A Virgin PTQ is the first one of the season in a new format. These are the easiest PTQs for established players to win since many others will show up with home brews, and even the people playing real archetypes won’t be properly calibrated to deal with the best decks.
Last Saturday I won a Virgin PTQ with Mythic Conscription, losing only 2 games and no games in the top 8 on my way to an 8-0-2 match record. Like teens who are taught abstinence, PTQs don’t retain their virginity for long. Hopefully this article can get you up to speed on my favorite deck in the early going: Mythic Conscription.
Inspiration for playing Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Eldrazi Conscription began before I saw anyone’s decklist, in some brainstorming with Chapin that touched on many ideas, some of which bad, others with potential. Then I saw the following list from a German Regionals and took the idea more seriously.
Others told me “it’s just a gimmick” or something similar, but I thought there was a lot of potential given that its essentially a 1-card combo. You spend 6 mana and most of the time the game is just over. And 12 Birds/Hierarchs/Lotus Cobras is an incredibly consistent acceleration package. Also, the format was more and more moving at Sorcery speed rather than Instant speed, which greatly favors something like Sovereigns.
I played the PTQ without ever having played a game with the deck. I still felt I could change a few slots around based on how the matchups were playing out in my head. Changing a deck in this method (mental playtesting) is a dangerous game, so I try to make conservative changes and “swaps” that I feel are superior while keeping mana bases and general ideas the same, at least until I get to play with the deck. I took the Rhox War Monks out of the maindeck to add the Dauntless Escorts. This is primarily a hedge against Blue-White control, the best deck before ROE, but it turns out the Escort is just really good, even against Jund. I also made one of the Elspeths a Gideon Jura, and I wish I had made both Elspeths into Gideons. Gideon was awesome all day, as I’ll describe below. The next change I made was to the sideboard, adding a Deprive as a “5th Negate“ effect since Negate is very, very powerful against Blue-White. I changed the anti-Red package to 4 Firewalker 2 War Monk, since you really want 4 Firewalker against mono Red, and you have the space to run these and even a couple of Monks.
Here is where I ended up after these changes:
The Final Result
In the PTQ my matchups by round (I may not have this exactly right, I can’t remember the swiss 100%) were UW tap out, Polymorph, Mono Red splash black, UW Totem Armor spread em, UW Tap Out, ID, ID, (top 8): UW Tap Out, Mythic (normal w/ Rafiq etc.), Jund.
Here are some of the memorable moments in the swiss and a report of the Top 8:
Round 2 vs. Polymorph.
Game 1 he gets turn 4 Emrakul and kills me.
Game 2 I now have 2 Oblivion Ring and 3 Jace in my deck to deal with a polymorphed creature. He Polymorphs Iona turn 4, naming White. I untap and cast Jace, gg.
Game 3 I play turn 1 Birds of Paradise, turn 2 Birds of Paradise, Birds of Paradise, land. Turn 3 Baneslayer, Turn 4 Sovereigns, attack for 16. My opponent untaps and plays a Khalni Garden, and seems to have a Polymorph ready to fire, but realizes it won’t do any good and concedes.
Round (something) vs. UW with auras and Kor Spiritdancer.
His deck is built around Kor Spiritdancer giving you 2 cards when you Spreading Seas, 1 card when you Convincing Mirage, and 1 card when you Hyena Umbra. It’s a cute deck that doesn’t seem very favorably matched up against mine. His Walls of Denial won’t do much against a 17/17 Baneslayer. The interesting thing in this match was my draw game 2:
Turn 1: Noble Hierarch.
Turn 2: Lotus Cobra
Turn 3: Lotus Cobra, land, Dauntless Escort.
Turn 4: Fetchland, 8 mana, hard cast Eldrazi Conscription attack for 17 (annihilate 2).
Top 8 vs. James Gates
James is part of my current and perhaps all-time favorite PTQ crew, which includes me, Greg Hatch, John Balla, Basil Nabi, and James Gates. These are the players I prepare with and travel with and hang out with. Last PTQ season I lost in top 8 to Greg once and James twice (and thus will have to use my level 3 invite on PT San Juan). In each of these PTQs, the Top 8 was 6 random people and 2 of us. Our meeting was never even in the Finals, as the brackets never broke correctly. Anyway, I was hoping to be the one emerging victorious this time around. Standing in my way was James Gates and his UW deck which unconventionally plays 3 Path to Exile. This is bad for me since my deck really takes advantage of peoples’ decision to run mana denial like Spreading Seas over Path. James plays both, but presumably boards out the Seas.
