Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge – Trigger Happy with Graeme McIntyre

Wisdom Fae Under The Bridge – The Impact of the Growth of Magic the Gathering for UK PTQ Grinders

Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge – Trigger Happy with Graeme McIntyre


Last week I said I was going to write about the PTQ in Limerick. As it happens, I was knocked out pretty early, in a 6 round PTQ with around 60 people (meaning that some X-1-1’s didn’t make it and that even if I won out from 2-2, I wasn’t accomplishing much). I learned a couple of things about sealed, and this was the first event I have played since the changes to triggers, which you can read about here and here.


I put of planning this for way too long, and it ended up being pretty problematic and expensive to do (naturally I feel pretty stupid about this, because experience tells me that its virtually always like that if you don’t sort it early). I flew to Dublin the night before, and stayed with Oli Birdie, then got a lift to Limerick the next day, which takes three hours or so. This is a bit like flying to Coventry to play at a London PTQ – just not ideal.

Anyway, I open a reasonable pool, which can be built as either an uninspiring u/r deck splashing white or black for Arrest and Archon of the Triumvirate, or double Stab Wound, or a G/B deck splashing for Armada Wurm and Arrest, with higher card quality and some synergies, but a worse curve. I opt for the latter, knowing that I’ll lose to really fast B/R and U/W decks, but probably beat most of the average ones.

I don’t remember the two matches I won particularly well, but I’m aware there was a lot of blocking involved, such being the nature of the colour combination. The games I lost I remember a bit better:

  • In round two, I knew I could kill my opponent in two turns if I just attacked, but if he had anything, I was dead. I held off, then changed my mind the next turn, and died before I could connect again.
  • In the second game, I’m out tempo’ed pretty quickly, and am never really in it.
  • Round 4, I’m on 8 with lethal on the board against a b/w deck with a promenade and loads of plains in play, take 4 from his flyers and get hit for 5 damage from Explosive Impact. A better player might have seen this coming and cast the Golgari Charm in their hand… but not me.
  •  In the second game, things are progressing reasonably well, and then he plays Angel of Serenity. I don’t feel like this format is overly prone to this sort of thing, but it’s still oh so tedious to lose to some totally over the top bomb.

I really suffered from the lack of curve in my deck, and in retrospect the mediocre u/r deck might have been better… although it really did have a lot of sub-par cards. Given that the PTQ was only 6 rounds, that’s maybe fair enough – I feel like in larger events it’s better to play the higher variance deck, because if you’re to make top 8, you’ll need to beat some excellent pools, against which your filler probably won’t cut it.

There is a sofa in the hall, and I fall asleep on that shortly after dropping, which turns out to be a good call, as I am woken up several times during the night. We’re staying in the venue, which happens to be holding a hen night down stairs… far from ideal, although not as bad as last time in Belfast, where I actually walked out of a youth hostel with the intent of staying in the airport (arrive at hostel, get told our room is a few streets over, turns out it’s the room at the top of this guys flat, who obviously didn’t know we were coming, but invites us into his poorly lit, smoke filled stair well, eyes twirling, pupils dilated…).

We leave at 3 am, to get a bus at 4am, and I’m vaguely surprised to see half the PTQ in the hotel reception, blitzed, but not really. 3 hours on said bus, an hour and a half in the airport, an hour in the air, and an hour in a cab (trains are off – excellent, excellent…), and I’m home at noon!


This was a pretty important event for me in that it changed my position on the changes to triggers entirely; before I was just going to tell everyone about all their triggers and just be super vigilant about everything, because I was under the impression that the changes were hostile to people in the know. That is, because I’m experienced and so on, it seems unlikely to that I would miss something, so if I did, I’m probably cheating. It turns out, it isn’t like that; it’s actually a bonus for players like me, so long as we don’t get stupid and take it too far.

Some cards to think about in particular are Stab Wound, and Soul Tithe.

Case A.

You have a Stab Wound on their Hussar Patrol. Every upkeep, you say “Trigger” and tap their card. They lose two life, and everything goes as you would expect. All good.

Case B.

They have a stab wound on your Hussar Patrol. They pass the turn, you untap your lands, go to draw, draw your card, and play an Island. They say

“You lose two.” They say.

“No, you missed it.” You say.

