“Start it with a quote” – Matthew Beckett
This was it, the last qualifier of the season. I’d been close in the other two I’d managed to get to, losing in the final and the semi’s.
All in all, my ability to make the top 8 of PTQs and fail to close it out was starting to become a bit of a running joke, was today finally going to be the day I did it? (as the title suggests I obviously did, but suspend your disbelief for now and this will hopefully be fun reading).
In a break from the norm I had decided not to go out on the lash Friday night and was tucked up in bed around midnight under strict instruction from Barney Menzies (my sponsor) to be prepared.
To say I play a bit of limited Magic is probably an understatement, I draft most evenings and play most of the day on Sundays/Mondays, my days off work. The day before the PTQ I had done 3 drafts on the ‘less than optimal’ MTGO Beta client, and then in the 2 days after the PTQ I’ve done 12 more online and 1 at my LGS.
People often complain that limited (sealed especially) is very luck based. Whilst its true that there is variance in the power/quality of the packs you open there its LOADS you can do to alleviate this. Sadly a lot of it has been said again and again, and that is practise, practise, practise. This can be very expensive but Rich Hagon has spoken many times about how to get 150+ hours of limited play from a single box of boosters if you’re willing to put a little more effort in.
Anyway, back to the tournament.
8 of us travelled from Chimera Nottingham to play in Manchester, Greame McIntrye (writer for this very site), Matthew Light (generally considered an at least reasonable player but a little rusty and limited isn’t his forte without a lot of practise), Barney Menzies (could be a good player but spends most of his time trading instead), Daniel Entwistle, Andrew Keeling, Mark Hollowell and Matthew Garrett are all up and coming new players from the LGS who have been brought around to my way of thinking that has created a huge limited scene locally.
We draft on Mondays (2 or 3 8 man pods) and in PTQ season we run sealed sessions too, there is always at least 1 draft pod at FNM and people have even started running impromptu drafts whenever we can get 8 people together. I think you’ll start seeing more and more Nottingham players around the top tables of limited events in the future.
We went through the usual registration and passing process and got down to building. I quickly got my choices down to 3 colours. White I was certain I’d be playing. I had Heliod a bunch of solid creatures and a couple of tricks.
The real decision was my support colour. It was either Blue or Green, both had a selection of solid cards but nothing totally outstanding. After reviewing the cards as an overall I started to look at what specifics I had (bestow men/removal/tricks) and I was a little disappointed.
I had 3 Bestow creatures in my entire pool and Bestow is an incredibly strong mechanic, I had removal a plenty in black but had nothing playable after Asphyxiate, Sip of Hemlock and Feast of Dreams and my only enchantment removal of any sort was a Kiora’s Dismissal.
Given this less than impressive news I decided that I needed to go Blue as support because this at least gave me a bevy of fliers to hopefully get me to victory.
Blue card with flying
Blue card with flying
Blue card with flying
Blue card with flying
White card with flying
I could list them all but this is basically all that mattered all day. The interaction between Heliod and the Harvestguards won me at least 3 matches possibly more.
Round 1 – FIGHT!
Round 1 – James Rayner
James was the guy who beat me in the Semi final last time in Sheffield, obviously he had lost the final as he was here against me in round 1.
Game 1 displayed one of the massive problems my deck was going to have, if something came down it was down for good :( He made a turn 4 Flame-Wreathed Phoenix and I had 1 card that could get it off the board that didn’t cost 7, it didn’t happen and I was 1 down. Not a promising start for our hero.
Game 2 he didn’t see it and my fliers easily got there and game 3 was the first of many Heliod/Harvestguard games. He made his Phoenix but I had the combo down so could just block and make a cleric, thus stopping my flying blocker from dying and as soon as I reach 8 mana and am making 2 2/1’s a turn the game is over very quickly.
Round 2 – Jim Corwood
I’ve known Jim for years now and feel he doesn’t reach his potential, or possibly I just think he’s better than he actually is :P
Game 1 starts off reasonable well with me making some little men but struggling for land, then Jim makes some of the many rares he was playing and just takes over, again my lack of removal meaning once I’m behind its really difficult to get back.
Game 2 Jim doesn’t really get going and my fliers make short work of him.
Game 3 was a lesson for me. I’m in a reasonably good position and happily attacking for bits of damage here and there. The ground is pretty clogged up but I’m nibbling with a naked Akroan Skyguard.
