I had a chance to play in a PTQ for the first time in a long time last weekend. With my travel schedule for coverage, PTQs rarely line up for me and I was pretty happy when this one did. I miss playing bigger live events, though Magic Online does get me my competitive fix. The last big live event I played was GP Salt Lake City over a month ago, and I had a good run there and was looking to crush this PTQ as well.
I love the format, and was feeling very comfortable going into the tourney.
As with many Seattle PTQs, this one was big: 309 players. 9 rounds of Swiss followed by the top 8.
I got my Sealed pool, and found a build I was comfortable with pretty quickly. It was straight Mardu, with the option to splash blue for Jeskai Ascendency. I decided against it, and my final submitted deck was this:
The main card that I had a hard time deciding on was Mardu Ascendency. I decided to leave it in the board for my Game One’s because I haven’t had much experience with it yet and because it seems quite good when you are ahead and quite bad when you are behind. I figured any slower decks, or decks running walls and such would be good targets for it.
Overall the deck was on a midrange tokens plan with three Ponyback Brigades, Trumpet Blast, and Rush of Battle.
As for the rest of the deck, well I was happy with it. I give it an 8 out of 10 or so. It had a good curve, a good plan, and enough interactive spells that I could craft the board to get where I needed to go. What more could I ask for?
I started out 5-0, and honestly didn’t meet a ton of resistance along the way. I was able to consistently craft a board state where I could not die and live long enough to flip up a Ponyback Brigade and find a mass pump spell. People made a lot of careless mistakes against me as well, but that’s the difference between playing 8-4s online all day and playing against an average PTQ field.
In Round 6 I played against Daniel Hanson. Daniel is a local player whom I have great respect for. He has Top 8’d a million Sealed PTQs in a row, across different formats. He is one of the best Sealed Deck players I know, and he’s also a good player in game so I knew my hands would be full. Sadly, I wasn’t able to give him much of a fight, as I mulliganed to 5 in the first game, missed land drops, and got properly smashed. In game 2 I died without red mana and again got destroyed.
This left me at 5-1 but still in OK shape for top 8. With 300+ people the margins are slim, and picking up a second loss means you are dead.
I won my next match off of some good draws, and found myself facing down this guy in Round 8:
Brian had a wonky Trail of Mystery deck that he didn’t really like, but that I thought was sweet. More to the point, he’s one of the best Limited players in the area, and was going to make it as difficult as possible for me to get through to the possible draw in the next round. Only one of us was going to be live for top 8 after this match.
The good news is that I don’t really get bothered or nervous about things like this. I think it’s because of my poker background where I have won and lost a ton of money on single hands. Even though I still get excited about Magic matches, it doesn’t carry the same weight for some reason.
In game one I had a really nice curve, eventually played a Ponyback Brigade and following up with a Rush of Battle to finish things off. Brian’s deck was a lot slower than mine and I was trying to capitalize on that heading into Game 2. I boarded in my Mardu Ascendency and wanted to beat down again.
This game ended up being very close, as Brian was aggressively trading morphs for my morphs. I was able to garner some value when he blocked my face-down Ponyback Brigade with morph. I flipped it up before trading, leaving me with the tokens. I knew his deck had Villainous Wealth in it, and having played that card a lot myself, I knew that X=6 was the real sweet spot for it. My goal was to pressure him enough that he didn’t have the time to maximize on it.
His goal was to keep me from doing so, hence all the aggressive trading of morphs. After he fired off his Nemesis Wave for 5 and the dust settled, I had a Highspire Mantis and a Goblin token and he had three of my creatures: Krumar Bond-Kin, Abzan Falconer, and Unyielding Krumar. On my turn, he was at 14 life, and I was at 7 or so. I had Crater’s Claws and Rush of Battle in hand, and decided that my best route to victory was to Rush of Battle now, and hit him for 5 with just the Mantis. Then I could untap, hit him again with the Mantis, and finish him off with Claws. Of course this also entailed me chump blocking with my goblin token on the 5/3 Krumar Bond-Kin.
If he had any pump or removal spell, I’d be dead. Also if he cast a flyer that could block the Mantis and I didn’t draw an untapped land, I would be essentially dead as well. But sometimes you just have to push your chips in the middle, so I did, he didn’t have removal, and I was able to Crater’s Claws for the victory.
After some help from Glenn Jones with my tiebreakers (I still suck at that somehow) it was determined that I would be able to draw into the top 8! I was very excited to draft. I have drafted this format a lot, and feel very comfortable in it. This is how my draft went:
Honestly, it didn’t go well. I liked my first few picks, but I kept waiting for a clear signal to go either Abzan or Sultai, and I never got it. My deck was a relatively solid GB build, but it was basically just creatures, a few combat tricks, and some removal. It didn’t do much, wasn’t very flexible, and was overall pretty bad. I took a couple of cards in the draft that were attempts to go Abzan or Sultai but where I may have been better off just being GB and accepting that.
I was very happy to see the Incremental Growth as it gave my deck a strong late game plan.
Here is the deck I ran:
My quarterfinals opponent was Pro Tour Magic 2015 Finalist Jackson Cunningham. Jackson made the finals of his *first* pro tour! An incredible accomplishment, and he’s a really nice dude to boot. His deck was Red White, very aggressive, and similar to mine in that it didn’t seem like a great deck. He beat me game one with Watcher of the Roost holding a Dragon Grip, followed by an Arrow Storm.
In Game 2 I beat him pretty good with a reasonable curve ending in a Incremental Growth that he couldn’t recover from.
In Game 3 I had a good draw, if a bit removal light, and had the ground game nicely stalled out. He cast Highspire Mantis and Watcher of the Roost though, and I didn’t find removal or a flyer in time and he beat me.
Felt really good to top 8 the tournament, and winning a box of KTK, a playmat, and $75.00 in Card Kingdom store credit wasn’t bad either!
Thanks to my buddy @woodrodius for sweating it out with me the whole way, and @zbeg for filming the draft on my iPhone. And of course everyone on Twitter for the support, it’s *so* cool feeling like you are fighting for a bunch of great people at these things.
We’ll get them next time. Like I told Woody after I lost; At least I get to make money at the Pro Tour this way 🙂