Monday, 28 June 2010

Guest Article: PTQ Win with Next Level Bant, by Mick Edwards

By Mick Edwards

Having missed out on my chance to play Standard at a more competitive level this year (since I was auto-qualified for Nationals), I was quite worried that the format would have changed to 'whoever has the most expensive mythics wins'. Unfortunately I was a little right. Fortunately for me, fellow Team Leeds member (or maybe he's Team York or something) Chris Vincent was unable to attend the PTQ and kindly offered to lend me some of his mythics. Here is the list I decided to play:

4 Celestial Colonnade

5 Forest

2 Island

4 Misty Rainforest

1 Plains

4 Seaside Citadel

1 Stirring Wildwood

3 Sunpetal Grove

3 Birds of Paradise

1 Borderland Ranger

4 Noble Hierarch

4 Sea Gate Oracle

3 Sphinx of Lost Truths

4 Vengevine

4 Wall of Omens

3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

2 Gideon Jura

3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

2 Oblivion Ring

3 Path to Exile

2 Celestial Purge

2 Day of Judgment

2 Meddling Mage

3 Negate

2 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

2 Oust

2 Sphinx of Jwar Isle

Since the PTQ was at Fanboy 3 in Manchester, as well as begging for cards I was also begging for a lift. Kindly Kenny Hall offered to drive via Leeds to pick me and Fu Sheng-Wong up. In the car Kenny told me that riding in his car would bring luck since the past 3 lifts he had given had been a winner and two finalists - I apologised to him and Fu explaining that I would be the one to continue that streak with a win. Fu joked about not bothering to register in that case.

About the deck:
Some of my many reasons for playing this deck were:
Elspeth + Path <3 (editor: it's true, Mick goes to bed with these and Figure of Destiny)
Lots of card draw means more consistency and combined with BoP/Heirach means less mulligans
Brian Kibler won a GP with a similar list
It has the option to play aggro or control depending on the match up (editor again: Mick only plays aggro)

Changes/Unusual Sideboard options:
I decided the Ranger + Scute Mob was good, but not as good as Sphinx of Lost Truths, therefore I cut the Ranger package to make room for an extra Sphinx. This also allowed me to play an extra BoP as a turn 1 mana guy is the ideal start and accelerating into a turn 3 planeswalker is key to winning alot of match ups.
Mythic seemed like the 'deck to beat' and an argueably stronger choice, and my sideboard reflects this with Ousts, Linvala and Day of Judgement. Meddling Mage can also be good against mythic as they have have little removal so it's often like a much better Thought Hemorrhage.

When we arrived at the event and met up with some other members of Team Leeds I realised I needed a 4th Vengevine. I spoke a bit to Seb Parker who told me he had just been hunting around for Vengevines and struggled to find a few so I decided to buy one and quickly scribbled down a decklist in time for Round One.

Round One: Grixis
I won the dice roll and accelerated into a turn 3 Vengevine to bash for 5 as he did nothing until turn 3 when he made a Nighthawk. I decided not to play a turn 4 planeswalker and opted to O-ring his Nighthawk and continue the beats. On turn 4 he Earthquaked away my team so when I dropped 2 creatures to get back vengevine that was pretty much game.
Side: -4 Wall -1 Sphinx LT +2 Purge +2 Negate +1 Sphinx Jwar Isle (I think)
Game two went a similar way from my side: turn 3 Vengevine but with a turn 4 Jace (using +2 to get to 5). I also managed to turn 2 Purge his turn 3 Specter which was nice. Then on his turns 5 and 6 he cast Blightning twice killing Jace and stripping me of my hand. This confused me a little as I had expected him to board Blightning out, but in this game it was surprisingly effective against me - although it didn't matter as that had given me enough time to get beats in with the Vengevine.

Round 2: Aaron Copping with Grixis
Aaron also came with us in Kenny's car so I knew he was Grixis so I was pretty confident after how round one had gone. These games went quite different to round one but ultimately his deck's spot removal wasn't enough to keep up with the many many threats I made. In game two I think he got stuck a little on awkward mana too.

