PPTQ in Incheon, Korea: Report

It’s been almost half a year since the report I wrote about SCG Richmond in August. Sadly, the was the last significant event I played in, thanks to how hectic moving to Korea was and how my schedule has worked out. Before moving, my intention was to play a lot and write a lot about the Korean MTG scene, however my job prevents me from attending FNM and it’s been hard finding time or money to play weekends. But, today (or for the US, last night), I got to play my first PPTQ in Korea (with my fiancé cheering me on). Hopefully I’ll do more of these before long. Anyway, let’s get into it.

Overall

Game-face on, ready to get on the subway and rep TEG 9,000 miles away

I’m pleased with the results. I picked a deck I liked the style of (anyone who knows me can probably guess the deck without reading further), and I changed some cards based on what’s been being played and what I expected to see. I expected to play a lot of the most recent top 8 decks. Despite it not being successful in the last two weeks, I went with U/W Approach. There were 30 people in attendance, and I went 3-0-1 in Swiss before drawing into the top 8 in fourth place.

It’s honestly amazing they fit 30 people into this small store.

Round 1: Win 2-0 versus Grixis Energy, 1-0  match record

Game one went exactly as it should have. He didn’t have any early threats, and his hand was all removal. He sunk two Vraska’s contempt into killing my Dovin Baan through counter magic, just because I drawing cards.  He finally got down The Scarab God, and I tapped out for Approach of the Second Sun. He swung in for 5 irrelevant points of damage, and I targeted myself with Ipnu Rivulet. He conceded, unable to do anything before the Arrival of the Second Sun.

Why kill it when you can play  Why kill it when you can play “win the game” instead?

In game two, I had no early removal where he had double Glint-Sleeve Siphoner into Rekindling Phoenix and Dream Stealer. My turn 4 Glimmer of Genius found a copy of Approach of the Second Sun to go with the one already in my hand. I played Regal Caracal to get in front of his creatures on turn 5, and used turn 6 to search for another land and set up my Search for Azcanta to flip. Turn 7 I cast the first Approach, and then on turn 8 I hit his Torrential Gearhulk with Jace’s Defeat when he tried to stop the second Approach of the Second Sun.

Round 2: Win 2-0 versus Grixis Energy (again), 2-0 match record

Game one was even worse for my opponent in round two. His hand was also just removal spells and a Glimmer of Genius backed up by only finding 6 lands. While he could only draw and pass the turn, I cast two copies of Glimmer of Genius and kept making land drop after land drop, while looking for Approach of the Second Sun. I eventually found out, and followed it with the next turn casting Pull from Tomorrow for 6., leaving open mana in case of Supreme Will. On the next turn he has two Disallow, but I have my own Disallow and Censor that punished his missing of land drops.

It's good in basically every matchup.It’s good in basically every matchup.

Game two became a literal cat fight. He had no early interaction or creatures, so my Torrential Gearhulk got in for 5 and was joined by Regal Caracal and Company. By the time he got The Scarab God down, he killed the Regal Caracak as he dropped down to 1, and then reanimated it as a 4/4. I followed with another Regal Caracal and he followed with removal spells, bringing us even on creatures. Gideon of the Trials showed his last card was a Negate, making way for Bafflind End to remove a cat token and bring an end to the round.

Game 3: Draw 1-1 versus U/B Control, 2-0-1 match record

Anyone who knows me knows how much I abhor matches not finishing in time. My opponent spent half the time reading cards and asking the judge what something does. Somehow, despite having to interact in a foreign language and figure out what his cards were by the picture (Fatal Push FNM promo threw me for a moment since I didn’t get to earn any), I was the faster player.

Game one was a series of unfortunate draws. I drew all of my Baffling End, an Aether Meltdown, 5 lands, and no other interactive cards until I eventually drew 3 more land too late. I stopped his end step Torrential Gearhulk only to run into The Scarab God. I dropped a Fumigate after he reanimated the Torrential Gearhulk and slapped the Aether Meltdown onto The Scarab God. Despite the incredibly long clock of his 1/5, I couldn’t find anything. When his deck started becoming thin, I went for the Ipnu Rivulet plan and was immediately punished by flipping two Torrential Gearhulk into his yard. I’m not sure if I pulled the trigger on the lands too soon, here, but I was probably just going to die anyway.

Use with extreme caution.Use with extreme caution.

