On 11 January 2003, the competitive players of Superior Comics in Dover set out from the depths of primitive Delaware to attend at least one qualifier before the end of extended season, my personal favorite, and get at least some real competitive Magic in before the end of winter break. PTQ: Venice at Rockville drew 126 people at the same day as another in nearby Philly, calling for seven rounds of Swiss before a cut to Top 8. Since I had not played competitively in over a few months, and my playtesting amounted to about three hours at the local store over a couple of weeks, I came into the PTQ with the intent to go at least 4-3 and get some ratings points if nothing else. My previous best at a PTQ was a mere 5-3 for something like 27th place out of over 160.
Like every other Extended PTQ, I was with The Rock, or Malka, or whatever you want to call it. In fact, I called it:
Roy and his Door/Sash Company
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Yavimaya Elder
3 Wall of Blossoms
2 Living Wish
2 Spike Feeder
2 Cabal Therapy (purely psychosomatic)
2 Vampiric Tutor
1 Diabolic Edict
1 Buried Alive
1 Haunting Echoes
1 Living Death
1 Recurring Nightmare
4 Pernicious Deed
1 Spiritmonger (Roy)
2 Cabal Therapy
1 Coffin Purge
1 Engineered Plague
1 Thrull Surgeon
1 Thrashing Wumpus
1 Spellbane Centaur
1 Spike Feeder
1 Crypt Creeper
1 Faceless Butcher
1 Stronghold Taskmaster
1 Visara The Dreadful
1 Dust Bowl
(Doesn't this look like an awful pile?)
To comment briefly upon the deck: it is more or less taken from Sideboard Online, with minor modifications based very loosely on something that wished to resemble a knowledge of the metagame. The missing Treetop Village is because I let someone borrow one when I thought I had five; I play Spike Feeder over Ravenous Baloth because I do not own any Baloths; and the one Spiritmonger in the maindeck is because I could not force myself to take all of them out. In retrospect, swapping out two Duress from the maindeck for two Cabal Therapies in the sideboard may be a good idea. The single Recurring Nightmare is there simply because I thought it would be fun.
This all means much less with the Extended season almost over, but I would not want to post this decklist anywhere without qualifying the decisions in building it some.
I was most afraid of facing Psychatog, which could often draw out of the discard and use its counterspells to stop relevant threats until it could Shadow Rift, Corpse Dance, or Upheaval for the win. Secondly, I was wary of fast U/G decks, which seemed popular on the PTQ circuit from what I had heard and could easily beat me with early pressure and an unanswered Wonder. To completely obliterate any suspense whatsoever, I would face absolutely no U/G decks throughout the PTQ, although all four games I would lose on the day would be to Tog.
In advance, I apologize for any names I misspell, omit, or simply replace with similar ones as, although I have a host of excuses for my imperfect memory, it mostly boiled down to very very skimpy notes.
The rounds played out as follows:
Round 1 (Table 17): Stompy
I won the die roll and played first, dropping a land and passing, which allowed him to play Vine Dryad at the end of my turn and swing for one on his first turn while dropping a forest and saying go. Without any early pressure, he comes back with the Dryad again and plays Giant Growth on it for damage. He proceeds to play Wild Dogs and eventually Pouncing Jaguar, but I draw Deed after his Tangle Wire gets me down to three life, blow up the world, play a Spiritmonger, and kill him with it.
The second game is even more unbalanced, as he gets an early Vine Dryad with Rancor on it but stops swinging when I drop a Wall of Blossoms, even though I have a Forest out which made it unblockable. Eventually a blowing a Deed after moving two Feeder counters to a Genesis - and a four-point Hurricane from him allowed another victory three turns later.
Matches: 1-0 Games: 2-0
Round 2: Sligh
Game one I won the die roll, but had to Paris to six. He gets out an early Mogg Fanatic and Seal of Fires my Bird but I draw out of manascrew and drop a Deed to clear his board of Cursed Scroll, Fanatic and Grim Lavamancer. I then dropped Spiritmonger which slightly outclassed his Jackal Pup and swung over once before going on defense with him at eight life. He taps out and swings with everything to leave me at just one life - and the best I could guess is he didn't see my Treetop Village, which allowed me to attack back for the win.