Round 3: UW Control
I dont really remember this round, only that it gave me great confidence that the Bant deck crushes control decks :D
Side: -4 Wall +3 Negate +1 Sphinx Jwar Isle

Round 4: Ben Scoones with Naya Conscription
I knew Ben was playing some kind of Conscription deck so was a little worried when he won the dice roll. He made turn 2 knight but I had turn 2 O-ring. Then he didnt really do anything while I quickly ended the game. I later found out he had triple Sparkmage in hand and was stuck on red mana.
Side: -4 Wall -1 BoP -1 Ranger -1 Sphinx +2 Oust +2 Linvala +2 Day of Judgement +1 Meddling Mage
Game two I had what I thought was the god draw with turn 3 Linvala and Planeswalkers. However, since he won the dice roll he got to play his turn 3 Linvala first, meaning I was mana screwed and he had the win before I could get an answer to Linvala or a 4th land.
I game 3 I made a misplay (in hindsight) that cost me the round. Although it was game 3 I hadn't seen any red yet (though he might have played a Ravine in game 2) so I assumed he was a more conventially mythic deck but with a splash. So when I made a turn 2 Meddling Mage I named 'Baneslayer Angel', then immediately regretted it. Baneslayer Angel is usually one of the best cards to name against Mythic as it comes down easier than Sovs, but changes the board to make it very dificult to win through giving them the time to get the Sovereigns/win. However, most of the less conventional Mythic decks dont even run Baneslayer. After he played turn 3, 4 Sparkmages and turn 5 Blodbraid into sSarkmage he ripped apart my mana (and Mage) and I quickly realised I had named the wrong card.


Round 5: Turbofog
This round was quite a slog and one I'd had no practice against with Bant so wasn't sure if it was a good match up or not. Fortunately game one I was able to go ultra aggro with Vengevines, which seemed the best way to win.
Side: -4 Wall -1 Gideon +3 Negate +2 Meddling Mage
Game 2 I was able to get some advantage by discarding double Venegvine in my cleanup, but made yet another Meddling Mage blunder by naming Angelsong. The correct card to name against Turbofog is Time Warp and he proved it by 'going infinite' casting 4 Time Warps (+1 with Twincast) then discarding Emrakul to shuffle them back in. I conceded to get chance to play a third game.
Game 3 I managed to win in the first game of extra time. This time I named the right card with the Mage, he even cast Angelsong in response this time (expecting me to name the Song). I confused everyone a bit by calling for an oracle wording on Angelsong (since my oponent was using foreign cards). I was 99% sure I knew the wording on Angelsong, but knew where was one fog effect that meant you could still attack planeswalkers. Checking these things costs nothing and the judges are there to help (editor: quite right. also, it's Safe Passage).

Round 6: UW control
As with Round 3, this deck crushes control in general. In game two I even played for the long game and managed to keep all three planeswalkers so there was nothing he could do.

Round 7: ID
As I was 5-1 at this point I gladly excepted the ID. My oponent was 5-0-1 so technically could have played to try and knock me out. I was glad of the spare hour to go for a Burger King to celebrate making another top 8 at Fanboy.

Quarterfinals: Some Scottish guy (not Guy) called Andy with UW control
For some reason he thought I was playing red (he said it was the red sleeves). Then I managed to confuse him further with a start that looked like it could have been Naya/Mythic. Eventually I lost game 1 because I played too aggressively, being too careless with my planeswalkers when I probably could have used their card advantage for victory.
Side: -4 Wall +3 Negate +1 Sphinx Jwar Isle
I got a fairly fast win and he 'punted'. This caused him to get really annoyed at himself to the point of slamming the table in anger. The Situation: I had lethal on the board including a manland (I think it was Borderland Ranger + Elspeth). He had 6 lands (1 was Tectonic Edge). He made Gideon and made me attack it, so I O-ringed
Gideon and swung for the win. Aparently he could have played Jace instead and bounced the ranger and blown up my wildwood so I can see why he was annoyed.
He never really gained control in the 3rd game as I just played threat after threat. When he knew was dead he tried to claim I had tapped my mana wrong to make a Gideon I shouldn't have. This annoyed me as I had made special care to show clearly which mana I was using for what as I knew it was a mistake that could easily happen. Fortunately a judge had been watching the whole time (and many other people), but the guy even had the cheek the argue with the judge and claim that the judge hadn't actually seen!

As the our game in the Quarters took longer than the other three, Amar Dattani (my semis opponent) had seen how the game had ended and told me that I could have as much time as I wanted to relax before we started. This was very nice of him as he had probably been waiting around for some time.

Semis: Amar Dattani with Naya Conscription
The first 2 games were fairly straight forward. He had a great hand game one and flattened me with a giant BoP. Game two I had Linvala to help me out, followed by a Sphinx and a Gideon which I used to make his 2/2 Knights have to attack into my bigger flyers :D
Game 3 was much more close. He made no play until turn 3, and had a similar multiple Sparkmage hand to Ben in round 3. I also had a slow hand, too many tapped lands (and him shooting my mana guy) meant that my first real play was Day of Judgement to get rid of the Sparkmages. He followed up with another Sparkmage (from a Bloodbraid I think) so was quickly able to deal with my Elspeth. A second Day of Judgement from me allowed me to begin to stabalise on 3 life since his Bloodbraids + pings had been adding up. I then drew mostly card draw so gave him a worrying amount of time to topdeck a Sovereigns to finish end the game. I eventually Ousted a Linvala to buy me the time to win. After the game he flipped the top card to reveal Sovereigns so the Oust really made the difference.