Game two was very long, a little frustrating, and ultimately satisfying. My opponent opened with a Deadeye Tracker on turn 2. He Supreme Willed my Glimmer of Genius on his end step, opening the way for me to play Dovin Baan. I halfway wish I hadn’t played the card, as my opponent spent forever reading it and called the judge for Oracle 3 times on this card. To be fair, my card is in English. To also be fair, you shouldn’t need to read it that many times. It’s not exactly a complicated walker. By the time he finally kills Dovin Baan,  he’s way behind on cards. I tap 7, and he’s expecting Approach of the Second Sun. When I instead laid down Nezahal, Primal Tide, our match became the feature match of the store until its conclusion.

"The The hero of Jurassic World and blue mirrors!

My copy of this card is in Korean, yet my opponent still had to read it 8 times. I’m not exaggerating – I counted. My opponent instinctively threw down his Torrential Gearhulk before he realized he couldn’t make use of the Disallow in his graveyard. We ended in a board stall because my 7/7 would die against his double-block with the Deadeye Tracker from turn 2. He tried to Vraska’s Contemplation it, so I drew my card and activated the ability. He responded with his second Vraska’s Contemplation, so I drew my card and activated the ability again. I had no cards in hand, but neither did he. Regal Caracal was met by a Disallow, but the Nezahal, Primal Tide trigger found the Negate to match. We went to turns, and on turn 1 I cast Approach of the Second Sun. On turn 3, I hit myself with Ipnu Rivulet and threw out a Glimmer of Genius. Didn’t bother fighting, because Nezahal, Primal Tide would just give me the card anyway. When it came time to resolve the second Approach of the Second Sun on turn 5, another trigger found the Jace’s Defeat to seal the deal. The Elder Dinosaur is an absolute house against control decks. According to my fiancé, it was the topic of every conversation nearby for the next 10 minutes.

Round 4: Win 2-0 versus R/B Cycling,

Disclaimer: I won the round, but I loved his deck. Game one the guy got busy early with a Vile Manifestation. Some may remember how much I loved kicking butt with this guy in my Esper Gift deck before I left the States. I was very excited to see this card. He started cycling out all of his Sweltering Suns and Razaketh’s Rites to grow his Standard Tarmogoyf. I faded his Hazoret, the Fervent and The Scorpion God with a pair of counter spells before finding a Baffling End for the 3/4. When I cast Approach of the Second Sun against an empty board, he scooped it up.

With enough cycling, it's basically Tarmogoyf.With enough cycling, it’s basically Tarmogoyf.

For game two, I was much closer. I had a slow hand with Dovin Baan, Cast Out, and double Regal Caracal. He took the planeswalker with a Duress on two. I used the Cast Out to stop his Treasure Map from flipping, and he followed it with Gonti, Lord of Luxury. Another Duress took a Fumigate I drew as he cycled two Vile Mutation to get a land. He played my Regal Caracal from Gonti, Lord of Luxury and I had to stop it with Disallow before deploying my own set of cats. He slammed The Scoprion God in response, and it didn’t go particularly well from there. A few -1/-1 counters followed by a Chandra, Torch of Defiance took the Caracal out. I managed to get Approach of the Second Sun off as my second set of cat tokens died. He dropped me to 8 with The Scarab God, Gonti, Lord of Luxury, and Chandra, Torch of Defiance threatening lethal the next turn. I went for the Ipnu Rivulet and Glimmer of Genius plan to get through the top 6 faster, and he forced a shuffle with Field of Ruin. I didn’t find it on the scry 2, but a miracle draw for turn led to both my opponent and the judge extending the hand for good game.

Round 5: Intentional Draw with a Mono-Red player to make top 8, finish Swiss rounds in 4th at 3-0-2.

Quarterfinals: Lose 1-2 versus Mono-Red

Game one went long. He started the game with a Shock to the face after seeing my Irrigated Farmlands for turn one. Between some hasty creatures and Lightning Strike, I quickly found myself low. I managed to Supreme Will his Hazoret the Fervent and almost got him to exile his own Earthshaker Khenra from the yard by targeting his Scavenger Grounds with my Field of Ruin. I finally found a Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate before getting off Approach of the Second Sun. Unfortunately, a top deck Hazoret the Fervent was able to throw enough damage at my face.

I would be okay if they had banned this card instead.I would be okay if they had banned this card instead.

For game two, I opened with Authority of the Consuls, which was particularly good against his Kari Zev, Skyship Raider. I strung Censor and Supreme Will for his next threats before exiling the 2-drop with Baffling End. My first Gideon of the Trials got an emblem down before he found a Hazoret the Fervent. When I removed his creature and put down the second copy of the planeswalker on a clear board at 17 life, he scooped it up.

I love playing her. I hate playing against her.I love playing her. I hate playing against her.