Game two, my green mana consists of solely Llanowar Wastes for the first half of the game, but I am able to stabilize around six life after drawing three (!) Pernicious Deeds clearing away Lavamancers, Jackal Pups, and a morphed Firecat (after ensuring that the casting cost of a morph creature was indeed zero) before taking two damage to drop a Spike Feeder. Finally, I drew some Forests which let me play Spike Feeders without Shocking myself after Therapying him for Firecat and missing - finding out that the swamp he fetched with a Bloodstained Mire was in fact for the two Perishes sitting in his hand. I tap out except for a Forest to drop a Spiritmonger, and he Perishes - and I respond to by making the 'Monger black. He draws enough burn to drop me to three with a draw phase left, but fails to draw anything of consequence and falls to an angry Spiritmonger.
Matches: 2-0 Games: 4-0
Round 3: Brandon, with White/Green Rogue
My opponent this round was probably the nicest I met all day, perhaps only because he was fairly quiet and thus did not complain or get upset when I beat him. The first game he tries to win quickly with a Mox Diamond and a River Boa, which eventually gets Rancored - but the snake is hardly quick enough to compete with the Visara I wished for and eventually cast. He nearly wins it with an Elephant Guide on the Boa but I just let it drop me to four - and then Visara'd it and every creature he plays for the rest of the game as I smash with everything else.
The second game is much more interesting, as he gets a turn 2 Soltari Monk followed by Rancor on the next turn creating an unblockable 5-turn clock which I could not Butcher or Smother (which I was holding). Even worse, he Armageddon's on the fourth turn to further retard my mana production, although I did have a Bird of Paradise on the board to help out. Two Spike Feeders allowed me to race until he dropped a Hunting Moa to spike up his Monk.
I savagely rip Recurring Nightmare off the top of my deck and proceed to use it to gain a bunch of life with Feeders until I can find a Deed and wipe the board. My Treetops come over a couple of times for the win.
Matches: 3-0 Games: 6-0
Round 4 (Table 1): Justin with Tog
Justin played next to me in round 2, so I knew he was with Psychatog - a deck I was not exactly excited to face.
The first game, some early discard is nullified by Intuition for Accumulated Knowledge and multiple Fact or Fictions; eventually, a Cunning Wish for Corpse Dance with no available blockers on my side ended it.
After sideboarding, I accidentally flip over three cards while shuffling his deck (Polluted Delta, Underground River and Smother) and get a warning not to do it again under penalty of being assaulted by a gang of wild elk and have my pants pulled down in public.
The second game was all about Duress and Cabal Therapy dismantling his hand so two Genesis could come out to play on his face while he only had 5 lands. A last-ditch Tog was Smothered so we could play game 3. Unfortunately for him, he only drew two lands for the first few turns of game 3, allowing me to strip his hand of everything but two Smothers with a Therapy and Bowl away his Underground River before he finally found a land with three consecutive Brainstorms without a Delta. It failed to matter, as Treetops came over for twenty before sufficient defense could be achieved.
Matches: 4-0 Games: 8-1
Interlude: At this point, almost everyone else I know is doing awfully except for Pillsbury, frequent JSSer, who was also 4-0 at this point. We decided if we were paired against each other that we would play it out, since at 5-0 someone would definitely be making Top 8 with the ability to draw in. Instead, for Round 5, we were sitting next to each other:
Round 5 (Table 2): Brent with U/G Combo-Enchantress
Before sitting down, I found out that Brent was with Enchantress and was given the advice to Therapy for Argothian Enchantress early on. This paid off immediately as - although I went second - I answered his first turn"Forest, Exploration, Island, go" with Llanowar Wastes, Therapy for two Argothian Enchantresses in his hand, third-turn Deed , fourth turn blow up the world and smash with Treetops seven times before he could draw anything more.
Second game saw another first-turn Therapy for Enchantress which unfortunately missed, but exposed a fairly weak hand nonetheless; some early pressure dropped him to about thirteen before he dropped Oath of Druids, to which I sacrificed all my creatures to various effects and started applying pressure with Treetops. When he was at one life he almost was able to combo off, but needed to Wish for Capsize instead of Stroke of Genius, since he could only break even with Palinchron while trying to get infinite mana. He scooped with four cards left in his library.
Matches: 5-0 Games: 10-1
At 5-0, I was at the top of the standings at the top of the round. In fact, my friend Ian remarked that when people were looking at the standings, he heard someone say"Who the **** is Adam Waggoner?" which amused me to no end. After beating Brent, I was pretty happy about being all but ensured a place in the Top 8 at the end of the Swiss, and I was hoping to get paired up against another 5-0 and then a 5-0-1 so I could draw in and get something to eat as well. Of course what happened instead was...
