So, I’ve been playing magic for quite a few years, but yesterday I won my first PTQ. I would like to write a proper tournament report, but my notes from the event are nonexistent and my memory is pretty bad. I do however have all of the cards, so this lets me at least recreate my deckbuilding thought process for anyone who’s interested and after this I can say a few things I remember from the event.
Let me say before I post the cards that for me, deckbuilding is an iterative process that is very dependent on the mana curve. I think everyone considers their deck as a whole when building, but for me, I like to think things like “based on my mana curve, what am I likely to be able to do on a given turn (turn 3, turn 4, etc).” I use this to consider not only what mana and how much mana to play, but also to inform my cuts so that I have a relatively low curve, if possible.
Step one in building a sealed deck is usually doing a comparative evaluation of the colors and figuring out which two (or three) colors I want to play. Step one in building this deck involved putting the hellkites into what would have been a fantastic 2-card deck if I had just stopped there, and then a little of this because of same. Next came REAL step one:
White – I want to play this color because it’s really deep, including a couple replicas, and two solid rares. I started with white in the deck.
Blue – Not nearly as deep or powerful as the white, and short on decent removal. I needed something that would complement the white better.
Black – Lots of infect cards, but not really enough to make a deck, plus I don’t really like infect in sealed unless you have decent black and green support cards, which this pool kinda lacked. I was sad to lose skinrender, fume spitter and the replicas, but the next color shores up my weaknesses a lot better.
Red – I love barrage ogre and furnace celebration, and the blast and shatter were really what I was looking for.
Green – Like I said this infect deck is going nowhere, and I’m not going to play infect guys in a non-poison deck (with very rare exceptions), so there’s only like one playable in this color, not counting the Horizon Spellbomb, which I will play in basically any deck.
Here’s my inital sorting, before I made any cuts:
glint hawk (definitely playing, card’s fantastic)
salvage scout (not very good, but I was thinking I might need to get back a hellkite. Oh, such greed.)
seize the initiative (wound up cutting this for not being an artifact)
galvanic blast (rujk card is sick)
2 origin spellbomb (I’m not sure there’s an upper limit on the number of these I would play.
sylvok lifestaff (I don’t think I’ve ever cut this card from a limited deck, but it doesn’t look that great on face. cheap artifacts (1 or 2 cc) are really important in a metalcraft deck and this card is solid)
horizon spellbomb (so versatile!)
2 auriok sunchaser (I wanted low drops and these guys are terrific if you can support metalcraft)
glint hawk idol (auto-include in white decks)
iron myr (my only mana myr. I longed for one or two more, even off-color would’ve gone in the deck)
perilous myr (perilous for the OPPONENT maybe)
shatter (this card is fantastic and was a welcome answer to some things I would’ve had serious trouble with otherwise)
livewire lash (always play this card)
kemba (great with my two equipment! I considered playing echo circlet for his benefit, then came to my senses)
2 auriok replica (solid gray ogre with a sometimes invaluable ability that add to metalcraft. A++++++ would play again) (though, in decks with lots of three drops, I could totally see cutting one or both. That’s not this deck.)
fulgent distraction (I thought of myself as removal-light and figured I might need to tap their guys, plus I had not too many 3 drops. This wound up on the cutting room floor)
2 ghalma’s warden (I don’t think I’ve ever actually played this guy before and . . . I didn’t today either. pretty expensive and just a big guy even with metalcraft. On turn four I would rather be playing two artifacts to get my sunchasers active)
glimmerpoint stag (a decent creature, for not being an artifact. wound up in the deck)
Blade-Tribe Berserkers (cut this one. I initially saw my deck as fairly aggro, what with the multiple 2-drop flyers, but I had better cards than this often-just-a-hill-giant)
Trigon of Corruption (very happy to have the removal, even though I couldn’t reload it [or could I?! stay tuned.])
Barrage Ogre (I really like this card. I recommend it to anyone playing red)
2 Clone Shell (with these I’m sure to get a dragon every game! but I had too many things that cost more than four and I wound up cutting one)
Darksteel Sentinel (a very solid six drop that also happens to be noticeably worse than my other three six drops. I cut him too.
2 Hellkites (“HOP ON MY BACK!”)
True Conviction (seemed ok.)
Notice that at this point I was not playing furnace celebration — I wound up playing it, but I wasn’t yet sure I had enough things that sac. 31 spells in this iteration, time to make major cuts.
