Over the last year/year and a half I’ve been close to making it onto the Pro Tour in Ireland, including second at a Standard PTQ and a quarterfinals exit at Nationals. These close calls left me a bit frustrated because I felt that all the work I was putting in was for nothing. I decided that in order to give myself the best possible chance of making the Pro tour, I would have to make an effort to travel. It started at the end of last year with a spur of the moment trip to the Innistrad sealed PTQ in Manchester. A spot opened up in a car over and I jumped at the opportunity. I only managed 5-3 but it helped make up my mind to travel for the Modern PTQ.
Me and a group of Irish guys booked our tickets early and got straight to testing. The first few weeks prior to the bannings we mostly just got to grips with the decks that x-1ed or better at Worlds. I championed a sweet Seismic Assault/Life from the Loam deck but that dream quickly died when the ban hammer was swung on Punishing Fire. We knew beside one or two online events that Manchester would be one of the first big Modern events post-banning, so a lot of us tried to just stick with a deck that we liked and thought was good, rather than try to find the â€œbest deckâ€. This was especially hard for me since I’m the kind of player who jumps from deck to deck trying to find the perfect one.
Even as the format develops and more tournaments are played, I would still recommend doing this for anyone that’s thinking of going to a PTQ this season, because the format is so open and diverse that its way more valuable to know your 75 and be comfortable with it than it is to find the perfect deck for the metagame, but have insufficient practice with it. After durdling around with a few decks I settled on Delver. We had played around with the RUG version that X-0ed worlds and I had liked that style of deck. So when the UB version started popping up online it instantly caught my eye.
I tried out a few different builds before settling on a list to tune. I tried the BUG version but didn’t think that the Tarmogoyfs did enough, most of the time they just acted as a wall or a Path magnet and I didn’t feel that this justified taking extra pain off lands or not having as many manlands. I did like the burn a lot in the RUG version; as well its ability to support Vedalken shackles, but again it came back to Tarmogoyf not pulling its weight, and the strength of the manlands straight UB build.
A week before the PTQ there was a Modern GPT in Dublin, and even though I couldn’t go to the GP this seemed like the perfect chance for some valuable testing. I ended up going a miserable 3-3 after starting the day 3-0, losing to 2 decks I thought were good match-ups and Merfolk. This performance left me in doubt over my deck choice. I started to look at RUG delver a lot closer and playing it a bit and then started to look at the UW Cawblade deck that was doing well in the online PTQs. I even went as far as to talk to the guy that had made both top 8s with it online to try and get a rundown of match ups etc. Funnily enough the person I talked to online ended up being Marco Orsini-Jones who I would end up playing in the swiss rounds of the PTQ (!).
With a few days left until we left for Manchester calmed myself down, told myself that there’s no point changing deck and throwing all the testing I had done out the window. In the past my results at the GPT would have convinced me to change deck, but I was able to recognise that I played sloppily in the matches I lost. I knew I had a good deck, and that I would just have to play a lot tighter at the PTQ. Crisis averted.
We left Friday evening; the trip was pretty uneventful besides a bit of turbulence on the plane. We arrived in Manchester a bit too late to preregister, that didn’t stop us from trying and getting asked are â€œare we having a laughâ€. When we arrived to the hostel I gathered the last few cards I needed got my deck list together and tried to get some sleep. The city of Manchester wouldn’t really let me but I tried anyway. Next day we registered (which was surprisingly easy considering there were 160 people there) and grabbed a decent breakfast near the venue. Just for reference this is what I played.
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Creeping Tar Pit
2 River of Tears
2 Watery Grave
2 Misty Rainforest [*F]
1 Scalding Tarn [*F]
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Dark Confident
3 Snapcaster Mage
3 Vendilion Clique
1 Sword of Light & Shadow
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Doom Blade
4 Serum Visions
2 Cryptic Command
2 Spell Snare
3 Mana Leak
The list isn’t that different from any other list. I chose Sword of Light and shadow over Feast andFamine because its plays a different role the Feast and Famine, Light and Swadow lets you grind out games by maintaining a healthy life total and recurring your utility creatures. I found that Feast and Famine only let you control the mid game and was useless when you were trying to finish the grindy games that this deck had the tendency to set up.
I don’t think there is a point in going through my sideboard plan because there are just too many decks and builds of them in the format to have perfect 15. I’ll just say that I built it geared toward beating aggro and combo. The only card that might need explaining is Tribute to Hunger. It just filled a great role against Zoo and Jund. It was a removal spell that let me stay out of burn range and kill problematic creatures like Thrun.
I wasn’t expecting to write a report and didn’t take notes so apologies for the sketchiness of some of the rounds. Thankfully the PWPs for the event are already up so I do have the name of all my opponents. Thanks Wizards :)
Round 1 Tom Davias, UR storm
Tom was one of my 3 loses in the limited PTQ so it was time to get some revenge. I was very happy to see that he was playing storm as my combination of disruption and cheap pressure makes this a fairly good match-up.
