in our slick mtgUK tees and ready to rock the tournament, with perennial lift-giver Adam Barnett providing the lift to the venue. Reading’s about an hour and a bit from my current residence in Bristol, so the ride was mostly uneventful and filled with the usual Magic chatter you find in cars full of magic players, along with a little UK-player-based gossip. Having arrived it was just a matter of sleeving up the deck and making fun of gingieboi while registration closed and round 1 pairings went up. When the â€œplayer meetingâ€ was announced head judge DLS (David Lyford-Smith) just told us to find a table to sit at and take out our decklist for judge collection, rather than posting up a seating plan and getting everyone to scramble around a tiny seatings sheet before having to leave their friends and finish up sleeving in a hurry. This is the first time I’ve experienced that, and a lot of respect for DLS for doing it that way – if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s judges who take themselves too seriously, but David managed to run the tournament smoothly and professionally while keeping the casual and friendly vibes up.
Round 1: Vs Dan Stokes
Dan was one of the 6 or so players in the room sporting a mtgUK shirt, and I gotta admit, I assumed he was just some terrible Worcester scrub. I’ve never seen him on mtgUK chat so I guessed he was one of Tu’s local players who’d come out just for the fun of the ride, but it turned out he was actually a decent guy and a decent player. He was playing blue-white too, and we had a fairly long back-and-forth first game in which I was a little mana screwed to start off but managed to resolve an Oblivion Ring on his Sun Titan then pull back into the game with Jace after killing his. He played a little sloppy on a few occasions, but they weren’t game breaking errors and the game was long enough that they probably didn’t matter in the end (and I also can’t remember any particular errors, so they can’t have been too important). In the second game we both had our boarded tech going, but mine was just way better – he seemed to have stuck with the aggro plan and kept in Finks along with boarded Coralhelm Commanders, but my Stoneforge Mystics just took the game fairly quickly while his 2/2 for 2 did not a whole lot. 1-0 to Marco.
Round 2: Vs Tom Duignan
Tom’s one of those players that literally ALWAYS plays the same deck, which is useful to know when you sit down against them – in his case it’s GW(x) aggro, and so I kept a reasonably risky hand of Preordain, Mana Leak, 2 Path to Exile, Kitchen Finks and 2 Island. On turn 4 after casting 2 Preordains and putting 2 spells on the bottom I passed with 3 Islands in play. On turn 5 I discarded in my cleanup step and on turn 6 I scooped. OBV COULD I RUN ANY WORSE? The annoying thing was that he wasn’t really doing much – his first play was turn 2 Green Sun’s Zenith for Noble Hierarch. Still, I felt this was a pretty good matchup for me, especially as I thought He probably wasn’t on the Eldrazi Conscription plan by the way his manabase looked (had only green and white lands) and because I didn’t think Zenith would fit in that deck.
Game 2 was completely 1 sided again, but this time in my favour. I got down an early Vendilion clique and saw he had 2 Path to Exile but not much action after I took Fauna Shaman, and his Great Sable Stags (these do literally nothing against UW control, just so people know) and Noble Hierarchs weren’t applying a huge amount of pressure, especially as I had paths of my own. My lifetotal looks like this: 20,16,15,14,19,21,26. If you want a challenge try and work out the changes… if not, here they are: exalted stag, exalted hierarch, exalted hierarch, baneslayer, finks, baneslayer, scooooop.
Game 3 was a little more close, and one of the more enjoyable games I played on the day because I really had to think about my plays. The early game involved a lot of jockeying for position in which I desperately tried to keep his Knights of the Reliquary off the table while also keeping Jace Alive. We got to the point where I bounced Knight with Jace then Vendilioned in his draw step hoping to take the Knight, but he’d just drawn Vengevine which put me in an even tighter spot, so I had to take that. He casually put it on the bottom, drew, and made a Vengevine. After the standard â€œhooow luckyâ€s I had to hit the tank pretty hard and work out how I could possibly win this game. The answer was Baneslayer (obv), and so I went to 1 life (much to the pleasure of the crowd) and ripped the top card. Knew it was there! To be fair I had a Jace in play and so had 4 shots, but having it be the first card meant I could start fatesealing just to be sure. Amidst all my tanking I forgot to make a Colonnade, but I had about 9 lands in play anyway so it didn’t make a huge amount of difference. After the match gingieboi told me I’m â€œsuch a masterâ€, which I knew already but it’s nice to hear it from others once in a while.
