I love combos. When I first did well in Magic, it was with Bargain at Regionals '00. So after seeing how this extended PT played out, I was very excited about the PTQ season. I tried Oath out first, but it had trouble with Goblin Welder. It was still good, even though Kibler and Zvi said it was the worst deck ever. It seems like a fine deck for the qualifier season. Then I moved on to my favorite combo deck ever. I played Hermit Druids and Mox Diamonds in Tempest Block to power out turn 3 Verdant Forces. I had also played it with Entomb to some success, but hadn't got a chance to play it at a big event. I tried out a couple of versions, and settled on this:
2 Ancient Tomb
4 City of Brass
4 City of Traitors
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Underground River
4 Vault of Whispers
1 Yavimaya Coast
4 Hermit Druid
3 Krosan Cloudscraper
2 Sutured Ghoul
4 Buried Alive
1 Cabal Therapy
4 Corpse Dance
1 Dragon Breath
1 Krosan Reclamation
4 Mox Diamond
2 Mystical Tutor
4 Vampiric Tutor
I played the deck a few matches on Apprentice, almost all against Red Deck Loses. I wasn't having a lot of trouble, because it's Apprentice, and because this deck beats RDL. I eventually just started disconnecting when people played Mountains, because I was trying to get some varied playtesting. I assumed that a lot of other people liked the deck, but it seems that it's only people online. We decided to go up to Roanoke on Friday night, and there happened to be a blizzard. We make it, get some sleep, and get to the site at 9:30. There are zero cars in the parking lot. Did I mistake the date? The PTQ last year wasn't canceled, and that snowstorm was a lot worse. Well, it was postponed until Sunday, so I spent the day playtesting at StarCity with Dose and some people from Virginia Tech and Radford. One guy asked me my name, and recognized it from something. I felt almost famous.
The deck did very well again, seeming to beat Tinker, RDW, and Tog substantially. I thought I was a lock for Top 8. I knew my deck, it had great matchups against the expected field, and I was very confident. We go back to Radford, sleep another night, and come back to the site at 9:57. I wrote down about three cards and I heard them yell last call. I was trying not to make a mistake and get my decklist in on time, which isn't very easy.
I get paired against somebody that I saw in top 8 of the last PTQ I attended, and he was very friendly. Game 1, he goes first, and plays a Yavimaya Coast. That probably means Oath, which I hadn't playtested against, but I still believe to be a good matchup. He Fires my turn 2 Hermit Druid, and I try to get around his control while he develops his land base. Eventually I get down to six life, because the deck kills you very fast, and a Treetop Village finishes me. Well that's fine, I have Defense Grids and more discard in the sideboard, but what do I take out? I realized my mistake immediately. I hadn't played any sideboarded games with this version of the deck. The old version you just took out bad creatures. That doesn't work anymore.
I force a Defense Grid out quickly, but I have to Exhume my Ghoul without haste, so he gets to actually use Oath of Druids. He makes a lowly 17/17, which has to block, and he must've sided the other out because he decided not to Oath on the next turn. At this point only a bounce spell in his main phase would save him, because I had played a second Defense Grid. He doesn't draw it, and I don't change my sideboarding for game 3.
We talk about mulligans during the shuffling, which could only be bad for me. Fortunately I only have to take one. My hand is Duress, Vampiric Tutor, Defense Grid, Llanowar Waste, City of Traitors, Random Other land. On turn 2, I Duress him, he Mana Leaks it, and I drop the two-mana land and the Defense Grid. There's no way I can lose from here. I draw a Buried Alive, and I'm ready to kill him next turn. But, it turns out I have one of the Cloudscrapers in my hand - it was the second card I drew. My sideboarding hurts me here, but doesn't put me out of the game. He drew one of his Krosan Reclamations, and I keep trying to fight, but there's no point. I get to thirteen, and he lays a second Village. I can't draw what I need after dealing with the Reclamation, and I'm 0-1.
I lost to a good player who knew the matchup better than I did. He won the die rolls, and he had what he needed, when he needed it. At least I'm not going to have a hard next few rounds. The guy next to me beat Mind's Desire with a deck featuring Treetop Scout or something. It was a 1/1 for G with some flying related ability. I hear him talking about how he's going to win the PTQ, and hope he lost a bet or something.
I got get breakfast, and come back just in time for pairings. I'm playing James Eure, which is probably spelled wrong. I talked to him outside before the first round, and he's playing Angry Ghoul also, but without the backup plan. He wins the die roll, and plays a turn 1 Hermit. He pitched reanimation to the Chrome Mox, so I'm sure he has more. I look at my turn 3 win, and see something I had missed: Krosan Reclamation. I play Mox Diamond and a land, doing my best to bluff game over, but he doesn't bite.
He flashes back the Cabal Therapy he milled and sees the Reclamation. I Vampiric Tutor at the end of his turn, and go get Duress. I pick off his Reanimate, which was worthless, but still the best card he had in hand. I play my land and pass, and he Reclamations two Exhumes. He draws one and casts it, and I check out his graveyard. Then, I notice another mistake. Great. I just lost a game to a huge mistake. I didn't look at his graveyard at the end of his last turn, and it has a Battlefield Scrounger in it. I have no choice but to Reclamation his Ghouls, but the 6/6 infinite library Scrounger finishes me off in short order. During sideboarding, I accept my mistake, because sending the Scrounger back at his end of turn would've meant he just had to send back two lands, and cast it.
Again, I have no idea what I'm doing during sideboarding, and just basically guess. I add 2 Rushing River, 1 Duress, and 1 Krosan Reclamation for 1 Hoodwink, 1 Mystical Tutor, 1 Sutured Ghoul, and 1 Cloudscraper. That's right. I didn't learn anything. You should at least learn from your mistakes, right? Well apparently not.
Game 2, I win on turn 3 going first. It was very anti-climactic, as he had no idea what Corpse Dance did, and didn't try to prevent me from winning. Turn 2 Buried Alive, turn 3 Corpse Dance. It gives them haste. It's in here for a reason.
Game 3, we both mulligan, and keep our six card hands. He says he doesn't want to go to five, and it turns out his opening hand was almost all mana. This game he shows off some sideboard tech with two Wastelands, which put me far behind. I have mana ready along with a tutor to go get Rushing River, but he Wastelands my City of Brass. I drop another Blue source, and it gets Wasted as well. He plays a turn 3 Hermit Druid, and mills his entire deck. He says good game at this point and asks me if I have the Reclamation. I thought he was conceding, but it may have just been arrogance.
My turn 4 Hermit Druid blocks the turn after he comes out, because I was at five life. My lands consisted of Llanowar Waste and Ancient Tomb, so there was no way I could kill him without colored mana. I don't draw whatever I was looking for off the top, and I go 0-2. Drop. Last time I did that I won the next qualifier I went too. But I went 0-2 in Atlanta, and it's a lot more difficult there. 0-2 in Roanoke though. With a deck that I like, and know how to play. In combo season. I'm debating whether I should change decks now before Knoxville. I get to check out the Grand Prix before that PTQ though, so hopefully I can netdeck something I can play a little better.
mmann1 at utk.edu