Hi all! I got back home today from a good weekend’s gaming up in Glasgow at their PTQ for Philadelphia. My choice to make an effort to go to this event began last weekend when my playtest partner Rob Catton won the Manchester PTQ so I posted on Facebook about my interest so see what happened. Manchester resident Ryan Brierley took up the cause and Lee Houldsworth then arranged for Rob Ferguson to drive the four of us the four hours up the motorway to Spellbound Games in Glasgow, sorted!
Having figured out a way to get there I realised I’d probably need some kind of deck to battle with. With a “completely blank” format after the bans I got in touch with my Irish friend Mark McGovern to test the concensus obvious decks of Valakut, Blue-Red Splinter Twin and Black-Red Vampires against one another to get a grasp on the format. After finding them to Rock-Paper-Scissors one another in the aforementioned order with Vampires having the least bad unfavourable matchup we looked harder at it.
Vampires is favoured against Red still (weenie vs burn is a classic matchup) but we wanted to test it vs Control. Imagine a deck full of cards that were designed to be good against Vampires, Blue-White control was pretty close to that deck. We tested it and although Vampires could sneak a few wins it was fairly one-sided. We resolved to crash Blue-White against Valakut and Splinter Twin as well, as if both matchups were at least even we would probably run with the control deck, since control decks are just better than the other options. The Valakut matchup proved good (fish vs ramp) and Twin was about evens but fairly draw-dependent on both sides.
We decided to run with the following list after a bit of discussion and some last minute on-site changes:
I spent the weekend at my girlfriend’s house in Altrincham and we had some of her old uni friends over on the Saturday for drinks and a barbecue. She made some awesome salsas for the infinite Doritoes and Kettle chips, one of which was particularly spicy and I kept dipping a whole chip in only to have to shake off a bunch of the excess salsa. I love my spicy food but my normal dipping technique was fairly suicidal in the context. After a bunch of beers and some wonderfully-cooked meat we retired to the living room for a game of Articulate.
For those not in the know, Articulate is “the fast-talking description game” where you split off into teams (we had 6 teams of 2) and the teams take it in turns to describe a word on a card without using the word as many times as possible in a given time limit. Basically the first team to reach a given total number of points wins but there’s a slight deal-maker in that on the winning point anyone in the game can try to answer, you only win if you get someone on your team to answer correctly. This is where having a very close friend (or partner) on your team helps as you get to use personal experiences to limit the information. Long story short, my girlfriend and I were trailblazing along in second place but got the edge on the finish line by being able to communicate through personal MSN memes, win! I finished off the game at 1am and got into bed, ready to wake up at 6:30 to wake up my girlfriend for a lift over to Lee’s house.
The morning was a bit of a struggle since I’m not used to “a.m.” times in their extremities, but I got to Lee’s and we commenced the journey oop North (well, oop further North since we were already in Manchester). A short few hours later (well, it felt short with the company and the Magic chat as the less-prepared people were building their decks) we were in Glasgow and at the venue. The regular Scottish crowd was there but it was my first visit to their PTQs so I only really knew the local travellers like Vaughn `Danger’ Swift, Graeme McIntyre, Stephen Murray and Bradley Barclay (who as Matteo kindly points out looks a lot like former Leeds local Jim Marlow). The Irish were there too, including Mark of course, and there was one other Englishman in the form of Jim Corwood, who takes a weekly trip to Scotland every year. Scouting around the room a little showed that I wasn’t quite right about the metagame, Valakut had been hated out so much that no-one even showed up with it – how weird!
The rounds started only a little late, which is pretty decent for a Magic event. I had an interesting dilemma in my first match. I was looking at Celestial Colonnade, Seachrome Coast, Wall of Omens, Journey to Nowhere, Gideon Jura, Sun Titan, and Venser, the Sojourner as my opening 7 but when waiting for the round to start I noticed my opponent doodling on a notepad. I glanced down and read the words “1 Halimar Depths” before I realised it was his decklist and looked away immediately (I’m pretty ethical). Armed with this knowledge, however, I decided he was probably on Blue-Red Pyromancer or Splinter Twin and the vaguely keepable hand I had wasn’t going to do anything good for me. I mulled to a decent 5 and sure enough he was playing White-Blue-Red Splinter Twin. My Spreading Seas stopped him from getting too much Red mana and I had soon neutralised three of his Deceiver Exarchs in one way or another, eventually taking the match 2-0.
