After last week’s article I had firmly decided on my deck for the PTQ. Ranger Zoo had brought me a few online victories and I felt like my list was incredibly strong. Aside from a horrid Elves matchup I felt like my Zoo list had an advantage on the rest of the field that other Zoo lists did not have especially in the mirror. Ranger of Eos singlehandedly gave me match win after match win on Magic Online leading me to believe in his ultimate power. Thus I dubbed the deck “Go Go Power Rangers.” If you don’t get the reference then you are probably too old too young or an alien. That being said sometimes I still hate myself for bad puns.
Preparation for the PTQ began on Thursday as I needed a few sideboard cards for my deck. For some reason no one in existence owns Duergar Hedge-Mages so I had to hope to get a few at the event site. When faced with building a second copy of the deck for my fianc Kali getting twice as many copies could be much more difficult. Luckily the PTQ was only an hour or so from my house which led me to believe that I would have plenty of time to get the cards before the tournament started.
Friday night was similar to Thursday as I saw a few more friends at the local store and tried to get the remainder of cards I needed for Kali’s deck including 12 more fetchlands 4 Tarmogoyfs 7 Ravnica Duals 3 Umezawa’s Jitte as well as all of the random commons and uncommons. Fortunately Chris D. had pretty much everything we needed. I already had everything for my maindeck sans 1 Bloodstained Mire but luckily most of our friends were able to supply us with everything excluding a small number of cards. For reference here is the list we both played:
Saturday morning started with us rushing out the door to pick up our friends at the agreed upon time of 7:30am. After packing 3 collections and 5 people into Kali’s Kia we were off! We talked about decks and sideboarding strategies for the majority of the trip down to Oneonta and stopped for breakfast around 8:15. By the way Jack’s has pretty incredible breakfast and I would recommend it if you haven’t had it before. Bacon Egg and Cheese biscuits there are actually the stoneblade.
We arrived at the site around 9am and I immediately started hassling people for cards. I knew probably 30 or so players in the room and was able to get everything for two copies of my deck so neither of us would suffer. On top of that I loaned out an entire Faeries deck most of a BG Loam deck and most of the rares for a TEPS deck. After getting my friends most of the cards they needed I proceeded to register my deck and say hi to my friend Blair who is judging in his first event! His first task? Checking decklists. Blech. That’s pretty much the only reason I need to not be a judge.
At this point I’m feeling really great about my chances. The tournament has 140 people and 8 rounds of Swiss play lie ahead for us players. I exude confidence and confide in friends about my decklist. Some who are playing Zoo want to audible to my list but it is a bit too late plus I didn’t want to give them my list because I was sure I’d face them eventually and wanted a slight advantage in the mirror. When everyone has the technology it is no longer technology. With each passing minute I think about my matchups and what I’m planning to play against. A lot of the stronger players have brought Saito Zoo and I feel as if I’m favored against them and hope to face most of them over the course of the tournament. This is a good feeling because I think I should be able to outplay the rest of the field.
After some last minute prep-talk with Kali on how to sideboard round 1 looked like it was about to start. I put most of my collection back into the car and headed to the player meeting. After about 20 minutes of formalities the tournament began. Finally!
Round 1 versus Christopher (Elementals?!)
After some banter with my opponent he admits that this is his first large tournament and is optimistic but seems to resign to getting smashed by better players/decks. I laugh a little at his modesty but don’t lose focus. Maybe this guy is conning me and I just don’t know his face because he is from out of town? He seems nice enough but then I notice he is playing with clear sleeves. For tournament veterans there are a few key things your opponent does or owns that can lead you to believe that you are facing an easy matchup. One of these things is clear sleeves. Another is the infamous “bag-o-dice.” Fortunately he has both.
I win the die roll and keep an opener of 3 lands Wild Nacatl Kird Ape Woolly Thoctar and Path to Exile. I lead with the Nacatl and pass. He opens up with Primal Beyond playing Flamekin Harbinger searching for Incandescent Soulstoke. I play some creatures and remove his Soulstoke from the game via Path to Exile and he is dead on turn 5.
I don’t much feel like sideboarding at this point but go through the formalities anyway.
A lot of times on the draw I like to side out a land and I figure my best shot at winning is a quick victory so I side out some of my more expensive threats and a land.
