Cambridge PTQ Report

Posted on Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 by chifley
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Posted in mtg, strategy, Tournament Report

Saturday morning rolls around and I’m up bright and early to catch a train to Cambridge to play in a PTQ. With that delightful introduction out of the way, let’s take a look at my decklist:

I got this list from Charlie Grover, and it is apparently a list that he and some other English players were running in standard at Nats. The deck is a pretty simple hybridisation of the Sovereigns/Conscription package out of Mythic with the Fauna Shaman/Vengevine/Bloodbraid Elf interaction from Naya. They go together quite well, because all the acceleration in the mythic deck comes in the form of creatures (Hierarchs, Birds, Cobras, Knights) which don’t get in the way of using Bloodbraid Elf to guarantee Vengevine triggers – while at the same time, the Fauna Shaman functions as extra copies of the Sovereigns whenever that plan would be appropriate.

The manabase is quite strong, because although it is a four-colour deck, we only have 3 blue spells and 4 red spells, and the vast majority of our lands tap for the green that is most important, while access to white is pretty easy too – although it might be correct to go to a 3 Hierarch/3 Birds split as the extra red source was needed a couple of times, probably more than the extra damage from the Hierarch would be relevant.

That Briarhorn probably looks really weird, too. Originally that slot was Cloudthresher, but we found that surprising faeries with a thresher was really difficult when it required an extra green mana (Fauna Shaman activation), and there was an interesting interaction that came up in testing that made us determined to include a flash creature: basically, decks with cryptic (mostly wargate) would be tapping our team to stay alive for an extra turn, but if we had cast a cheap creature in our mainphase we could respond to the cryptic by activating a Fauna Shaman and finding the Briarhorn – Then we could let the cryptic resolve, and flash the Briarhorn to return any Vengevines in the bin so that we’d actually get an attack that turn. Briarhorn just happened to be the best cheap flash option; we couldn’t support Vendilion Clique because getting double blue was quite difficult. In hindsight, the Briarhorn was too cute and situational, and should have been something else.

The sideboard, as is so common when I play constructed, is almost all based on theory and doesn’t have much testing to back it up. The Pridemages and Deglamers are obviously for enchantments and artifacts – the Deglamer in particular is for Wurmcoil, the Finks are for Jund, Red, possibly Naya, the Paths are also for Jund and maybe Faeries, the Stags for Faeries, and the Wall mostly for Jund.

Anyway, with the decklist behind us, let’s take a look at the PTQ: we get 78 players, including quite a few of the better English players, and after your typical tournament delay we get started.

Round 1 – Guy Southcott w/ Faeries

The first game quickly becomes a race as he has Scion, Vendilion and then Mistbind while I’ve got Knight of the Reliquary and various beaters – the key turn comes when he has to Cryptic Command to stay alive and kill me next turn, tapping my team and bouncing my Raging Ravine, but I’m able to activate the Ravine then find Sejiri Steppe with the Knight to give it protection from blue and fizzle the Command.

I board out the Sovereigns and the Conscriptions as I feel it is hard too hard to land them against faeries, as well as the Baneslayer, the Teeg and the Briarhorn, and possibly a Lotus Cobra as well – when I’m taking out the entire Conscription package, I don’t feel like I have as much to accelerate into. I put in some combination of Pridemages, Stags, Deglamers and exactly one Path.

Game two he doesn’t have a very good start at all and isn’t doing much, and when he goes for the turn five Mutavault-Mistbind, I’ve obviously drawn the singelton Path I’ve brought in. Various creatures clean up.

Round 2 – Will Dunn w/ Merfolk

Game one I’ve got the nutty Hierarch, Cobra, Knight opening, which means I end turn three with a massive army on the board. I start using Fauna Shaman to turn Vengevines into Bloodbraid Elfs, and although I miss that I can Shaman for Sovereigns and protect it from Path with a Sejiri Steppe thus giving him two extra turns, I’ve still got enough to easily overwhelm him./

I don’t exactly remember how I sideboarded against him, but I know that I brought in the Stags, and I’m guessing I cut the Qasali Pridemage and the Briarhorn.

The second game he has Coralhelm Commander, Merrow Reejerey and Merfolk Sovereign. I try to set up a lethal conscription for the next turn, but he is able to level up the Commander, animate a Mutavault, and use the Merfolk Sovereign’s ability get me for lethal.

Game three and I develop my board with mana accelerants and a Fauna Shaman; when he uses his Rejeerey to tap a blocker and doesn’t leave any mana open during my turn I’m able to use the Shaman to find Sovereigns, which puts me easily far enough ahead – I was quite fortunate in that none of my cascades in the first two games had revealed either Sovereigns or Eldrazi Conscription, so Will couldn’t have known that I had the mythic package in my 75.

