House of Bricks Regional PTQ Testing – Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge by Graeme McIntyre

House of Bricks Regional PTQ Testing – Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge by Graeme McIntyre

“Never wrestle a pig; you’ll get dirty, and the pig will enjoy it.”
— George Bernard Shaw

The first Regional PTQs took place last weekend. Hot on the heels of GP Krakow the weekend before, and the Pro Tour the weekend before that. What was clear from the Pro Tour and the Grand Prix, was that Esper Dragons was the new Abzan: the default best deck and the measure of all other decks in the format. The first question before our testing group (comprised of Matt Light, David Inglis and myself, as well as Nick Ball, Ross Jenkins and Oli Bird, joining us from Lincoln, Arbroath and Dublin, respectively) was: “Are we going to play Esper Dragons, or something that beats it?” and the second was: “How do we gain an edge in the mirror? What actually beats it?”.

More specifically, we tested the following for the mirror:

In the sideboard

[draft]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Risen Executioner
Stratus Dancer[/draft]

In the maindeck

[draft]Pearl Lake Ancient
Liliana Vess[/draft]

Lines of play

  • Not countering card draw spells
  • Various configurations of removal spells

For the “other decks” question we looked at Bant and Mono-Red, and would have tried RG Dragons but ran out of time.


I met David Inglis at 11am, and tested till 6pm. We played 15-20 game ones of the Esper mirror, with me not countering card draw spells, and 10 game ones against the Mono-Red deck. I’d played about 100 games with the deck the previous two weeks preparing for regional pptqs, and wanted to impress upon everyone early how bad game one of this matchup was.

By the end of the evening I was pretty concerned that the mirror was complicated – not about a simple thing like not countering card draw – and that it would require a lot of time-consuming games to work out.


I met Ross Jenkins at the station at 1.30, and Nick Ball, David and Matt Light were waiting outside my house at 2pm. We played 10 Esper mirrors and 20 games of Esper vs Bant, before I left to meet Oli Bird for dinner with David and Ross – while Nick and Matt played various Bant matchups. When we got home at 9.30, we played some more mirror matches as well as some Atarka Red deck games before going to bed at midnight.

By the end of this evening I had pretty much ruled Bant out as it didn’t have particularly great results against Esper, and it remained to be seen how it did vs the rest of the decks. We already knew Esper was pretty good against everything.


We took the train out to Beeston arriving at 1pm or so, and played till 7pm. Oli and Nick played various Atarka Red deck matchups for the majority of the day, while Ross and David played the Esper mirror, and I worked on both pre- and post-board Esper vs Bant with Matt. They continued to play till about 11, while I had gone home early to spend some time with Kirsty, my fiancé.

By the end of this evening I think we were pretty much all set on the decks we played at the event – Ross, Matt, David and I on Esper, Oli and Nick on Red), and were looking to iron out sideboarded games the next day.


We started testing at 10am and played till about 7pm. Then we BBQed some food and worked out the last few things we needed to sort: the differences between what each of us expected to play and so on. After eating, we played another 2 hours and went to bed at 10pm.

By the end of this evening, we had a pretty strong grasp of the mirror, and had agreed on a 75-card list without any argument.

Esper Dragons

Silumgar, the Drifting Death
Dragonlord Ojutai
Liliana Vess
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Foul-Tongue Invocation
Hero’s Downfall
Ultimate Price
Bile Blight
Crux of Fate
Dig Through Time
Silumgar’s Scorn
Temple of Enlightenment
Temple of Deceit
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Caves of Kolios
Dismal Backwater
Haven of the Spirit Dragon
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth


Dragonlord’s Prerogative
Risen Executioner
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Bile Blight
Drown in Sorrow
Dragonlord Silumgar
Hero’s Downfall

Looking back at the questions we asked, we came to the following conclusions.

In the sideboard

[draft]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Risen Executioner
Stratus Dancer[/draft]

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver – This card was too low impact, unless it went all the way. It rarely did. After sideboarding the deck was actually quite threat dense, and Ashioks were easily attacked.

Risen Executioner – This took care of Ashiok pretty easily, and in the long games (e.g. the vast majority) it slowly grounded the other guy down, providing a great inevitable win condition.

Stratus Dancer – Just as Negate is suspiciously absent from control sideboards at the moment, this card also never made it. Planeswalkers aren’t especially good at the moment, one of the best card draw spells is uncounterable, and the mirror tends to be about building a perfect hand.

