Compulsive Research: Boise Blues, A PTQ Report

by Zaiem Beg

Sometimes things just don’t go your way.

After last week’s misadventure in getting to Alaska, I figured getting to Boise would be no problem. As far as I knew, there were no volcanoes to worry about, the weather was fine, and I had flown to Boise three other times for PTQ purposes and it was all generally very uneventful. Going to Boise was old hat. What could possibly go wrong?

I arrived at the airport at 6:00pm, getting there with plenty of time before my 8:45pm flight. I met up with Dan Hanson, and we checked in together, getting the notification that our flight had been delayed to 9:45. This was actually a good thing because I hadn’t eaten all day, and this gave me time to eat something at a leisurely pace. On our way to the food court, I looked at the monitors and confirmed that, yes, our flight had indeed been delayed until 9:45. Terrific. We met up with the other two people on our flight, Greg Peloquin and Kent Ketter, and had a generally good meal talking about Extended, Magic, and we even played a quick game of Dominion. Realizing our flight was going to depart in an hour, we wandered over to the terminal at 8:45, and saw that there were no people there. Something had gone wrong.

The flight had already left.

It turns out that that flight wasn’t actually delayed. The plane had “made up time,” according to the person at the airline counter. After a brief argument over whether or not an announcement was made (it was, but only in the terminal area) and whether it could be heard in the food court, 300 feet away (it could not), we realized that an argument wouldn’t get our plane back, so it was off to plan B: take the earliest flight the next morning at 6:45am, getting us to Boise shortly after 9:15am, a scant hour before play starts. It was risky, but I was willing to take the risk; I didn’t want to go two weeks in a row planning on PTQing only to have some event prevent me from doing so.

(To be fair, we were partially responsible for this. Although I’d never heard of a flight being undelayed like that, we had no good reason to play Dominion and a couple of games of Extended at the food court when we could have done so in the terminal area, other than convenience.)

I had the following text message exchange with Jeremy Fuentes:

Me: Flight problems. again. Next attempt is to catch a flight at 6:45 tomorrow

Jeremy: Yikes.. Potato explosion in Boise?

Jeremy’s a funny guy.

Eleven players from Seattle drove to Boise, and around this time I got a call from Max McCall, who had just gotten there, presumably wanting to know if we were going to meet up for dinner. I told him what happened, and Max immediately started doing everything he could to make sure things would go as smoothly as possible. Five minutes later, he called back saying he had talked to the TO and arranged for us to play in the tournament even if our flight was late – the tournament might be delayed a little and if it was really delayed, we could still play after round one had started, albeit with a round one match loss. He got our DCI numbers and made sure we would be registered in the morning when we got in so it would be one fewer thing to worry about. He arranged to have us give our decklists directly to the TO when we came in so that we wouldn’t have to give the decklists to anyone else, possibly exposing any of our tech. (I had no tech to expose, but Max didn’t presume anything.)

And I was reminded of one of the biggest reasons why I play Magic: the people. It was to Max’s disadvantage to have four potential threats make it to the PTQ, but he did everything he could to get us in.

So it was off to home, where I got about four hours of sleep before getting up to go back to the airport, this time with no incident. We got to the PTQ venue with plenty of time (actually beating Max and the people he was staying with), and all was well, except for the fact that I felt like I was going to pass out from lack of sleep, but what can you do? Jeremy gave me the advice that was my mantra all day: Take it one match at a time and don’t be stupid.

I played the following list:




I chatted a bit with a Channelfireball forum poster who was there; we talked about his crazy Lightning Storm deck, and before I knew it, the pairings were up for round one.

Round 1 – Travis (Reliquary Loam)

Game one

After pile shuffling his deck to find 61 cards, he said, yes, he was playing 61 cards. After a quick count of his 15-card sideboard, we started.

He won the die roll. I looked at my opening hand with no land and immediately sent it back. My six-card hand was better, with three lands, a Tarmogoyf, a Wild Nacatl, and Kird Ape. He played a turn-two Bitterblossom, which helped put him on a faster clock. I kept swinging with creatures until he couldn’t chump block effectively anymore, and he didn’t have much removal for my double Nacatl, Tarmogoyf board, so we went to game two.

