It’s weird writing a tournament report as you’re still in the tournament, but here I am, sitting at a computer, waiting for my next round to start. Why not write?
It’s also weird doing laundry while in a PTQ.
The pool I opened for the November 15th Magic Online PTQ didn’t excite me, but it did have some good white cards. As you might know, I’m a huge fan of Kor Skyfisher, so any pool with two of those guys and good supporting white cards could be worse. Unfortunately I opened 11 nonbasic lands, three of which soaked up my rare slots. Green was best color after white, but I hate WG. I tried to make every other combination work, and while RW was tempting, it just looked worse than WG. This is what I submitted:
The only big mistake I think I made in deckbuilding was playing [card]Pillarfield Ox[/card] over a [card]Timbermaw Larva[/card]. For some reason I discounted the Larva early and didn’t put him back into the deck for the final version, but he should definitely be included.
The only other potential splash was a Burst Lightning, but with Verdant Catacombs the black splash for Disfigure was easier, though not having a way to kill Vampire Nighthawk made me very nervous. I was just hoping I could curve out, get good value out of my Quest for the Gemblades, and kill them with continuous pressure.
I lost the die roll, and my opponent led off with Swamp and Adventuring Gear. I kept a two land hand with Kor Skyfisher and [card]Expedition Map[/card], so I was feeling okay. Plated Geopede was not the first card I wanted to see on my opponent’s side of the board, and it was threatening to dismantle my life quickly. Steppe Lynx added more pressure to my side of the board, and Kabira Crossroads gave me a little more time. The [card]Cobra Trap[/card] in my hand looked like a good plan; I just needed to be in a good position when I cast it. He missed one land drop, and that was all the time I needed to get Cobra Trap and Quest for the Gemblades online to win the game.
In game two, his Umara Raptor picked up some Adventuring Gear, which looked to be outclassing my Stonework Puma and Pillarfield Ox. When my Shepherd of the Lost met a Hideous End, I had given up hope. Kazuul Warlord was the nail in the coffin.
I kept a slow hand on the play in game three, but I could at least cast my Disfigure off of Verdant Catacombs. His turn two [card]Adventuring Gear[/card] had no creature to play with, so my Pillarfield Ox didn’t look so bad as my first play. Surprisingly, he used a Hideous End to kill my Ox, but can you blame him? That Ox is so huge you can see the curvature of the earth in his art! My opponent missed his fourth land drop, so my [card]Mold Shambler[/card] on his only red source was brutal. He has another Hideous End in response to the trigger, but things weren’t looking good for him. Baloth Woodcrasher and a land was all it took.
I won the die roll and kept a sketchy two land, double Mold Shambler, Shepherd of the Lost hand. Hopefully the Kor Hookmaster in my hand would buy enough time to find some lands. His plays were Explorer’s Scope, Adventuring Gear, and River Boa, so Kor Hookmaster was good at his job. Luckily I hit up to my fifth land drop without a problem, and Shepherd of the Lost joined the team. Kabira Crossroads was my sixth land, mocking the two Mold Shamblers in my hand, but I still stand behind the Crossroads being in the deck. It also meant I had an excuse to leave Vines of Vastwood mana open. He never had an answer for Shepherd, and it killed him.
Game two does not appear to be saved by Magic Online, but I won, so we’ll just assume that I won despite great odds through superb play.
Game one was not saved by Magic Online.
Oran-Rief Survivalist into Kazandu Blademaster gave me a great start for game two, but Hideous End doesn’t want anybody to have fun. I still felt good with a Makindi Shieldmate in my hand, but Burst Lightning took out my ability to attack. I drew Swamp just in time to kill his threatening Hagra Crocodile. Things looked grim when my Baloth Woodcrasher was forced to trade with his fresh Crypt Ripper, but then I topdecked a Shepherd of the Lost and thought I had him locked out with Quest for the Gemblades, but then HE topdecked Malakir Bloodwitch. Can’t kill it!
Here’s a question I really don’t know the answer to: do you use your sac land (like Misty Rainforest) early, so you have less of a chance of drawing your land? Or do you hold on to it for your landfall triggers? Or do you hold onto it because the one life might matter? I tend to play it early if I don’t have any landfall in my opening hand, but I’m not sure that’s always right. I think there’s a critical threshold of landfall in your deck where you always hold the sac land, but I’m afraid that threshold might be one. Thoughts?
Anyway, I led game three with Misty Rainforest. My first creature was Timbermaw Larva, but his was Stonework Puma. The Larva attacked every turn of the game after it hit the table, and eventually became a 7/7, so there wasn’t much he could do. Kor Hookmaster gave me all the time I needed.