Game three was just a nightmare. I had to mulligan into a slow hand, and proceded to draw a second and third copy of Glimmer of Genius and a copy of Torrential Gearhulk. He curved out with two Bomat Courier and Ahn-Crop Crasher into double Chandra, Torch of Defiance through my Supreme Will. The game was over quickly. I packed up, picked up my 4 prize packs, and went to eat some very subpar  떡볶이 (ddeokbokki) with my fiancé.

The Deck:

Here’s the list:

Main Deck

(60)
Aether Meltdown
Baffling End
Censor
Pull from Tomorrow
Search for Azcanta
Disallow
Gideon of the Trials
Supreme Will
Dovin Baan
Cast Out
Glimmer of Genius
Settle the Wreckage
Fumigate
Torrential Gearhulk
Approach of the Second Sun
Irrigated Farmland
Glacial Fortress
Aether Hub
Ipnu Rivulet
Scavenger Grounds
Field of Ruin
Arch of Orazca
Island
Plains

Sideboard

(15)
Authority of the Consuls
Essence Scatter
Jace’s End
Negate
Search for Azcanta
Ixalan’s Binding
Regal Caracal
Torrential Gearhulk
Nezahal, Primal Tide

I picked this deck partly because I love the style, and partly because I expected to see a lot of Grixis Energy, Mardu Vehicles, and Mono-Red at the event. Two of those decks have enough removal to be stuck with dead cards, and the other I still think is a very winnable match-up, despite being the deck that I lost to in the top 8.

I like Baffling End, and I don’t like it. I don’t always have a sweeper available, and honestly, tapping out on my turn instead of holding Censor up and reacting feels bad. Also, despite playing 6 sweepers, you aren’t always guaranteed to find a Settle the Wreckage or Fumigate to use on the big name cards either. There are cards like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner that can’t be allowed to stay on the battlefield, but there are plenty of cards like Glorybringer or Rekindling Phoenix that need to me stopped but don’t necessarily have to die. I think in the future I’d like to switch to three copies of Aether Meltdown, and maybe even make a cut somewhere else for another one. It also has the benefit of making Aether Hub better for the mana base.

As for the planeswalkers, I liked them and think going up to three was correct. I included Dovin Baan after playing him in different versions of the 4-color control list that won the week one SCG Open for Amonkhet. He and Gideon of the Trials work well together in that against aggressive decks they can force your opponent to over-commit into one of your 6 sweepers and provide significant effective life gain. The fact that both are useful against other control decks is just icing on the cake. Gideon of the Trials can actually clock your opponent or make you immune to their Approach of the Second Sun in the mirror, while Dovin Baan becomes a no-mana, repeatable source of card draw if they don’t remove him. Glimmer of Genius is nice, but so is drawing 4 cards over 5 turns for a one-time 4-mana investment.

I really liked Field of Ruin, not only because it’s good at getting rid of their utility lands, but because it’s also a colorless utility land that doesn’t have to be. I had a couple instances today where it was nice to just cash it in on turn 3 if my opponent had a slow start by hitting one of their duals to make my mana a little nicer.

Going Forward with the Deck

The only cards I’m not sold on so far are having three Cast Out in the main with two Ixalan’s Binding in the sideboard. Moving forward, I could probably cut one binding for something else to help shore up the mono-red matchup or put something better mainboard in place of one of the Cast Out. That might be where I’d find space for an extra Aether Meltdown.

I think U/W Approach should honestly see better results than what it has been. Going forward, if the mid-range decks like Grixis Energy maintain popularity, I definitely think this is the deck to be on. Your game ones are so good when they’re drawing dead card after dead card, but the deck comes with the difficulty of evaluating risks. It’s hard to know exactly how much you have to sometimes let your opponent punch you in the face to be able to piece together the win, and I think that is the primary reason it wasn’t successful last week.

What’s Next?

Unfortunately, PPTQs are not as common in Korea, because the game isn’t big enough. There are three scheduled between now and the beginning of April, and two of them are sealed. But, there are smaller weekend tournaments sometimes. As my fiance is learning the game and enjoying it more (she won her first commander game against me by figuring out the Exquisite Blood/Sanguine Bond combo), I’ll be able to start hitting these more often. Hopefully I’ll be able to start writing some more reports or maybe even something about the other aspects of MTG. I know for a fact that I simply need to get back into the game out here. I can honestly say I miss hanging out and playing the game with everyone back at TEG more than I miss my own mother. It’s not that I don’t love her, but Magic is often such a big part of our social lives, not having access to it while I’ve gotten sorted out here has been pretty rough. Until next time!

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