Jims Polukranos has dealt with my control options and he’d managed to get me down to 8 but my Heliod guys clear up a load of his guys and I can reload a couple more as and when. I tap my Skyguard to attack Jim down to 2 and make a Horizon Scholar to lock up the game, or so I think.
I survive and attack him with my Skyguard and a very helpful passing judge points out that Heliod gives my guys Vigilance and shouldn’t be tapped (thanks judge dude), horrifying realisation come over me as I realise my 1/1 should have been able to chump and my 4/4 would have killed him.
Instead I put Jim to 1 thinking he’ll die in his upkeep and thanking my lucky stars that I’m still going to win even though I’ve punted massively (earlier in the game I hadn’t attacked with my Mastiff into his 1/2 because I wanted it to tap a guy on his turn).
At the end of turn Jim consigns the herald to dust and draws a card. Taps his lands and casts Aerial Formation with strive on enough guys to kill me. I lose the round but at least now I will NEVER forget that Heliod gives my guys vigilance
Round 3 – Thomas Morrisey
This round was over really quickly as in both games I construct the Heliod/Harvestguards combo by turn 4 and his deck has basically no outs to it. I sort of felt sorry for him as he seemed to really want to play Magic but whilst usually I’m quite happy to play loads of games at a PTQ I just want to play my rounds and then relax between rounds and if I finish quickly and can go and get fresh air or refreshment I will be doing that rather than playing some games for fun.
Round 4 – Russel Anderson
Game 2 displayed a different benefit to having such combinations of cards in your deck as I had a couple of fliers out and then drew and played my Harvestguards.
I didn’t have Heliod in play but my opponent chose to kill the guards as he knew it was something he would struggle to deal with. What it did mean though was that he couldn’t remove my fliers and they whittled him down over 4 turns.
I don’t know if killing the Harvestguards then was correct or if he should have dealt with my fliers and maybe hoped that I don’t see my Heliod or that he is sufficiently ahead for it to not be a problem.
Round 5 – David Whyte
David is a great guy based in Wales and trying his best to improve whilst not having access to a great number of players at or above his level. This sparked a discussion between us and Lian Pizzey and his opponent about the general quality of Magic players in England and what, if anything, can be done to improve it as a whole.
I rather cheekily asked David if he thought he deserved the moniker of ‘good‘ and I think this may have offended him as he played exceptionally all match.
Game 1 he took me apart in short order making some massive green men and taking full advantage of my limited ability to remove them from the board.
Game 2 was quite one sided with me taking huge chunks out of his life total with quick heroic creatures and targeted spells.
Game 3 was a race game where it turned out my decision to wait on playing my Lagonna-Band Elderuntil I had an enchantment being a vital play as I won the game on 3 life.
Round 6 – Sam Martin
Sam is well known for being a trader of Magical cards but is also a reasonably solid player.
Game 1 of this was a bit of a weird one. Sam played ">Riptide Chimera and from turn 5 onwards paid its upkeep by returning and replaying a cheap enchantment that drew a card changing its upkeep to 2 – draw a card. Given how little removal I had I was feeling quite down about this as Sam pulled further and further ahead in cards.
I had drawn my ">Fated Retribution and was trying to work a situation where I could manufacture some semblance of card advantage to get myself back in the game but I was applying so little pressure that Sam was able to just keep his Chimera back on defence and draw 2 cards a turn.
What I was unaware of though was that Sam was holding 5 lands and had drawn 1.66 lands a turn for 6 turns so when I eventually cast the Retribution with what I thought was a good enough hand to give me a start he really didn’t have much going on and I beat him quite quickly.
Game 2 I found out he had a Heliod of his own and also had the Harvestguards to combo with it but also had the Riptide Chimera to combo with it too which pushed him passed me.
Game 3 was a massive anti-climax as Sam stuck on 2 land and I beat him with my reasonable draw. I’ll take what wins I can get, especially against much better decks
Round 7 – Mark Riley
Due to there being just short of 4500 people all on 19 points IDing wasn’t an option, so everyone who wasn’t X-0 or X-0-1 had to play a win and in.
Game 1 was awful for me as I drew nothing but plains and after my opening hand (which only had white spells in) I drew nothing but blue spells and whilst I was fighting the good fight with my 3 spells and 4 plains his Spawn of Thraxes incinerated half of my creatures and I called it a game.