Game two

I mulliganed again, seeing a one-land hand with no one-drops, then mulliganed to five, seeing no land. I kept a five-card hand with two lands, a Tarmogoyf, Pyrostatic Pillar, and Lightning Helix. I drew a Wild Nacatl and played it turn two, then followed up with Tarmogoyf and Pyrostatic Pillar after he played Life from the Loam into an empty graveyard. Pillar this early may have been a mistake, as he took some damage to Smother and Path the Nacatl and Tarmogoyf, then followed it up with Kitchen Finks.

I drew Ranger of Eos and Umezawa’s Jitte, who retrieved Wild Nacatl and Figure of Destiny. Ranger of Eos traded with Finks, but I got Jitte counters, and I was able to use the Jitte counters to stay above zero life with Pillar doing damage to us both. He kept playing Finks and Wall of Reverence, but I kept getting Jitte counters and was clearing the way for my guys to get through. Late in the game I could go ultimate with my Jitte-equipped Figure of Destiny and two Jitte counters with him at 9 life, and my hope was that he didn’t have Path or Smother in his hand (I had no other relevant plays in my hand so there was nothing useful I could do with my mana anyway), but when he Pathed my Figure in response to the first Jitte pump, I was out of gas. Eventually Mutavault and Knight of the Reliquary finished me off.

Game three

I mulliganed to six, keeping a hand of Nacatl, Kird Ape, Sulfuric Vortex, Ranger of Eos, and two land. Good enough. I played my two creatures and took him to 15, then played a Woolly Thoctar, which promptly got Smothered. I still had pressure on the board and figured Sulfuric Vortex would provide a clock, so I played it while stuck on three lands. He had to answer Vortex soon and if I ever drew a fourth land, I would be able to block any creatures he played if I had to. Unfortunately, he killed my Cat and Kird Ape and I kept drawing Ranger of Eos with my three lands.

Time was called, and I played a Tarmogoyf on turn two of time, with him at four life. I could have played a Pyrostatic Pillar instead of Tarmogoyf, but his only out, assuming he was running a normal build, was Crime//Punishment for three. If he did so, then I would go to turn four of time and have no pressure on the board. If I played Tarmogoyf with Vortex backup, then if he answered only one of them, the other would be lethal. I played the Tarmogoyf, he had no outs, and I won on turn five of time.


Round 2: Ben (White Weenie)

We were at table one, which was awkward because table one had this weird shelf that made it easy to bump your head. Ben made a misplay by being tall enough for it to matter, while I was short enough for it to not.

Game one

Ben won the die roll. I mulliganed a no-land hand. He played turn-two Spectral Procession off a Chrome Mox and followed it up with a Burrenton Forge-Tender. Luckily I drew no red creatures, so I was able to beat down with Wild Nacatl and a Burrenton Forge-Tender. He played Jitte and equipped it to a spirit token, and I did the math with him tapped out. I was holding double Path to Exile and Lightning Helix, and if I Pathed his token to prevent it from getting counters and then Pathed his Forge-Tender EOT, then I could untap and swing with everything to put him to three, then Helix him out. I did that and we went to game two.

Game two

Game two was going great for me, as it was my first non-mulligan of the day. A Tarmogoyf got Pathed, which let me play a Woolly Thoctar and Kird Ape on the same turn. Then Ben played a stunner:

Paladin en-Vec.

My favorite card in all of Magic! And it was betraying me! Paladin en-Vec?! Who saw that coming? Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Paladin en-Vec, and usually I wouldn’t care except my hand was approximately 22 Woolly Thoctars, 875 Kird Apes, and 517 Mogg Fanatics. A Jitte came attached to Paladin en-Vec and when he followed it up with another Paladin, I could neither attack nor block and I died quickly.

Ben said he was running two Paladin and two Forge-Tender main, and boarded two more of each for the zoo matchup. Paladin en-Vec. Man.

Game three

I mulliganed a no-land hand again (I swear I shuffle thoroughly!), but Ben double mulliganed and I kept a hand of Plains, Forest, Nacatl, Nacatl, Path, Helix. Good enough, especially knowing he had so many pro-red guys. I’d prefer a red source, but what can you do?

I led off with double Nacatl and didn’t draw a land. He played turn-three Paladin en-Vec and was tapped out. I attacked both my 2/2 Nacatls into his Paladin en-Vec, and he blocked one of them. I Pathed the unblocked Nacatl to get a Mountain, the Nacatl killed the Paladin in combat, and now the rest of my hand was able to come online. Spectral Procession was only a temporary answer to my army of creatures, and Sulfuric Vortex made sure he would be unable to Finks his way back up to a safe life total.


