Intro Decks to FNM: The long and winding road that is the Path to Victory by Mark Pinder

£20 PTQs & Dinosaurs by Magic by Mark Pinder

Intro Decks to FNM: Path to Victory by Mark Pinder


When I finished the last article about the evolution of the Path to Victory deck I was suffering from frustration at the lack of performance of the deck. I’d also been bringing the deck to the club locally but such is my reputation at the club several players were avoiding playing friendly matches as my win loss record is quite formidable, I decided that the best way forward now was to put the deck into the FNM melting pot, the deck is far from complete but a real tournament is more likely to show the decks short comings.

The article you will be reading will be a mixture of a Tournament Report and observations of how the deck played round by round.

Main Deck

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10 Plains
4 Islands
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Seachrome Coast
2 Moorland Haunt
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Nearheath Pilgrim
4 Silverblade Paladin
3 Knight of Glory
3 Odric, Master Tactician
4 Gather the Townsfolk
3 Mass Appeal
4 Faith’s Shield
3 Oblivion Ring
4 Sleep


4 Restoration Angel
2 Clone
4 Riders of Gavony
1 Butchers Cleaver
2 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Fiend Hunter

I have made one concession to only playing cards that will not be rotating as I put in 4 Seachrome Coast as their will certainly be dual lands of some form in Return to Ravnica with Hallowed Fountain the most likely.  I am also borrowing Cecile’s Restoration Angels and Silverblade Paladin’s that she is not using currently, many players forget that their fellow players may have the cards they need available for loan.

We have ten players at FNM tonight and they are as follows.

Cecile Sutherst       Mono White Humans

Mark Pinder             White/Blue Humans

Tristan Fisher           Red/Green Aggro

Danny Clark              Red/Black Vampires

Ken Smith                 Green/White Aggro

Jake Stephens        Black/Blue Zombies

Kerryn Shortland   Mono Green Aggro

Dan Preston             Blue/White Delver

Josh Howell              Blue/Green Delver

Josh Stephens        Red/Green Aggro

Well, controversy even before round one has started as Josh Stephens arrives from a friend’s birthday party just as we are about to pair round one, he then discovers there has been a mix and his brother hasn’t brought his deck along. Luckily several of us have spare decks and Josh takes up Cecile’s offer to use her red/green aggro deck.

Round One

My first opponent is Dan Preston and it is probably one of the worst match ups, Dan is running a home brew U/W Delver list complete with Geist of Saint Traft and Talrand, Sky Summoner which went 4-0 on Wednesday at our weekly magic night.

Game One, I win the die roll and elect to play with Dan having a Mulligan. My turn one is drop Delver of Secrets. Dan’s turn one is Island and Ponder. Turn 2, flip Delver, play Knight of Glory and fly over for four. Dan’s second turn is to play a Delver. Turn three I play Nearheath Pilgrim, pair with Delver and swing life totals by 8 points. Dan has the answer as he drops an Oblivion Ring on the Delver. My next drop is unbelievably sweet off the top, Silverblade Paladin and pair it with Knight of Glory. That’s a hard six down to six. Dan has another Oblivion Ring and puts it on the Knight of Glory. I drop another Pilgrim to pair with the Silverblade Paladin and it is over.

Game Two, I mulligan to five, don’t see third land until turn 5, by then Talrand is out sending over Drake’s that I cannot stop. I lose 20-0.

Game Three, the pressure is on for me to win but Dan has a slow hand. I play a Delver turn one but doesn’t flip turn 2 or 3, I play Nearheath Pilgrim turn 2 and Silverblade Paladin turn 3 to pair with the Pilgrim. The beats are deadly at this rate with double strike and the lifelink is pushing my life total well above thirty.l

Mark Pinder beats Dan Preston 2-1

Josh Howell beats Tristan Fisher 2-1

Danny Clark beats Josh Stephens 2-0

Cecile Sutherst beats Jake Stephens 2-1

Ken Smith beats Kerryn 2-1

It was nice to see Josh Howell speak to Dan Preston after our match giving Dan some encouragement and give Dan some advice on alternative plays to consider. Rather than ram strategy down a fellow players throat Josh gave some constructive advice in a well meaning manner.

