Magic Con 2012 Duelling PTQs – Shared Discovery with Rob Wagner

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Hi all, it’s been a while! Well not all that long really just one more week than scheduled. The big event of the last period was the joint WMCQ + PTQ run by Glen White from Gordian Knot games in a hotel in Nottingham. For those who aren’t entirely sure what that means, it was basically two events to qualify for Magic’s Pro Tour. For those who do know what it means, it was a fairly unavoidable weekend of tournament play.


I didn’t write last week because all I really had to contribute were the decks I was working on for the weekend and none of them were really tuned enough for a public forum like this. We had a sweet list for a Blue-White Stonehorn Dignitary deck which I’ll give out at the end along with some play considerations, but first is an account of my weekend. The deck was about 50 cards good, maybe a couple more, but rounding it out was proving difficult.

On the Thursday night we got together for one of our live testing sessions at one of the local stores, Travelling Man. I’d brought the boogey man to play against, Delver of Secrets. Long story short I slid into the deck extremely comfortably as it really fits my favourite (and most successful) play style.

I made the decision there and then to pick the deck I was most suited to rather than the one with a lot of potential but currently rough edges. Too often I’ve played the deck I’ve worked on at the start of the season and ignored the deck I should have been playing all along. Last PTQ season I salvaged the situation by picking up CawBlade and winning the last PTQ, and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake.


Day 1: The Sword of Feast and Famine

So, after a couple of swift borrows off some friendly locals and Patriot Games store-owner Mark Hammond I got up for the early train to Nottingham along with the rest of the Leeds gang. We got the tram over to the hotel and found the very lovely hotel (can’t remember the name, doesn’t really matter) where we found the usual great crowd that is a PTQ in the UK. I had a slight panic as I sat down for the player meeting and found that I’d left some of my medication at home having planned a 4 day period away. Pretty stupid of me, but Glen White was more than incredible in sourcing a local pharmacy who delivered a replacement free of charge (I get free prescriptions) – god bless the NHS!

The PTQ was the event of the day and 157 players had made some kind of journey for it. It sounded as though a lot of people had booked rooms in the hotel, which seemed a lot more comfortable than my regular plan of finding a good friend who lives nearby and asking to crash with them. My willing accomplice this time around was the lovely Matt Light, a man I’m always happy to see and one of the country’s better players.

One of the interesting things about having two important (but national) tournaments one day after the other is the changing of the metagame. I knew going into day 1 that there would basically be a lot of Delver, a lot of Wolf Run, and a lot of rubbish. The relative amounts of each and the card choices therein would really have a significant impact on what people would bring the next day. I know many players who changed a few cards in their decks, and I know many players who changed decks entirely. I don’t know what is the correct course of action, but I imagine the individual’s choice pattern would be similar to their original methods of picking a deck for day 1.

Since my testing began so late in the day I picked up the Gerry Thompson list but made the change of a sideboard Consecrated Sphinx for a Sun Titan because I was wary of people picking up more Beast Withins, having an extra Kessig Wolf Run and stuff so wanted the card with more immediate impact.

The switch worked out very well for me and I’d consider changing them both, especially with all the Phantasmal Images and the games going on longer now. So many games seem to reach the point of playing off the top that having these massive haymakers which immediately do their thing can be such a big turnaround, and Consecrated Sphinx just isn’t that card right now since when you pass the turn you’ll probably just find you have a 3/3 token in play or a Sphinx in hand, neither of which are really going to change things and you just passed the turn to let them do whatever they want.

I don’t remember that many of my individual rounds except that I finished 5-3 on the day. I know that one of my opponents was playing Red-White aggro and that one or both of us sideboarded wrong because we had a race going upwards with alternating Timely Reinforcements being cast. I had Snapcaster Mage to keep going with mine so I invariably won the race to gain a bunch of life. I also remember that I played against 4 other Delver of Secrets decks that day but I lost one to Stephen Murray after he flipped 3 of the card.

After the event I went with Matt and friends to a curry place. We talked about the metagame of the day and then a bunch of trivial stuff. When I went to bed on a blow-up mattress there was only James Allingham also in the room who was vaguely considering leaving before the next day’s events. When I woke up there was Ross Silcock in the same spot instead (who had been judging the weekend) so I felt a bit trippy.


Day 2: The Sword of War and Peace

For Day 2 my deck changed to include Sword of War and Peaces over the Sword of Feast and Famines, the fourth Restoration Angel and a brace of Cavern of Souls to push through the bombs in the mirror. I found a lot of people were doing similar things both after Day 1’s experiences but also looking at the Star City results and whatever Gerry T has come up with this time around. I didn’t change my sideboard much despite playing a few games with Matt using what we knew now.

I should take a moment to include some actual serious strategy and this is kind of a controversial point.

Basically, from having played the Delver mirror a bunch it seems to have a bunch of different points of interest. With regular matches of Magic you basically know your opponent’s strategy even if they’re getting cute by playing some different cards or often even if they think they’re throwing a curve ball with some “Rogue” deck. (An aside on Rogue decks, if you have a strategy which has been done a million times before in Magic: the Gathering then it won’t be that surprising for a competent opponent).