-2 ghalmas warden
-blade tribe berserkers
-seize the initiative
now I have 23 playables. at this point I could probably have just tossed in 17 land and gone for it, but I felt light on removal, and I really like furnace celebration. I had 6 sac outlets (5 self-contained and the barrage ogre) not quite time to celebrate. I agonized over whether I should play the celebration with what I had and play 16 land (plus myr and green spellbomb for 18 mana sources) but I really wanted to play 17 land, so that I wouldn’t miss hitting hellkites. Ultimately, I cut the glimmerpoint stag for the very synergistic Golden Urn and played 11 plains and 5 mountains. My (somewhat flimsy, perhaps) rationale was that I wanted to make my early game as solid as possible, hitting glint hawk, his idol and metalcraft for sunchasers on cheap artifacts, and the urn gives me something else to sac for celebration, another bit of food for the ogre, and in the worst case scenario, gains me enough life to buy the time to find a hellkite.
My round one opponent kept a one-lander on the play in game one. I’ve heard before that drawing is better in this format, but I played at every opportunity. My deck had the ability to get aggressive and I didn’t want to get overrun by a quick infect draw. Also, one of the reasons to draw in this format is that you can make up lost tempo with myrs (thus making the card advantage relatively costless) but I only had one mana myr. Anyway, this fellow discarded a couple times before playing anything other than his first land, and he was never in that game. I don’t remember game two, but I know that he got mana and had some infect guys and some non-infect guys. I don’t recall ever being very worried that game.
Round two I played a fantasy shop regular who thought he recognized me, and he looked kinda familiar to me too. It was his first PTQ, and he had some bombs, but my bombs were better so I won both games. I do remember getting kemba and lifestaff in both games, but in game one I actually MOVED THE LIFESTAFF ONTO MY FIRST CAT and said go. Rookie mistake that I didn’t repeat, though he noticed it at the time. Both games also involved a furnace celebration, iirc.
Round three I played someone who I’ve played a number of times before, but whose name I can’t recall. He had a decent black/red deck that would have scared me quite a bit more if he had applied more pressure game one, before I could cast my Hellkite (with the other one under clone shell, hl). Game two I also got Hellkite under clone shell, so when he furnace celebrationed the clone shell, I informed him “You’re not gonna like this” and flipped it over.
I hadn’t lost a game at this point. Round four I played Justin Pearson, and he had a very good GB infect deck that managed to hand me my first game loss. I came back in games two and three and recall shattering a sword of body and mind the turn he played it, in response to the equip ability. In hindsight, I probably could have waited for a better time to shatter. Against Justin, for the second time in the day, I refilled the charge counters on Trigon of Corruption by bouncing it with glint hawk. Definitely a fan of that play.
At this point there were four 4-0s and we all just IDd with each other two rounds in a row. I spent some time talking to Donovan who was my round five ID opponent. He explained that he never had any intention of going to Paris, since he would be busy with work in February, so his plan was to rare-draft and then concede to the first person he got paired against who he knew in top 8. Bad News: he played the first round of top 8 and lost. Good News: he was seated to my right for the draft.
Fortified with the quality passes from Mike on my right, my deck was a solid GWr, with Genesis Wave, Asceticism, 2 molder beasts, 2 arrests, arc trail, revoke existence, myr smith, palladium, gold and leaden myrs, and other solid cards. I played three GB infect decks in a row, and only lost one game, the other games weren’t particularly close. I remember my opponents mulliganed a lot. The fact that there were three people drafting infect means that none of their decks could really be that good, unless the packs were really deep with infect cards, which I don’t think they were. I did pass up the chance to get a fairly mediocre infect deck, shipping multiple plague stingers, tel-jilad fallens, blackcleave goblins, etc. I did cack an untamed might that I didn’t play. Honestly, I was trying to get a RGw or RWg furnace celebration deck, but I got no celebrations. molder beast was an acceptable substitute, given my already high amount of removal.
I feel like I should point out that I owe a ton of thanks to the people who helped me succeed yesterday. I’ve talked to Gregg about Scars limited several times per week since the set came out, and his experience has been invaluable. I also learned some choice advice from Gerry Thompson’s blog. Jim Boncek loaned me the sleeves that I used all day, and none of the judges seemed to have a problem with me hovering near almost every judge call. Also, it’s minor, but Matt Schmaltz probably did more to influence my sealed deck-building than any other person. It’s a shame he likely won’t be coming with me to my second PT, as he did to my first. I will probably be drafting at ogre’s slightly more often than before, in preparation for the PT, though I did miss tonight’s draft what with writing this stuff and all. I was going to say how preparing for this pro tour will really cut into my time playing Starcraft II, which I just bought on Friday, but no one wants to hear how heavy my gold is.
tl;dr version: open lots of bombs and draft next to someone who knows what’s good and passes it anyway, whenever possible. Oh, and if you’re gregg, actually going to PTQs works much better than not in terms of earning Qs.