Round Two

My second opponent is Ken Smith playing a home brew Green White deck with Gavony Township centred around Elves. I know this match is going to be tough as if he manages to Genesis wave I could be dead very quickly, if he gets the Elvish Archdruids then his guys will be huge compared to mine. The good thing is that Ken hasn’t got Craterhoof Behemoth and friends.

Game One, I win the die roll and drop a Delver. Ken drops a Llanowar elf in return. I drop a second Delver and Ken drops an Arbor Elf and Llanowar Elf. Things are tight and I play a Neartheath Pilgrim and swing. Ken not wishing to lose an Elf lets it through. Ken accelerates into first a Green Suns Zenith for an Acidic Slime taking out my Seachrome coast, I have another land though so the pain isn’t too bad, out comes another Pilgrim paired with the other Delver.

Ken doesn’t have a big play but drops Asceticism. This could be awkward but I draw another land and am able to play Odric, master tactician. Ken only gets to play when work commitments allow and it was nice to see Ken down playing Magic but it was the first time he had seen Odric., Ken was more interested in the Delver’s.  I swing with all five guys and announce Ken’s guys cannot block, Ken is shocked and reads Odric again, the win is sweet.

Game Two, Ken is on the play and drops an elf, I drop a Delver. Turn two and Ken drops a Mwonwuil Beast Tracker searching up Acidic Slime. My second turn is flip Delver from Gather the Townsfolk and play Gather the Townsfolk. More elves are coming down and I am expecting to see Acidic Slime to wreck my mana base if not careful. I play cautious turn three in playing Knight of Glory and keeping mana open for my Faith’s Shield if needed.

Delver flies in for four more thanks to Exalted. I am really enjoying playing with the Knight as he buffs up creatures really well. Ken doesn’t play yje Acidic Slime but drops an Elvish Archdruid and Elvish Visionary which is a shame as would have liked to have nullified the Acidic Slime effect. Turn four I play Odric, I am tapped out now but this should swing the game my way, it does as a I swing for 9 next turn and Ken concedes when he draws nothing the following turn.

Tristan Fisher beats Kerryn Shortland 2-1

Danny Clark beats Cecile Sutherst 2-1

Josh Stephens beats Jake Stephens 2-1

Josh Howell beats Dan Preston 2-0

Jake is not very happy, he has lost to his brother putting him to zero and two, worst still both decks he faced were designed by me so is feeling frustrated. Such are the fortunes of Magic, only a couple of weeks ago Jake beat Josh in a win and you’re in match to make Top 4 of Game Day before eventually winning the event.

On a more amusing note we hear how Dan Preston with six land out plays Gitaxian Probe to see his opponents hand and records the cards including a Mana Leak, Dan draws Geist of Saint Traft, instinctively casts it as it was the first creature he had seen for several turns and heads straight into the Mana Leak !

Round Three

This is where things are going to get really tough, it is pleasing to be two – zero, the deck does work a lot better and the damage dealt has improved by the addition of Knight of Glory. The mana base is still fragile as I’ved had Sleep twice now and not had the second blue source. This may change with Return to Ravnica with deep mana fixing if patterns from the original continue.

Sigh! I’ve drawn Cecile. I would have loved to have been paired against Danny or Josh Howell who were both unbeaten, I know Cecile’s deck and also know it is also significantly more powerful, in testing these have been bruising encounters.

Game One, I lose the die roll. Cecile plays Champion of the Parish, I play Delver, Cecile plays Accorder Paladin, Delver doesn’t flip though. Cecile misses her third land drop whilst I play Silverblade Paladin. This match is tight,  Cecile sends an Oblivion Ring at the Paladin, I have a Nearheath Pilgrim paired with Knight of Glory out with the unflipped Delver but the match is turning, I’m down to one life but the life gain takes me back up from one, I sleep her field for a sneaky swing but on her turn she has a Doomed Traveller to block. I may have gained life but it isn’t enough when Angelic Destiny comes down to allow her to fly for the win.