Round 3: Dom Harvey
Dom’s a former Bath player who I know to be reasonably competent. He was playing Wargate (which I’m not sure about in terms of matchup), and was playing it well, in that he knew he could just wait rather than get blown out by Mana Leaks. In the first game I mana screwed a little but that meant my hand was gas, and his 2nd Oracle of Mul Daya (the first went on a Path to Exile) kept semi-missing by putting a land into play and revealing Mana Leak. I therefore managed to Tectonic Edge him off Valakuts and eventually take down a game I didn’t think I could win with big poppa titan. I can’t really remember much about the second game other than that I lost, and I also can’t remember much about the third game, but gingieboi was watching and told me after that I could have won. There was a lot of awkward trying to get into a situation where I could safely sword him but I never really found the right one and lost on the 2 turn of extra turns, but I was rushing loads to try and game the game over with and probably missed something. He said it involved not Mana Leaking something when I should have done to get him off fetchlands during my turn, but I honestly couldn’t remember. It’s annoying to lose to a punt, but the only thing you can do at that point is put it behind you and play as well you can for the rest of the day, which is exactly what I did.
Round 4: Tim
Another Round, another Scapeshift Player, but this one was way more pimp and had a 58/60 card foil deck (apparently Mike Dook forgot to bring his foil Misty Rainforests…). In the first game I kept a reasonable hand against a random deck, but when I Vendilioned him turn 4 (missed a land drop) and saw Cryptic Command, 2 Scapeshifts, Prismatic Omen and Lands (with Omen in play and 5 or so lands in play) I sort of knew it wasn’t going to work out. I took the cryptic, but in hindsight I should have taken the Omen and hoped to draw an Oblivion Ring to get rid of the one in play. As it turned out, he never actually needed the Scapeshifts – he just made land after land with Valakut in play and slowly killed me. I managed to draw an Edge at 8 life to hopefully bring myself back into the game, but he just drew another Valakut and started bringing the pain once more.
I can’t really remember much of the second game, other than me winning and him maybe getting unlucky. In the third he tanked on his keep for a long time, before eventually keeping with a look of regret in his eye. Turn 1 he played Halimar Depths and didn’t spend long rearranging, while I Preordained. Turn 2 he drew, Preordained 2 to the bottom, drew, and passed. (whheeeee), letting me play Mystic uncontested. He did hit his second land with another Preordain on turn 3, but I then made a Sword and turn 4 got to work on him with Equipping Sword, attacking, making him discard, and Dropping Archmage. Once the board is Archmage, equipped Mystic and 4 land vs 3 Land the game is probably over (and it was soon after).
Round 5: Jason Savage
This time I was paired against Faeries, which I wasn’t particularly happy with, especially while on the bubble. Jason’s been playing for a fairly long time and I know him (though not particularly well) just by having played at a number of PTQs and nationals over the years. In the first game he didn’t have the turn 2 Bitterblossom (miiiise), but still managed to get me a little worried when on turn 5 he dropped a Sword of Feast and Famine on his Spellstutter Sprite, hit me round the face, made me discard, and untapped all his lands ready for my turn. My own medicine tasted pretty bad to be honest. Still, my next card was a Baneslayer and apparently he was drawing only lands, so I actually managed to get back in the game just by draining him for 5 every turn and then playing whatever I drew (usually land) so the Sword’s effect didn’t really bother me. The game went fairly long, but at a certain point he Mistbinded me in my upkeep and championed his Mutavault really quickly. I sort of considered Tectonic Edging it but decided it wasn’t really worth it because he’d still have a Spellstutter Sprite to Champion. If I’d just asked him to wait a second and thought about it though (I don’t think he was trying to â€œget meâ€ by the way, he was just playing quickly because it was still game 1 about 20 minutes in) I would have realised that by forcing him to champion Stutter my Baneslayer and Colonnade were lethal next turn. With Spellstutter still in play however he could equip his Mistbind into a 6/6 and just sit there playing the waiting game against Baneslayer. Thankfully this punt didn’t affect me too much because a few turns later he made a similarly bad punt which did end up costing him the game. He Mistbinded during my turn just to tap me out, but that meant he had to then chump Baneslayer with Spellstutter, leaving me with lethal on board once more thanks to Colonnade the next turn. If he’d done it during his turn he could have equipped it with Sword and been safe from attack, but this way his next draw was blank and he was scooping them up.