*some needless argument ensues, as it so frequently does. I don’t get why people bother arguing about stuff when they can just call a judge…*

You call a judge, explain, and he does the same.

“Unlucky, you missed the trigger, different rules at PTQs, old son.” The judge says.

You opponent resents you and has a worse time at the event, but justice has been served.

Case C.

They have a Soul Tithe on your Angel of Serenity (because it’s your turn this week!), and pass the turn. You untap, wait 2.5 seconds or whatever, draw, and play a Plains.

“Your sick angel dies, idiot.” They say, because they resent you from the Stab Wound last week.

“Nope.” You say.

*more arguing*

You call a judge, explain, and he does the same.

“Soul Tithe is different to loads of cards like it, in that doesn’t confer the ability to the creature, and as such it’s a trigger on a card you control – just like stab wound – which you missed. So, the angel stays in play.” Says the judge.

Probably better not to smirk, here; your opponent is probably raging.

This is all fine, in that it’s the same rules for everyone, but the issue comes from the fact that it benefits experienced players, because they’re going to miss less Stab Wound triggers. I’m ok with that, because it adds another layer of complexity to the game, and people missing this sort of stuff used to be pretty annoying – before, you’d be sitting there, dying to their Stab Wound while they barely paid attention to the game, and they were missing each time, oblivious to the fact that you were dead in 3 turns.

A divide in players

However, the impact of this is a pretty big deal. Wizards is creating a definite divide in the type of players each tournament is aimed at, by making PTQs have this harsher rules set, the idea being that casual players go to the tournaments with less harsh rules, if they’re not comfortable with the way PTQs go. This is fine in a big country, with appropriate tournaments for all levels of play, but in the UK (and particularly Scotland) the PTQs much more ambiguous. I can see a lot of people coming away from PTQs pretty pissed off, feeling they have been cheated, and as such less likely to attend again.

This has an impact for TOs, because this applies to the majority of their player base.  To me it seems there are two ways of going about this; either tell people who are likely to forget triggers they they’re going to need to be really on top of them at the PTQ, or accept the consequences, because that is how the rules of the game work at PTQs, or try and get PTQ players to be nicer, and pressure judges to be more “fair”. I can see the temptation of the latter, but I would hope that most will see the wisdom of the former; these rules changes are as real and legitimate as the removal of stacking combat damage, and are simply part of the game, so it’s not a matter of “compromising”.

That said, the other thing this change in the rules encourages is a slightly less friendly approach to the game. For example, I can see players trying to get their opponent chatting during their upkeeps, so that they miss triggers, or simply going through their upkeep quicker, then *telling* their opponent they missed it. Players doing this sort of thing are likely to find themselves in all sorts of trouble pretty quickly.

Calling the judge

Finally, these changes bring about another thing, which I think should be encouraged at PTQ level anyway, namely calling judges. I often think my opponents could do with playing faster, and attempt to encourage them to do so, only calling a judge once it’s basically too late anyway. The only solution to this is to call judges earlier, and given that this will happen more frequently anyway, it seems less problematic to do so in this situation, as well. Again, however, this has an impact on the casual players playing these events, because it is increasingly hostile.

Maybe I’m wrong, and this will all be taken in a good natured way, but I’d be pretty surprised.

That’s all for this week, I’ll talk about draft next week.

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.



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Graeme McIntyre
I've been playing magic since the end of Rath Block, and I've been a tournament regular since Invasion Block. I started studying for a PhD in Sociology at University of Leicester in 2017. I was born In Scotland, but moved to Nottingham three years ago, seeking new oppertunities both academic and magical. I play regularly with David Inglis, Alastair Rees and Neil Rigby. I've been on 5 Pro Tours the 2016 English World Cup Team, and Scottish 2003 European Championship Team, but what I really bring to the table is experience. I've played 136 Pro Tour Qualifiers, 18 Grand Prixs, 11 National Championships, 13 World Magic Cup Qualifers, 51 Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers and more little tournaments than I can remember. More than anything else, my articles are intended to convey the lessons of this lived experience. Likes - robust decks, be they control, midrange, beatdown or combo. Cryptic Commands, Kird Apes and Abzan Charms. Dislikes - decks that draw hot and cold. Urza's Tower, Life From the Loam and Taigam's Scheming.