In the maindeck

[draft]Pearl Lake Ancient
Liliana Vess[/draft]

Pearl Lake Ancient – This card just isn’t what it once was in the Control mirror. It’s probably got a lot to do with the fact that Dragonlord Ojutai puts games away really fast. This guy costs 7 mana, protecting him requires returning 3 land, and paying 7 mana again to cast…

Thoughtseize – We played an extra one, and it was very good. This card is very important in the mirror.

Liliana Vess – Liliana Vess is a card each of us thinks of fondly, because it was excellent and a bit unusual in our Mardu list from the MSI event (which we were very successful in) and the Abzan deck Matt and I made five Top 8s between us with last season. We waited till last to test it, because we were worried it was wishful thinking. It’s bonkers in this deck too, though. 10/10, would play again.

Lines of play

Not countering card draw spells – The mirror is really complicated in that you’re matching off cards a bit like in a game of chess. Would I trade a rook for a bishop? Normally, no – but sometimes I definitely would. Equally, I’d counter a card-drawing spell sometimes, but other times I’d let it go. If I was unsure, I would tend towards countering, but I strongly advise against rules of thumb for this one. There is a reason we put as much time into the mirror as we did.

Various configurations of removal spells – We chopped and changed loads, but only on the morning of the event we did stop playing the third Downfall, and settled on the configuration above.

dragonlords prerogative


Round 1 – I win a mirror matchup by the skin of my teeth due to time constraints. David loses, Matt draws, Ross wins, Nick wins, Oli loses.

Round 2 – I win a challenging game against Red Green Dragons, in which I Thoughtseize every game, look at a hand that appears to be pretty dead, only to be hit by the worst card possible every turn for the rest of the game. But ultimately I squeak it. David loses, Matt loses, Ross wins, Nick wins, Oli loses.

Round 3 – I lose 1-2 to a Polish player (on Esper) who might be a little worse than me, or might be a little better – but he definitely has a strong draw in game three. Matt gets a concession, Ross loses, Nick loses.

I’m 2-1. Matt 1-1-1. Ross 2-1. Nick 2-1.

Round 4 – I win against Abzan Aggro, while my opponent mulligans to 5 in game three. Matt gets a concession, Ross gets his second loss, Nick wins.

Round 5 – I beat Steven Murray with Liliana game one, lose to a topdecked Ugin game two, and win when he stalls on 2 land in game three. Matt wins, Nick loses for the second time.

Round 6 – I win what I think is a win-and-in to a Cyprian player on Mono-Red, who stalls on 1 land in game 3. Matt wins.

I’m 5-1. Matt 4-1-1.

Round 7 – Turns out my tiebreakers are pretty bad and I need to play. Unfortunately, I play pretty poorly in a mirror against a Greek opponent who I am confident was better than me by a meaningful margin. I finish 10th. Matt wins and ends 9th.

We got loads of stuff, which dulls the disappointment a little, but ultimately that’s not why either of us was there. Pretty gutting. I’ve had a lot of similar performances since I’ve moved here, and I’d pretty much just like to get on to the Pro Tour again now.

But that’s life.


We did well in some ways. I think we had an excellent list of Esper for the event, and that Matt and Ross at least had an excellent understanding of the mirror. We had a great sideboard, too. There were no random cards that we just took a punt on in there. Each card had a place, which had been considered and reconsidered at length. We all knew the score with the matchups we tested, and we didn’t get caught out by anything.

Personally, I think I should have made sure I played a little bit more of the mirror. The count of games I played and how much Ross and Matt played seems to represent a meaningful difference. I was pretty unlucky in my 7th round, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I felt a little out of my depth and that I am unhappy with the skill level at which I played.

Overall though, we got together some of the best players in the country and did some pretty serious work. I personally was involved for 33 hours, and played for perhaps 25 of those, watching the remainder. It came very close to putting one or two of our six-man team in to a position to take one of four slots. I felt pretty optimistic about the event coming out of it, although obviously disappointed. Seeing that our even was the 4th largest with 109 people, I foresee changes which can only make it better for me…

… but that’s for the next article! Until then, all the best, as always.

Graeme McIntyre

Community Question: How do you test for PPTQs?

How do you test for PPTQs

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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'm in the proccess of writting a Sociology PhD application, with the intent of starting in January 2017. I was born In Scotland, but moved to Nottingham two years ago, seeking new oppertunities both academic and magical. I play regularly with David Inglis, Matt Light and Neil Rigby. I've been on 5 Pro Tours and European Championship, but what I really bring to the table is experience. I've played 136 Pro Tour Qualifiers, 18 Grand Prixs, 11 National Championships, 11 World Magic Cup Qualifers, 34 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.