Magic the Tournament Grind: April 2013

Magic the Tournament Grind: April 2013

ptq-header

Greetings everyone. Quick introduction. My name is John. I’m a regular Magic player at The End Game Center and am super excited to contribute to The End Games blog. I’ve competitively played Magic off and on since Ice Age and over the years have been a part of the local community have attended a few larger events.

Every player has their strengths. Some Magic players are amazing deck builders, some are fantastic at evaluating the metagame to pick the right deck, others can just sling spells with the best of them. I’m by no means amazing at any facet of the game, however, I am probably best at just playing and quickly identifying when I’ve made a mistake (a very beneficial quality). My primary enjoyment comes from improving and the mental exercise of figuring out how to do so..

If you want to improve there is almost no substitute for attending large events. You get to play a ton of games, against a variety of decks, and often times against professional level players. Since my desire is to improve, I decided that this year I will try to attend as many large events as possible. It also helps I have a great team supporting me who happen to have pretty much any card I’d want to play and are generously willing to let me borrow them (shout out to BIG). As such, my articles will primarily revolve around my experiences at various larger Magic events such as Pro Tour Qualifiers, SCG Opens, Grand Prixs, etc. Some of these events are nice and close and others will require a decent amount of travel. Since not everyone has the opportunity to go on the tournament grind, I thought that it might be interesting to watch the growth, and hopefully success, of a hometown dude on the tournament grind.

Washington D.C. PTQ 4/21

This event was the first event on my year long schedule. I missed out on the Modern PTQ season cause I was literally snowboarding every chance I got. To be honest this event kind of snuck up on me. I was busy with my job which consumed a lot of my focus. Long story short I realized I had about a week to get ready and I needed to settle on a deck to play and test, test, test.

This standard format has been, is, and probably still will be post dragons maze, an open format. Control, midrange, aggro, reanimator, and brews are all viable and have posted real results at real tournaments.Given that, I had a variety of options when picking my deck. Going into this particular event there was a lot of buzz around the G/R aggro deck and the variant splashing black (jund aggro) and also I expected to see some reanimator, given that was still a strongly positioned deck, and the usual Jund, uwr, esper. . So what do i pick? It goes back to what many pros recommend. Play the deck you know. Play the deck you are most comfortable with. Playing a slightly poorly positioned deck well is better than a perfectly positioned deck poorly. I can not agree with this advice enough but more on that later…

My deck,

Creatures

4          Geist of Saint Traft

4          Restoration Angel

3          Snapcaster Mage

3          Thundermaw Hellkite

Spells

4          Azorius Charm

1          Boros Charm

3          Dissipate

1          Essence Scatter

2          Izzet Charm

2          Mizzium Mortars

3          Searing Spear

3          Sphinx’s Revelation

2          Think Twice

Lands

4          Clifftop Retreat

4          Glacial Fortress

4          Hallowed Fountain

1          Island

1          Moorland Haunt

2          Sacred Foundry

1          Slayers’ Stronghold

4          Steam Vents

4          Sulfur Falls

Sideboard

2          Izzet Staticaster

1          Dispel

1          Electrickery

2          Negate

2          Purify the Grave

2          Supreme Verdict

1          Assemble the Legion

1          Staff of Nin

1          Tormod’s Crypt

2          Witchbane Orb

I choose UWR Flash style deck for a essentially two reasons. It is flexible which means it generally does not have a terrible matchup  and thus when played well/correctly is a strong deck choice. But most importantly, it is a deck I know and is a deck I’m comfortable with. I’ve been playing UWR variants since Return to Ravincia came out and I feel very confident with it.

Going into the PTQ, the version that was very popular was the Boros Reckoner / Harvest Pyre version which aslo runs Augur and some other maindeck selections that I wasn’t into. In my opinion part of playing a deck you are comfortable with is making sure it fits your play-style and isn’t just netdecking what did well last week. Toward that end , I decided I wanted to play Geist of Saint Traft for no other reason that your opponent MUST answer him or else he is a huge problem. UWR has plenty of tools to protect him while he turns sideways (charms, burn, Restoration Angels, snaps to recycle all that stuff, and don’t forget just slamming a fresh Geist). If you pick Geist then you need to tune your deck you have more options to protect / clear the way for him. It makes supreme verdict less good maindeck because you’d rather not wrath your own Geist. Also while I generally don’t like Augur of Bolas for a variety of reasons I won’t go into, playing Geist gives you an excuse not to play him. You can’t afford the creature slots (rather play thundermaw as a punisher or finisher) but also you want to try and cycle cards (charms and think twice) on turn two to dig for a Geist if he isn’t in your opening hand. The goal is to be faster against other mid range and control decks (ie play the aggressor) but be able to control or race the aggro decks. This was the theory at least which was for the most part turned out to be accurate. Ideally, I would have vetted this in testing BEFORE the PTQ however…

