PTQ’ing for Dummies – There’s a First Time For Everything by David Hassell

PTQ’ing for Dummies – There’s a First Time For Everything by David Hassell

I’ve been wondering lately what the difference is between playing a PTQ and turning up at my local store to play 5 rounds of Modern on a Friday night. Sure, there are more rounds, and more people… but that’s pretty much it right?

Well, as they say, there’s one way to find out.

Before I knew it I was off to my first ever PTQ on the 27th of July, and I had no idea what to expect. I knew that it’d probably be a bit more intense than the usual kitchen-table stuff, but other than that, I was clueless. So, I picked up my deck and set off merrily on my way.

Here’s the story of my day.


Early Starts

Alarm ClockIt’s 5.30am, and I’m leaving my home to make the drive down. I’m expecting to hit Milton Keynes by 9am, with a start time of 10am. Before I can hit the open road, though, I need to pick up a couple more players on the way. The people making the trip in our car had mixed experience on the PTQ scene:

  • Me. I’ve played a lot of Modern, but no PTQs. Total newbie.
  • A couple of guys who have played a lot of MTG, been to PTQs, but not played much Modern. Moderately experienced.
  • Rob Catton, who we all thought had a good chance of Top-8ing. He’s played in a bunch of PTQs, and has even won a few. He also streams with his UWR modern deck fairly regularly, if you want to check it out — hit follow and you’ll get notified when he’s going live.

With all our expectations discussed, and the journey ticking along nicely, disaster struck. Traffic. We weren’t moving at all, so we got out of the car to see what had happened.

There had been an accident, and the M1 was being closed, leaving us somewhat stick. Phone calls were being made and mobile phone apps being checked, but they were predicting the road to reopen at 12:30 (i.e. in 4 hours’ time).  And we were still an hour away. With the event starting at 10am, needless to say we gave up hope and started to discuss what else we could do with the afternoon.

At 12.30pm we finally got moving, set off back home, and decided to never PTQ again.

That would make a bad article, right? Luckily for us, we got moving again. We were behind schedule, but with a bit of Lewis Hamilton-style driving we managed to arrived at 10.30. A mad rush followed, but we managed to get to our seats before the 10 minute match-loss mark — we were given a game loss, but salvaged the opening round. We all felt like we’d won, just for having actually got there. That feeling didn’t last so long, but it was nice while it lasted.


The Tournament

amuletI had brought along Amulet Combo (you can read my article on the deck itself here). I wasn’t that confident, because its poor matchups (BGx) seemed popular at the minute, and I felt like I was bound to see it on the day, but I had experience with the deck and very little else to choose from… so I tweaked the sideboard a little and prepared myself for a tough day

As the day went on, we all seemed to be doing fairly well. There was a large group of us on 3-1 and 4-0, and thoughts were turning to the top 8 — I was 4-0 and feeling great about it. The room was packed, everyone wanted to discuss MTG, and everyone wanted to showcase their decks. It was a really good atmosphere with a welcome competitive edge with plenty of banter to back it up.

Then it happened – I quickly turned the 4-0 into 4-3. I found the bad matchups I was dreading, as well as a couple of good players. My top 8 shot was gone, as was my positive mood about the deck I tried to keep spirits high, aided by the local sandwich shop, but the competitive edge was starting to disappear for me.

By this point the people still in the tournament were there for the experience, learning their decks, and having fun, so the winning was less important. I’d had been awake a good 12 hours too, and the mistakes were creeping into my game. I felt I had played pretty well up until this point, only losing the matches I expected to lose. I’d won some tight matches, but now my sideboarding was becoming sketchy and I was making plays to set myself back 3 turns in one go.

But, I got away with it. I finished the day 6-3, winning enough boosters to cover my entry fee. Interestingly, when winning, I didn’t drop a game, and in the matches I lost I picked up only one game win. Rob Catton was a point away from top 8, and the other guys all did pretty well too. Everyone felt positive about their experience, and everyone had had a good time.


Tournament Afterthoughts

Modern Metagame

At this point, more experienced players would want to think about the meta — what decks were popular and what they could have done differently. I played against 9 different decks in 9 rounds, and from talking to friends it sounded like the field was pretty open. Affinity seemed as popular as ever, though perhaps moreso at the middle tables, while Scapeshift turned up fairly often at the top tables. The eventual winner was Dan Royde playing Junk, so congratulations to him.

The drive back home was another long one, with us managing to get stuck in a traffic jam at 11.30pm. People in the back seat started falling asleep, but soon stopped when we “fake screamed-and-breaked” to wake them up… twice.


My Advice to Other PTQ Newbies

So, is a PTQ just a bigger tournament with more rounds? Nope! Are they worth going to? Yep! Even with some of us underperforming, we all learnt a lot about our decks, and we all had a laugh along the way. In 9 rounds, there’s enough MTG to have highs and lows, feel fatigue and bursts of energy, and even a little time to grab some food and drink. If you’re planning on attending your first PTQ (or if you’re just a little inexperienced, here’s my advice for ensuring you have a successful tournament:
PTQ guide


Thanks for reading. Please feel free to leave some comments, ‘Like’ the article and share your experiences. If I played against you at Milton Keynes, thanks for the matches. If anyone is interested in the match-ups that Amulet threw up, comment below and we’ll see about another article.

Happy gaming everyone,

David Hassell

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