In game 2 he tanked on his keep for a while and eventually went for it (so no turn 2 Bitterblossom then!) and we got to play the control game, which I’m more than happy with. I managed to stick 2 Swords down at some point, and after some back and forth with Mistbinds and Baneslayers the sideboard package just got the better of him. He did draw Bitterblossom a little later in the game, but the Swords didn’t really care about that, and I drew 4 Cryptic Commands throughout the game just to keep myself ahead (thanks deck!)
After the match we had a good chat about mtgUK, what Tu’s trying to do with it, how it’s good that it’s funded by a store unlike previous attempts at such a thing, and other general Magic topics which is nice. Normally after a match you just wish them luck and go find your group of friends, but as the round was almost over we just stayed and chatted for 5 minutes until pairings were up.
Round 6: Mark Knight
Before the round we got deck checked and I got called over to the judge station after the checking (never a good sign). The deck I’d borrowed had a lot of foils in it (Tu’s a massive foil whore) and they told me they’d managed to cut to Cryptic Command 4 or 5 times, at which my heart rate started to go up slightly. They then told me it’s no biggie and probably just to do with the excessive shuffling and humidity in the room, so I could just take a minute to sit down, take them out of the sleeves, bend them back the right way, and then resleeve and get on with my match. Dodged that Bullet! Might try cheating more often now (joking joking, big thanks to DLS + other judges for giving me the benefit of the doubt).
Mark was playing Tempered Steel, but I don’t know if it was a â€œstandardâ€ version or something he’d come up with himself, because it didn’t really seem like a proper deck. In the first game he just made some guys while I made a wall and a Kitchen Finks. I bounced a Tempered Steel mid-combat so that Finks could eat his Steel Overseer and Wall could block without Dieing, but he decided not to leak it because he feared Day of Judgment on my turn (I’m guessing). When he then passed without remaking the Steel it was fairly obvious what he had, but I had 2 Baneslayers so after the first got Leaked the second one (and then third) took it home for the good team.
In the second game he made guy guy guy, I made wall, he bashed me, I got a desperation Day of Judgment countered, and he won. gg.
In the third he tanked on his keep for a while before eventually going for it. His first turn saw a Court Homonculus, but when he then attacked turn 2 with a 1/1 and passed it because fairly obvious his hand was Court Homo, Mana Leaks and lands (seems sketchy at best). He drew Springleaf Drum the next turn and I took chunks of 2 damage until I eventually got bored of taking damage and Pathed it (I had something like Jace, 2 Cryptics and 2 Baneslayers in my hand at this point, with Collonade in play). He kept drawing lands and doing not much, until I eventually started baiting out Mana Leaks. My Jace ate two of them, and my Baneslayers took it home fairly safely.
A quick look at standings confirmed that I would be locked in with an ID, so I happily sat down and agreed to the draw with level 1 pro and rising Star Seb Parker, hot off a stellar performance at Pro Tour Paris just last week.
5-1-1. Top 8.
Top 8 standings were called and I was against one of the two Faeries players (boooo), and it was one I know to be competent (boooo) – Eduardo Sajgalik, and so while Jason’s play was a little (self-admittedly) rusty in the 5th round, the same probably couldn’t be said for Eduardo who had yet to lose a round. Others told me that he was on the brink of collapse though, so if I could I should try and make the game go long to capitalise on the fact he was fairly ill and in dire need of sleep. It was a shaky plan at best, but a plan nonetheless.
The venue was only booked until 7pm, so we moved to the store to play out the top 8, which was just a 5 minute hop down the road.