I won the roll and got a Kor Skyfisher out on turn two. It didn’t set me back that far, as I still got to play Quest for the Gemblades, Stonework Puma, and Kor Sanctifiers on his Quest for the Gravelord. A double block traded one creature for Shatterskull Giant, and then Hideous End and Inferno Trap killed my other creatures, while also soaking up a Quest for the Gemblades. His Guul Draz Specter finished me off, and I lost having drawn only one non-land card since my opening hand.
Game two, Disfigure on his Surrakar Marauders puts me in a good position when I play on turn four. He played Quest for the Gravelord, then opted for the unkicked Torch Slinger when he missed his fourth land drop. A 6/6 Timbermaw Larva did some good damage, though he eventually set up two Quest for the Gravelords and Hideous End. That wrecked one of my attack phases, but he was at one and has no answer to Cobra Trap.
Game three I keep Forest and Expedition Map on the draw after a mulligan, and again I looked to Hookmaster to buy me some time. Luckily I hit my land drops, but Shatterskull Giant and Tuktuk Grunts looked scary from this side of the table. Mold Shambler came down, Vines of the Vastwood protected it from an Inferno Trap, and I was able to trade with a Shatterskull Giant, activating my Quest. Vines was an all-star for me all tournament, winning games left and right. I opted to Gemblade up my Kor Hookmaster when it attacked, then made a Baloth Woodcrasher. Hideous End answered the 6/6, and I didn’t see my land. Meanwhile Crypt Ripper was threatening my life total. A land made my opponent chump block my Woodcrasher with Plated Geopede and go to 1. I did some chumping of my own when Crypt Ripper attacked, and knew I had to draw a land to win. Then I drew Kor Skyfishers – close enough!
Game one I opted not to Kor Skyfisher on turn two, even though it would return a Kabira Crossroads. I thought I would get more mileage out of Kor Hookmaster being bounced, and I wanted my Mold Shambler online sooner. My opponent was stuck on just green mana and didn’t do anything for the first three turns. Awkwardly, turn three Kor Skyfisher looked right against his board of three Forests, so that’s what I did. He played a Mold Shambler, which got hooked, and then he played another Mold Shambler. I thought I was in pretty good shape, until Terra Stomper came down on turn six. Eek! I was still at 24 from Kabira Crossroads, so I played World Queller, hoping I can find a way to get through his two creatures to Terra Stomper. My opponent played Punishing Fire on one of my guys, then cast Gigantiform. Still had these 8/8s! I can’t stop them all.
Next game I had an awkward start of turn two Steppe Lynx, thanks to Kabira Crossroads. (I still like the land, though.) He had turn one Scute Mob followed by Nissa’s Chosen, but luckily missed his third land drop. Misty Rainforest let Steppe Lynx get through Nissa’s Chosen, so we started racing. I still hadn’t played a second spell by the end of my fifth turn, passing with Forest, Primal Bellow, Cobra Trap, World Queller, and Kazandu Blademaster in my hand, lacking the second white. He got his third land on his fifth turn, which activated Harrow finding a Plains and a Mountain, then Kor Skyfisher hit his side of the table. He bounced a Mountain with the Skyfishers, which I found very strange. If he bounces the Scute Mob, he can get it active at the beginning of his seventh turn, instead of having to wait until his eighth turn. I drew a Verdant Catacombs, and cash in my sac lands to hit him with Steppe Lynx down to 8. Cobra Trap plus Primal Bellow for six killed him exactly – I guess missing my second white wasn’t so bad after all.
Game three I mulliganed to six, then kept four lands, Quest for the Gemblades, and Kor Sanctifiers. He had turn one Scute Mob again (boo!) and turn two Nissa’s Chosen again (double boo!) but decided to miss his third land drop again (yay!). I was hoping the Disfigure I drew would activate before his Scute Mob did. I hoped my Kor Skyfishers would slow his progress, but Blazing Torch made blocking the Nissa’s Chosen awkward. I made the block the next turn when I had Quest for the Gemblades on the table, but he drew his third land. In response to his Harrow on the end of my turn, I Gembladed my Oran-Rief Survivalist. I hadn’t seen any removal other than Punishing Fire so far, so I was hoping the 6/6 would be enough. The next turn another Quest and Survivalist joined my team, and he played a Mold Shambler. I wondered why he grabbed two plains with his Harrow, so I was thinking Arrow Volley Trap. His Mold Shambler and Nissa’s Chosen attacked, bringing me to 12. He did have Arrow Volley Trap when I attacked, but he could only kill my 2/2 Survivalist. Next turn Scute Mob activated while Disfigure mocked me, and out of nowhere a Windborne Charge hit me for 12. Sigh. This isn’t the matchup I’m supposed to lose.
