Crucible of Words – 1st Place PTQ Reading: On the road to Philly by Cyrus Bales

Crucible of Words – How do you solve a problem like a Mindsculptor? By Cyrus Bales


This weekend just gone saw my local PTQ (Reading) for Philadelphia take place and get a whopping 103 players. Firstly, I think this shows the impact the recent banning have had on standard, it’s become a format people want to play and this is reflected in wonderful turnout, which has only ever been rivalled once before in Reading for an Extended PTQ back when extended was a much deeper format.

So, the meta-game I was expecting was lots of Valakut and Caw-Blade, with some Steel, amongst a lot of other decks from all over. Thinking about what to play, I looked back to the deck I qualified for Nationals with, since it was good in a format of pre-New Phyrexia that was full of Caw-Blade and Valakut, I’m talking of course, about Tezz-Infect. This home brew of mine qualified both me and James Foster, losing only one round between us (James had the loss), so I knew the deck was very good. I had abandoned the deck in the face of Stoneforge Mystic getting Batterskull to play with, but with the banning’s, this deck looked a solid choice again, all I had to do was replace the Jace, The Mind Sculptors. Here’s the list I ran:


4 Plague Myr
4 Necropede
4 Phyrexian Crusader
2 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
2 Jace Beleren
3 Ratchet Bomb
1 Brittle Effigy
3 Sword of Feast and Famine
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Despise
3 Doom Blade
4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Inkmoth Nexus
6 Swamp
3 Island

3 Memoricide
3 Despise
3 Disfigure
3 Negate
1 Ratchet Bomb
1 Doom Blade
1 Brittle Effigy

As we can see, Jace Beleren makes an appearance to help with the draw lost from Jace, The Mind Sculptor, but I’ve upped the Sword of Feast and Famine count. The extra swords mean you have seven ways to make your mediocre guys into monsters, and the card is savage against Valakut. Doom Blade is a consideration for the Steel match up, as killing artifact creatures is important now, the scariest black creature to worry about is Grave Titan who I should be able to win through thanks to the Swords, but I do still have Brittle Effigy if needed. Vampires obviously make this card worse, but I address this in the sideboard with Disfigure, since that kills all their team aside from Vampire Nighthawk, whilst I still have Ratchet Bomb, the Phyrexian Crusader‘s and Swords to punch through in game one.

For the Caw match up, Ratchet Bomb is a swiss army knife, killing all their tokens, Blade Splicer, Elspeth Tirrel and Hero of Bladehold, as well being able to build up to take on Squadron Hawks, Swords and even Oblivion Ring. Crusaders here are savage, and make a perfect holder for Swords.

In terms of Valakut, it’s an incredibly powerful linear strategy, which means that whilst incredibly effective, it can be hated on easily. Despise is spectacular here, since for just one mana the turn before they reach six mana, you can pluck their key card away, and force them to need a second, the three despise along with Memoricide have proven in testing to be a fine way to beat Valakut for me. Along with a decent clock and Swords, Valakut is one of the better match ups.

The Sideboard has some obvious tools, rounding out numbers in the main deck or offering replacements as explained in the Vampire match up. Negate however, is probably one of the most important cards. Being an aggressive deck, your control opponent will not expect counterspells after game one, being able to lay a fast clock, then sitting on a negate is very strong, especially since if they do play around counterspells, they save three mana for Mana Leak. I suspected Negate would be a very important inclusion, it turns out I was right.

There’s the deck, now for the tournament report, it was a long day so I’ll try to remember as best I can from my notes:


Game one: My opponent won the dice roll and mulliganned to six; I kept a seven card hand. It was obvious he was running vampires early on, thanks to a Pulse Tracker, however my double Doom Blade hand looked ready to cost me the game. He came in for damage but I managed to find a Ratchet Bomb and halt his attack. He used a Manic Vandal giving my Doom Blade a target but killing my Brittle Effigy. I threw out a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and quickly ramped to his ultimate to stabilize, draining him for eight life, I was back on fifteen and could work on winning the game. I fielded some guys and kept his board clean, whilst his draws became worse than mine, the game ended reasonably quickly from there.

Game two: He was slower out of the blocks, later I found out this was due to replacing his one drop suite with a better midgame so his creatures didn’t become outclassed so quickly and Ratchet Bomb was less of an issue. I don’t remember much from the game, but he took me down quickly.

Game three: I kept a hand with Disfigure in, which came in handy when dealing with his Kalastria Highborn, I managed to kill a few more creatures as the game went on and chip away with a Sworded man. This put me ahead quickly and I rode it to victory on the back of 17 life.


Game one: I win the dice roll, but have to mulligan to five. I’m unsure as to what he is running at this point. I open with an Inquisition of Kozilek to see a nice Steel hand, involving double Tempered Steel as well as a Contested Warzone. I look back at my hand and know it’s going to be rough, since whilst my Ratchet bomb will kill a couple of Memnite, his Vault Skirge would eat me up. This is exactly what happened in a matter of a few turns.

