Hi! It has been a while since I last wrote an article but after the recent (and first ever) Leeds PTQ, I thought I would try another. The PTQ was a huge event, with 139 players; second in size only to Fanboy 3 a few months prior.
So anyway, leading up to the event I was testing a Bant list that Mick Edwards used to win the Scottish PTQ with and was having fairly decent results. Geist of Saint Traft was the main reason for playing the colour combination, as playing him on turn 2 gives so many free wins. However, decks like this have so many problems with control decks like Tron, as there are few ways you can interact with their reanimation plan for Iona or Elesh Norn, and all their anti aggro cards are crippling. I was later convinced to move back to CawBlade, as it has game against everything in the format and I was much more comfortable against combo with the counterspells available.
Here is the list I settled on:
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Vendilion Clique
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Spell Snare
4 Path to Exile
4 Mana Leak
4 Cryptic Command
2 Vedalken Shackles
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Jace Beleren
The list was pretty good, but a few things should have been different. The Sword of Feast and Famine should be a 2nd Jace Beleren, and the sideboard should have 1 Gut Shot and 1 Surgical Extraction over a Mortarpod and a Wrath of God. Regardless, I was happy with my deck choice on the day. Here’s how the rounds went.
Round 1 – Affinity
I had to play my friend Rick Meeson round 1, which is a little awkward as I helped him prepare for this event, his first ever PTQ. I’d say he was kinda new to competitive play, he still played well, only making a few mistakes that weren’t that obvious.
Game 1 Rick mulls, I get an early Vedalken Shackles down, after countering the relevant early plays. Using Path to Exile on the creatures I stole, I was easily able to take game 1.
Feeling confident now, as I get to side in a bunch of cards; +2 Engineered Explosives, +1 Mortarpod +1 Wrath of God +3 Kitchen Finks and +2 Disenchant, for -4 Cryptic Command -1 Jace Beleren -2 Vedalken Shackles -1 Mana Leak -1 Sword of Feast and Famine. I cut the Vedalken Shackles here as I am on the draw, and after how game 1 went I am pretty confidant Rick will side in Ancient Grudge, and the tempo swing is too huge if I tap out and get Grudged.
Game 2 I keep a pretty good hand with Path to Exile, Engineered Explosives, Mana Leak and Snapcaster Mage. Even when my opponent slams 5 cards into play on turn 1 (Darksteel Citadel, Memnite, Ornithopter, Mox Opal, Arcbound Ravager), my Explosives are looking decent. I Path to Exile away his Arcbound Ravager, and Engineered explosives away the rest, but Etched Champion simply beats me as I sided out the Vedalken Shackles and couldn’t draw any real spells to help me. I sided the Vedalken Shackles back in, as I am on the play again.
Game 3 Rick kinda telegraphs that he is going to mulligan, so I keep my 7; 5 Land, Disenchant, Mana Leak, including a Celestial Colonnade. I feel like this hand is acceptable on the play, as the Mana Leak catches whatever I can’t deal with via Disenchant. Unfortunately I start drawing lands which after the first one, are almost dead cards. I keep him at bay for a while, after his slow start, but eventually I need to start beating in with Colonnade and a Kitchen Finks I drew later on. On the last turn of the game, Rick is on 4 life, and has 4 lands including 2 Inkmoth Nexus. I play a Mortarpod, and attack with Celestial Colonnade, Tectonic Edge’ing one of the Inkmoth’s and the Germ token takes down the other, clinching the game.
If Rick hadn’t played his 4th land the previous turn (as he has a Mox Opal in play to have enough mana to activate both his fliers), then I would have lost on the next turn. I felt pretty lucky to escape with a win, but Rick was gracious in defeat and we talked about the game afterwards.
Round 2 – Jund
I side in +3 Kitchen Finks and +1 Sun Titan, for -1 Sword of Feast and Famine, -2 Vedalken Shackles (they nearly always side in Ancient Grudge), -1 Path to Exile and -1 Mana Leak.
Game 2 he starts with Inquisition of Kozilek every other turn, stripping me of Squadron Hawk, Snapcaster Mage, and Jace Beleren, but seeing my Sun Titan every time. I eventually get to 6 mana and slam the Titan, and my opponent misses that I am dead on board (my out), and I untap and win from there. For some reason he had Jund Charm in his deck for game 2, and was using it to pump his creatures. It did so little, I am curious as to what he sided out for it.
