Designated Driver – 3rd Reading National Qualifier by Matt Barnes

Designated Driver – 3rd Reading National Qualifier by Matt Barnes
All these tournament reports start with an anecdotal paragraph explaining how awful a night sleep you had, or how the journey was flooded with traffic… Who am I to break the mould?

After visiting Gravesend the weekend before, and some abysmal play later, the Chesham crew was watching François Hauchard qualify with a ‘Mythic Red’ deck. Both myself and David Bevan, were commenting on how he could possibly qualify with a deck like that… And not only had he qualified, but almost his exact list was played on camera in America, apparently not as bad as we thought?

The morning of Reading, Dan Harborne, the third member of our trio for some reason or another assumed I’d be tacking on about half an hour onto the journey by picking up David first, who was in High Wycombe (about two minutes from the roundabout allowing access to the motorway to Reading… Riiiight).

After some Rally navigating by David (follow the hairpin around) sending me in the wrong direction for about five minutes, we arrived at the venue.

The venue itself was cool, a fairly bright room with plenty of space though the numbers did surprise me, three qualifying slots, a little low for Reading… No?

Carpet – RUG Control.

Main Deck

1 Avenger of Zendikar
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Acidic Slime
3 Frost Titan
3 Inferno Titan
4 Lotus Cobra

3 Jace, The Mind Sculptor
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Explore
4 Mana Leak
4 Preordain

2 Halimar Depths
4 Raging Ravine
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Copperline Gorge
2 Mountain
3 Forest
5 Island


2 Tumble Magnet
2 Acidic Slime
4 Flashfreeze
4 Pyroclasm
3 Obstinate Baloth

There isn’t really anything groundbreaking in my list, just a fairly standard RUG list with a few exceptions.

No Precursor Golem?

As much as 9 power for five mana is. I just found it fairly lacklustre in Gravesend, after the tournament I was fairly worried about the Kibler Infect deck, so I put 

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Only three [card]Jace, The Mind Sculptor">Frost Titan[card] it its slot. The change some may not agree with, but I much prefer the Titan that trumps the others over Point-removal-at-me Golem.

Only three [card]Jace, The Mind Sculptor?

Not through choice, the omission of the fourth Jace was merely a monetary problem. Ah well, I’ve got my 4th for Nats (merci Henry Guille)!

Garruk vs Oracle?

I played both Garruk and Oracle in my list as I’ve seen both in successful RUG lists and I thought I’d try them both out. In Gravesend, Garruk would have won me a game I lost if I had played correctly. In Reading Garruk was overshadowed completely by the insane ramp I got from Oracle one game. Landing the Oracle was game changing.

Main Deck Slime?

He’s always been good for me; Tumble Magnets, Manlands, Swords. He hits too much of the format to not play one in the main deck.

The only change I’d make to this list before the release of New Phyrexia, would be putting Garruk into the side in place of a Baloth, and adding the fourth Jace.


Onto the tournament!

As this tournament report is belated, my memory of the event isn’t as great as it would have been if I wrote it the night I’d qualified, so you’ll have forgive me if any of the details are miss quoted.

Robert D. Elkin – Green White Jumanji.

Game One

After we’d shuffled up and presented, exchanged pleasantries etcetera, it was onto the game. Game one was fairly uneventful as I recall. Pulling only one Vengevine from a resolved Fauna Shaman that soon ate a Bolt. Inferno Titan lead the initial assault and Frost Titan opened the gates to game two.

+ 4 Pyroclasm
– 1 Garruk Wildspeaker
– 1 Frost Titan
– 1 Explore
– 1 Lotus Cobra

As you’ll see as you continue through this report. My sideboarding is abysmal.

Game Two

Much more eventful from him. After Pyroclasming a couple of Birds and a Fauna Shaman, he killed me with Vengevines as I Preordained into Preordains. Wonderful.

Game Three

This was the first of two luck sacking games from me, the second later on in the report. He’d kept a slightly shaky hand requiring him needing to hold the fetch after a resolved Lotus Cobra. Jace bounced this Cobra twice before Pyroclasm ended its life on the board, with my opponent stuck on two land, a Acidic Slime targeting the Stirring Wildwood and Oracle vomiting out lands like you’ve never seen, Avenger quickly ended game three.


Matthew Johnson – Valakut.

Game One

I honestly can’t remember how Game One and two went. A lucky draw from me ended game one before my opponent could kill me with Valakut, later learning that a mistake earlier in the game caused him to be down one forest to cast the Harrow to kill me.

+ 4 Flashfreeze
– 1 Garruk Wildspeaker
– 1 Oracle of Mul Daya
– 1 Frost Titan
– 1 Explore

I can’t really remember the sideboarding that well. Only it was fairly sporadic.

Game Two

He goes off… I resolve a Inferno Titan, he along with my Lotus Cobra bite the big one, and I followed soon after.

Game Three

Unfortunately, Matt drew extra cards, he sacrificed a fetch land and we were chatting away. Force of habit caused him to assume it was at the end of my turn and drew a card, however it was the middle of his turn. He called a judge and the ruling was that he got a game loss… Turns out if we’d have played, I would have lost. Sorry Matt.


David Bevan – Blue Black Control.

