XtremeTrades PTQ Colchester Winners Tournament Report by Roy Raftery
No one around me on my mundane train journey home knows exactly why I’m smiling so much. They have no idea what I’m about to do or where I’m about to go in a couple of months, nor do they know what it means to me. Let me tell you what winning a PTQ feels like, any time after the event if you ever get down, depressed, told off at work or home there’s still something deep down that makes you smile. You have something to look forward to and something that cannot be taken away.
The Monday before the PTQ I read Matteo orsini-jones’ article about winning the Sheffield PTQ the week earlier, two things struck me about his article, the first thing was the idea that even if you win you are still left with a huge hole in your pocket. I’m trying to make this trip as cheap as possible and while I empirically understand his point I believe you wouldn’t go to a PTQ if you couldn’t afford to go to the Pro Tour in the first place.
This was a question I asked the opponents who mattered, could they go? Could they afford the $500+ the trip would demand? I wasn’t looking for easy wins I was simply being honest. I was being honest to myself too, I could genuinely afford to go and get the time off work and if this is a thing you can’t do then simply save your money and not go to the PTQ.
The second thing that struck me was how confident he was that he was going to win, stating he had the feeling and was deliberating how to tell everyone the good news on twitter. This is the same confidence I had on that morning. This had been my year, I had 8 top 8’s and 2 GPT wins this year, went undefeated on day one of GP Manchester and X-2 or X-1-1 at a lot of PTQ’s and just fell short of the top 8 (thank god this PTQ was only 125 players only 1 of the 2/3 X-1-1’s would make it).
This is where my first lesson to you comes from. I’m guessing a lot of the readers are in the position I was in about a year ago, loved the game, had decent results, was one of the best players in my little club and was making nice connections. But what more is needed to win that first PTQ? Well for me it was…. Stop listening to pros…
I had a career, a family and not much time for very much else so I watched as many LSV, Sam Black and PV drafts and sealed events as I could, sounds like a good thing to do right? Wrong. When I approached sealed deck I made my choices how LSV or PV would make their choice on what to cut or include and simply put, I am not LSV. Find your own play style, the way your deck wins, or own ideas and find what cards work for you.
At PTQ Reading I went 5-3 with a deck with Angel of Serenity, Supreme Verdict and Sphinx’s Revelation topped off with solid creatures. What I found was so did a lot of my opponents, almost every round was against Azorius and my last opponent even had 34 of the same cards I did! (Including Verdict and the Angel!) It was because of this and because of my experience with sealed so far that I knew what tricks I needed should I play Azorius next time or what cards I knew I needed against them, something like Trestle Troll is solid.
Before this I would sort my sealed pool into colours and simply make an unplayable and playable pile based on what I’d seen in pro videos. Now I don’t know what your first impression of me is based on reading this but if you want to succeed you follow those who have succeeded. I’m honest in my limitations and know of my mistakes.
This notion of understanding ones limitations is something a Magic player needs to realise before they can progress. In the last Standard season I played the wrong deck. I played Esper Super Friends because I loved the deck and knew its workings. However I didn’t know the purpose of the deck, how it could really win, I knew it had bad mulligans and sometimes played cards that didn’t impact every deck (this lead me being attacked by 4 Goblin Chieftains and 2 1/1 goblin tokens, my board was a Wurmcoil Engine but it was much more damage than I had life) . The point is, I didn’t know the purpose of my deck, it should of been able to beat Delver and branch out of the bracket of mono red, it should have had cards that were versatile in every match up.
Knowing I had nothing to lose, this was the approach I took when the PTQ season ended but there was still the odd event going. I played and built a deck I wanted to play and a deck with purpose, that deck was Grixis control and in 6 weeks I won a GPT and made top 8 of 2 others beating some great Delver players along the way (Quentin Martin to name drop) I loved the deck and knew its purpose. Knowing a decks purpose helped me win my top 8 draft in the PTQ. I came 8th in the standings which meant under the new system I would never have the choice of when to play.