Round 3 – UW Tron
This round was against mtgUK writer Michael Maxwell, who I knew was playing Tron after sitting next to him round 1.
Game 1 was pretty lacklustre, as I mulliganed a no pressure hand into a mediocre 6 with Jace Beleren, who got Remanded. I was Iona locked out pretty quick, and that was that.
In this matchup you pretty much can’t ever win the late game, so I decided to try and keep the game in its early stages. I sided in +2 Spell Pierce +1 Dispel +2 Disenchant +2 Relic of Progenitus +1 Sun Titan, for -3 Path to Exile -1 Spell Snare -1 Mortarpod -1 Batterskull -2 Vedalken Shackles. The Sun Titan doesn’t really fit the bill for keeping the game in the early stages, but I have so many cards to take out I figured why not.
Games 2 and 3 were similar, with me countering his early mana sources, Expedition Map and Azorious Signet, whilst beating down. Game 3 featured me using 2 Tectonic Edge whilst Michael was on 4 land, which is pretty much game over a lot of the time :(
Round 4 – GR Tron
These games were the most uneventful of the day, as my opponent mulligans to 5 game 1, and playing very little, and game 2 Tectonic Edge did its thing and mana screwed my opponent whilst I countered/Disenchanted everything he played. I sided the same as round 3, only I kept in a Path to Exile and Spell Snare over 2 Relic of Progenitus.
Round 5 – Melira
I sideboard: +1 Mortarpod +1 Wrath of God +2 Disenchant +2 Relic of Progenitus, -1 Batterskull -2 Spell Snare -1 Jace Beleren -1 Sword of Feast and Famine -1 Vendilion Clique.
My opponent starts on Forest into Avacyns Pilgrim, which is a pretty dangerous start on the play. Thankfully he kept a 1 lander and had to play another Pilgrim turn 2, and attack for 1. This let me have Mana Leak up turn 2, and as he doesn’t draw land for 5/6 turns, I win pretty easily.
Rounds 4 and 5 were pretty much byes, as I had to do very little for the wins, due to my opponents’ misfortune, but I’ll take em just the same!
Round 6 – CawBlade
Time for a mirror match (of sorts) against mtgUKs Jonathan Randle. I wasn’t particularly fancying my chances, but I have played this deck so much in old Standard that I know how it goes (Spell Snare and Vedalken Shackles are the only difference to the mirror now, compared to the old mirror).
We both play draw go for a while, and eventually start playing out some Squadron Hawks and Vendilion Cliques. We go back and forth dealing with the other’s threats, but I draw my Vedalken Shackles and resolve them, which is pretty much the game.
I sideboard in +1 Dispel +1 Mortarpod +2 Disenchant +1 Sun Titan for -4 Path to Exile -1 Vendilion Clique.
Game 2 Jonno starts off with a pretty crazy manabase, revealing why he thought so much about his 7 before keeping. Minamo, School at Water’s Edge, Eiganjo Castle, Mutavault, Pendlehaven. Regardless, his Sword of Feast and Famine he resolves while we both play out Squadron Hawks breaks the stalemate, and I scoop early to make time for game 3. I get offered the draw here, as we only have around 8 minutes for game 3, but decline as I am feeling pretty good about the matchup (I have shackles, he doesn’t).
The game starts off pretty well, with me resolving Squadron Hawk turn 2, and then Vedalken Shackles turn 3 after he plays his own Squadron Hawk. However, he later draws a Disenchant, and I start to flood out, and lose quickly to a Sword of Feast and Famine on a Venser, Shaper Savant and a Celestial Colonnade. After the game I find out he drew his Squadron Hawk on his turn 2, and the Disenchant later; how lucky @_@!
Round 7 – Affinity
This is the round that everyone will remember, if you were at Leeds PTQ, where you all sat and waited for ten minutes as I was (again) dropped from the event. It really wasn’t my fault! So yeah, anyway, playing against someone I know again; Kat Donohue.
Game 1 goes pretty normal, with Kat starting pretty well with multiple small fliers. I get a Squadron Hawk down and try to start trading off cards, but my opponent had enough burn to stop me from doing this. I take too much damage early, and lose to the burn spells later in the game.