Game 2 started equally impressively as I shipped a 1 lander into a 0 lander. As I was shuffling up for my mulligan to 5 Mark said he was sorry, I explained it wasn’t his fault and these things happen. He said he wanted to win a proper game of Magic and not beat up on me, this steeled my resolve and I knew I was going to win, I don’t know why and definitely can’t explain it but I just knew I’d win this game.
My 5 cards were a couple of land and some cheap castable creatures. I got a bunch of early damage in getting him to 13 and then he attacked me to 5. I Sudden Stormed his guys and this allowed me to get 2 big hits in winning me the game. I knew it!
Game 3 was a doozy. I started slowly and struggled again for Islands but managed to get a few little hits in to get him to 16 but he had played a Two-Headed Cerberus and enchanted it with Ordeal of Heliod I was quickly down to 7 life and he was back up to 26. Luckily I topdecked my Excoriate before I had to start chumping his lethal dog.
The game went into a lull and we both drew cards and did very little with a couple of trades in the red zone. He drew Spawn of Thraxes to kill my remaining guy and attacked me for 1, I was on 6 and it wasn’t looking great. I knew I had at least 1 more turn as I had Sudden Storm.
I drew Heliod, played it and passed the turn.
Mark eagerly drew, played Everflame Eidolon on his guy and attacked, I slowed his roll and tapped his guys before they could deal me lethal, my scry…
I’d forgotten that was my out.
I left it where it was and passed back to Mark. I couldn’t cast it on my turn for the Scry as the Eidolon would drop off and kill me. So Mark drew, passed the turn and I killed everything in his end step.
Thank God Heliod is Indestructible (see what I did there!). I untapped drew a Chorus of the Tides and started pumping out 2/1 Clerics. Turns out when you know all your men have vigilance and can attack and block you get a really quick clock so even from 26 he was dead in 4 turns.
The Top 8
So, another top 8, 3 for 3 in this seasons PTQs that I’d attended. This top 8 consisted of a few people I knew too. I’d discussed at length what had been going wrong in my drafts at previous top 8’s and I think I had been trying to be clever rather than drafting what was open and being fluid to the cards, as Bruce Lee said…
“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
I think I had been crashing and not flowing and it had hampered my decks.
I started my draft with a Pharika, God of Affliction. Not quite Keranos but in colours where you can definitely play towards her if you want to and I’d been seeing more and more that Green was being under drafted in Theros block.
I took green cards that worked well with my powerful mythic early on but felt like I might be struggling for black and was trying to work out where I should be moving to when I got a 6th pick Feast of Dreams, I may be over valuing this card but it definitely felt like a sign that at least a couple of guys to my right weren’t in Black so I should be able to stick on my Green/Black plan.
I had taken multiple of the green common Constellation creature and also got 3 of the 1/1 that you can sacrifice to get a 1/3 Reach Enchantment Spider for great synergy and picking up a pair of the 1/3 black two drops that mill both players for 3 late on in the pack was something the deck really appreciated.
Journey into Nyx was a great booster for me and nearly half of my decks cards came from it. I’ve already said how powerful I think bestow creatures are and my first pick in Born of the Gods has been a hot discussion topic recently between some of our playgroup.
I think if played correctly, cards like Noble Quarry can be some of the most devastating effects available. Sadly BotG was far less kind to me and I managed to pick up only a few actually ‘good‘ cards and was really hoping that Theros would allow me to cut the multiple Warchanter of Mogis I was currently looking at playing in hope of turning on the Mogis, God of Slaughter I’d picked up when the packs had been dry.
I ended up playing only 5 cards from Born. Noble Quarry, Spiteful Returned, Asphyxiate, Swordwise Centaur and Servant of Tymaret. Theros rounded out my deck nicely with Nessian Asp, Blood Toll Harpy and Insatiable Harpy being the most notable.
Quarter Final – Lewis Marchbank
I’ve seen Lewis around a bunch but couldn’t remember if he’d been making the cut or not, he’d drafted a mono red aggro deck hoping to make use of Sunchasers and pump spells.
This match up was, I feel, massively in my favour as I had a bunch of cheap, high toughness blockers and my late game would just overpower him with the fact I was playing both Cutthroat Maneuvers and Cruel Feeding being the icing on the cake.
Both games went very similarly with me making Renown Weavers early on and sacrificing them to make 1/3 reach me with which to block his 1/1 and 2/1 attackers before I played a Nessian Asp to completely shut down any hope of dealing damage he had.