I was absolutely wiped out at this point. It was cold in Boise that day, which was perfect. Sunny and about 35 degrees. I went outside and breathed and tried to wake up a little. Take it one match at a time and don’t be stupid. Got it.

Round 3: Adam (Domain Zoo)

Game one

Another mulligan gave me a hand with multiple Kird Apes, Char, and Helixes. I led off with two Kird Apes and he had a slow hand. My Tarmogoyf got Tribal Flamed and his Tarmogoyf got Charred, and Kird Apes were able to put him into burn range, where I Helixed him out of the game.

Game two

I mulliganed again and kept a two-land hand with Nacatl, Tarmogoyf, Char, Thoctar. It seemed fine. My Nacatl got Helixed and my Tarmogoyf got Tribal Flamed, and I drew Ranger, Thoctar, Char, Woolly Thoctar, Ranger to end the game on two lands.

Game three

I made a mistake by electing to play here, when I’m pretty sure it’s right to draw in the Zoo mirror.

I mulliganed a no-land hand and another no-land hand, but had a marginal hand with Temple Garden, Kird Ape, Wild Nacatl, Helix, Char. I drew a Sacred Foundry and powered up my Nacatl, but he Molten Rained my Foundry. I drew a Plains and had a hand of Char, Helix, Helix, Ranger, Ranger, Ranger, Ranger-Ranger-Ranger (okay, maybe not that many Rangers but it felt like it) with a Wild Nacatl on the board to his Kird Ape, but was unable to draw another land. The Molten Rain was a disaster, as he was at 7 and I was at 14 when he Molten Rained, and I would likely have been able to Char/Helix him out of the game.


There was a brief lunch break. I was disappointed in the loss, and I was a little frustrated at how often I was mulliganing, especially since I have played several hundred games with the deck and I was aware that this really was an anomaly. I was also certain to thoroughly shuffle my deck before presenting each time, but variance sometimes gets you. Even with that mulligan to five, I was one Molten Rain away from taking the match and going to 3-0. Oh well. Take it one match at a time and don’t be stupid.

Round 4: Brandon (Bant with Lightning Helix)

I was seated at table one for this match for the third consecutive round.

Wait. Table one?

I just lost.

Adam noticed he was at table 28 or some random place, so we went to the Judge together and explained that the pairings had to be wrong. The Judge found the slip and pointed out that it was signed by both of us, which had us recorded as me winning 2-1. I don’t know who filled it out, but I tried to convince the Judge that this was not correct and it should be reversed. The Judge said that it was policy not to reverse the outcome of a match, since shady things can go on (for example, two players after a match agreeing to exchange money if they both agree that the other person won). So it was off to table one, and I felt pretty terrible about the situation, but there was nothing I could do.

Game one

Brandon recognized me from a previous PTQ Top 8 we both played in Boise, where Brandon’s roommate utterly demolished me in the semifinals. We reminisced a little about me losing to turn-four Dread both games, then got off the nostalgia train and shuffled up.

I mulliganed a hand with no creatures, and kept a hand with a Wild Nacatl, two Path to Exiles, and three lands. Not great, but it was okay. My Nacatl got Pathed on turn two when I had no other action, and Brandon and I both played land after land after land, with no creatures sticking. I played another creature which got Helixed, and a Tarmogoyf got Bant Charmed. A Rhox War Monk got Pathed, and we just kept playing lands and removal spells. Eventually I was able to smash in with Burrenton Forge-Tender for a couple of turns and I backed it up with a Sulfuric Vortex, and a preposterously long game ended with both of us playing about six spells to twelve lands apiece.

Game two

Another mulligan started the game off in similar fashion. I only had one creature in Wild Nacatl, which got Pathed on turn two. I had no action but a lot of removal, but a Rhox War Monk was able to get in a couple of times before I drew a Char. I finally drew Ranger and played two creatures and backed it up with Sulfuric Vortex, but Ranger got killed (either with a Path or Bant Charm; I forget). With me being lower on life totals than him, I had to play my Duergar Hedge-Mage (which I brought in if he had Troll/Worship) to kill my own Vortex, but a Vendilion Clique was able to fly over and do the last few points of damage.