Quarterfinals: Eduardo Sajgalik
Eduardo won the roll (I actually won 1 roll the entire day – just goes to show how good this deck is) and made turn 2 Bitterblossom while I made turn 2 Wall of Omens. Yeah, not winning this one. On turn 3 he Thoughtseized me and took my Kitchen Finks (pretty much my only hope at this point) , leaving me with 2 Vendilion Clique (nice anti-blossom tech) and Glen-Elendra Archmage, then followed up with Bitterblossom number 2. Gulp. Thankfully somebody out there wanted to give me a chance though, and I played a freshly cast Finks straight off the top (OOOBV). Eduardo missed his fourth land drop, and when I Vendilioned him in his draw step he decided to let it resolve rather than spellstuttering it, which sort of surprised me, but after some tanking and planning out I let him keep 2 Cryptic Command, Spellstutter Sprite, Go for the Throat and Sunken Ruins. My first Clique traded with a token and my second Clique stuck around for a future Cryptic-assisted attack. I managed to stick an Archmage while keeping him off Cryptic mana with Tectonic Edges. Eventually I got to the point where my plan seemed to be working out, with him on 9 life and me with Vendilion, Persisted Finks and Persisted Archmage in play, with Cryptic command in hand. In my end step he Cryptic’d to tap me out and draw a card, which cost him the game – I was at 10 life with 10 Blossom tokens in play, but I wasn’t planning on blocking with anything anyway. If he’d bounced something instead I would have been in a bit of a Pickle, but as it stood I could just let the Cryptic resolve, then in his upkeep Cryptic to tap him out after he’d gone to 7 and made two tokens. He tried for the Mana Leak, I countered with Archmage, and I untapped, Tec Edged his Mutavault, and won for exacsties in his upkeep.
In game two he tanked and kept, so good news – no Blossom. He didn’t do anything for the first few turns, and when my turn 3 Vendilion Clique saw Vendilion Clique, 2 Mistbind Clique and 2 Spell Pierce I pretty much knew I’d won. He did something in his turn (can’t remember what that involved him tapping 2 lands) so I managed to resolve a Jace through Pierce with my own Pierce then own his life with Baneslayer in Baneslayer into Sower of Temptation. 4-0 in games against Faeries – is it really a bad matchup or am I just a Stonecold Master?
Semifinals: Vs Karim (Italian guy living over here)
He was playing straight red-green Valakut and was saying at the start of top 8 that I was the only matchup he really didn’t want to play against, which was good news for me, though I didn’t think it was that good a matchup. In the first game we both started with a mulligan and I had to keep a sketchy hand with pretty much nothing that could interact with him on the basis that I could just pass the turn and pretend I had countermagic and I didn’t really want to go to five. After a lot of draw, land, go, I ran out of lands on turn 5 while he kept making them with Omen in play. After missing a land drop I couldn’t really keep passing because he’d just get to the point where either he’s just killing me with valakut or he can resolve Titan and Scapeshift in the same turn through Cryptic (that I didn’t even have). I made a Wall hoping to draw a 4th untapped land, but I didn’t so he just untapped and Scapeshifted me.
In the second game I mulliganed again, but my second hand was decent and I managed to get down an Early Stoneforge, which oddly bit the bullet to Volcanic Fallout (he knew about my plan), followed by a poppa Jace turn 4. When I made the Jace he went to stop me activating and asked me whether he could do anything before I used it (the answer is no, I retain priority), so I +2’d it when I was actually going to Brainstorm, then he end of turn Fallouted and Lightning Bolted it – value! I had another Jace next turn which did Brainstorm (if he has another Bolt he can’t have much else), but that guy bit the bullet to Slagstorm (so much creature hate…). I’d still got a lot of value out of my cards by this point though, and an early Vendilion Clique had got him to 11 life, so it was just a matter of a few Colonnade Swings and he was a gonner.