He keeps his opener and I keep a hand of 2 lands Kird Ape Woolly Thoctar Lightning Helix Umezawa’s Jitte and Mogg Fanatic. He leads with Flamekin Harbinger again this time grabbing Smokebraider. I draw a land play Kird Ape and pass. He plays out the Smokebraider. I draw another Kird Ape play the Mogg Fanatic and Ape attack for two and kill his Smokebraider. He plays an Incandescent Soulstoke on turn 3 which I Helix and then attack for 4. He plays a few more lands including some Alara Tri-Lands and I beat him within 10 minutes of the round starting. I feel bad but tell him good luck on the next round. This is his first large tournament and I wanted him to get some good experience while still having fun. For the rest of the day people kept asking me what I played against in Round 1 to which I replied “It was his first tournament.”
I have a lot of time before the second round and decide to walk to a local convenient store for a Red Bull. When I get back I do some scouting and see that there are a lot of Woolly Thoctars around but not a lot of Ranger of Eos. This makes me feel really good about my chances. After about 45 more minutes of waiting round two is about to start. I talk to some friend about their matches and then head to the pairings.
Round 2 versus Herbie playing Saito Zoo
Herbie is what I like to call a “Magic friend” who I see at most Magic tournaments but do not talk to outside of said tournaments. He is friends with a lot of my friends etc. As he sits down across from me I say “Hey Herbie. What’s up?” He replies that he wishes he didn’t have to play me (mental fist pump). I ask him how many times we’ve played and he says about 5-6 in the last few years. I ask him how many times he’s beaten me (curiously) to which he replies “Exactly zero times.” Awesome. He wanted me to mention that he is “scantily clad” so I mark this on my notes. I will not say more.
I win the roll and come out blazing with Kird Ape. He follows suit with Stomping Ground into Kird Ape. I fetch out my 2nd land and play Umezawa’s Jitte. He plays Seal of Fire and Mountain and passes the turn. On my turn I equip and attack he blocks and uses Seal of Fire to kill my Kird Ape but I have a Mogg Fanatic to follow up. He never really draws an answer to the Jitte and I roll him pretty easily. Ranger of Eos made an appearance to get more critters for Jitte to equip to and Herbie made a comment about wishing his Seals of Fire were Rangers of Eos. I heard that a lot all day.
For the Zoo mirror Teeg and Fanatic are the worst creatures so I side in more removal and ways to fight against opposing Jitte as well as the 4th Ranger of Eos.
Herbie leads with Wild Nacatl and I fetch a tapped Stomping Ground. On his turn 2 he plays Mogg Fanatic and attacks with the Nacatl after fetching a tapped Sacred Foundry. I play another land and proceed to play Kird Ape and Wild Nacatl. I had drawn the Kird Ape and didn’t want to run my Wild Nacatl into his Seal of Fire which is extremely important. Afterwards he plays a Woolly Thoctar which I have Path to Exile to answer it as well as a Tarmogoyf as backup. I play a Woolly Thoctar and Figure of Destiny over the next few turns but he has enough burn to beat me before I can get an active Jitte. Seal of Fire 2 Helix Incinerate is pretty good when I’m taking 5 or so damage from lands as well as 3 points from Nacatl and Mogg Fanatics etc.
I open with fetching a tapped Stomping Ground and proceed to play 2 Wild Nacatl on turn 2 while fetching a tapped Sacred Foundry. All Herbie plays is Mogg Fanatic Seal of Fire and Woolly Thoctar. Obviously I have Oblivion Ring for Thoctar letting me get some damage in with my Wild Nacatls. Later he plays Tarmogoyf and we stare at each other until I have Figure of Destiny and enough mana to go ultimate. He makes the mistake of not having an answer.
After this round we chat a little about our card decision and he likes my list a lot better. I tell him that Seal of Fire is actually the worst card in the deck by a mile and is only good against Elves. I cut it and just hoped to dodge Elves all day.
Round 3 against Adam Legear playing Zoo (obv)
Adam is another “Magic friend” who lives in Tuscaloosa and is friends with a few of my closer pals who live there. He is a decent player and we talk a little about what we’ve played against in the previous two rounds. All around us sit Bant Faeries and Zoo. I feel pretty good about the tournament thus far and wish Adam luck before we begin.