In Return to Ravnica draft this means always going second. But that was my biggest strength, my deck instantly had a purpose and role to play. I knew I couldn’t draft a Rakdos deck, instead I drafted a deck with the intention to not take damage until at least turn 3 on the draw. I first picked a GW guildmage, then an Isperia, Supreme Judge, then a Sphinx of the Chimes.
After these first 3 picks I knew I had my finishers so never needed anything big, I now needed to fill the role of defence. I hoovered up 3 Inaction Injunction, Arrest, solid blockers or guys to throw out such as Vassal Soul, Selesnya Sentry and Sunspire Griffin. I also took and played 2 Soul Tithe. I loved this card, it fitted exactly what my deck was playing. If I played it on a two drop and they paid for it then they wouldn’t be applying more pressure via a turn 3 play as they’d be tapped out. If they let their creature die then I’m happy with the one-for-one as I had better and bigger late game.
The trick was remembering the trigger, this is my biggest gripe with the new rules, Soul Tithe belonged to me so it was up to me to remind my opponent in his/her upkeep. While this never happened in the top 8, during Swiss there was players who would do what we all did when we first started playing and draw then untap or draw as I was saying “trigger of soul…”
For reference here’s my deck:
1 Selesnya Keyrune
1 Azorius Keyrune
1 Vitu-ghazi Guildmage
2 Selesnya Sentry
1 Cyclonic Rift
2 Armory Guard
1 Selesnya Charm
3 Inaction Injunction
1 Avenging Arrow
1 Isperia’s Skywatch
1 Sphinx of the Chimes
1 Azorius Charm
1 Hover Barrier
1 Skymark Roc
1 Isperia, Supreme Judge
1 Vassal Soul
2 Soul Tithe
As far as I know I made 2 mistakes in the whole top 8. For reference all these matches can be found on Xtremetrades Twitch tv account. In the top 4 my opponent was at 14, missed a land drop and had a single Runewing in play. My board was Armory Guard (with a Guildgate in play) and an Azorius and Selesnya key rune. In my hand was Selesnya Charm and I was ahead on land so could activate all the key runes and attack, pushing through with the Charm should he block with the Runewing.
My reason for attacking with everything was I could hit him for at least 6, putting him to no non land permanents and down to at least 8 life, maybe less with 7 power on the board next turn.
Like a fool I activated my key runes wrongly and didn’t leave up mana for the Charm and the ability to attack with the Selesnya Keyrune. I believe it was the correct play but remember rule 101 of competitive magic, tap your lands correctly.
This is why I’m afraid to admit my second mistake. In the final game I had an Isperia, Supreme Judge in play and nothing else. My opponent had a Frostburn Weird, a Splatter Thug, Void Wielder and Goblin Electromancer. I wanted to get the damage in and tempt my opponent to attack as I had an Armory Guard in hand and nothing else. I was playing to Azorius Charm or other removal and my opponent didn’t know I had the guard. But yet again after my attack I tapped all my white sources for my Armory Guard. The ‘out’ I was playing to now couldn’t be played.
When my opponent crashed in with everything with just one card in hand I obviously drew my Azorius Charm first. I think it was nerves, this was my first PTQ final in well over a year but the point is we all make mistakes and we NEED to learn from them. My play was so tight in other games I could really feel it and was starting to impress myself!
Returning to my earlier point about having the ‘feeling’, knowing you can win, during the tournament I played Carrie Oliver, Sam Amy and Quentin Martin, after beating the Channel Fireball players and drawing with Amy I was even more convinced this was my day. The round 3 against Martin was my make or break and I rose to the occasion (albeit with some nice top decks in game 2!) and the rest is history.
I intend on learning as much as I can along the road to Montreal and am going to push myself for at least a top 25 finish.
Thanks for reading and hopefully it was enjoyable and you got something from it.