Game 1 was pretty easy for me I didn’t draw much of my dead removal. At one stage in the game he probed me and I revealed Sell Snare, 2 Mana Leaks & Cryptic.
In Game 2 he managed to go off even though I had Surgical Extraction a few times to take some key cards out of his deck, largely through the card advantage he got with Desperate Ravings.
In Game 3 I had a good start backed up by good disruption, he mulled to 6 and I got to Inquisition him early. He was forced to go off early because I had lethal and when I countered a flashed back Past in Flames it was game over.
Round 2- Russel James, Tribal Zoo
Zoo isn’t a great game 1 for me, but I have 10 cards to bring in to shore up the match-up. I won the roll and started with Delver, he took 3 to play a Steppe Lynx. I flipped Delver off of a Disfigure, put him to 14 and killed the Lynx. On his turn he went to 11 to bolt my Delver and play another Lynx. I draw a Snapcaster and the game goes downhill for him then on.
I don’t remember much about game 2 just that I was able to grind it out thanks to a Cryptic on a Ranger of Eos at some stage, and he conceded when I got a Sword of Light and Shadow on a guy when he had nothing left on board.
Round 3- Chris Clapton BUG delver
I recognise Chris from something, after the match he tells me he’s been to multiple Pro Tours, has top32ed a few GPs and been to Ireland to steal PTQs before, which would explain why I recognise him. I don’t remember a great deal about the games except that I was lucky enough to lead every game with an Inquisition.
I took down game 1; he took game 2 pretty easily.
Game 3 came down to my turn3 play. I got to Inquisition him turn 1, I can’t remember what I took but I left him with a bob as his only turn 2 play, he ran it out turn 2 and I got to Threads of disloyalty it on turn 3. The Bob put me a head and on his turn 4 his only play was to try and bounce the Bob with a Cryptic Command. I had the Disfigure in response and got to resolve some stuff on my turn, putting me firmly ahead. The game ended on extra turns but I was never in really danger of losing after such a strong start.
I was feeling pretty good about myself at 3-0 but I tried to stay grounded as there have been plenty of events where I’ve gone 3-2 from this point. With some encouragement from my friends and few â€œgoget ‘emâ€ texts from back home I went into the next round focused.
Round 4- Lee Parker Mono red Affinity
I do steal game 1 with Disfigures and Snapcasters. He runs away with game 2, I’m always on the back foot, and well-timed Cranial Plating puts me away.
Game 3 is extremely close I take away most of his hand but he does still have a decent board presence. I’m on 12-13 and am holding his team back with a flipped Delver. He could attack for 5-6 but he would lose his Signal Pest in the attack leaving a lot of what he has in play useless. I’m just picking away with Mutavaults. He draws a Ravager after bricking for a few turns and plays it, doesn’t attack all out and just pokes me with a Blinkmoth and 1-2 other guys. I trade my delver for his Blinkmoth and go to 9. I draw, it’s another land and I’m super dead on board. I attack with 2 Mutavaults; he trades with one and goes to 7. I assume that he just wins on his turn but I have to hope.
I’ve kept the land I drew in my hand, I pass the turn to him and he turns all his dorks sideways, I ask him to slow down because I might have effects. He brings his guys out of the red zone and says “ohyeah cryptic“. I do some fake bounce math and tell him he can go to attacks. After he attacks I ask him if he has any effects before blocks. Sure enough he starts his chain of sacrificing things to Ravager. With all the sacs and battle cry from Signal Pest he has 9 damage exactly. I block his Ravager with a Creeping Tar Pit, he sacs the Ravager and modulars to another dork. I’m now only taking 8; he lost 1point of damage because there’s now one less guy getting through with battle cry. He passes tapped out and I have enough damage in man lands to swing back for the win. Phew my heart was pounding, I was 100 percent sure that would be my first loss.
Round 5- Marco Orsini-Jones UW caw blade
In game 2 it came down to me having to Serum Visions to make sure my own Bob didn’t kill me. I also remember in game 1 winning the game off of Sword of Light and Shadow getting past Moorland Haunt tokens. I think it’s a pretty decent match for me but Marco made it very difficult for me to win.
Round 6- Luke Southworth Bant
I had put myself in an awesome position. 1 win out of my next 2 matches locked me into the top 8. Luke was playing Bant. All in all it’s a fine match up for me but they do have some problematic cards such as Mirran Crusader and Geist of Saint Traft being the biggest culprits. None of my removal can touch them and there extremely hard to set up trades with it.