Adam wins the die roll and keeps. I keep as well and he starts things off with a Kird Ape. I play Mogg Fanatic and pass. On his turn 2 he plays Gaddock Teeg which is pretty amazingly bad in the mirror and makes me feel comfortable about the game state. I play a Teeg of my own and kill his. He doesn’t play many more creatures and I kill them all with Helix and Path to Exile. Later on Adam gets a Jitte in play but isn’t allowed to have creatures as I have infinite removal and lots of monsters. I eventually finish him off with multiple Tarmogoyfs as well as a 4/4 Figure of Destiny. I get to see that Adam has Oblivion Ring maindeck which is a bit scary.
Game 2 is much more interesting and involves a series of plays on my part that are “scared” plays. We both play some dorks and stare at each other. Eventually I get a Woolly Thoctar equipped with an Umezawa’s Jitte and start bashing. Unfortunately for him he has no immediate answer and has to chump block for fear of dying to a slew of burn spells. After a few attacks he draws a Path to Exile to kill the Thoctar. He plays out a few creatures and I draw Ranger of Eos to even the odds. I equip a few Wild Nacatls but they die to burn spells in response. Eventually I play a Tarmogoyf that’s a 4/5 and start to go to town. Adam finally draws a Hedge-Mage that kills my Jitte and Oblivion Ring but he is at 1 life and I have two creatures in play. He also has two creatures in play since the Oblivion Ring had taken his Tarmogoyf for a while. I have a few turns to topdeck removal or burn and eventually reveal the top of my deck as a Lightning Helix. He has no cards in hand and scoops. It was a long game and eventually came down to Jitte versus no Jitte which can decide games pretty easily in this matchup.
I sideboard the same as above.
After a solid 3-0 start I go talk to Kali who is also 3-0! She is pretty excited as she doesn’t play much Extended and says she really likes the deck. Not bad for picking it up a day or two ago! After a short break we get round 4 pairings.
Round 4 versus Chris Greene with BG Death Cloud Loam
Local hero and hometown legend Chris “Kuala Lumpur 13th” Greene or better known as Chris “2100+ Limited rating who lost 300 rating points playing FNM in Tuscaloosa” Greene. It’s time to do battle once more. We had talked before the tournament and decided that playing the traditional Damnation and Death Cloud version of BG Loam was better since the field was full of Zoo. He was right and was 3-0 sitting across from a Zoo opponent with lots of Zoo playing around us. I tried for about 30 seconds to get him to concede to me but he was having none of it! I know that Loam is a bad matchup especially since we tuned his list to beat Zoo. However I feel that if I beat Chris then my chances of winning this tournament go infinitely up. A good player playing a bad matchup how can I lose any of my other matches?
He mulligans to 5 on the play and I have a fairly explosive 6-card hand that contains Gaddock Teeg. After removing a few creatures from play I bash him down to low life. After cycling a few lands he ships it to game 2. This should be a fairly easy matchup for him but the mulligans really hurt.
I side: -3 Fanatic -1 Jitte + 3 Sulfuric Vortex +1 Ranger of Eos
Game 2 is pretty similar to game 1 but in a different order. Neither of us mulligan and he opens with a fetchland and passes. I play a Wild Nacatl and pass. He plays turn 2 Sakura-Tribe Elder and passes. I play Tarmogoyf and attack he blocks then fetches out a land. On the next turn I attack and he plays Putrefy on the Tarmogoyf as well as Slaughter Pact on the Wild Nacatl. Man oh man I wish I was playing Molten Rain here. I follow the turn up with Gaddock Teeg and a Kird Ape. He plays a few Kitchen Finks which I Helix before combat so that they don’t kill my Kird Ape. I play another Tarmogoyf and feel confident behind my Gaddock Teeg. After a few turns of attacking he is down to 5 life. He proceeds to Slaughter Pact my Gaddock Teeg then plays Damnation. I follow it up with Woolly Thoctar to which he plays Death Cloud for 1 falling to just 4 life but empties my hand and board. I have 6 lands in play at this point and need a miracle. I topdeck RANGER OF EOS and proceed to lay out 3 creatures with 3 power in one card. He sighs as he only has 1 card in hand and a Mutavault in play. He plays a Sakura-Tribe Elder and loses in a few turns of bashing not having drawn an answer.