Round 6 (Table 2): Sean with Tog with Red
...at 5-0, I was paired down this round with Sean who was 4-0-1 and needed at least one win in the last two rounds to make it into the Top 8. I knew he was playing Tog with Red from earlier scouting, so I was not terribly confident that I could beat another Tog deck to ensure I would make Top 8. It was likely at this point that I would be in with a draw and a loss but I did not want to take any chances. Either way, fast discard including an early Duress and Cabal Therapy which got flashed back stripped his hand of everything but a Thwart while his board was two each of Island, Mountain and Swamp and a Psychatog. Unfortunately, he drew into a Morphling, which forced me to Edict away his Psychatog and try to race superman. After two swings for five, Morphling was forced to untap and block and died.
A Wished-for Corpse Dance for Morphling delayed the inevitable by trading for a Treetop Village, but after he tapped out for the Dance on my attack phase, I was able to Living Wish for Stronghold Taskmaster (the most un-Smotherable three-power creature in my sideboard) and cast it in order to end the game next turn.
Unfortunately, the next two games would not go quite as well, as the second game my discard did not come early enough and as a result he drew insane amounts of cards and killed me with a really really big Psychatog fairly quickly. Since we were deck-checked, we had ten extra minutes at the end of the round, but it was not enough to allow either of us to kill the other in the allotted time. Two of his 'Togs died to assorted Smothers and Edicts and one was on the wrong side of a Fact or Fiction, so when I used a Deed for zero in response to Capsize with buyback on it, I was able to ensure I would keep enough blockers on the board to stop a lethal 'Tog. We unintentionally drew.
Matches: 5-0-1 Games: 11-2-1
Round 7 (Table 1): Ian with Aluren
Matches: 5-0-2 Games: 11-2-1
I was able to make Top 8 as the third seed, and had to play the 6th seed, Brent from round 5. Additionally, I believe Sean from Round 6 won his last round to make Top 8, so I did not feel quite so bad in having to draw with him since he was one of my more enjoyable opponents on the day.
Quarterfinals: Brent (again) with Combo-Enchantress
I was pretty happy to play Brent again, mainly because I had already beaten him in the Swiss and I knew my chances were not horrible - and also because he was not playing Tog. I opened the first game with none other than Cabal Therapy naming Argothian Enchantress, and he commented on how obviously lucky I was. Too much hand destruction and Pernicious Deeds later (I cast Duress every turn for three consecutive turns at one point) he died to Treetop and Yavimaya Elder beatings.
He elected to go first again in game two, but still lost an Argothian to my first-turn Cabal Therapy (how lucky!) and proceeded to drop a Yavimaya Elder and Genesis to follow my hand-disruption, but he drew Oath of Druids and played it. I proceeded to attack, sacrifice the Elder to draw three cards and then sacrificed Genesis to flashback Cabal Therapy. A Treetop on the board applied pressure as he drew into a Presence and began drawing cards, only to have me topdeck a Deed and then flashback another Cabal Therapy naming Cunning Wish.
He discarded it as the only non-land card in his hand in disgust, as I explained afterwards that the only thing I was worried about at that point was a Bind for the Pernicious Deed. I proceeded to blow up his Enchantment-based world and swing with Villages for the win.
Matches: 6-0-2 Games: 13-2-1
Semifinals: Lawrence Creech with Tog
Once again I was forced to meet up with my arch-nemesis, Psychatog, although at this point I believe all but the Tog decks and I were eliminated from the Top 8, so maybe it is a good deck. Either way, he starts the first game with a double-mulligan - and the ending is academic, as a little discard, a Smother and a Spiritmonger end things quickly.
At this point I feel as though I may be able to make it to the finals if I can simply get lucky or draw a good hand. But it is not to be, as in the second game I may have failed to be aggressive enough. He was able to reset the board with Upheaval and eventually played a lethal Tog, which snuck through my defenses with the help of a Shadow Rift. In the third game, my hand was simply too slow and too many lands were drawn and he, being a good Tog player, drew a bazillion cards and hit me for almost exactly my life total despite my best efforts.
Matches: 6-1-2 Games: 14-4-1
For my troubles, scattered playtesting and $20, I received a box of Onslaught, half a box of foreign Onslaught, and a Top 8 pin (which I wanted the most) - which, all in all, is not a completely unsatisfying trade.
- Elijah Goldberg, Ian Fox, Mike Pillsbury, Todd Sack, Vijaeth Hiraesave, Steven Russum, Troy Brestel: Transportation, playtesting, borrowed cards etc...
- Dreamwizards, for a well-run PTQ and for having Top 8 pins
- My opponents: For interesting games and making me actually have to think
Just me: Who flips over cards while shuffling? stop making mistakes at large events
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