Game Two, I mulligan to three, I’ve reviewed my decisions and still feel they were right. First mulligan was a five land hand with Odric and Sleep. The deck needs to pressurise the board early to win and the hand was too slow, the next three mulligan’s were a one land Moorland Haunt hand and two no land hands. Cecile has a slow start, she plays Knight of Glory and I O Ring next turn, then she drops Mirran Crusader, I drop a Nearheath Pilgrim so she drops a Fiend Hunter, then I play a Knight of Glory which she Oblivion Ring’s. Boom ! Angelic Destiny on Mirran Crusader for the win.

Whilst Angelic Destiny may not be around after rotation, the match was closer than it looked due to Cecile missing her third land drop for a couple of turns in game one, after that she powered to victory. Game Two was always going to be a struggle dropping to three cards.

Josh Stephens beats Tristan Fisher 2-1

Josh Howell beats Danny Clark 2-0

Ken Smith beats Jake Stephens 2-0

Dan Preston beats Kerryn 2-0

Josh Howell is again the beneficiary of some good luck, on four life and no cards in hand, his opponent has 2 Sign in Blood’s in Hand, amazingly Danny goes on auto pilot and uses them to draw cards himself rather force Josh to draw and lose the life. It’s a lucky escape for Josh but it also is a sobering reminder to everyone, we all mistakes but we also need to be vigilant to tunnel vision so we can make the best play possible.

Round Four

We have Josh Howell unbeaten and 5 others on 6 points, it’s close but Josh knows he just needs to win and he will win, Josh knows though that a loss could be fatal as two of his opponents Tristan and Dan are both on three points playing against one another. We’ve seen round four leaders drop down as far as fourth after the last round so the Avacyn’s Pilgrim is not yet his.

The pairings are up and I’m playing Josh, I’ve an outside chance of overall victory if I can win and other match ups go my way.

Game One, I lose the die roll but Josh mulligan’s to five. We both play Delver of Secret’s, Turn two Josh reveals Dismember and flies over. My Delver does not flip for three turns and when it does it is Dismembered. Josh locks the game out with Mana Leak and Snapcaster Mana Leak.

Josh looks over the deck at the end as he has been following the article and offers some more options, he also comments that even with the article deck it has a pimped card in a German Odric, Master tactician.

 Game Two and Josh plays Delver of Secrets followed up by revealing a Mana Leak. My two towns folk look a little intimidated. I decide to play Mass Appeal as I have Silverblade Paladin in hand and want to try and draw out the Mana leak or at least draw something useful. Josh then has the play of the day has he gut shot’s the first token and then flashes in a Snapcaster Mage to gut shot the second. At that point it is a brutal beat down and Josh has the Mana Leak backup.

Okay, so I was beaten twice by Mana Leak, it is a card that will be leaving the format but it would also have been a dead card if I’d had Cavern of Souls in my deck. Looks like improving the deck on a  budget is going to be more difficult than I thought.

Dan Preston beats Tristan Fisher 2-1

Jake Stephens beats Kerryn Shortland 2-0

Danny Clark beats Kenneth Smith 2-0

Cecile Sutherst beats Josh Stephens 2-1

Final Standings

Rank         Player                               Points

1                 Josh Howell                    12

2                 Danny Clark                    9

3                 Cecile Sutherst              9

4                 Mark Pinder                   6

5                 Dan Preston                   6

6                 Josh Stephens                   6

7                 Ken Smith                       6

8                 Tristan Fisher                 3

9                 Jake Stephens               3

10              Kerry Shortland            0

Final Thoughts

Overall fourth place and two-two record was not bad considering I expected I might have to win my last two rounds against the newer players without learning a lot to get two wins, it could have easily been a zero – four night.

Taking notes to write this article also helped, I’ve some trends now and seen some more optimal strategies for the deck.

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.



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Mark Pinder
I have competed twice at GB nationals in 2010/2008, was Runner Up at Senior Nationals 2010, Won a Grand Prix Trial which took me to Paris 2009. My love of the game was such that I did previously win a writing competition on MTG Twincast which led to me being a Feature Writer for around a year until the Sponsor sold up but still did the occasional article. There is also a verb "To Pinder"colloquially used in northern magic communities which means "to gain life", I was a solid fan of Martyr of Sands/Proclamation of Rebirth combo and many players have heard those fateful words, Sacrifice Martyr of Sands, gain 21 life against me to see the game go out of their reach with lethal damage available to them next turn.