I would like to point out that neither game Chris drew Life from the Loam and that caused him to lose the late game for lack of gas. Had I not drawn the Ranger of Eos at the end I was in a lot of trouble but playing four sometimes just wins you the game. I wish Chris luck on the rest of the tournament and he slinks off to smoke a cigarette.
Round 5 versus Brian Guess playing (you guessed it) Zoo
I know Brian from playing tournaments in the southeast and we had hung out a little during Worlds in Memphis back in December. He’s a nice guy but we get down to business.
I keep a hand that has Kird Ape Goyf Path to Exile Wild Nacatl and 3 Lands. I win the roll and lead with Kird Ape since I don’t like my Wild Nacatls dying to Seals of Fire. He plays Wild Nacatl off Temple Garden and passes. I bash for two with Kird Ape and play a Wild Nacatl of my own with Sacred Foundry up. We trade Wild Nacatls and I play a Helix on a 2nd Wild Nacatl from Brian. Afterwards he plays Keldon Marauders which deals me five damage. However I have Woolly Thoctar and Tarmogoyf to start getting aggressive and he has Path to Exile for my Woolly Thoctar. Eventually I get a Jitte active with Figure of Destiny as all he draws is removal and more Keldon Marauders.
Game 2 is much of the same. I play Wild Nacatl Kird Ape and Tarmogoyf while he plays Nacatl Kird Ape but he surprises me with Thrill of the Hunt. At one point combat becomes convoluted as the only instant in the graveyard is Thrill of the Hunt and my Goyf is a 3/4 and if he flashes it back mid-combat it would shrink to a 2/3. However I have Path to Exile and wait patiently to blow him out with this. He attacks with his Nacatl and Kird Ape into my Tarmogoyf and Kird Ape. I block Ape on Ape and Goyf on Nacatl. He tries to Thrill of the Hunt the Kird Ape but I send it farming with Path and my Goyf stays a 3/4 and munches the Nacatl. Post combat he plays Mogg Fanatic to finish the Tarmogoyf. I rebuild with another Tarmogoyf and Umezawa’s Jitte. He has Woolly Thoctar but I have the Oblivion Ring to shut it down. He plays Ranger of Eos to go get 2 Mogg Fanatic but those don’t stop Tarmogoyf for too long. Afterwards I get to play a Ranger of Eos of my own grabbing 2 Wild Nacatl and finish the job slowly with Jitte even though he drew a Hedge-Mage to blow up my Jitte and Oblivion Ring on a Tarmogoyf.
Round 6 versus JT Hendricks (GA state champ) playing Zoo (obvobvobv)
He is a solid player and got second at the Tallahassee PTQ with a similar decklist. He’s still playing Sulfuric Vortex maindeck which is just abysmal in the mirror but he’s been getting lucky. He beat Kali last round so I have to avenge her!
Game 1 is pretty awkward as we both get decent starts but I have no answer for Woolly Thoctar plus Umezawa’s Jitte and game we’re off to sideboarding pretty quickly.
I draw a lot of lands but play a few early drops. He plays 2 Path to Exile on my creatures keeping my board from developing as much as I would have liked. I later manage to resolve a Ranger of Eos to get some gas. I get Figure of Destiny to a 4/4 and try to go Ultimate next turn but obviously JT has the 3rd Path to Exile for it. I lose soon after in a very long game where he drew both of his 2 Rangers of Eos while I only drew 1 out of my 4 Ranger of Eos. The gods of probability are laughing at me I’m sure. JT is a good player with a good deck so I don’t blame anything but luck.
Round 7 I am paired against a good friend Will Cruse playing TEPS. I had loaned him most of the rares for the deck and promptly ask for them back before the match begins. He laughs as do I and we get to shuffling.