So since this event for lack of a better phrase “snuck up” on me I didn’t have too much time to test. I got maybe two or three testing sessions which mostly involved me playing against the team’s four color land destruction reanimator brew which isn’t exactly an ideal deck to test against. I got a couple games against an aggro deck but going into the PTQ I had no real experience against current mid-range or control decks. I felt fine because I knew my deck, I was comfortable with it, it fit my style.

Tournament

roundone00

Match 1 G/W Mid-range

I started the tournament on the draw. I kept a solid hand of lands, think twice, charms and burn with a snapcaster. Within a two turns I was fairly certain what my opponent was on. Mana dorks and rancor are usually a giveaway and the turn three silverblade was a cemented what I already knew. I felt like my play was correct but when you draw lands and your opponent draws straight heat it gets difficult. I lose Game 1.

Board

-1 boros charm

-1 dissipate

+2 supreme verdict

Maindeck I felt fairly solid but since he had cavern of souls dissipate is less good. This game goes straight as planned. I kill his dork, drop a geist and ride him to victory. Burn, charms and snapcasters enabled me to protect him and my opponent could do literally nothing. Game 3 at this point I still hadn’t played thundermaw and It was definitely not on my opponents radar. I had a supreme in my hand so I took some earlier lumps and wrathed his whole board and then slammed a thundermaw. That plus a revelation that drew another revelation to keep me out of the red zone and I was…

1-0

Match 2 Prime Speaker Bant

First off my opponent was kind of a dick. You run into these types. Best thing is to not let them them get under your skin. I default to just laugh at him which I think made him mad. Second off I honestly hadn’t paid any attention to this deck because I thought, and still do think, it’s bad. He was on the play and I freely admit I got blown out game 1. Turn 2 Loxodon Smiter into Loxodon Smiter into a cavern’d Primespeaker was a problem for my burn/counter heavy hand and draws. Spearing spear does not get there against that. To quote Sam Fog “It was a wrap”

Board,

-2 dissipate

-1 Thundermaw

+2 supreme verdict

+1 Assemble the legion

I want wraths obviously. Cavern and smiter leads to shaving counters but I leave in Syncopate for earlier ramp like farseek. I don’t want him to get too ahead.. Thundermaw against such heavy hitting creatures is less attractive. The assumption is I’m going to take lumps before I gain control and having Assemble not only provides blockers but also is pure inevitability (shout out to Kreitz for the sideboard tech). My draw of Geist, counters, think twice and assemble felt fine. The earlier Geist that got a couple attacks in. My opponent tapped out to play a restoration angel during combat. I let it resolve and let him kill the Geist. Tapped out meant I could freely play my Assemble the Legion and that generated a defeated look on his face. Mizzium mortars that I drew handled the angel and my 1/1 haste soldiers ended the game quickly. Game 3 went by fast. I had 2 Geists in my opener and drew a third. I played Geist and attacked. If i didn’t have anything to protect him I’d let him die and replay another and kept swinging. I countered the Thragtusk he needed to survive. “It was a wrap”

2-0

Match 3 UWR Flash

I could probably write an entire article about the “control” mirror. Both decks have a bunch of options, which often are the same options, creating a massive game of cat and mouse and playing mind games. I LOVE IT. I felt super comfortable the entire time. I lost game one off a bad read that lead to me trying to cast a main phase revelation that got countered which meant he could main phase revelation.

Board

-1 thundermaw

-1 dissipate

-1 mizzium mortars

+1 assemble the legion

+1 dispel

+1 negate

Based on seeing Reckoner game one and my opponent discarding an Aurelia I wanted to keep in some counters for creatures. The next two games I essentially out played my opponent. I held Geists until I could protect them with counters and Assemble was also tech he had zero answers for which led to a game 2 victory. Game 3 I picked vital things to get into counter fights over and my opponent tried to bluff a snapcaster to azorius charm when I presented lethal but I went for it and it payed off.

