PTQ Philadelphia – Nottingham
Being my usual incredibly prepared self the Tuesday before the tournament I asked if anyone had a deck I could borrow. Luckily the guys at Manaleak said they could sort me out.
I managed to get a little bit of testing in (little being the operative word) with Matt Light, Tom Robinson and James Thanangadan (JT) and really liked the RUG-Twin deck but was also aware of how powerful and consistent the Cawblade deck was.
I arrive at the tournament and Ben Heath handed my deck and its the standard Cawblade deck, not splashing either R or B, which was the version I wanted to play. It had a bunch of cards in sleeves and a bunch not in sleeves. I presume the ones in sleeves are the main deck and the naked ones are the sideboard. My friends look at it and point out that its a list that is about a week old as is not playing the latest ‘tech’ so I run about finding the cards I want to play. I manage to get all the cards I want so just need to work out what they are replacing, I’m really impressed with how much he has managed to squeeze into the main deck and easily fit in my alterations and its only when I come to write out the decklist sheet that I realise that all the sleeves come to 75 and the cards not in sleeves were options the previous user had been looking at for the deck, AWKWARD…
This left me with about 5 mins to rearrange my deck fire off the stuff I definitely didn’t feel I needed to play and cut 15 cards from the main into the sideboard. I definitely wanted to play at least 1 main deck Divine Offering due to the prevalence of Cawblade and also wanted something that proliferated. This was due to the infinite life deck(s) that had sprung up and speeded my alternate win conditions up (Jaces, Inkmoth Nexus) and as a by-product kept my Tumble Magnet going against Swords of various kinds.
The final list I went with is:
With the benefit of hindsight my sideboard would be different although I used most of the cards over the day, I think there are probably better options.
On to the tournament, there were 52 players meaning 6 rounds and cut to top 8. So win the first 4 and ID the next 2 was the plan.
Round 1. Dominic Zeal – Cawblade with Mirran Crusader
Mirran Crusader was one of the cards we’d been talking about at the start of the day and I understood its power but just preferred the card advantage and shuffle option of the Hawks, so decided to put him in the board (mistake number 1 as unless someone was playing infect I couldn’t really see when I’d bring him in).
In game 1 I got shown why the Crusader is replacing Hawks in some peoples decks as he played one on turn 3 after his turn 2 Mystic and then gave it a big Sword to carry and finished me off in very short order. A slightly fuller description of the game sees me stalling on 2 then 3 land whist he develops nicely and maybe I could have stabilised if I’d drawn a couple of land in a row rather than more spells but this would only have been if his hand contained nothing but blanks as my deck has very few answers to a Crusader with a Sword, my Into the Roil bought me some time. I offered up his Sword of Feast and Famine so I could block his Stoneforge Mystic with my Batterskull + Germ meant his Sword of War and Peace stayed around making further blocking really Difficult.
Game 2 went much better for me with us both developing as the decks are expected to but over the course of the game I saw multiple Divine Offerings for his equipment so he can’t get ahead and when I eventually draw a Mystic he can’t deal with my pro Red and White guy.
At this point we only have 10 mins left to get game 3 done and dusted. We both played at a reasonable pace and things are looking promising for me as I get a Sword of War and Peace whilst offering his away, sadly this doesn’t last and he gets rid of mine as time gets called, my board position is slightly stronger than his but I’m struggling to come up with a way to win, on the third turn of extra turns I draw Preordain and see a Sun Titan staring back at me, RESULT. I attack with all my men putting him to 7 and play the Sun Titan getting back my Sword of War and Peace. As long as he can’t get rid of it next turn, my Tumble Magnet can tap down his 2 non-white blockers (Batterskull Germ and Inkmoth Nexus) and I can get in for lethal.
Result 2-1 (1-0)
Round 2. Russell James (Hawkward) Tempered Steel and Mystics
On his first turn he plonks out a Memnite and a Signal Pest off a Contested War Zone, I just lay a land as I have a Mana Leak in hand and know that him getting a Tempered Steel down is major bad times for me and if his hand didn’t warrant playing it turn 1 he could easily be holding the Mox Opal to get 3 on turn 2. Luckily he just plays a second War Zone and a Phyrexian Revoker saying Stoneforge and hits me for 2. My hand is removal light so don’t want him resolving a Steel Overseer either and continue to leave my counter mana open.
It turns out he is land light and has no white mana so just attacks me for 5 and passes. I have 4 mana up now so lay a Hawk which can trade for any of his men and I still have counter mana up, the game feels very much in hand. He attempts so Dispatch my hawk but seeing as he only actually has 3 artifacts in play rather than Mana Leak his spell I Into the Roil his Revoker and let the Dispatch tap my Hawk, I take another 2 and he replays the Revoker. On my turn I hit him with my Hawk to steal his 2 War Zones and play 2 more Hawks to block his men to which he concedes.
Game 2 with him on the draw does not go well for our hero, he gets some early guys down including an Overseer which I see no removal for and after 2 activations it makes all his men a decent clock to which I only have 1 answer in Day of Judgement (which I don’t draw) and I’m dead inside about 5 turns.
The 3rd game displays why I don’t like playing decks such as Tempered Steel, they don’t get to interact with the opponent much. I get a Mystic down getting a Batterskull and next turn put it into play, I have Spell Pierce for his attempt to Divine Offering it whilst my Divine Offerings do away with his men with no trouble and its basically one way traffic all game. Russell also made a couple of misplays in this game like not playing his second land before casting his Mox which allowed me to Spell Pierce it and not playing his lands in the right order.