Round 2 was against a kid with Blue-Black control who seemed a bit nervous and inexperienced and although I didn’t play it great he gave me a few too many opportunities so I emerged victorious.
My round 3 opponent was armed with Blue-Red Twin and we split the first two games before a land stall in game 3. I `went for it’ after getting ahead on mana but in the ensuing counter war his access to more one-mana counters meant that I was one mana away from taking it and I lost the match, so I think I’d want a couple of Mental Missteps in future builds of this deck.
Round 4 I played one of Vaughn’s friends who brought a Green splash Black Elves deck with Vengevines. This sort of deck used to be a little rough for Blue-White Control but Blade Splicer made surprisingly good work out of his guys. Spreading Seas controlled his mana flow and I was a little confused by what he needed Black mana for until game 2 when he Memoricided my Day of Judgments but then I made 2 Blade Splicer, a Sun Titan to bring back the 1/1’s I’d traded away in combat and then a Gideon Jura to force some suicidal attacks into my first strikers – go team!
Being 3-1 in a 6-round event I was in the win-and-in round and luckily faced a mono-white Tempered Steel deck which was a real deck for precisely one tournament if the Channel Fireball crew are to be believed. I was then able to ID with old-timer and really nice guy Gary Campbell, and grab a kebab plus a Diet Irn Bru for dinner. Rob Ferguson was 3-1-1 going in and needed to win, and Lee was 4-1 so also ID’d his round with the kid I played in round 2. Lee won his match but due to a few freak tie-break changes Lee ended up coming in 9th with me sneaking in at 8th place. Awwwwwwwwwwkward!
My Quarter Final matchup saw me face a Blue-Black Control deck which was singleton in its non-land cards (a la LSV in the community cup, but a different list). I played like a bit of a retard in game one but his lack of consistency and less good draws caught up with him, allowing me to get some threats down and eventually close it out with a Celestial Colonnade or two.
Game 2 I made the Commander on turn 2 and he hit for 2+2+4+4+4+4 damage against my bemused opponent – I’m genuinely sorry! Rob Ferguson also got through his Quarter Finals against Red Deck Wins with the help of two Mutagenic Growth to protect his Deceiver Exarch from a Combust coupled with a Burst Lightning!
Karma thankfully didn’t catch up with me in my Semi Final as I played against a mono-blue Grand Architect deck. My opponent got ahead with a bit of Infect damage then a Contagion Clasp I had to race and although he gave me 5 more turns than I should have received with a pretty awful Mindslaver (put himself into lethal damage range and failed to kill all my guys and my Gideon with my own Day of Judgment) I couldn’t draw one of my 5-outers to steal it.
Game 2 he keeps a land light hand and I counter his Everflowing Chalice and by the time he’s done discarding I have Consecrated Sphinx, Sun Titan, Gideon Jura and Jace Beleren doing the dirty all over him. Game 3 he makes a turn 2 Thrummingbird but I counter his attempted turn 3 Everflowing Chalice and his greed catches up to him as again he’s shut out of his mana while I play 2 Blade Splicers and Journey his Bird for the lols.
The finals saw me matched once more with Gary Campbell, who had just beaten Rob Ferguson in the semis. He wins the dice roll and mulls game 1 but then manages to draw one of a 3-outer when I punt slightly at the end of the game (forgetting that my Golems get first strike, attacking into Kalastria Highborn). Game 2 I have a bit of a slow draw with a Wall of Omens and a Blade Splicer going up to a Sun Titan but he gets the Highborn + Bloodghast combo again and I’m defenceless against the drain life effect. It doesn’t feel great to be outdrawn in the finals of a PTQ but to Gary’s credit he didn’t put a foot wrong and actually didn’t drop a game all day so I’d probably have been raining on his story if I had pulled off the probable result.
Staying until the end of the final brought its own extra punishment in the form of not getting back to Manchester until 1:30am and since Rob wanted to get back to his own place in Liverpool I didn’t manage to persuade him to take the 1 hour detour to my girlfriend’s house (I know, I know – so selfish of him :p) so I stayed at Lee’s where I was warned about a very friendly dog. The only way to stop it from trying to lick my face was to stroke it so it took me a while to get to sleep but we spooned nicely until the morning when I had to once more sedate it with some stroking. All in all a top class weekend, even if it didn’t get me the result I truly wanted.
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