Back to Where It All Began – Journey to Somewhere with Ben Heath

Journey to Somewhere – Developing Tempered Steel by Ben Heath


-Insert Dan Barrett-style intro here-

It’s Game 3 of the Top 8 match between myself and Jonathan Randle, who is on CawBlade (there were hawks, there were swords, therefore it’s CawBlade). We know the winner will play Carrie Oliver (on Confidant Assault Loam), and it’s a match up both of us are confident about. But that’s not on either of our minds as we are just focused on beating the other.

Fast forward 10 minutes, and I’m in a spot of bother. I have a lonely Sword of War and Peace on the board, and I can’t get a creature to stick onto the board for love or money, as Randle continues to beat me down with Kitchen Finks.

12 life.

9 life.

6 life.

Try and stick another threat down. Countered. Deep down, I know it’s over. I can’t bear it. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. This was supposed to be the day that I return to Leeds and prove myself as a Magic player, as I’d never done well at a tournament in Leeds.

I scoop, and for the first time in a long time I allow myself to become a sore loser. I’d already made a PTQ Top 8 before, so that novelty had gone. Unlike the last time I lost in the Top 8, this hurt.

Really hurt.

I nearly cried.

I’ve never cried about Magic before.



The Deck

Hello everyone, and welcome to a PTQ report for PT Avacyn Restored in Barcelona, held in Leeds for the first time ever. I was really excited, as I’d been waiting for years for Leeds to get a PTQ, so I was immediately all in on it.

This awesome story, unlike the last one, started on a Monday. Around 6pm. Whilst Ross Silcock was cooking tea.

Ross and I had agreed that the best deck suited for me was a deck that suited the way I like to play, which is make my guys, kill your guys, smash face. So straight away we thought of Zoo, but 2 seconds later that thought was thrown away and I was on RUG Delver. Yes, Scepter Delver has better removal, but RUG Delver has better threats in Tarmogoyf and Kird Ape, and plays better artifacts (Swords instead of Isochron Scepter.)

So whilst Ross was cooking pizza, he started throwing card names in my gerenal direction, whilst I started thinking about quantity and mana base. We both felt that there were certain cards that were being criminally underplayed, such as Vapor Snag and Goblin Guide, so they got chucked in, too. I threw in a few card names of my own, such as Jace Beleren, but Ross rightfully shot down that idea. We had my 75 built within 20 minutes, and we made only one change from then til Saturday (-1 Steam Vents, +1 Treetrop Village).

The Ross Silcock Tea Time Special, by Ross Silcock; piloted by Ben Heath.

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Goblin Guide
4 Kird Ape

4 Tarmogoyf
3 Snapcaster Mage

4 Serum Visions
3 Vapor Snag
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Remand
3 Searing Blaze

1 Sword of War and Peace
1 Sword of Fire and Ice

4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn 
2 Steam Vents

2 Breeding Pool
2 Stomping Ground
2 Island

1 Mountain
1 Forest
2 Treetop Village
1 Raging Ravine


2 Surgical Extraction
3 Annul
2 Negate
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Combust
3 Kitchen Finks

I did some testing on Thursday night with Tom Marsh, who was on UR Delver, and Friday night with Noel Bresland, who was on Zoo. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben was giving me real problems due to the fact I was only running 21 land, but in the few practice games we had, I was removal light whenever he had Thalia, so I wasn’t as concerned as the situation said I should have been. I was too busy believing in the deck’s raw power and my own abilities to pilot it to a PTQ victory to think about last minute changes to the deck.


The Event

On Saturday morning, I was on my way to Leeds with Ross, Kat Donohue and Nick Löte, who was driving us there in his yellow Skoda. I was excited to go back to the place where I first learned to play Magic, however I was also very reluctant to return to the city where I had experienced some of my lowest personal lows. We parked outside the first apartment I rented in Leeds, as it was a 10 minute walk to the University of Leeds, where the tournament was being held. We also walked past my student accommodation from first year. I felt a bit like a tour guide as I pointed out things from my past to the other guys, who looked unenthused at best.

We registered for the event, before doing last minute card checks, where I realised I had stupidly forgotten to replace Arid Mesas with Scalding Tarns. Ross, however, had foreseen my stupidity and brought them with him. Crisis averted.

Round 1 – UW Control

I take Game 1 down pretty quickly.

However in Game 2 I misread Vedalken Shackles, and just gift my 3/4 Tarmogoyf to my opponent. Whoops :/

Game 3 starts with him pretty manascrewed, and me constantly laying down threats, and him constantly using Path to Exile on them. I was fine with this, as he had to waste his Paths on my creatures instead of his to get out of his manascrew. However, he gets out of his situation naturally and casts Kitchen Finks. Then another. Then Sun Titan to bring back his dead Kitchen Finks. Damn.

0-1 (1-2)

That’s not how it was meant to go. I would now have to win my next 6 matches to make Top 8. Bad news, I’d only done that once before. Good news, that was two weeks ago, in Lille.