Round 3 – Stephen Murray w/ Naya

Game one I end quickly with an early Sovereigns, and I don’t have much of a sideboard for him – I take out the Teeg and the Pridemage and bring in a pair of Paths, before quickly losing game two after his mulligan has some Figures of Destiny and a Bloodbraid Elf while my double-mulligan kind of has nothing.

Game three I once again assembled a lethal Sovereigns before I was in much danger from his team.

Round 4 – John-Joseph Wilks w/ Tempered Steel

Game one he has a Thoughtseize and a Tidehollow Sculler to slow me down, but he is failing to find a third land to cast his various anthem effects, and I have enough time to assemble a team and bash him in while he can’t attack with much except a Court Homunculus.

I take out the Teeg, Baneslayer, Briarhorn, and one copy each of Sovereigns and Conscription to bring in the Pridemages and the Deglamers.

Game two has him again with some slight mana problems and plinking away with some dorks, before a Fauna Shaman finds a Sovereigns and takes the game away.

Round 5 – Joseph Jackson w/ Jund

Game one I’ve got a reasonably sized team, but he gets a Fauna Shaman active and I make a crucial mistake – I use the Shaman to find a Sovereigns and put him on 2, but then he untaps, plays a forest, activates the Shaman again discarding Demigod to find a third Demigod, and lethal me. If I’d just used the Fauna Shaman to find Baneslayer, I wouldn’t have died that turn and finding the Sovereigns next turn would have been good enough for lethal.

Against Jund, my main concern is the Demigods; aside from those we found it quite hard for Jund to beat us, so I take out the entire Conscription package as well as Teeg, Briarhorn and Pridemage, and bring in 3 Paths, 1 Wall, and 4 Kitchen Finks.

Game two he has a Thoughtseize for my Fauna Shaman, but I rattle a string of hits off the top of my deck and he has to have a removal spell for all of them: Shaman, Shaman, Baneslayer, and despite being able to kill them all, a Stirring Wildwood combines with a pair of Hierarchs to bring his life total down low, before a raw drawn Sejiri Steppe squeaks through the last 3 points.

Game three I don’t remember particularly well, but I’ve got a pair of Path to Exiles so I’m not going to lose to the Demigods, and various attacking creatures are hard for him to block profitably since I’ve got the exalted triggers again. Sejiri Steppe is again played from hand for the final points, although I had this one anyway.

Round 6, Round 7

Two intentional draws.

Top Eight

Top 8 contains me, two Jund, a Faeries, a Tempered Steel, a Naya, a Mythic and a UW Control. The only deck I’m explicitly scared of is the UW Control, which is both a really bad match-up for me and piloted by Dan Gardner, who if you haven’t heard is pretty good at this Magic game we play. Luckily, he is top of swiss and I’m second, so we’re in opposite halves and I get to play:

Quarterfinals – Carrie Oliver w/ Tempered Steel

Game one I lead with Hierarch and I get a fright when she leads with Windbrisk Heights; I briefly think I’m playing against GW-trap which is a probably a poor match-up for me – I say probably, because I certainly didn’t bother testing against it. Luckily a turn two Steel Overseer means she is just playing Tempered Steel, and I get a turn four Sovereigns, on the play, which is easily fast enough against her slow draw.

I side out Teeg, Briarhorn, Baneslayer, 1 Sovereigns, 1 Conscription and bring in the Pridemages and the Deglamers.

Game two I keep a hand that I should have mulliganed: 3 lands, Birds, and 3 Lotus Cobras. I draw land, land, land, Fauna Shaman, Qasali Pridemage, and I’m very quickly beaten down by a trio of Master of Etheriums and a Tempered Steel. That hand is basically me playing off the top of my deck, and if I miss on my removal and Fauna Shamans in the first couple of turns, I’m basically dead.

During game two she had played Meddling Mage naming Sovereigns, so I side out the remaining two and the Conscription for the three Path to Exiles.

Game three and I keep Razorverge Thicket, Island, Hierarch, Knight of the Reliquary, Knight of the Reliquary, Bloodbraid Elf, Vengevine. Again, perhaps I should have taken the mulligan, although I think this keep is a lot more defensible – as it happens, I draw another Bloodbraid Elf and another Vengevine instead of the land or the removal I need, and I die to the quick draw of turn 1 Memnite, Memnite, Ornithopter, turn 2 Tempered Steel.

Ugh. So that’s another PTQ with a disappointing finish, although I do get another shot at Nagoya, next week in London. Whether or not I’ll play this deck again is up in the air: on the one hand, I feel like the deck is quite good, but I also feel like the metagame here is likely to be unfriendly towards it: Jund and Naya were both quite popular in Cambridge, and the cards people play to beat those decks tend to be good against this deck as well. However, if your local metagame is a bit friendly and you want to try something you might not have used before, give this deck a shot. It does have some wonderfully enjoyable moments where you sit back and look at Vengevine-Bloodbraid Elf explosion and suprise Sovereigns, and think to yourself “my deck is unreal dumb.”