In game 1 I get a Turn 3 Jace and just start Brainstorming. Everyone plays Jace differently, and only Patrick Chapin does it optimally. I lean towards Brainstorming a lot and getting value even when they Pulse/O Ring/Legend Rule to kill him. I find that Fatesealing too much isn’t a good line, but again, I’m not the best Jacer in the world at the moment. James plays turn 4 Elspeth, which is setting up to take down Jace. I have my one copy of Elspeth as well, so I just kill his with it (James and I both decided on 1 Elspeth 1 Gideon earlier in the week).
I cast a Dauntless Escort, and James gets off a Martial Coup for 5, the Escort saves my Hierarch and my birds. All the Brainstorming I’m doing means I haven’t missed a land drop, and I untap and slap an Eldrazi Conscription on my Birds of Paradise, and attack for 11. James has the Martial Coup for 6 on his next turn to kill it, but he’s too low and my follow up plays/manlands finish him off.
Game 2 I keep a slow draw featuring 2 Dauntless Escorts. I figure I can draw acceleration and be all set, or draw expensive stuff and still present a reasonable curve with a lot of resiliency. I draw land after land, with a Negate mixed in, and I don’t have a whole lot going on. James mulliganed to 5, so he is also struggling to take advantage of my slow start. Eventually I find a threat or two (Baneslayer and Jace), Negate a few things to protect them, and take the match 2-0.
Semifinals vs. Mythic
This is the matchup I’ve been waiting for all day. His deck has no way to molest my manabase, and his big threats (Rafiq and Finest Hour) lead to a chump block, while mine (4 Sovereigns and 2 Conscriptions) lead to a dead opponent. Plus I have Gideon and likely more Jaces. I didn’t draw a Sovereign or Conscription either game, but my Baneslayers were able to win game 1 vs his lone Baneslayer. Game 2 Gideon killed his Knight of the Reliquary after it attacked me for 5. My opponent landed a Rafiq which allowed his Birds of Paradise to kill Gideon (thanks to Noble Hierarch). He untapped, swung with a double-striking 6/6 Collonade, into my Baneslayer and Knight of the Reliquary and Lotus Cobra. I was tapped out, but when I searched up my 1 Tectonic Edge, the Lotus Cobra gave me a mana to use it. A cute trick, leaving him with nothing once I untapped and O Ringed his Rafiq. 2-0
Finals vs. Jund.
In game 1 I’m on the play and lead turn 1 Birds, turn 2 Lotus Cobra. My opponent untaps his Savage Lands, thinks for a bit about which guy to Bolt, and Bolts the Lotus Cobra. He then says “I’m done” without playing a land. As I draw my card for the turn, he mumbles something and it appears to everyone that he just forgot to play a 2nd land. Ah, the old IRL F6.
I drop a Jace and Brainstorm. I would fateseal if I thought he didn’t have a land, but I’m pretty sure he just F6d. I almost gave this game back to him by getting too excited and playing sloppy! I kept Jace at 3 and kept only 2 cards in my hand, not playing around Blightning. This is a lesson to everyone reading: just because your opponent makes a mistake and you’re far ahead on board, don’t forget the little things and allow your smile to overpower your brain. I’m left with some birds and a Dauntless Escort after he Blightnings me, but I topdeck a Baneslayer and easily take the game. There’s a ton of cards that are insane topdecks at this point, but I shouldn’t have needed the topdeck.
Game 2 he doesn’t have a bolt for my Hierarch, and I get a Kor Firewalker into play turn 2. He Rampant Growths on his turn 2, and Terminates the Escort turn 3. I follow up with another Escort and my opponent lands a Putrid Leech to keep it at bay. Baneslayer joins my team next, and as they say, its all over but the crying. Doom Blade on the Baneslayer just knocks out the Escort, and he succumbs to the Baneslayer. (I can’t remember this game exactly correctly but the line was similar to what I put down. Nothing exciting, just BSlayer and Escort doing their thing). 2-0.
What I would change about the deck if I played it again:
-1 Elspeth, +1 Gideon and -1 Stirring Wildwood, +1 Arid Mesa.
Here’s how I was sideboarding:
vs. UW Control
If they don’t play Wall of Denial:
-2 Sovereigns, -1 Eldrazi Conscription, -4 Lotus Cobra, -1 Elspeth, -1 land
+2 Qasali Pridemage, +4 Negate, +1 Deprive, +2 Oblivion Ring.