Finals: Tom "End Boss" Harle with Next Level Bant
Game one took a long time and Tom made me realise I may have been too hasty to dismiss Ranger of Eos as he used 2 to gain huge army that eventually swarmed round my team which was about half the size. Before the game I had decided not to board in Day of Judgements but based on how game one had ended I quickly changed my mind.
Side: -4 Wall -1 bop -1 Sphinx +2 Oust +2 Linvala +2 Day of Judgement
Game two I won by being able to stick and protect more planeswalkers, I was slightly surprised by Toms sideboard choices though as he had brought in Deprives, Negates and several Jace Beleren. I personally don't like bringing in counterspells in against this matchup as it doesnt suit the way I play the deck and I find the Bant deck has a lot of solid creature based threats that Negate obviously doesn't answer.
Game three I kept something amazing like 3 land, Heirarch, Oust, Jace, Elspeth while Tom was not so lucky. He mulled to 6 before playing turn 1 Scute Mob.
Although I expected the game to end quickly in my favor, since he got stuck on lands. However while I was making planeswalkers he was answering them with Deprives, Negate, O-ring etc. On Turn 8 I cast Day of Judgement + Gideon to put him further behind on mana, Then he finally started drawing lands, but this meant he had stopped drawing his answers so I was able to kick Sphinx of Lost Truth for the win.

Editor: Mick didn't supply an ending so I assume he's very happy to have won the PTQ and wishes all members of Team Leeds, and to a lesser extent the other readers of this blog, luck in their future PTQs to join him in his trip to Amsterdam. Mick's too cool for real endings.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Pro Tour San Juan - *182nd place*

By Wagz

Not the most astounding of positions but one I am reasonably chuffed with for my first Pro Tour. I want to write this article to give a taste of the Pro Tour to one who has not yet experienced it, so there will be less Tournament Report and more story if I get it right ;).

My trip started way back in January but began in earnest on Monday 24th. Matt Light had come up to stay the night before and we went over to Manchester to catch our plane to Puerto Rico. There was a long stop in Newark where we had to wait for several hours but it gave us a chance to walk about after the long flight and we met up with Manveer Samra and Stuart Wright at the gate. We chatted for a while about the format and had a bit of a laugh getting to know each other. After a while we got bored of the gate not being called and it not going up on the display so we went to check what was going on. Turns out they're a bit more `relaxed' about domestic flights and didn't bother to call it, so we had in fact missed our flight. After a bit of controlled panicking on my part we sorted out a hotel room for the night which was close-by and had a free taxi service. We were (unchargedly) put on the first flight the next morning and finally arrived at San Juan early on the Tuesday afternoon.

Matt and I went to our hotel, leaving the others to go back to theirs, and we shared a taxi with an American who had the intelligence to work out we were Magic players :). We met a different American in the hotel lobby who was there with his Mum and this guy ended up hanging out with us a lot as he didn't really know anyone else it seemed. Good for us as he was a nice guy and made our hotel room 4 people for playtesting. Our room-mate Mark Mc Govern was waiting for us at the hotel and we quickly made our acquaintances.

San Juan is beautiful in parts and slightly slummy in parts. The natural elements are truly wonderful and there are some very nice rustic-style buildings, but there is also a lot of more ghetto-style areas. I didn't feel unsafe anywhere except inside some of the taxis at night, but I did feel like I might have hurt myself on broken glass or something. Due to it being Tropical Storm Season we didn't venture too far into the countryside or anything as it accelerates from sunny to downpour in seconds a couple of times a day. Another thing - the sun was very warm but not stiflingly so. I don't enjoy the sun in England as I feel suffocated but in Puerto Rico it felt a lot more natural.

The rest of the Great Britain team were in a rented flat a short taxi ride away (and a long walk, we tried it). We had a bit of trouble getting to them on day 1 as there is little phone signal there and the person who had rented them the flat was not supposed to do so, leading the security guards to be hesitant to rush to our aid. Also staying in the same complex were Ben Rubin, Brian Kibler, Pat Chapin et. al., you will meet these people at the pro tour so don't be weird about it. The advantage to hanging out with so many people at once are twofold: 1) there is always something to do - football, draft, playtest, drink beer etc and 2) someone will have a deck you want to play. In our case it was Marco's UW Loldrazi control deck which peaked our interest. Mike Flores is currently advertising this as Dan Gardner's deck, lol.

We changed the sideboard a little bit after testing showed a few of their cards weren't quite up to scratch. They disagreed with our picks but at the end of the testing process it's just about personal preference anyway. Here's the list:

4 Eldrazi Temple

2 Eye of Ugin

4 Celestial Colonnade

4 Sejiri Refuge

6 Island

1 Misty Rainforest

4 Plains

1 Tectonic Edge

2 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth

4 Sea Gate Oracle

2 Sphinx of Lost Truths

2 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

4 Wall of Omens

4 All is Dust

1 Day of Judgment

4 Everflowing Chalice

1 Into the Roil

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

4 Oust

2 See Beyond

3 Felidar Sovereign

3 Narcolepsy

2 Domestication

2 Perimeter Captain

2 Tectonic Edge

3 Spell Pierce

The only real differences are that they have Spreading Seas over our Tectonic Edge and they have Gideon Jura. We like casting our All is Dusts so we didn't go in for these permanent-based spells because of the tension they cause. I would have played another Narcolepsy over one of the Perimeter Captains given another chance, but I was definitely happy with Spell Pierce over Cancel as it costs about 3000 less mana. This format really wants Negate :/.

We went to the venue the day before the Pro Tour for the Pro Players Party. This typically involves a buffet, some music, some drinks, a free t-shirt, a free draft set, and tables to play on. The food was nice and the view was beautiful. It was during this evening that I really reflected on how much of a good thing™ being On Tour is. If you manage to get there some day then I advise you enjoy the moment. Don't necessarily go out of your way to do things you don't want to do but have fun doing what you are doing and be happy that you are where you are.

On Day 1 we went to the venue to write up our decklists and join the player meeting. I had my deck all sleeved up and sorted the night before so it was just a case of writing it up, checking it and buying the last couple of cards from the dealers. I sat down for the player meeting (this is when all the players sit down before round 1 pairings are announced for the Head Judge to make a few announcements about what they expect from players etc) opposite Guillaume Wafo-Tapa but a quick look around confirmed that being next to somebody famous is pretty normal at this level of event.

Richard Hagon came by us on his usual Podcasting run and interviewed us both, asking if I would be up for the challenge of facing Wafo-Tapa round 1. I said no, since although I was pretty sure he was classic UW and our deck was good against that, Wafo-Tapa is good against everyone regardless. I go to find pairings for round 1 but somebody's head is covering my opponent's name. It's usually good form to check this to help make sure you're at the right table but I could see my name and table number so I just went with it. I sit down facing towards the timer and then Hall of Famer Rafael Levy comes and sits down opposite me.


Thankfully he was extremely friendly and chatty and I had a really good time playing him. We had very clear communication all through the game, confirming life totals a few times (we had a few discrepancies but I was always right :)) and I managed to get through a win via Felidar Sovereign beating down into his Monument Green guys. This was a great first match for me as I pulled out a win against a Hall of Famer and I really felt like I could actually compete at this level.

I won't bore you with a round-by-round report since this is not what I intended to write about, but to summarise: I lost to Robert Van Medevoort (Vampires), beat a random (UW), lost to Petr Brozek (Brozek Red obv), beat a random (UW) then in the draft beat Tomoharu Saitou (UBr control), lost to David Ochoa (Ur levellers) and finally lost to a random (RG tokens). The last match and the Vampires match were pretty unwinnable but I punted slightly against Ochoa (basically played for the second best line rather than the best line) and drew infi-lands against Brozek. I also kept a speculative anti-control hand against Vampires game 1 and mulled to 4 game 2, so I feel like I had a bunch of opportunities to make day 2 run away from me.

Day 2 I didn't want to play any real life events as my rating was qualifying me for Nats and I didn't want to ruin it. I joined the Magic Online Live Series Championship on a whim and got through the first round with a terrible WR control deck with only really Keening Stone and Mammoth Umbra on a flier to win the game, with Hedron-Field Purists, Lightmine Field and a bunch of removal spells to save me from dying. I had a Hellion Eruption if I clogged the board up but I was slightly creature-light and often sided it out (you can see me playing the matches in some of the feature coverage). In the Semi-Finals I drafted the nut-high UW levellers deck with Lucas Siow on my left drooling at the card quality. I then got flooded+screwed to go straight out of contention but it happens so I walked away calm. I also got a few Team Drafts in and watched people play in various side events.

On the Sunday (top 8 day) I did a survey and entered the Champion's Challenge twice to get myself a free draft set, got my picture taken with Ulamog, the Infinite Gayer and did a small judge questions thing to get myself a foil Broodmate Dragon before a few more Team Drafts. We cubed at the guys' flat that night and then prepared for coming home the next day.

So, I had a few unlucky moments but basically the Pro Tour is the most fun thing ever and I hope this gave people an insight into what goes on. Don't beat me in the next PTQ, because I want to go again :)