I sideboard the same as in round 1, although I keep Vedalken Shackles in.
Kat unfortunately mulligans both games 2 and 3, and the extra card probably had a part to play in how the games played out, as they both went pretty long. I draw normally, and Snapcaster Mage + Removal spell works out pretty well.
Round 8 – Loam
Me and Carrie Oliver can both safely ID, and we both take an hour break before top 8 begins.
The Top Super 8
The top 8 is pretty stacked, with Carrie Oliver, mtgUKs Jonathan Randle & Ben Heath, Brad Barclay, myself, Matt Light, and two other players I don’t know (sorry!). It turns out I have to play Brad in the quarterfinals, so I have a tough game right from the word go.
Quarterfinals – CawBlade
Game 1 is pretty bad for me, as Brad amasses more lands than me, and of a better utility (multiple Tectonic Edges). He runs me out of cards eventually, and Celestial Colonnade cleans up.
During sideboard I decide to try and mix it up a little as I knew Brad would be cutting his Path to Exiles, the same as me, so I brought in the Kitchen Finks for a more beatdown approach. +3 Kitchen Finks +1 Dispel +1 Sun Titan +1 Mortarpod. -4 Path to Exile -2 Vendilion Clique.
The plan works pretty well over the next 2 games, as well as Brad having to mulligan here and there. Kitchen Finks did its job game 2 as there is no good answer to a resolved one, and he had to side in his own for game 3.
Game 3 is decided by lands, and he is the first one to start missing land drops, and I manage to pull out the win.
Semi-finals – Splinter Twin
Usually game 1 is tough in this matchup, as I have some pretty poor cards in my deck (Batterskull, the whole 4 Spell Snares), and I have to mulligan. I keep a pretty nice 6, with 2 Path to Exile and Squadron Hawk. His turn 1 Grim Lavamancer manages to keep my creatures at bay for a while, but he eventually runs out of fuel, and double Tectonic Edge seals the deal, along with my assortment of removal in hand.
I sideboard in +2 Disenchant, +1 Dispel +2 Spell Pierce for -1 Sword of Feast and Famine -1 Batterskull -1 Spell Snare -2 Vedalken Shackles.
I get soundly trounced game 2 as I miss land drops, and he is able to Dispel my counter for his Splinter Twin.
Game 3 goes pretty long, but is decided by my information and manipulation of his hand with Vendilion Cliques, going after his Splinter Twins after I see he has too many Pestermites/Deceiver Exarchs to stop. Moorland Haunt was also key, as it let me play creatures at instant speed, after he killed all of my Squadron Hawks and Vendilion Cliques with Grim Lavamancer.
I play a third Vendilion Clique on the final turn, and take away a Dispel from him after he played Deceiver Exarch in response (untapping one of his lands). Snapcaster Mage on Mana Leak for his Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker sealed the game.
Finals – CawBlade
I again have to play against Jonathan Randle, only this time there is a lot more at stake. The games were long, drawn out affairs as is normal for a Cawblade mirror, and to be honest I can’t really remember many specifics from game 1, although I am pretty sure it was (again) won by Vedalken Shackles, although I may be wrong.
I sideboard the same as in the quarterfinals.
This game I get stuck on 2 lands for a few turns, and Jon is playing out Snapcaster Mages to just pressure me, as he has little else going on (we both have Squadron Hawks). I draw my third land and play Vedalken Shackles out on zero Islands, a little awkward but I am happy to have it out there. The game progresses a little, but as soon as I draw a Misty Rainforest, Vedalken Shackles turns the game on its head; he can no longer attack, and I have a multitude of spells in hand. As I start drawing lands I keep up Cryptic Command for anything good he might have, and Moorland Haunt means I can also progress my board if he doesn’t. Eventually he succumbs, and I win my second PTQ, to Barcelona this time.
As soon as I receive my blue envelope, we are told we need to clear the building as it is just past midnight, and the security guard wanted to do his job. It wasn’t the end of the night for me though, as I was dragged on a night out in Leeds University Union, with Matt Light, Mick Edwards, Andy Edwards, Steve Parker, and Martin Sylvester. It was a good night, and I’m grateful for all the support I had.
Thanks as well to Mark Hammond and congratulations on the first Leeds PTQ being so successful, good job.
Thanks for reading.