Again, Magic Online doesn’t appear to have saved this game, but I remember what happened. Turn two Oran-Rief Survivalist, turn three Oran-Rief Survivalist, turn four Kazandu Blademaster, and that earns the concession. This game made me feel a lot better about my deck.
I had the ally start again in game two, but the worse version: Oran-Rief Survivalist into Stonework Puma into Makindi Shieldmate. His Hagra Crocodile couldn’t block, and I don’t care about my life total when my opponent is under so much pressure. Creatures kept attacking, and eventually he died.
When I mentioned that there were matchups I wasn’t supposed to lose, it’s because sometimes you hit a matchup like this that you are supposed to lose. My start of Oran-Rief Survivalist and Kor Hookmaster looked good, but once his Giant Scorpion untapped, those creatures had a hard time attacking. My opponent then played Merfolk Seastalkers on turn four, and opted to tap a creature that wasn’t attacking anyway on his fifth turn. Meanwhile I made Kor Skyfisher and Quest for the Gemblades. Ob Nixilis prompted a groan from me on his sixth turn, then he played a land. If my opponent had Ob Nixilis the turn before, he should have just cast it. After playing Ob Nixilis, my opponent attacked me with Seastalkers, so seeing that I have no other way to win, I chumped with Oran-Rief Survivalist and moved the Gemblades over to my Kor Skyfisher. Time to race!
I attacked my opponent down to 11, then play a creature that chumps Ob Nixilis. My opponent played Sphinx of Jwar Isle, which prompted another groan. Luckily my Skyfisher was a 6/7, so I was allowed to bash my opponent down to 5. On his turn, he tried to Seastalkers both of my blockers for a lethal attack, but Vines of the Vastwood lets one of them stay untapped, letting me live another turn. That meant my opponent was forced to chump with his Sphinx. Right off the top I drew a Shepherd of the Lost, which he couldn’t Seastalker, letting me chump one last turn for the win. So close! No way should I win that game.
I had a super-slow hand in game two, keeping six cards with four lands, Quest, and Shepherd of the Lost. As expected, my opponent’s deck was slow, and his Kraken Hatchling looked weak next to my Quest for the Gemblades. Unfortunately, he had Merfolk Seastalkers on turn four with an unblemished life total. I played Mold Shambler, and oddly enough he chose to Seastalker the Mold Shambler so he can attack, then played Surrakar Marauders. I assumed this meant he wanted to race, so when I attacked with my Mold Shambler I was surprised he blocked with Kraken Hatchling, which turned on Quest for the Gemblades. Maybe he didn’t read it?
I cast Shepherd of the Lost next turn, and was ecstatic when he let me untap with Vines of the Vastwood in my hand. I attacked and Gemblade up my angel, then kicked Vines of the Vastwood in response to his Into the Roil. As long as he didn’t have another removal spell, I’d get him in two more attacks. I got in one more attack, bringing him to 3, but he topdecked Hideous End. Time for plan B: overload his Merfolk Seastalkers. It took Kor Sanctifiers, Timbermaw Larva, Oran-Rief Survivalist, another Quest for the Gemblades, Baloth Woodcrasher, and Steppe Lynx, but eventually he started to lose ground. One-by-one he was forced to chump, and point-by-point I whittled him down to 0.
This is where I started to get nervous. I could see the flaws in my deck, and I knew my upcoming matches would be difficult. Were this a real PTQ, I’d be drawing in by now!
I knew it would happen eventually. My opponent cast a turn three Vampire Nighthawk, so nothing I did mattered. The only way I can kill it is in combat or with World Queller, and neither of those things happened. As long as my opponent could cast a few other spells, which he did, I was toast.
In game two it was turn four Vampire Nighthawk, backed up by triple Blood Seeker and Guul Draz Vampire. I almost could have raced him with Vines of Vastwood and Primal Bellow, and I could get exactly nine damage through to his life total of nine. Unfortunately he blocked with Vampire Nighthawk, and thanks to the new lifelink rules, my opponent would still be alive at 2.
Vampire Nighthawk, I knew I couldn’t avoid you all day
To Portland, and Beyond!
I stayed in the last two rounds to try to get prizes, and obviously lost them both. My heart wasn’t really in it, but none of the games felt close, so that was a bit depressing. I could still be somewhat happy with my 6-1 start, and I think I built my deck mostly correct with what I had access to. I also felt like I played fairly well, so I could walk away feeling ok.
Next stop: Portland Oregon. I’ve got a PTQ there next Saturday, and then I think I’ll start testing Extended. After Worlds is over we’ll have more good decks to test against and probably a more defined metagame, so I can’t wait to get cracking on that. Meanwhile I think I’ve got a few more Magic Online PTQs in me, so wish me luck.
Thanks for reading,
Loucksj at gmail
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