3-0

Match 4 Aristocrats Act 2

I made a huge mistake Game 1 in which my opponent played a Falkenwrath Aristocrat with a spirit in play. I searing speared the spirit with the Falkenwrath on the stack and then took a lump when I had a resto angel that could block (I was at low life). What I should have done was spear the spirit and then make a spirit with my Moarland Haunt I completely forgot about. I would have been in a massively better position in game one with a revelation in hand. Huge lessoned learned #1 that i need to think slower and check all the options.

Boards

-1 Geist

-1 dissipate

-1 think twice

+1 Electrickery

+2 Izzet Statiscaster

I dominated game 2 by azorius charming my opponents doomed traveler over and over while he was stuck on lands. I don’t really remember game 3 but it went something like him playing Falken wrath over and over with a bunch of spirit tokens and I couldn’t kill it all. My first loss.

3-1

Match 5 UWR Flash

I was fairly unhappy I lost the previous match and when I saw UWR i felt a little cocky. We both awkwardly spent a few turn trying to get to three lands. I got the early leg up and started slamming threats but he happened to have all the counters in his deck (seriously 5). I could have taken a safer route and but opted to be ultra aggressive and it was my undoing. Lesson learned #2 patience.

Board

-1 thundermaw

-1 dissipate

-1 mizzium mortars

-1 Searing spear

+1 assemble the legion

+1 dispel

+2 negate

He seemed a little more creature light. My lesson paid off immediately. I played a Geist and protected him. Even with what would eventually be 2 thundermaws in hand. Geist was lethal by himself for several turns but since he didn’t scoop I assumed he had something. I wasn’t going to run my tundermaw into a counter just to have Geist not do the deed giving him a free turn to revelation with no way to counter it. It paid off and I won. Game 3 went a long time with me on the backfoot trying to deal with two boros reckoners. One is no problem but 2 takes some serious work and I didn’t get there. I drew a boat ton of cards but just couldn’t find an answer.

3-2

Match 6 Naya Humans Aggro

At this point I was starting to feel tired and the lack of food. It is a difficult balance to maintain. It was 4pm and I had been up since 5:30am and had only had 2 protein bars. I didn’t expect the lack of time between rounds. Lesson Learned #3 be ready for tournament day and remember to eat. My opponent dropped some cards while shuffling and I saw he was on G/R aggro or some similar aggro deck. I won game 1 playing a tight control game and then winning off a Restoration Angel.

Board

-2 think twice

-1 Boros Charm

-1 Geist of Saint Traft

+2 Supreme Verdict

+2 Izzet Staticaster

Game 2 my opponent had the ultimate nut draw. Turn 1 Champion of the Parish into Thalia into Champion plus double Boros Elite. No supreme verdict means I’m dead. Game 3 was similarly rough. I answered early threats but as it got to mid game I would play Restoration Angel and Thundermaw as blockers and every single one was met by Ghor-Clan Rampager bloodrush, all four of them. Sometimes those are the dice. I felt like I played tight and I played this match correct but godlike draws are difficult to deal with…this is still Magic.

3-3 drop

The-more-you-know

Lessons Learned

1) Think Slow

2) Patience

3) Self maintenance

Lessons 1 and 2 are related in my mind. Patience in my thinking will hopefully lead to patience in play so I play safer against decks that warrant it. I hate to try and scapegoat but I think proper testing might have helped this. A couple matches against a couple key decks I didn’t get a great chance to test against might have taught this lesson BEFORE the PTQ. No matter what I learned the lesson is learned now. I plan to implement deliberate pauses in my play to force me to review my lines of play. Lesson 3 will come in time. Learning what to snack on and how often will come to me after a couple events but being conscious of the need to proactively get ahead of the hunger curve will help.

Overall I’m happy with my performance considering my lack of testing. I did the best out of the group I went with and every match went to a game 3. I’m excited for the next event and hopefully can implement both some good testing strategies and methods to remedy my lessons learned from this event.

Moving forward I have a few weeks before my next big event (SCG Open Charlotte). During this time I’m going to test my legacy deck some as well as an awesome Grixis control deck I saw at the PTQ. Thankfully it has a lot of similar tools as my uwr deck has but with some twists and interesting sideboard options. So it isn’t a departure from my comfort zone. Odds are I’ll revert to uwr because again it is a deck I know and am comfortable with.

Til next month!

John

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