Bolt for the Win – How not to Top 8 a PTQ by John Jemmett

Bolt for the Win – How not to Top 8 a PTQ by John Jemmett


I woke up at 6.30 yesterday morning (after having a pretty bad night’s sleep for some reason) and had nothing else on so I decided what the hell, and went up to Nottingham for the Philadelphia PTQ.

Having not played Standard at all since the National Qualifiers (GP London and the New Phyrexia release events along with some hardcore EDH action meant at least I was still on the ball generally speaking), my entire preparation consisted of putting back together my Valakut deck Sunday morning, and swapping the Lightning Bolts for 2 Beast Within and 2 Nature’s Claim. A brief sideboard update for Combust (to deal with those pesky Deceiver Exarchs), then I realised I only had 2 Inferno Titans. I put in a single Avenger of Zendikar maindeck but when reviewing the deck I felt Avenger wouldn’t cut it in a world full of birds and pro-green swords so I got out my rares folder to look for any new bombs to try out instead, I open the page and looking back at me is Karn Liberated and I thought ‘he’ll do, he costs 7 as well’ :D

So with zero testing against the new decks like Exarch Twin and the updated Cawblade, I rock up to Nottingham and decide to just play some magic fully expecting to crash and burn horribly. While completing my deck registration sheet I decided I’d christen my new deck ‘Valakarn‘ :)

Decklist – Valakarn

I’ve had lots of people interested in my list, assuming I’ve been slaving away since NPH came out teching out Valakut but seriously I just plonked Karn in place of Avenger and had no idea what he’d be like! Here’s the list I ran though:

Lands (27)
4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
4 Terramorphic Expanse
2 Raging Ravine
5 Forest
12 Mountain

Creatures (12)
4 Primeval Titan
2 Inferno Titan
2 Overgrown Battlement
2 Lotus Cobra
2 Oracle of Mul Daya

Planeswalkers (2)
1 Koth of the Hammer
1 Karn Liberated

Artifacts (3)
3 Tumble Magnet

Instants (10)
1 Khalni Heart Expedition
2 Harrow
3 Summoning Trap
2 Beast Within
3 Nature’s Claim

Sorceries (6)
4 Explore
2 Cultivate

Sideboard (15)
1 Summoning Trap
1 Koth of the Hammer
1 Nature’s Claim
1 Khalni Heart Expedition
3 Combust
2 Lightning Bolt
2 Pyroclasm
2 Slagstorm
2 Obstinate Baloth

I know this deck isn’t at all tight or streamlined. If I was taking it more seriously I would take out the Battlements and up the Cobra count, and also go with the Lotus Cobra manabase (with fetches and evolving wilds) instead of the basic non-Cobra manabase.


Round 1 – Quest WW

Won the first game in usual Valakut fashion after my opponent double-mulligans. Lost the second due to misplaying by tapping out to ramp when I shouldve left mana open for my Natures Claim, and my opponent then gets a hit with a Sword of BaM on a Mirran Crusader milling me for 20 which put me back too far. Chalking that up to rustiness, normal service was resumed in game 3. 2-1


Round 2 – UW Cawblade

Game 1 was a crazy crazy game, where we traded resources for most of the game, first with small stuff then it got silly with Karn eating Batterskull and a Gideon before soaking up damage from Hawks and Collonade before my Inferno Titan started mopping up his critters. At several points we were both in positions where we needed an awesome topdeck to stay in the game, in the end I needed to topdeck a Primeval Titan to Valakut away his remaining Hawk equipped with Sword of WaP but didn’t get it.

Game 2 was more lopsided however, after quite a bit of land-go on both sides, I had in hand a Primeval Titan and 4 Summoning Traps, but only 1 green source in play so all I wanted was a green mana source or another creature for my opponent to counter and I could’ve gone postal but it wasn’t to be and I got overwhelmed by his equipment. 0-2


Round 3 – Elves with Vengevines

I won the roll, so games 1 and 3 were typical Valakut-splooshing, and game 2 he weenie rushed me before I could get going. Nuff said. 2-1


Round 4 – UW Cawblade

Don’t remember too much about this round, but I won the roll and won both games on the play while losing on the draw. Typical Cawblade fare though, trading resources and blowing up equipment when necessary while ramping up and hammering away with Titans. 2-1


Round 5 – Grixis Exarch Twin

First ever match against this deck, and had no idea what the matchup would be like. Luckily for me they were complete blowouts as I didn’t take a single point of damage, and my opponent had to mulligan both games where I had super-fast draws letting me combo off with titans and Valakuts before he could do anything. 2-0


Round 6 – ID


Came 7th in swiss standings, meaning I was in my first ever PTQ Top 8 (Ok it was only my 2nd ever PTQ, 50% Top 8 rate yeah!)


Quarterfinal – UW Cawblade

A great match, as all 3 games were pretty close, lost game 1 due to beaing beaten down by Batterskull and friends. The germ token was represented by a booster pack, and it also had a Sword equipped to it as well so that was one mean booster pack!

Game 2 though I managed to let Karn run amok, eating 2 Jaces amongst other things illiciting my opponent to yell the Star Trek catchphrase “Kaaaaaarn!!” without prompting (which was one of my goals for the day!).

Game 3 was another close affair but I managed to come out on top of the resource-trading and go off with my Titans. 2-1

Semifinal – RUG Exarch Twin

Again, another completely untested matchup and this time it wasn’t so pretty. I got murderised in short order by his Lotus Cobra fuelled ramping into Splinter Twin.

Game 1 he gets out Inferno Titan first and kills my Lotus Cobra preventing me from playing my Titan the following turn, then he Splinter Twins his Inferno Titan burning my face off.

Game 2 he gets the ‘traditional’ Exarch-Twin combo on turn 4 while I’m still ramping.

All in all, a pretty good day out. Congrats to James Thanangadan who won with the RUG deck in the final. My only sad face is that I didn’t get a top 8 pin so I can pimp my playmat to look the same as ‘The Bainbridges’ again.


Karn on reflection was pretty all-star, especially in the Cawblade matchups when he got to shine, eating up batterskulls, Jaces and Gideons for breakfast. I’d consider running 2 of maindeck bumping Koth to the board or have 1 each MD and SB for flexibility. I’d also want to go back upto 3 inferno titans as replacing Avenger/Titan with Karn meant there was 1 less target to hit on Summoning Traps which could be relevant.

Also sorry to my great opponents for forgetting to keep notes of names, if you can let me know your names and the rounds we played here I can update the report :)

Thanks for reading, good luck to everyone in the rest of the PTQ season, and may your opening hand always have a bolt (or a Karn!) :D

Thanks for reading,

John Jemmett

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