Semi Final – Lian Pizzey
Lian has played in over 120 PTQs, this is more than you! I don’t care who you are, you haven’t played 120+ PTQs. He’s been around forever, looks like a pirate, has been on the pro tour and spent time living on a boat.
Lian is awesome.
Currently I am very biased as to how good I think ">Renown Weaver is, this is because I had 3 of them and they did so much work for me.
In this match they worked as multiple blockers by elegantly jumping in front of oncoming giant green men before wandering to the graveyard to be replaced by little spiders that would next turn jump in front of said oncoming giant green men.
The game was going Lians way until Strive showed how powerful it can be allowing me to take a bunch of damage but getting a big attack in that was fueled by some exceptionally ">Cruel Feeding that created a 26 point life swing that changed the complexion of the game such that Lian couldn’t afford to attack and my deathtouch guys slowly ate enough of his men that he was insufficiently defended.
Game 2 was won by ">Noble Quarry and Lian’s inability to interact with it. I hit him for a bit, then attached noble quarry to a guy to get another hit for 5 in putting him to 9 and two turns later I had more than enough power to mean that as long as he couldn’t kill the Quarry he was dead, I was a little worried as he started tapping mana but the smile on his face gave him away as he cast the various pump spells in his hand to simply increase how dead he was.
Final – Rob Catton
Rob is a good players from the Leeds area, he’s qualified for the Pro Tour starting this weekend and was looking to make it two on the bounce. He had been in the best seat in the draft as he was flanked on either side by the weakest players and as such had been given what is known as ‘A MASSIVE HOOK UP‘ and from what I had been told his deck was foolishly good (triple Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Doomwake Giant, Silence the Believers).
Great, just what I needed.
Game 1 was a bit of a strange one with neither of us doing much. I made a Pharika but had nothing to do with it and Rob just made a little guy and attacked a bit with it. I managed to get a snake and they traded off, and he got his Spiteful Returned back with an Odunos River Trawler, that was forced to block a snake by my Goldenhide Ox (which died) and my next snake was Bestowed with the power of a Noble Quarry but it was then Cast into Darkness making it a rather toothless 0/2 that couldn’t block.
When his next monster came to play I gave a +1/+1 counter to said snake (essentially giving it a venomous tooth) and vanquished that foul beastie too. My Pharika had gained me a bunch of advantage that meant I was ahead on board and looking in a reasonable position.
Rob cast a couple of creatures and the board was looking like it might start clogging up which would give him a massive advantage as his late game was so strong. Then he made a simple mistake that can easily happen, especially at the end of a long tournament. The card ">Nyx Infusion is rarely used as a +2/+2 to my creature card and more often used to just off your opponents smaller men.
My Noble Quarry was looking like my only realistic way of winning as the game progressed so Rob cast it to off my small man, sadly my Prized Unicorn was bestowed its power by the gods of Theros making it an enchantment.
Robs mistake here handed me the first game as I could next turn attack into his 2/3 with my now 3/3 Quarry and he couldn’t come back from such a turn of events.
Rob rallied well and was not fazed by his slip in the first game and in game 2 showed me what his deck was capable of making a flurry of quick creatures and splashing removal spells around as if they were going out of fashion even taking time to comically double check my Staunch-Hearted Warrior wasn’t in fact and enchantment before killing it with Nyx Infusion.
So this was it, game 3, the decider. My opening hand was quite good, It had lands of both colours, some cheap creatures and even some removal. Rob kept his hand of 3 land, the life gain ram, Nyx Infusion, a little guy and a Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
The game started with a little back and forth but that ram was proving a pain in my side as it blocked half my team and halved the damage from my other attacker, sadly for Rob he had failed to find a 4th land.
When he Nyx Infused his ram to completely shut down my attack I feasted upon its dreams and this was a crushing blow, Rob would need to find some land and fast. My hand was pretty much empty now but I had a huge board presence in comparison.
Rob looked at his drawn card, flashed me the 3 Gray Merchant of Asphodels in his hand and shook my hand.
So that was it, I’d finally managed to win a PTQ for the first time in over 3 years. The final game was a bit of a let down but as I said earlier, in a PTQ I’ll take any wins I can get, you always need a bit of luck.
Its now onto the Modern PTQ season then 8 set standard for the Pro Tour and I need to knuckle down and change from my hours and hours of limited to actually practising constructed.
TL:DR – Went to PTQ, won it! wOOp wOOp
Thanks for reading,