I took game 1 pretty easily he took game 2pretty easily, so it came down to a tense game 3 with me on the play. I started with a Visions he had land go. I Inquisitioned him, he revealed a hand of Pridemage, Mirran Crusader, triple Elspeth, no land. He was on 2 lands and didn’t have a land drop. I had double Cryptic Command, so I didn’t even mind if next turn he drew land for the Crusader because I could bounce it and counter it at a later stage. So I took the Pridemage, he did draw a land for the Crusader but got pretty harshly blown out when he tried to resolve a Noble Hierarch before combat the turn after. By the time he drew a land and was able to resolve Elspeth I was too far ahead on board and was ripping apart his life total.
Round 7 & 8- Kevin Rossi & Szymon Bialek
I ID both these rounds, and I’m in top 8. Undefeated in the swiss and with a big grin on my face I went off to find some food. Sadly none of my friends had managed to do as well, 3 of them went 5-3 but they were still all in pretty high spirits about my top 8 and they were all very supportive.
Deep breath to collect myself and it was time for the top 8. I was to play mtgUKs very own Jonathan Randle. Upside to this pairing I knew what he was playing. Downside to this pairing he is probably the best player in the room. Hey but the reason I come to PTQs is to play the best player in the room right? So why not in the quarters when it really matters…
Quarter-Finals Jonathan Randle UW Caw Blade
I don’t remember everything about this match either. He took down game 1 but I can’t remember how he won, I remember me Thoughtseizing a lot and leaving us both with no hand at some stage, which probably favours him a bit more because of Hawk and Elspeth.
I won game 2 but don’t have any memory of it at all.
Game 3 was one of the closest games of Magic I ever played. One thing that stood out in my mind was how well Jon played. In the early game I got to get rid of a Sunlance and get a Clique down, now I thought he was going to try flashback the Sunlance with a Snappy. If he had I would have blown him out with Surgical extraction, instead he just kept passing the turn waiting for his spots.
I made a misplay which he capitalised on; I fetched a tapped land at the end of his turn leaving me with only 2 open mana. I knew he had Venser but I thought I was okay with him bouncing it and me being able to replay it during my turn to get another look at his hand. I was wrong though and that 3 missed damage could have been crucial, I also made Venser a live card where it wasn’t really doing anything in his hand before.
The game came down to me having to play to outs. He had a very good board position, two Hawks, Venser, Snappy and a Mutavault. I knew he had another Hawk in hand. I had a Cryptic. I can’t remember the exact sequence of plays but it went a bit like this. I got to Smother his Hawk when he played it and attack with Clique because he swung with the rest of his team. In his upkeep I got to tap his team and draw, he passed. I drew a Snappy in my 2 cards. I attacked again. In his upkeep I flashed back Cryptic with Snappy, tapped his team and drew. He Pathed my Clique. I attacked with 2 Tar Pits and Snappy, he Paths one blocks Snappy with Mutavault and goes to 3. He can’t attack for the win in his turn and during mine I have the Inquisition to make sure the Path is all clear for the last 3 damage.
I had to take a break after such a close game; my heart was in my throat. My semi-final opponent was trying to rush me to play because he had a bus to catch at 12 but it was only about 10 and the judge said it was okay for me to grab some water and a break. What came next could only be described a soul crushing.
Semi-Finals Kevin Rossi JUND
It was just one of those games that everything that could go wrong did.
In game 1 we just traded removal and dorks till all that was left was a Clique on my side winning a race against a Treetop Village on his. He draws and plays a Bloodbraid cascading into the removal for the Clique leaving me with a terrible board state. I got to Smother the Treetop but never got back into the game.
Game 2 had a similar theme and that was sick Bloodbraid Elves. I stuck a Confidant with a Sword but he clogged up the board, I had a Clique in hand and a Tar Pit in play, so had a chance until his second Bloodbraid hit a Lilliana. Between that and Lavamancer he cleared my board and that was all she wrote.
Just like my friend Maxwell who’s opposed to climbing it was a bit of an anti-climax. After such a hard-fought game in the quarters getting destroyed in the semis was frustrating. At least this time I could reassure myself knowing that the Dublin one is right around the corner and with that another bite at the apple. My friends picked me up pretty quickly and after a large amount of pizza and EDH I was fine again.
I think its great deck this PTQ season, it really lets you play Magic and doesn’t have any unwinnable match ups, but I wouldn’t just take my 75 on the day. Decks like this require input time and refining to suit you’re metagame. If you’re planning to play Delver at your local PTQ I can only recommend getting in a ton of games with it to get comfortable with it, and take the time to tweak it for your comfort and what you expect to play on the day.
Oh and I hear it’s customary for a Props/Slops list.
Anyone who’s taken the time to test with me over the last few months.
Anyone that lent me cards.
Anyone at home who has had to listen to me go on about Modern for the last few weeks.
All my opponents on the day, all of them were great sports and a pleasure to play against.
Fan boy 3 its staff and the judging team for a very smooth and well run event.
The teenagers who didn’t share there cider on the bus.
Manchester night light for not letting me sleep either night.
And last but certainly not least the Bloodbraid elf menace.
Thanks for taking the time to read and best of luck at your PTQ