Result 2-1 (2-0)
Round 3. Adam Biltcliffe (Soul Sisters)
I was vaguely aware of what this deck was but hadn’t see it do its thing. In game 1 he played a bunch of Soul Wardens and Suture Priests which I wrathed away before making a Mystic and putting a Batterskull into play, my next Mystic got a Sword of War and Peace but this got Leonin Relic Wardered. Next turn he tried to play a Phyrexian Metamorph which I Mana Leaked (to be honest I thought he was going to copy my Mystic and get his own Sword) and then I just beat him down for 3 turns which he couldn’t do much about. As it turns out, the fact that he had to pay 2 life for the Metamorph turn out to be very relevant as well as it meant he was at 28 life and not 30 stopping his Ascendants having +5/+5 and flying.
The next game I got to see his deck properly perform as he Leonin Relic Wardered my Sword again and having drawn plenty more land this game there was nothing I could do about his Metamorph which copied his Leonin Relic Warder and targetted itself thus leaving play and then coming back into play from its own triggers, his Soul Warden and Suture Priest liked this so he let this merry dance carry on multiple times 10000+ in fact. Glad I countered it in the first game I thought… then I started wondering how I was going to win.
The Tumble Magnet in play and Contagion Engine in hand made me think I may be ok, his 6/6 lifelink flier wasn’t going to be beating me down any time soon and all I needed to do was draw a Jace or an Inkmoth Nexus and victory would be mine. All my men came to my aid in the blocking stakes and some attacking with Sword of War and Peace kept my life total above 0, sadly neither of my alternate win conditions turned up but it didn’t matter too much as we just ran out of time and I claimed a hard earned 1-0 victory.
Result 1-0 (3-0)
Round 4. Mikey Brown (Grixis Twin)
I really like the Splinter Twin decks as they are very powerful in the right hands but think a lot of people don’t know how to play them properly, luckily for me and by his own admission Mikey was in the latter group. In the first game I searched up a Sword of Feast and Famine to negate a lot of his removal whilst also getting some card advantage but more importantly I had drawn multiple Tectonic Edges which are very powerful against the shaky mana base of the Grixis Twin deck. So when I destroyed both his red mana sources he conceded as he wouldn’t be able to get it together before my Sword wielding Hawk killed him.
The power of the deck was displayed in the second game and some nice card choices helped force my hand, his turn 3 Calcite Snapper was something I definitely didn’t see coming and chomped 8 life from me before I could trade a Mystic for it then he just started chewing at my life total with his Creeping Tarpit which forced me to deal with that (which is another reason Tectonic Edge is so good in this match) which left me with no answers to his end of turn Deceiver Exarch followed by Splinter Twin.
The deciding game was where his lack of knowledge with the deck really showed, I kept a hand that dealt with his deck (Celestial Purge, Dismember, Into the Roil) and had a Preordain. He Despised me on the 1st turn, but I’d be smart enough to leave my Mystic on the top and then Inquisitioned me a couple of times but left the Celestial Purge each time which meant his Spellskite wouldn’t be able to fulfil its role if he drew the combo. My Hawks + Sword of Feast and Famine quickly meant he was playing off the top which with a deck like Grixis Twin really isn’t a situation you want to be in.
Result 2-1 (4-0)
Quarter Final. James Thanagadan (RUG Twin)
James is one of the guys I’d done some of my small amount of testing with and had played RUG a lot already and I knew he knew how to play the deck properly. He wins the dice roll which is a big thing in these games as one of the things you really want to stop is a turn 2 Cobra as your mana relevant counters can easily become blanks against the mana snake. Luckily for me he doesn’t have an early snake so I get to develop quite nicely knowing he only has a few Mana Leaks to try and stop me, sadly he also knows that his turn 5 Cobra is going to hit play in all likelihood which in turn means his next turn Inferno Titan is also happening. Main deck I have very few answers to this and when he puts Splinter Twin on it I know the game is quickly escaping me.
After Sideboarding I feel much happier as the Flashfreeze and Celestial Purge give me better answers to things although his Consecrated Sphinx and Frost Titans will still give me trouble if they happen. He plays an early Titan which I Purged and I try to get going with my Batterskull but it is sadly claimed by nature. My hand is quickly running out of gas so I decide I need to get offensive and start getting in there with my Inkmoth Nexus so JT tries an end of turn Exarch which I Dismember. His deck doesn’t have many answers to the Nexus so when I draw the second one he is really on a clock and when I get to attack with one of them carrying a Sword the game is over.
The decider is sadly a little anticlimactic as he gets a turn 3 Cobra, which I can’t stop. I decide to Into the Roil on my next turn which is almost certainly the wrong play as if he has a fetch land it doesn’t stop him playing Jace as well as the cobra anyway and this is indeed what happens. Sadly my hand isn’t giving me any options other than playing my own Jace to kill his. He passes on his next turn and I know things are grim. I play a Mystic and get a Batterskull to look like I’m still trying to play but am in no way surprised when he Exarchs me at end of turn and puts Splinter Twin on it for the win. I ask if he would have still gone for it if I hadn’t played the Mystic and he shows me he had counters to back it up.
Result 1-2 (out in the Quarters)
JT went on to win the tournament and thoroughly deserved it as well, he played well and knew what his deck was meant to do and how to set about doing it.
On a side note, anyone who wants to see how to properly play the game should watch James if they get the chance. His play is some of the most precise and clear I have ever seen and there is little chance of him suffering from miscommunication problems or receiving any game rule violations warnings.
Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing,