First, I’ll apologize for the poor layout as I wanted to type this up while it was still fresh in my mind.
It was about a week ago when a small group of us randomly decided we wanted to do another standard PPTQ next week. I was pretty enthused about running my Izzet Metalwork Colossus deck after having tweaked it quite a bit. I opted for a more midrange build running herald of kozilek over Foundry Inspector. It crews less well, but it survives most random burns and makes good things happen when you’re running kozilek’s return. Also, its cost reductions apply to artifacts as well as Elder Deep Fiend’s emereg cost. A sweet turn 4 play is to cast a hedron archive into a cultivator’s caravan and have a 2-cost kozilek’s return while keeping it in play and whiping a more aggressive deck’s board. I tested versus vehicles and the deck was very very good in that matchup. It had a miser Chandra, Torch of Defiance to get that extra value versus more controllish decks. The main problems were the Jeskai Control due to things like stasis snare and fumigate. You knew you were ok against the grixis builds because they didn’t whipe your board, so going free colossus into search up a couple more with 2 sanctum of ugins and dropping them in play afterwards was pretty much game. kalitas was a little annoying even for a deck with arguably bigger creatures. It meant your colossus couldn’t come back from the grave (which is its saving grace vs the ctrl matchups). other than that, transgress the mind hurt a lot as well. Mind you, most of this testing was before the pro tour so people were not running the Grixis list that ultimately won or any straightforward Jeskai ones either. I would sometimes have to resist flipping a table when people dropped a Cataclysmic Gearhulk on the battlefield. I even experimented with Saheeli Rai in the sideboard against the blue control decks. While it was decent, it felt that you could almost never fully pull off her ultimate against decks that can Summary Dismissal that ability. So it would often just ping them a bit and then try to copy a colossus or whatever else was big enough to attack them (crewed caravans for example). It ran 4 wandering fumaroles so that they can switch their stats and then crew things. While a few matchups were very random (shout out to UW metallurgic summonings deck).
So, fast forward to this past friday at midnight-ish, roughly 10 hours before the event , me and my 2 roomates are trying to decide on what to play for the PPTQ. I saw a sultai aggro deck from Pro Tour Kaladesh but I found it fell short versus the more control matchups. A friend that had won a PPTQ 2 weeks ago with RB aggro sent me his list and it was sweet , but not something I liked playing. In my quest to look for something that stood out, I was successfull in the last page of decklist from the Pro Tour. Here’s the gem I fell upon:
I really really liked it. Like, wow! what? I get to play Tamiyo? Sign me up! However, I saw a few things I really didn’t like and took it upon myself to make modifications. Firstly, I have this small hate for multiple copies of Thalia, Hereticf Cathar. Like 1 is ok then 2 is the max. Anything more is just unacceptable to me. Yes, she’s great versus the vehicule decks and ok…versus other stuff that’s a bit slower like Delirium, but you really wanna cry when you draw more than one and she is very much a dud versus control at her 2 toughness dying to the omni-present Galvanic Bombardment. I saw the Avacyn in the side and promoted it to the main roster.
Secondly, the sideboard looked fine for the expected metagame at the Pro tour, but thing s change quickly in this MTG Standard world and 3 ceremonious rejection as well as natural states isn’t going to cut it. I know that Natural state killed copters, stasis snares and and….uh…nothing much else. So I opted to have 2 of them be Appetite for the Unnatural. The Avacyn and one Ceremonious Rejection got replaced by a super safe pick in Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. If things got a little grindy, he was our guy. Keept the aggro flowing and make little dudes to crew our Smuggler’s copter.
2 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
4 Reflector Mage
3 Thraben Inspector
2 Tireless Tracker
4 Thalia’s Lieutenant
3 Duskwatch Recruiter
4 Lambholt Pacifist
2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
2 Heron’s Grace Champion
1 Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter
2 Archangel Avacyn
3 Declaration in Stone
3 Smuggler’s Copter
4 Fortified Village
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Botanical Sanctum
3 Prairie Stream
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Nissa, Vital Force
2 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Natural State
2 Appetite for the Unnatural
2 Blessed Alliance
2 Skywhaler’s Shot
I will admit, I never sided in Ceremonious Rejection, ever. It felt safe-ish to kinda have it there, but it can probably be like a 2nd natural state and a third negate at this point. Of course, when I decided all of this it was 4:05 AM and I had to be all bright-eyed and bushy tailed by 7 AM so off to bed we go.
Passed out, I faintly hear my roommate trying to wake me up and that barely 3 hours had just flown by. I try to get an extra 15 minutes in by saying we probably would even have extra time to go to the PPTQ store’s closest McDonald’s or something. I thankfully remember to print out my list and bring the Gideons plus other cards I modded from the OG list.
Somewhere in between all this I had convinced my other roommate to play RG Pummeler and was trading him cards to build it. I told him that since most of the cards in that deck are kinda jank, I would just trade for whatever cards he was ok to part with. In the end, I grabbed a couple of Heron’s Grace Champion Gameday Promos off him for the last couple of Electrostatic Pummelers he needed.
We are en route to the store and we chat a bit about our decks, so I try to get some reassurance that the card swaps I made to my deck are logical and everyone pretty much thinks so. We get off at the McDonald’s that’s about 30 minutes from our destination and make the mistake of ordering breakfast Sandwiches not called Sausage McMuffin no Egg at 1.69$ The sadness of how expensive the other breakfast stuff was sinks in and we get a couple of feel good Sausage McMuffins for the road.
Gamer’s Spot Drummondville, we have arrived! Sweet store and a great staff to boot. They have a cool way to display some of their higher end cards which caused a Black foil Chandra, Pyromaster to catch my eye. One of the more affordable, modern played ‘pimped out’ walkers. Sign me up. First, onto business: decklists. Yes! I didn’t forget it so I’m not stuck writing it down, however the rest of my crew is. I walk around and ask if they have other SDCC black foil walkers and am told they have a Garruk, Apex Predator at the same price as Chandra. I do think he’s quite cooler to have and would maybe force me to make a EDH/Commander deck down the road so I ask them if they can put it aside to trade later.
The head judge caught a flat and will be a little late. Hope everything will be fine and it seems they are about 20 minute later.
Pairings are called!
vs. Esper Control
This is the kind of deck I probably want to be facing. My opponent does not much in the opening turns, causing my werewolves to flip super early. He sort of tries to stave off the aggro, but it’s too little too late.
Game 2 was sort of more of the same but he cast a fumigate, obviously so I had to rebuild which wasn’t a problem as I Duskwatch Recruiter’ed a couple of times pre-Fumigate. In the end, the Smuggler’s Copter beatdowns do him in.
vs. GB Delirium
I drop Thraben Inspector and a Lambholt Pacifist early, while getting Pacifist to flip due to him getting a land that entered the battlefield tapped early when he could of cast his Sylvan Advocate. I get a few creatures spot removed, he stabilizes a bit with a couple of creatures but Tamiyo jumps in to undo that rather quickly allowing me to get the W.
Game 2 is me getting Transgressed and not losing cards (mostly 2 drops) and getting 1 or 2 creatures killed off but the tiny creatures to some work as well as a End-of-Turn Heron’s Grace Champion to hit for that extra 3 damage if one of my creatures would die. I couldn’t of flashed him in combat to make a difference since i was swinging with a copter and a couple of flipped werewolves. A couple of my creatures do go down and he’s not dead. Bad news for him is that I have an almost full grip of cards and I’m adding a Nissa, Vital Force to my army next turn which means and extra 5 damage. If not that turn, then the next. He scoops and I’m off to a great start.
vs. Esper Control
My opponent mulled to 5 game 1, so it wasn’t a super glorious win there. Surprisingly though, he did put up a fight as he was a mainly removal and Super Friends Esper build with little to not counterspells. Not unnecesarily overcomitting was one of the keys here, the other being sadly that he mulled to 5.
Game 2 is a really long one and I see an interesting creature on his end: Sphinx of the Final Word. Ouch! I can’t exactly beat that. If I can spam the board enough to try and race it, then maybe he’ll have to Fumigate it out. Sadly Sorin, Grim Nemesis crushes all my horse racing dreams when he zaps down one of my creatures to go up 5 more life, I get attacked then he Fumigates leaving me at the mercy of the former lord of Innistrad. I didn’t have an Avacyn or Heron’s Grace on end-of turn either and legit died to sorin + as my last few creatures just got shot down on spot removal and Tamiyo got Ruinous Path’ed.
We start game 3 with like 6 minutes left. I keep a hand of Inspector, Gideon, Tireless Tracker and 4 lands. I sadly get flooded the rest of the way as my 1-2 creatures die to spot removal with a Kalitas in play. Gideon gets Anguished Unmaking’ed. I draw dead into a pacifist on turns, hoping to have him be that one creature to make a difference. Alas! he bites the big one on a Grasp of Darkness and I lose on turn 5 of turns.
Ok deck, this is it. Please be an OK matchup.
Boo! RG Pummeler…At least it’s not my roommate, so this guy might be a little less used to the deck. The game is quite even until he Larger than Life’s his pummeler with not that much energy in play. I decide that I should probably block with everything anyways, to not randomly die. He has a pump pre-damage but I have a Heron’s Grace Champion! I actually mass trade and don’t lose that much life thanks to Champion’s lifelinking my team ability and get to emerge victorious from the brawl with a Thraben Inspector…that’s probably not going to get there. He drops Bristling Hydra as his follow-up and I am saddened that I will probably be chump blocking for the rest of the game with my almost empty hand and Declaration of Stone that isn’t quite as effective on this Hydra. Team Humans down…
Game 2 is very sweet as I finally get to used Blessed Alliance to its fullest. I loved the card in Modern and am now enjoying it in Standard as well. I trade with a hellion and make him sacrifice his other creature at end of combat while it’s still considered attacking. The rest of his threats is a Pummeler that he doesn’t have protection for so that does down to a Declaration in Stone and my humans ride to victory.
Game 3 is a really weird one as I cast a Blessed Alliance before blockers to gauge how I could block to not die. I was being attacked by a Hydra and a 8/8 Hellion. He decided to sac the Hellion so I went to block that hydra and trade with it, forcing 1 activation if he wanted to not trade. He activates and I skywaler’s shot it in response. Hydra down! He has no follow up on that turn so I get to attack a bit. Hydra comes down again, but this time I have a Blessed Alliance for it, so it’s looking fine at the moment. I swing into the hydra with 3 creatures prefering to aggro him and righfully so as his life total is low and he has to block at least one guy. He blocks lieutenenat and I flash Heron’s Grace Champion to boost it to a 4/4 (it was a 2/2 before its own trigger and Heron’s) to force a trade. He goes to 2 and reveals his hand of lands before conceding.
Before Pairings are posted, I am third in the Standings and my roommate is fourth. If we face each other, and probably will, we can simply draw into top 8. Unfortunately for my friend playing UR Dynavolt Spells, he has to play his last round as the Top 8 is not clear cut due to a few draws.
Pairings posted, as predicted I am facing my friend Nik playing GR Pummeler. Facing one today was more than enough and I hope I don’t have to pay against this for the rest of the day. We fill out our match slip: 0-0-3 and go outside to get some fresh air.
I get a coffee, for like the third time of the day in order to not randomly lose focus and become groggy. I trade a few Modern things like Inquisition of Kozileks and Living End to the shop to pick up the SDCC black foil Garruk, Apex Predator.
Prizes for top 8 had been posted but I really don’t care at this point. I just want to win this. I have been in 6 top 8 situations, with one final and a few semis but this time I’m feeling it. Last time I lost in the finals, my opponent kept a 1 lander playing a mardu dragons deck and that just felt like the saddest loss ever as I mega-flooed with Red/Green Devotion unable to draw a mana sink such as Genesis Hydra or Polukranos. Genesis Hydraw would have most likely ‘cascaded’ into a Ugin and assured me the win, but that never happened and so here I am trying to finally win a PPTQ.
Winning GameDay playmats is one thing, a more casual thing. It’s almost as though I play better when the stakes are low because I’m less nervous. I just find out that my friend playing spells just won his win and in to Top 8. Hopefully none of us will face each other and one of us wins the whole thing.
I ended up 5th facing a grixis control who was 4th, so I get to not start this game. The game is looking good for me as I drop a few creatures early and even get recruiter to flip. I’m close to winning it easy when my flipped Duskwatch gets hit by an Essence Extraction. Wow! did not see that coming. I honestly had not clue that this card was a grixis control card. Makes sense, but ouch!
The sadness continues as my next attack is predictably thwarted by a certain blue Gearhulk flashbacking Essence Extraction on another creature. Why? oh why? This is so not going right… I sadly fight the good fight and declaration in Stone his Gearhulk, though I succumb to some removal plus Wandering Fumarole beatdown as I was already short on gas before just legit running out.
Game 2 is probably just the weirdest ever. I get some early pressure, by team gets radiant flames’ed except for a flipped Lambholt Pacifist who almost ends up going all the way. I later resolve a Nissa, untap lands and start attacking into 2 weaver of lightning. He takes 5 then draws a Galvanic Bombardment for 3 on my lands and zaps it for 2 more with the triggers from the weavers. I had to keep plus ing my Nissa and losing lands to cast things for a few turns. He was Essence Extraction ing my lands and finishing them off with Weaver triggers. I lost roughly 5 lands like this will nissa was slowly dying to the Weavers. Then, i finally drew enough land to untap one with Nissa in order to cast my Gideon I had brought in from the sideboard. He has to choose between attacking my Nissa and Gideon while I am +1 ing Gideon to attack him back. Eventually he bricks a turn (first time in like 10) by drawing a land. He is so far behind at this point that there’s probably not much saving him except for a Torrential Gearhulk but he can’t really cast that with 5 mana or the manland he just drew either. Off to Game 3 we go!
The game is rather quick overall with me curving out and saving my team from a Radiant Flames with yet another Heron’s Grace Champion. In the end, he drew pretty average and I ended up swinging in with my little ‘bonhommes’ each turn to win. Somewhere in there I Negated something, which was probably a removal spell.
I am paired against my third round opponent (Esper Control). Thankfully these rounds were not timed as if there is one thing I somewhat hate about MTG: in control matchups, the slower deck always runs out most of the clock. I have had games were easily 80% of the time was taken up by my opponent and it really seems unfair, especially in Standard where they are mostly just seeing one more card each turn. People should take example on the Shota Yasooka Grixis deck and how quickly he piloted it. It never seemed like he was stalling and he pretty much knew where he was headed each turn. One random extra creature on your opponent’s end will not always meet you now need to rethink your whole strategy.
Anyhow, things start off pretty well for me but I really have to not go all in against a Fumigate deck. I put out enough bodies on the board to have a reasonable presence without overcommiting to it. Duskwatch Recruiter guarantees that as long as he stays in play unflipped, I get an extra card (creature card) each turn – sometimes maybe even two. He puts a gideon in play which I prompt;y dispatch with my attackers and then lose my human army to a Fumigate. Time to rebuild – I drop a Lambholt Pacifist and a Thraben Inspector to keep some more cards in grip and force him to cast something on his turn or attack with a 4/4 on mine. He passes and I swing in. The game somewhat continues like this for a while with him semi-stabilizing each turn he cast a Fumigate. Eventually, he runs out of resources and Shambling Vents and cards in hand that he concedes. I believe I drew around 8-10 extra cards from Duskwatch recruiters in that game, ‘scrying’ a couple of Tamiyo, Field Researchers to the bottom.
Game 2 is probably going to go down in my personal history as the longest one game of cometitive Magic I ever played. It legit lasted around 2 hours (I believe just over). I had my opponent in a similar situation as Game 1 but he stabilized with a Sphinx of the Final Word that I cannot interact with, really can’t. I need to actually play creatures to not die or keep up the ‘damage race’ and then he slams a Linvala, the Preserver and she did an insane job at roadblocking me. It was very long to try and race and almost very futile as Sorin, Grim Nemesis and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar joined the fray on the opposing end. GG!
I asked the judge for a small break after the previous game and got 5 minutes to go take a breather. I pondered my sideboarding options and decided I had to just POLO all my planeswalkers in and take out the obvious bad cards in the matchup (Thalia’s Lieutenant, Declaration of Stone and trim a bit of the rest like 1 of the Thalias). I still kept a Declaration or two but Skywhaler’s Shot was just better, sort of, I guess). This matchup still ended up being long with me grinding out insane Duskwatch Recruiter advantage, while unfortunately scrying a few planeswalkers at the bottom. I did however, manage to stick a Tamiyo and +1 on a Smuggler’s Copter plus Flipped Duskwatch to draw 3 and discard 1 (not exactly, but you get the point). The game goes on for a while post-Fumigate and he gets a Sphinx of the Final Word down while I have a chance to ultimate Tamiyo. I could do it, but in the end it seems terrible as I doubt it will win me the game, I figure him having to keep his Sphinx on defense might be good enough for me go on offense. I had a Tireless Tracker in play and started dropping Evolving Wilds. He clearly didn’t have any removal for it as I got it up to a 7/6 and was in position to swing with him at 6 life. I force a block since he had like two cards in hand none of which were removal. He then draws and cast Linvala again, she makes an angel buddy but sadly for him Tamiyo -2 is now a thing. 2 turns or so later, it’s over and I’m off to the finals.
I’m thankfully paired against a non-control deck in GB Delirium so this should not take that long either way. Things start not so great when I am once again informed that I am not the one deciding if I get to start. My opponent however, end up mulliganing at 5 and had to Grapple the Past for a land. I curve into weenies and Tamiyo making this game very one-sided as he scrambles to put anything in play.
Well, we’re one win away from the whole RPTQ invite. I make a few modifications post-side, taking out a Thalia and brining in more planeswalkers .Nothing crazy, but just enough not to get blown out later game. Oviya gets dumped to the side as well as Thalia, a couple of lieutenants and some less high impact cards (sadly Heron’s Grace Champion is one of them). He gets a turn 2 Sylvan Advocate and turn 3 Advocate, making my Declaration in Stone look really really sweet. I cast Gideon on Turn 4 and he really can’t come back, He’s actually short on delirium fodder to get Ishkana on board and get a turn’s respite. It’s a very very one-sided game after the Declaration, sadly for him but I won’t complain after that really really long Top 4 round.
Woooooooo! Finally, I did something besides win a Game Day playmat or Day 2 a Grand Prix or win a store’s limited Championship or anything. I get to not play PPTQ’s for a few months in this upcoming terrible weather and do casual stuff or just not play Magic as often (yeah, right). I apologize for the not so in-depth report but I kept writing little bits here and there in between draft rounds in order to not have it be super late or really less fresh in my mind.
I can do a follow-up article on what cards I would change or which were fine versus what at a later date, but for now:
Racing vehicles with horsies!