Game three

Another mulligan. Sheesh. We both had reasonable starts, with me having Kird Ape on turn one, but he played a Wild Nacatl early on. We traded one-for-ones, and creatures were not staying alive. Eventually we were both in a topdeck war with us at healthy life totals when time was called. The game ended with me having a Kird Ape attached with a Jitte and two lands in hand, and him with two lands and a Bant Charm in hand. So we don’t know how the game would have ended had we had more time.

Afterwards I asked Brandon if he noticed any mistakes I made, and he didn’t think I had. I’m not sure if playing the Vortex when I did in game two was correct, but I didn’t anticipate him having so much removal for my creatures. Ranger + Vortex is usually enough pressure to end the game, but in this case it was not.


Round 5: Stan (Astral Slide)

I’ve known Stan from other trips to Boise, and he came to Portland for a PTQ a few

weeks ago. He had a bad first impression of me, when we played in the side draft after I had a horrible, horrible PTQ experience and I was a bit of a jerk to him.

Game one

I won the die roll and didn’t mulligan. I played an early Nacatl and Mogg Fanatic, which got Engineered Exploded. He followed up with a Kitchen Finks, but I had a Tarmogoyf that was able to fight through it. Tarmogoyf and Figure of Destiny teamed up to whittle away at Stan’s life total.

I had a 4/5 Tarmogoyf and a 4/4 Figure of Destiny with six lands in play to make Figure go ultimate. I attacked with both into his Kitchen Finks and Loxodon Hierarch with a Char in hand, thinking that the Finks would chump Tarmogoyf and Hierarch would trade with Figure (as I assumed he had a Path to Exile in his hand), so I could put damage on the stack and pump Figure to get the Path out of his hand. That way the board has me with a Tarmogoyf on the board to his 2/1 Finks and I still have a Char in hand.

Instead, he double blocked the Tarmogoyf, probably thinking I would try to ultimate Figure to lethal and he could Path it. I didn’t ultimate my Figure, we put damage on the stack, and with Finks about to persist to put him to six, I Charred him for the win.

I got lucky because he didn’t play around Char, and I was also lucky because he said he was holding three Lightning Rifts, which were essentially useless against Zoo.

Game two

This was an absolute blowout. He had Paths, Condemns, and Engineered Explosives to make sure I could not keep a creature on the table. He played a Loxodon Hierarch and a Kitchen Finks and beat me to death with them, and ended the game at 23 life.

After this game, Stan told me he didn’t hate me anymore. I apologized for the terrible first impression I left, and was glad to hear that he got over me being a jerk that first day to him.

Game three

I had a hand with good early pressure with Nacatls and Tarmogoyfs, and I got him down to 16 when I played a Sulfuric Vortex. He had Astral Slide and Eternal Witness and was getting back Path to Exile each turn to kill all of my creatures. Witness and Hierarch beat me to death.


I needed to win out to make Top 8, but I thought I had a good chance. The field was great for Zoo, as I felt I had a good matchup in the mirror and I knew how to play the mirror, and as long as I didn’t face another Astral Slide deck (only three in the room) or TEPS deck (only two in the room), I was fine.

Round 6: Eric (TEPS)

Well, so much for that.

I had decided not to have combo hate in my board except for the four Pillars (which were also okay against the Life from the Loam decks), correctly anticipating very few TEPS or Elves decks. There were only two of each in the field, so I wanted the sideboard slots against other matchups like Faeries, Bant, and the mirror. It’s unfortunate that I ran into two bad matchups two rounds in a row, but they were such a small part of the field” what can you do?

Game one

I mulliganed to a hand of two lands, Tarmogoyf, Path, Path, and Helix. It was a little slow, but not knowing what he was playing, it seemed like a reasonable keep. When Eric mulliganed to five, I was feeling a little better about my hand. When he suspended a Lotus Bloom on turn one, I was feeling a lot worse. I drew another Path to Exile and had no pressure except for a 2/3 Tarmogoyf, and Eric easily went off and killed me.

Game two

I had a solid hand with double Kird Ape and Pyrostatic Pillar, so I kept it. I played out creatures and stuck a Pyrostatic Pillar and a Sulfuric Vortex. He had an Echoing Truth, but he had to go off sooner than he would have liked, nor could he Tendrils of Agony to gain life and try to go off a turn later, so he fizzled.