I open on a slow hand featuring 2 Path to Exile and instantly mulligan. I need an explosive start preferably containing Gaddock Teeg. My 6 card hand is Wild Nacatl Mogg Fanatic and Jitte with 3 lands. I keep hoping I get there. He plays Ponder and suspends Lotus Bloom. On my turn I just play Wild Nacatl and pass. His Lotus ticks down and he plays a land. I attack him with Nacatl and play Jitte looking to clock him quickly before he combos or gain enough life to be out of Tendrils range if he fizzles. He plays an end of turn Peer Through Depths finding another Ponder. On his turn he plays Ponder again shuffles and passes the turn. I equip Jitte and start going to town ending with a Mogg Fanatic. His Lotus comes in and I prepare to die quickly. However he just casts a 3rd Ponder still doesn’t play a 3rd land and passes the turn. On my turn I draw Gaddock Teeg and play it pre-combat. He Remands it but has to use the Lotus Bloom to do so and puts him at a severe disadvantage. I attack with my critters once again and pass. He is within lethal next turn from attacks and tries to combo. He plays 2 Manamorphose but never plays Mind’s Desire. I feel very lucky to not be dead and Will matches this sentiment.
Before the tournament Will told me he planned on having an “All-In Red” sideboard but I told him that he should only bring it in against Stifle decks since the combo is efficient against aggro.
I have the nut opener with Kird Ape Ethersworn Canonist Gaddock Teeg and Pyrostatic Pillar with three lands. He keeps his seven-card hand. He plays a land and suspends a Lotus Bloom. I lead with Mountain into Kird Ape. Next turn he passes without play. I play a fetchland then Ethersworn Canonist. He sighs pretty heavily leaving me to believe he doesn’t have an Echoing Truth. After some attacks I play a Pyrostatic Pillar and he concedes angrily. I drew amazingly well in Game 2 and got pretty lucky to win Game 1. Will storms off after signing the slip no longer able to make Top 8 unless some crazy things happened. I try to console him but Will gets very upset when he loses at Magic and I leave him be.
Round 8 is the last round of Swiss and it is a clean cut to Top 8 with 3 matches being able to draw in and 2 matches who all are 5-1-1 playing it out for the last two slots. The Top 8 decks going into the elimination rounds are:
Me with Zoo
JT Hendricks with Zoo
Marshall Ashford with Loam
Ryan Pawlick with Bant
Jody with Astral Slide
Phil Smith with Zoo
Derrick Sheets with Zoo
Some guy with TEPS
I figure that the Slide player has the best chance to win the tournament but he randomly gets paired against the TEPS guy in the Quarterfinals and gets crushed. Loam gets beaten by Zoo. Zoo beats Zoo. And I play against Bant.
Quarterfinals against Ryan Pawlick (Bant)
I figure this matchup is going to be tough but is far from unwinnable. Ranger of Eos gives me a bit of an edge and I talked to him earlier about his deck and know he isn’t playing Spell Snare or Mana Leak so I don’t have to play around these. Game 1 he mulligans and plays turn 1 Noble Hierarch into turn 2 Rhox War Monk. I play Wild Nacatl and Figure of Destiny but am outclassed by the 3/4 monsters. I get bashed to death while he leads a very healthy 30+ life. I try to double block at one point but lose to Bant Charm. He ends the game with Vendilion Clique + 2 Tarmogoyf. My draw cannot compete as I drew no removal and no Jitte. I heard he had maindeck Worship so I sideboard accordingly:
+3 Duergar Hedge-Mage +3 Oblivion Ring -3 Mogg Fanatic -3 Gaddock Teeg
Game 2 was fairly epic as I was at 6 life very quickly from Vendilion Clique and Rhox War Monk. I played a few blockers Path his Monk Fanatic his Clique and eventually got Ranger of Eos online with 2x Wild Nacatl. After the board clears from removal he plays Troll Ascetic. I eventually get Jitte on a random dork and am able to gain life to stay out of lethal attack range. He eventually starts blocking my creature with Jitte and I draw another Ranger of Eos to seal the deal.
Game 3 was similarly epic. He plays two Tarmogoyfs within the first 3 turns and I play Wild Nacatl Jitte and Ranger of Eos for 2 Wild Nacatl. I’m sure he’s sitting on Bant Charm so I try really hard not to walk into it with equip from the Jitte. Eventually he turns the tides pretty hard with a swing with Vendilion Clique and two Goyfs which I have to chump block to not die. I then play Oblivion Ring on the Clique Tarmogoyf and Kird Ape. He plays War Monk and attacks. I chump one of the Goyfs and bump heads with the other. Next turn I play another Tarmogoyf and Duergar Hedge-Mage choosing not to blow up my Oblivion Ring. He is still stuck on 3 lands at this point which is good. He declares attacks with his 3 creatures and pre blocks I attempt to Path to Exile a Tarmogoyf which resolves! I use 1 Tarmogoyf to eat a War Monk and use another Tarmogoyf and Hedge-Mage to eat his other Tarmogoyf. Post combat he plays a Troll Ascetic. I am currently sitting at 4 life and am dead to a topdecked Noble Hierarch if I attack. I have Oblivion Ring in hand and attack for 8 sending him to 7. He bashes me down to 1 with the Troll then taps out to play Worship. I put my Oblivion Ring on the table and shake his hand. It was truly an epic game that I did not think I was going to win.