Game two: On the play again, I mull to five again, once again with a Ratchet Bomb. He drops two Memnite and a Glint Hawk. I drop a bomb and begin ramping to deal with steel as he fields a Glint Hawk Idol. I go down to sixteen. I don’t have action for the next turn, he drops a Tempered Steel and drops my life total. I make a Plague Myr who doesn’t seem good, then he drops a second Steel and drops me to one. I then get to blow his Steels the next turn but his fliers kills me. You can find Bens and Wagz tournament report here.


Game one: I’m on the play and we both keep seven. I drop a guy and Sword him up after some discard and see he’s playing Eldrazi Green with Quicksilver Amulet. He can’t really deal with my Sworded guy and Tezzeret joins in, I only needed to hit him three times.

Game two: He gets down an Amulet whilst I’m busy with lots of Plague Myr but only three lands. He drops in a Terastadon and removes my lands, but my elephants keep it at bay. I draw a land and drop a Sword, which then proceeds to beat him down through his Overgrown Battlement and Terastadon. I Memoricide his other Terastadon’s to make sure he can’t draw back into the game. Thanks to Inkmoth Nexus, I kill him over just three combat phases.


Game one: I win the dice roll and drop to six cards. I come in with some early poison damage, but I never make it off of three lands. Whilst being able to Doom Blade his Hero, Gideon, Elspeth and Even Karn Liberated come to the party to kill me.

Game two: We both keep seven, Phyrexian Crusader is an all star, but the board soon gets clogged. I spend a few turns looking for a ratchet bomb to get in the last poison damage by removing his tokens, eventually I draw a Skithyrx who is enough to hammer the advantage home and win the game for me.

Game three: We both keep seven again, but have only eight minutes left on the round. I drop double Phyrexian Crusader, then sit on my Negate. A little bit of discard made sure I got my threats on the board, and then I sit back with a fast clock. I let him hit me with a sworded hawk, then he drops Gideon to stop me, but Negate closes out the game.


Game one: This is a deck I really liked the look of, it was using ramp spells including Jens into White Sun’s Zenith and Planeswalkers, white provided him with control spells like Oblivion Ring and Day of Judgment. I lose the roll and mull to six, I get in for four poison, but he has a triple Tumble Magnet draw, backed up by Day of Judgment. Soon he dropped a Garruk Primal Hunter which I couldn’t deal with, in a short while I was dead.

Game two: We both keep seven, and come out with a fast hand, and Sword builds me up a lot of advantage that I can ride out, but it takes me a lot of time to break him down.

Game three: I keep a six, my opponent a seven. He uses a Beast Within to stomp on my Inkmoth Nexus and put me behind in mana, so I begin the attack with it. I drop a Sword to help him out and some infect guys come down later after he wipes the board. My Creeping Tar Pit then takes up the fight. I hold open for Negate and when he has to tap out for Gideon which he needs to survive, I counter, I untap and double Tar pit swing for the win.


Game one: We both keep seven, he wins the roll and drops a turn 3 Oracle of Mul Daya. Next turn into an Ubarask the Hidden. I’ve got him at six poison, but I can see a Primeval Titan coming thanks to Oracle’s Foresight. No removal spell means he can get double triggers and I lose.

Game two: I aggressively mulligan to a hand that beats Valakut, going down to five cards. He keeps seven. He has a Nature’s Claim for my Sword, but I get in for three from a Nexus, and have the right disruption to keep his Titans away. I only need two combat steps to kill him thanks to the blight dragon.

Game three: I keep a seven, my opponent drops down to five. I take his Oracle with a Despise then follow it up with Memoricide. At this point, the game is very hard for him to win, and my fast clock makes sure he can’t draw Avenger of Zendikar as an out, which I had the Doom Blade and sword for anyway.


Game one: My tiebreaks were probably alright for ID’ing, but it could have been a bit of a lottery, my opponent needed a win so we had to play. My opponent mulls to six on the play, and then hits me with an Inquisition. I return the favour next turn, then get down some guys. My Tezzeret is in +1 mode thanks to his Tumble Magnets. When I wear out his magnets he has Wurmcoil Engine out, after going through most of my deck at this point, my Tezzeret finds me Brittle Effigy to remove his guy and swing for the win.

Game two: My opponent has to mull down to six, but I knew his magnets would give him breathing room if he drew them. I use some discard and take a Mana Leak so I can force through something later on. I refrain from casting my turn three Jace Beleren, and instead drop a Tar pit and hold the Negate for his Tezzeret. He walks into the Negate and lets me untap to cast my own Tezzeret. From this point I field an artifact man and make it a 5/5 and give it a sword. He makes a Consecrated Sphinx and passes, I have no kill spell so my Jace is doing nothing now, I swing with my 7/7 which he lets through. I drop another guy. He has tar pit and nexus to block with so he kills my Tezz. I untap and cast the second sword I’d been holding onto in order to push through for the win.