Game three

I kept a semi-sketchy hand of Pillar, Mogg Fanatic, Helix, Helix, Char, and two lands. I probably should have mulliganed, as it didn’t have a lot of pressure. I was hoping that Mogg + Pillar would provide enough damage, and because my hand was burn-heavy, perhaps he would falsely believe he had another turn to live before going off. He suspended a turn-one Lotus Bloom and I attacked with Mogg Fanatic and played Pillar and a Helix to put him to 11. Bloom came into play to put him to 9, and he thought he had another turn to live, and his hand was a little sketchy, so going off was risky. Of course I would have been able to kill him (EOT Helix to put him to 6, untap and attack with Mogg Fanatic to put him to 5, sac Mogg and then Char for the win), but he wasn’t thinking about Char . He shrugged his shoulders and said “why not?” and got a little fortunate with his Ponders and Manamorphoses to get him to the Mind’s Desire he needed, and he went off for five and was able to kill me.


With only seven rounds, I was close to that Top 8, but it didn’t happen. 4-2-1 wouldn’t be good enough to make the cut, so I dropped.

3-2-1 DROP

Afterwards, I saw Adam, who was 4-2 and still had an outside shot at Top 8, as we thought one 5-2 player might get in. His tiebreaks were also second-best among the 4-2s. I wanted to go to the hotel room and sleep, but I really thought it would be best if I could do whatever I could to get Adam into Top 8. So I went to the Judge and asked to undrop me. He wanted to know why, I explained the situation, he thought it was a nice gesture, and I was undropped.

3-2-1 UNDROP

Round 7: Darin? (Ranger Zoo)

Game one

I didn’t write down my opponent’s name for some reason. I mulliganed to five on the play and my early Tarmogoyf was outclassed by Woolly Thoctar. We traded Path to Exiles, but he drew into double Ranger of Eos and I had two Mogg Fanatics, which only temporarily stopped the bleeding.

Game two

I elected to draw, and my opponent thought I was joking, as I had been joking around with my opponents all day. This was really a war of attrition, so having the extra card ended up being huge. Finks were being Pathed away, I got a two-for-one with Wrath of God, and we were otherwise getting one-for-ones throughout the game. The game turned when he had a Kird Ape on the board and my board was a Burrenton Forge-Tender and a Ranger of Eos. He Pathed my Forge-Tender, and I was at 4, so I sacrificed it to prevent damage dealt by Kird Ape. He attacked with Kird Ape, I blocked with Ranger, and then he realized that my Ranger wouldn’t die. That gave me a free two-for-one that was ultimately the difference in the game.

Game three

We both mulliganed, and he elected to play. He led off with a Wooded Foothills and passed the turn. I played a Nacatl and he didn’t sacrifice his Foothills. Uh-oh. He did nothing again and passed the turn. I played another creature, and my opponent never drew a second land. When I played a Jitte to equip to Nacatl, he conceded.

4-2-1, 14th place

Sadly, no 4-2s made top 8, so despite the fact that Adam won, he did not get in. He didn’t seem to be upset with me about the slip snafu, and he was friendly to me throughout the day.

I stayed around for a bit of the Top 8, but left before the finals started because I was starving and I badly needed sleep. As for Max McCall, he who earned good karma points for being so willing to help out his fellow PTQers? He won the PTQ. I was very happy when I found out.

As for me, I’m obviously disappointed I didn’t win, but I am not disappointed in my play. I’ve put up better results in other PTQs, but I’m not sure if I’ve made better decisions at a PTQ. I still made some mistakes, but for the most part I was making decisions much faster than I usually do, and I was thinking several turns ahead, doing a good job of anticipating my opponents’ plans and how to counteract them. I didn’t have a good board for Slide and TEPS, but I don’t think that was necessarily the wrong decision – it was much more likely I’d face Faeries or Loam or Affinity than those two decks, and I was more ready for them. I don’t think the deck usually mulligans as much as it did, but I didn’t let it bother me and I didn’t base my mulligan decisions on the fact that I was “tired of mulliganing,” which is something I have done at times in the past.

Also, the people in Boise were very nice. All of my opponents were pretty cool, and I had a lot of fun joking around with them. I was relaxed, confident, and playing well.

I’m madly in love with Extended, and I’m not ready to give up yet. I’m going to try one more time to PTQ for the last weekend of Extended – maybe in Hawaii or Sacramento.

Unless there’s a volcano or potato explosion, of course.

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