If they have Wall of Denial: leave all your Sovereigns and Conscriptions in and cut 3 Baneslayer.
-1 Elspeth, -4 Dauntless Escort, -1 Sunpetal Grove
+2 Oblivion Ring, +1 Deprive, +2 Qasali Pridemage, +1 Negate. They don’t attack your mana, so you can cut a land pretty safely I think.
-1 Elspeth (noticing a pattern here?), -3 Jace, -4 Sovereigns, -2 Conscription
+2 War Monk, +4 Kor Firewalker, +3 Negate, +1 Deprive. They have too much removal for your mana guys and/or the Sovereigns pre-combat for a 6 mana spell to be the right place to be. Your other guys are all so good vs Jund that protecting them is all you need to do.
Vs. mono-Red or Red splash Black.
-3 Jace, -4 Sovereigns, -2 Conscription, -1 Elspeth
+2 War Monk, +4 Kor Firewalker, +4 Negate. Again, if they can kill your mana, and you have little guys that rock (no Luis, this isn’t a Rocks-Rhox pun), there’s no need to Conscript.
Vs. that 12 planeswalker thing that won the latest 5k.
(see UW, above)
I might just be looking through Blue-Envelope-Colored-Glasses, but I think this deck is favorable vs. everything in the field, at least as the field exists right now.
Virgin PTQs. Where else do you get to play against page 24 of some guys notebook of half-baked deck ideas based on the spoiler of the new set?
Basil Nabi, for rising above the Santa Barbara Magic scene and becoming assimilated among So Cal stackers. This could be a rags-to-riches made for TV movie. I’d cast Danny Bonoduce as James Gates and Christina Hendricks as my love interest who learns about all the Ginger jokes I’ve made at James’ expense just as I’m about to seal the deal and dumps me for Greg Hatch until she learns that he doesn’t know how many green sources are in his Scapeshift deck, at which point she just quits Magic altogether and goes back to being a starlet.
Patrick Sullivan, for playing Mono Red. Some actors try to avoid being type-cast as “the nerd” “the hunk” or “the red mage.” Patrick embraces his natural desire to burn the opponent’s face 3 points at a time.
Patrick Sullivan’s Clippers jumpsuit, for dooming him to underachievement. (if you think this should be “slops,” consider whether the author would change the outcome of this particular tournament if given a chance).
Greg Hatch, for one of the funniest moments in the tournament. Greg has already dropped from the PTQ, and is watching James play vs some guy with Jund. James has drawn all 4 of his Spreading Seas and is blowing the Jund guy out. Jund guy jokes, “You gonna cast a 5th Seas?” Without missing a beat, Greg, FROM THE RAIL, says to Jund guy, calmly, casually, professionally, “that’s the only way you’re winning this game.” Greg isn’t an asshole and usually doesn’t send beats to people he doesn’t know, which made this even funnier.
Phil “pnaps” Napoli for winning a PTQ the same day I did. Always glad to see him at a tournament, Amsterdam will be no exception.
Eldrazi Conscription, for being so easy to cast and hitting so hard.
Kenny Hsiung, for using the term Gui as a synonym for Go. You changed my life- no-, you changed the world. If saying “Jace bounce your Emrakul Go” is like giving the opponent a slap in the face, “Jace bounce Emrakul GUI” is like castrating the opponent with a spork.
The waiter at Cheesecake Factory during our celebratory dinner. Two people order diet coke with their cocktails, the other 3 of us ask for just cocktails. Dude brings out 3 diet cokes. We inform him of his error, and he walks away. Greg assumes “bank error in your favor, collect one diet coke” and begins to drink. Server comes back and says “let me get that extra coke out of your way” and repeals the coke.
Anyone who refers to Cinco de Mayo as “Cinco de Drinko.” If LSV did a set review of drinking holidays he wouldn’t even say something this dumb in his comments about Cinco de Mayo.
Everyone from Nor Cal who has ever told someone they were from California when traveling abroad. You know what you were trying to imply. “Oh, do you know Heidi from the hills?” you hear in broken English, and you smile, pretending not to reveal “too much” about your lavish Californian lifestyle. If only the girl you were talking to knew that year-round great weather and beautiful women are a 6 and a half hour drive away from your house.
You, for thinking “he should have ended this article after the sideboarding tips, which were too short anyway.”