In the third game we decided to both take yet another mulligan, and the game was very similar to the second. We both did not a lot, and after he killed some of my guys I Vendilioned to see two Titans and two Mountains – with two Cryptic in hand this was something I could deal with. I took one of the Titans anyway and got to work on his Life total with Vendilion. He did something that surprised me next turn by running Titan into Mana Leak, but that suggested he’d drawn more action since I’d seen his hand so I had to try and play it safe. I did have a Mystic down but never wanted to spend the mana on Swording, so I just beat down with Vendilion and Mystic until he drew Fallout to stay alive at 4 life. In his turn he made titan and I spent a long time working out what he could do with it – with no Valakuts or Omens in play the only thing he could really do was get two Valakuts, so I let it resolve and kept my Cryptic (2 in hand but 6 untapped lands) for a potential Scapeshift. He’d tapped 3 of his 4 Forests to cast the titan and had 2 cards left in hand, so I thought he might be trying to get me pretty hard and his last two cards were forest and Scapeshift, but when he then made Terramorphic Expanse and passed I just bounced it with Cryptic and threatened lethal Colonnade with Cryptic backup, so he scooped
My opponent in the finals was none other than Dan Stokes, the blue-white mirror I beat in the first round, which gave a nice symmetry to the day. He saw it as a chance for revenge, but I saw it as a chance to offer him a big fat sandwich with 8 Straight wins as the filling and losses to me as the bread. After a little friendly trashtalk from both sides we got off to the game. The first game was completely epic, and at so many points I felt like there was literally no way I could win. I kept a hand with 5 lands because drawing lands is fine in the control mirror, but by the time he Vendilion Cliqued me on turn 7 or so he saw a hand of 4 lands and Day of Judgment. Still, I stayed in the game with a mix of him not applying a lot of pressure and me playing the cards off the top well, and at one point I got him pretty hard with a mind trick. I wanted to brag about it at the time but couldn’t really because we were still playing, but we got to the point where he cast Sun Titan and brought back the Vendilion Clique I’d just killed. He started saying â€œtargeting…â€ and moved to point at me, but as he did so I told him â€œyou can have some lands if you like, because you already know that’s all I’ve got!â€ or something to that effect and pushed my hand towards him eagerly. A mix of my excellent acting skills and the fact that the crowd all laughed when I said it meant he decided to target himself instead, allowing me to untap, Day of Judgment (which he’d seen but forgotten about), play one of my 4 lands, and play the baby Jace I drew off the top. After this the game just went looooooooong, and after about 10 or so more turns of attrition I drew poppa Jace. He’d used 3 Cryptics early in the game while I’d used none, so I was drawing a lot more live than him (I also drew 19/26 lands in the top 30 cards), and when I finally drew poppa Jace with two Cryptics to protect it, the game was over merely 5 turns later (and with Jace on 13 loyalty… he didn’t let me go ultimate)
The second game was completely 1-sided in his favour. His sideboard tech of Coralhelm Commander put a fair amount of pressure on me, which meant I sort of had to path it, which meant my Tectonic Edge plan to keep him off Sun Titan wasn’t working particularly well. I naturally drew one of my Swords as well as 3 Mystics, and just got overwhelmed by about turn 8.
Game three was pretty much the same, but in the other Direction. I got the early Stoneforge, which meant he had to use an Oblivion Ring early to deal with it. That let me resolve a poppa Jace, which died after 2 Brainstorms and was promptly followed by a twin. The card advantage was way too much to deal with, and once I’d got a Sun Titan with a Sword and multiple Tectonic Edges, all the while Fatesealing him every turn, it became one of the most one-sided games I’ve played in a while. By the time he scooped the game state was something like: me: Sun Titan with Sword, 8 or so lands, Jace on 8, 6 cards in hand, 2 of which were Cryptic Command. Him: 2 Kitchen Finks, 3 basic lands and no cards in hand.
8-1-1. 1st Place
BACK ON THE TOUR BABY!
This will sound cheesy, but it’s a nice feeling knowing I â€œstill got itâ€. I’m known for being a little arrogant, but after spending only a year on the tour and cashing in only 2 of my 8 pro tours, I was starting to wonder whether my YouTube commenters and DanG are right about me. Sure it’s only a PTQ, but it’s the happiest I’ve ever felt after winning one.
As is tradition, let’s end with some props and slops.
–Marco for designing me the deck and sending me sideboarding guides despite being already qualified and therefore having no need to do so. He’s such a constructed master, I’m pretty sure if he knew how to play in limited he’d be level 6 minimum.
–DanG for showing me in London that blue-white is good regardless of the format.
–http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690953610 (+his staff) for running a great tournament with a good mix of casual and professional feel, as well as providing me with an actual blue envelope at the end of the tournament containing a signed letter and a promo Cryptic Command (coincidence, apparently). It might seem like a small irrelevant thing, but making your players feel appreciated is great, so thanks again David!
–Tu / Manaleak for lending me the deck and being generally good guys.
–Adam Barnett for driving me and waiting out the entire top 8, including my epic finals that probably took a good 90 minutes.
–Dan Stokes for being a great guy and gracious in defeat, not showing the slightest sign of being bitter or upset about losing to me twice.
-The gods of fate who didn’t punish me the few times I punted and rewarded me the few times I played perfectly.
-Mamma OJ for being angry at me for winning a PTQ (why weren’t you studying!?)
Thanks for reading, and see you in Nagoya,