As the tiebreaks worked it out, I ended up top of the swiss and into a top eight of the following decks:

2 Valakut
3 Caw Blade
1 Steel (Ben who beat me earlier)
1 BW Combo/control(Another Reading player)
1 Tezz Infect

My bracket meant I could only face Steel in the finals if at all, whereas the rest of the field seemed like good match ups for me.


This deck is mostly black, playing white for some removal like Oblivion Ring. I’ve tested the deck with the player and it seems pretty strong, ramping using Everflowing Chalice and Jens into Sorin Markov, allowing for Sorin’s Vengeance to kill the opponent outright. The deck has been surprisingly good in testing and it’s results on the day reflected that.

Game one: He wins the dice roll, and gets underway with discard. He ramps out well and although he takes six poison, stabilizes with Batterskull, before running out Liliana Vess and Sorin Markov. Throughout these three turns, I need to draw Ratchet Bomb, Sword of the Dragon to win. I don’t and he does the two hit Sorin kill.

Game two: We both keep seven, I come out the gate with discard and Phyrexian Crusader. His removal suite of Doom blade and Oblivion ring is not helping him here. I ride the Crusader for a few turns and then finish with the dragon for the hasty win.

Game three: My opponent mulligans to five. I ship out double crusader and some discard. He takes some poison damage and then is on for the draw a plains for his Day of Judgment, he doesn’t find it and loses. I console him with the fact I had a lethal hasty dragon in hand even if he wiped the board.


Game one: We both keep seven, he goes first. We have some back and forth, and trade a lot of resources, in the meantime I get hit for ten, he gets hit for six poison. He has to wrath the board, I drop a threat and kill his next turn Hero and put us both in top deck mode. I make a Tezzeret so his Gideon can only fog for one turn. He gets a few turns of Elspeth tokens, but eventually I grind him down and take the win since every creature I make is lethal at this point.

Game two: He mulligans to six on the play. I get in some early hits, but his hawks come right back at me with swords. He trade resources and I have a Tezzeret. He jokingly remarks that I should make my Sword a 5/5. Having already hit him tar pits and his own Dismember, I looked at the backup sword in my hand and thought whilst amusing, it was the right play. I equipped my animated sword, and soon had one infect creature and one normal one, both posing lethal damage. He keeps me at bay for a while, and decides to kill Tezzeret then drop Gideon. I have the Negate which I’d been telegraphing as a double bluff to get him to play around, however it stopped his walker and let me win the game.


Game one: I mulled to six, knowing my opponent was playing Valakut, I had to find lands and spells, including discard. He won the die roll. I only managed to get in two poison whilst his Oracle ramped him to make Titan lethal.

Game two: We both kept seven, although I was happy to mull down to five looking for the right hand. I drew a second Despise and decided to cast my first the turn before his Oracle would hit play. I saw his hand which was pretty terrible and void of threats and took his only action, I then set in with a Crusader. I followed up with Memoricide on turn four, the main reason I kept the hand, and took his titans. Next I killed off his Raging Ravine, leaving him with just a Birds of Paradise, lands and Lightning Bolt in hand. He was able to draw Avenger to field a board, but having blocked with Birds already, the Dragon in my hand was always going to finish the game.

Game three: My opponent mulliganned to five on the play. I set in with a Crusader then cast Memoricide on turn four. I then did the same on the next turn taking his Avenger’s, leaving him with no viable way to win the game, and so I just rode out the remainder of the match to win the blue envelope.


I think I chose the perfect deck for the metagame, having positive match ups against the two most popular decks made it hard for me to consider any other deck. I thought briefly about Valakut, but the deck has such a narrow threat base, that it’s easily disrupted and beaten by black cards (as my friend who top 8’d with BW control would confirm). It was just a case of finding the best black deck to house it in, and making two mana guys into two turn clocks seemed like an unfair place to start. The potential for a turn four kill with the deck as well as mid to late game plans made me feel very comfortable in most of my games.

Some might say the deck is “not a real deck”, but I find this statement false. It’s not a popular net deck, no. It’s a very strong home brew though and all “real decks” start somewhere. In terms of rounds (including top 8), the deck for me has gone 14-1-2 in competitive play and including James’ result for the Nat’s Qualifier, that’s 19-2-3.

Lastly, I’d like to apologize for the length of this article, unfortunately I had to fit a lot in, and I’d also like to thank Becky at Eclectic Games and all the judging staff for a well-run tournament. Also thanks to all the players who from my experience of the day generated a very friendly atmosphere of good sportsmanship, something that the UK Magic scene could do with more of. Finally, if anyone else is travelling to Philadelphia or has any decks and/or advice for Extended, please get in touch.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.



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