However, the Delver deck has a lot of range to it that you really need to respect. Most decks have a single mode, or a bit of wiggle room, so when you are playing a Delver deck against them you tend to know your plan and how to sideboard. This can change a little bit like if you know that your Red-Green Wolf Run opponent has a bunch of Galvanic Blasts and Slagstorms then become a control deck and if they have all Beast Withins then become an aggro deck.

Where you really have to think, though is the mirror. Because the deck can so easily be Aggro, Midrange, and Control, you really have to think about what your opponent will be doing and how you can take the advantage. I don’t want to go too deep on the relative strategic merits of each but it’s been put by others before that generally you want to be the guy that is slightly slower.

The easiest way to indicate this is the card Timely Reinforcements – I played against one guy at the weekend (names omitted to protect any reputation I might have for having a decent memory) who pretty aggressively was using Snapcaster Mage for Ponder on turn 3. Now, it didn’t have to be Ponder there as the deck has about 8-10 1 mana draw spells, but if he had a Snapcaster Mage then he sure as hell was drawing another card there. Now, what I can do is have all my Timely Reinforcements, put him on the play, and then just blow him out with the creature creation. 6 life is a decent chunk, but the real significance in the mirror is the three 1/1’s.

The Delver mirror is often down to someone having a Moorland Haunt with fuel and the other guy not having one at all. In these games being able to Vapor Snag the tokens is a really big deal. With a Timely Reinforcements you get to speed up the token making by a bunch of turns and it’ll take them ages to present good blockers. Fantastic sideboarding!

Now, take the same Timely Reinforcements and have sided it in against a player who only ever uses Snapcaster Mage to flash back Mana Leak, or Vapor Snag in a pinch. This guy has tried going really big and giving you terrible Vapor Snags by siding out his Delver of Secrets and is going to get you by making sure you don’t do anything of relevance while he makes Blade Splicers and Restoration Angels. Suddenly the only relevant part of your Timely Reinforcements is the 6 life you gained initially and another few more as you chump block but never have a good attack. Having a bit more life isn’t that strong now that your opponent has decided to go big, as if the game goes on they’re still going to have stronger cards than you.

You might have noticed there the mention of siding out Delver of Secrets. This isn’t something that everyone is on board with yet, and it’s certainly not something I suggest doing every time, but if after sideboarding you’re pretty sure that they either aren’t going to live long, aren’t going to stay flipped early, and/or just aren’t going to be that relevant a body, then please do feel free to think about taking them out.

The card isn’t completely uncuttable like something like Ponder and some people focus on stopping the card way too much after boarding with cards that aren’t versatile enough to perform well against the cards you do have in your deck after boarding. Obviously if you hate the idea and your play style never changes much then it won’t work for you, but at least think about why it might be a good idea sometimes and you’ll be a better Magic player as a whole :)


The Iron Man Draft

I played against a variety of different decks and went 3-3-1 on the day, with my draw being pretty uncharacteristic of me and it really could have gone either way at the end so neither of us sought any kind of concession. I wandered the venue chatting to friends for a while before getting invited by some of the London players to join an Iron Man draft using a bunch of commons and uncommons that were going spare. Led by Tom Baker and James Mills (along with a coerced Dan Royde) the format is a regular draft with the following stipulations: matches are a single game long and any time a card would leave play or go to a graveyard it gets ripped up into little pieces. The winner of the game then gets to keep all the cards the losing player had left over.

I drafted a pretty reasonable Blue-Black deck with a couple of Looters in to really tear through my deck (get it? get it?) and won round one against a similar deck. My round two deck was excellent, including 2 Mist Raven, but since my 2 drops were Alchemist’s Apprentice and Merfolk Looter and I used my Into the Void and Barter in Blood by the end of the game I had torn up quite a few cards and suddenly had to change colours to Blue-Red. I got a third Mist Raven for the finals and saw 2 of them in my opening hand so easily stomped my way to victory.

I figured with the matches being a single game I’d play 18 lands and I never came close to mana screw, but my Looters were helping to stop me being mana flooded also. All in all a pretty fun format, however messy it can get.

I went for dinner with the winner of the UK Seniors Open Championship, plus the occupants of Matt Light’s house that evening and then went on for a few in the pub. I then went on for another two-day adventure in London with my lovely girlfriend Amy but I don’t think that’s something you guys would be interested in reading about.


The UW Control Deck

UW Stonehorn Decklist

It’s still kinda rough and this isn’t the list you may have seen being run by my teammate Aaron Copping at the weekend but it’s a decent starting point. It’s easy to get fixated on the Stonehorn combos and think that the deck struggles to close out a game, but when you make Blade Splicer into Restoration Angel you’ll dismiss those fears fairly swiftly.

What the deck is really seeking is a good 2 drop that can be offensive vs control but is actually relevant vs a bunch of things. We’ve tried a lot of creatures like Thalia, Porcellain Legionnaire and crappy ones that are uncastable (i.e. cost double white mana) and the best we could come up with was hoping that Lingering Souls would buy us the time we needed.

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.


@DrRobWagner on Twitter

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