I was a total douche to my friend earlier in the day. I knew he was nervous playing against me when the prize was so important to the both of us… I may have dropped the subtle comment of ‘You know you’ve never beaten me competitively right? Yeah, yeah I know I’m a bad person… What can I say? It was my only chance to qualify, I work Saturdays and the only NQ within reasonable driving distance was the one I was running in Chesham… Doesn’t excuse me really, does it (he qualified next week anyway, works out right?). You can read Davids qualifying report here.

Game One

This game was down to one huge mistake by David, he tapped out for Grave Titan mostly due to the nerves and pressure of knowing that if he lost this match, he probably wasn’t in contention. He’d seen the Frost Titan earlier in the game from an Inquisition of Kozilek and as soon as he cast it he knew the play was incorrect. He was at zero shortly after thanks to Frost Titan and his Red Brother.


I had no idea how to sideboard for this match… So I didn’t… Yeah, this is defiantly not the report for you if you were after sideboarding tips!

Game Two

After a few turns of Draw Go, he resolved a Beleren, it died, he resolved a Mind Sculptor, it died, I resolved a Frost Titan, it died. Eventually he died to an Inferno Titan very late game after being forced to block with a couple of Tar Pits to attempt to draw answers. He found nothing, onto round four.


Steve Bains – Green White Jumanji.

Steve: ”So are you playing the same deck you played in Gravesend?”
Me: ”Yeah, are you?”
Steve: ”Yeah, yeah, I think its a pretty good choice”
Me: ”Cool… What was it?”

Memory for the win!

Game One

Mulled to five this game. Kept a fairly okay hand, Cobra, Explore, Fetch, Raging Ravine, Inferno Titan.

Steve: ”This really hinges on if you have Inferno Titan doesn’t it?”

I cast a Inferno Titan turn five.

Steve: ”Apparently you do”

I cast another on turn six.

Me: ”I’ve still got one in the deck!”

I top-decked the third. Sometimes you just run well.


I made no changed game one, figuring that Lightning Bolts were all that was really necessary

Game Two

He chips me down with 1/1’s then kills me quite convincingly with a couple of Vengevines, sadface.

+ 4 Pyroclasm
– 1 Oracle of Mul Daya
– 1 Garruk Wildspeaker
– 1 Avenger of Zendikar
– 1 Frost Titan

Game Three

He landed a few birds and a Cobra, which Inferno Titan dealt with and he didn’t recover from there. After many retelling of the Inferno Titan top-decking to various people around the room it was on to round five.

I anxiously awaited the standings to be posted, wondering if I could ID and get in, after a few guys telling me I couldn’t I sat down to play the most important game of my magic career so far. Which not only turned out to be the most fun game of magic I’ve ever had it turned out to be of little importance what-so-ever.


Mark Aylett – RUG Mirror.

Mark: ”I agree, Precursor Golem has been naff all day.”

Game One

I make a mistake, bolting a Cobra when it really didn’t make any difference to the game, partially due to nerves, partially due to not knowing the mirror well, he resolved a Precursor which I trade my Inferno Titan for. A resolved Jace wins out for him while I Preordained into Preordains again! Woo!

+ 2 Tumble Magnet
– 1 Garruk Wildspeaker
– 1 Explore?

…Yeah, defiantly not the greatest sideboarding tips.

Game Two

I have threats, he has Tumble Magnets. The Magnets give him time to pump Inferno Titan and Ravine for game. I’ll blame that on… Something, yeah, that’ll do. You can read Marks qualifying report here.

Mark: ”I really hope you get in man”

Me: ”You’re not the only one”

As I sit there head-desking as we awaited the final results, Dan sat next to me exchanging glances until we heard the names being called.

”In first place, Mark Aylett

”In second place, Steve Bains”

”And in third, taking the last Nats Qualifying spot… Matt Barnes

Dan, David and Myself: ”YES!!’ + many *fingers like guns in air*

I’d qualified! Woo!

Now only the other two needed to qualify and we’d all be going to our first Nationals. This game has given me so much, from an incredibly entertaining game from Mark Aylett, simply due to his mad banter and occasional singing of ”Hey sister, soul sister” to myself and David meeting a group of people who’ve changed my life completely.


Thank you; Daniel Harborne, David Bevan, Ed Payne, Aron McGill, Lewis Bowden for being awesome friends and testing partners. Dan and Dave especially. It was thanks to you that I got so far. I hope my input assisted the two of you into your qualifying spots too.

Me: ”You know when they called out my name”

Dan: ”Yeah?”

Me: ”And we all cheered?”

David: ”Yeah, I cheered the loudest.”

Me: ”We must’ve made the fourth place finisher feel awful…”

Dan: ”Oops.”


Thanks for Reading,

Matt, Axion Comics.

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I've been playing Magic since M10, and thanks to the Chesham Crew i've been playing competitively since roughly June 2010 alongside Dave, Dan, Ed, Aron and Lewis. I've top 2'd a local standard tournament and a pre-release. Top 8'ed a pre-release. Top 16'd a GPT. The most recent achievement, Qualifying for UK Nationals. Additionally i'm the T.O. of Axion Comics in Chesham, taking over from Dan Harborne. Running Magic Club every Tuesday in Chesham Town Hall and larger tournaments from Pre-Releases to PTQs in the same venue.