Semifinals against JT playing Zoo (again)
After a quick break I find that I have to play JT again in the Semifinals. I tell him good luck as we sit down. He promptly mulligans and we’re off. He leads with Wild Nacatl Mogg Fanatic and drops the hammer with Sulfuric Vortex on turn 3. I have a lot of removal 2 Tarmogoyf and Wild Nacatl of my own. I race the Vortex but was dead to any burn from him in 2 draws.
I mulligan into a mediocre hand and get steamrolled as he continues his trend of drawing 2+ Path to Exile every game we have played so far.
Game 3 lasts for about 30 minutes as we run back and forth playing draw-go as we both get flooded. I have 6 lands in play 1 of which is a Forest as well as a 4/4 Figure of Destiny. He plays Ranger of Eos fetching up 2x Mogg Fanatic tapping out. I have had about 3 turns to draw any land in the deck to pump Figure into an 8/8 and seal the deal as he has already played 3 Path to Exile. However my deck hates me and I just draw dork after dork. He topdecks and shows me Incinerate and then uses a Fanatic to finish off the no-longer-lethal Figure of Destiny. The sadness echoes in the crowd around us. I have only drawn 1 Ranger of Eos at this point as well as 1 Jitte. It was promptly blown up by a topdecked Duergar Hedge-Mage after a few swings with no extreme damage done. I am at a very precariously low life total but can topdeck any removal spell to win the game on the spot. JT asks me if I have a Lightning Helix. I have no reply. He attacks but holds 1 creature back to block my 2 Tarmogoyf that are lethal if both connect and passes the turn with me at 5 life. I draw… another land. 9 in play 2 in hand now. JT has about 6 in play and only 2 cards in hand one of which I’m sure is Incinerate. I ask him if he has Lightning Helix trying to get a little information while still showing that could potentially be bluffing something. He decides that waiting is a losing proposition and goes for it attacking with 3 creatures into my 2. He plays Incinerate post combat and uses Fanatic to finish me off. I show him my 2 lands in hand and slump in my chair.
JT goes on to smash another mirror match in the finals earning his trip to Hawaii. He ended the day going 10-0-1 not too shabby if you ask me. JT is a very nice guy and I’m glad he went on to win the tournament. He played perfectly and deserved to win. I had a better deck but there is a lot of luck involved in Magic and sometimes you need more luck than skill to win.
After the tourney I get some pizza and put on my headphones to zone out. I was pretty sick of losing the Ranger of Eos battle when I was playing 4 and he was playing 2 and just hoped to get there next week. It felt good to finally get out of the Quarterfinals in the Top 8. I haven’t done that in a while so here’s hoping I can keep the momentum going!
Overall the deck played fantastically. I mulliganed less than 5 times in the tournament and only flooded about 3 times all day. Even when I did flood I could use that mana to play spells equip Jitte or Ultimate Figure of Destiny so it was rarely a bad thing. Having extra cards against mirror matches and being able to play spells is something truly amazing. If I had to change anything in the deck I would add 1 Burrenton Forge-Tender to the sideboard. He is a great Ranger of Eos target and very good in the mirror match often holding off Woolly Thoctars or preventing burn spells from killing bigger creatures. The sideboard might need a little work as Oblivion Ring got blown up by Duergar Hedge-Mage a bit too often. If everyone is playing Hedge-Mage then Oblivion Ring should probably be Thrill of the Hunt. I’m sure I’ll be rocking a different 75 on Saturday but it will be pretty close.
Oh yeah the last PTQ of the season is Saturday in Louisville. I’m going and rocking the same deck probably. If I win don’t expect a tournament report until Honolulu!
The End (of Extended).