Round 2 – UB Control

This was a much easier ride. I put a lot of pressure down Games 1 and 2, and stomp my way to victory.

He tried to Consume the Meek in Game 2, but I countered it with the Negate I had ripped off the top earlier in my turn.

1-1 (3-2)

Round 3 – Scepter Delver

I would like to say that Tarmogoyf was the difference between the two of us, but then I’d be lying, as I didn’t draw a single one all 3 games. No, the difference between me and him? I was packing Swords and man lands.

Game 1 he mulliganed to 5 and I overran him.

In game 2, however, he got down Kor Firewalker early, and I continued to remind him to gain life off it. He then mentioned that it was a may ability. So basically, I had gifted him at least 4 life. Whoops :/

In the deciding Game, however, I put down a Sword of Fire and Ice, and proceeded to draw cards and shoot things. He got down to 5, before exiling my Kird Ape. I pointed to my Treetop Village, Sword, and the fact that I had 5 mana and that he had no way of stopping me, and he scooped.

2-1 (5-3)

Round 4 – Delver Splinter Twin

Game 1 was very strange, as he played it out as if he was on UR Delver (he had Delver, Grim Lavamancer and Runechanter’s Pike, what was I supposed to be thinking?) so I tapped out at the end of turn 4. So he played Deceiver Exarch, and then Splinter Twin, and I felt very silly for the 2nd time today.

Games 2 and 3 were both very similar, as I sideboarded into a more controlling build and played a more patient game. I nearly gifted him the win in Game 3 when he played Runechanter’s Pike with Inkmoth Nexus on the board, before remembering that I had Annul in hand to counter it.
It was the first time ever that I had used Surgical Extraction on both Pestermite and Deceiver Exarch against Twin, and still had a realistic chance of losing.

3-1 (7-4)

Round 5 – GR Tron

This deck had been doing the rounds on MTGO, and has a reputation for being very fast, with Turn 3 Karn Liberated and Turn 5 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn both common sights.

He was landscrewed both games, however, and I effectively Zerg Rushed him both games. I don’t think he liked me Annuling his turn 2 Expedition Map, either.

4-1 (9-4)

Round 6 – Affinity

Suddenly I was on the ascendancy, and things were really looking up. I was taking it one match at a time, but I had my sights firmly on a Top 8 berth.

Game 1 was a tight affair, however I used my removal and tempo to deal with things efficiently, including a Cranial Plating and Arcbound Ravager. By the end of Game 1, he had 4 Galvanic Blast in his hand (which I knew of thanks to Goblin Guide triggers), but with only 1 coloured mana and me on 5 life, I took the game.

In Game 2, Affinity did what Affinity does, before he mulliganed to 5 in Game 3. I was visibly shaking due to nerves, something I haven’t done in a very long time, but I managed to clear a path to victory after he walked a Springleaf Drum into an Anuul, giving my Goyfs +2/+2, to set up a win-and-in scenario.

5-1 (11-5)

Noel Bresland beckoned me over after that round and helped me calm myself by pretty much making me sit down and not allow me to walk anywhere, which worked wonders. I was beginning to feel very tired, and I was beginning to drink a lot of water to fight dehydration, eating a load of Belvita to keep my energy up and taking ProPlus to just stay awake.

Round 7 – Splinter Twin

I knew this guy was on Splinter Twin, as I was sitting next to him in the previous round.

Game 1 saw me use my tempo cards such as Vapor Snag and Remand to deny him any sort of defence as my creatures did the business, and I suddenly had one foot in the Top 8.

Game 2 he mulliganed down to 5, and he was always sturggling to stay in the game. He surprised me by using Vines of Vastwood to protect his Pestermite when I tried to Searing Blaze it, however he still took 3 damage from it to put him in real trouble. Out of desparation, he tried to cast Splinter Twin to snatch the win, however I had the Annul and that’s all she wrote.

6-1 (13-5)

I needed a few results to go my way in Round 7, and luckily they did (this included needing Joe Fletcher to lose, which he did. Sorry, buddy!) but after looking at the standings I knew I could ID in, even though I was the one at risk in 8th place. I ID’d against another Splinter Twin opponent and I had submarined my way into my 2nd PTQ Top 8.

Quarter Finals – CawBlade

In Game 1, I kept a fairly risky hand, and was duly punished as I drew land for the first 5 turns before drawing another threat. But by then it was far too late, and just like that I was one game down.

Game 2 was a much tighter affair, and was one of the many instances where Delver decks do what they can to do 20 damage to the opponent. My opponent was beginning to get back into the game, but I had the Lightning Bolt after he had tapped out to force a decider.


The rest?

Well, I’m sure you can hazard a guess…


Final Thoughts

Although it was gutting to fall at the first hurdle of the Top 8, it’s given me a lot of confidence in the deck going into the final two PTQs of the year in London and Cardiff. I hope to see you there!




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