Death, Glory, and Resurrection, a PTQ Hollywood Report

[Editor's Note: This article is significantly longer than our normal fare, but it's worth it if you enjoy a good Extended tournament report. So get some popcorn and dig in! -ed.]

It's been a while; far too long, in fact.

The last time I had an article published on this site was almost a year ago, and a great many things have happened since then. I would have written during block season (I still have half an unpublished article somewhere), but work, summer school, and poor Magic performances all discouraged me from writing. GP San Jose (it was most certainly NOT in San Francisco) is perhaps the most illustrious example; my constructed rating dropped over 100 points between the trials, the main event, and the PTQ, mostly because Bryce talked me into playing his deck.

Never again.

It isn't that Bryce's decks are bad, it's just that he builds them so strangely (his deck from this event is some indication, as you'll see). The next time Bryce convinces me his decks are good, someone please just grab a copy of the premiere aggro deck and shove it down my throat.

Bryce's decks may actually be the best, but only when he plays them.

"But wait," you say, "if this isn't a story about how you made Top 8 with Bryce's deck, then what is it?"

Shall we dance?

No Skills Involved at AllMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
1 Cephalid Sage
1 Flame-Kin Zealot
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
1 Golgari Thug
3 Ichorid
4 Narcomoeba
4 Putrid Imp
4 Stinkweed Imp

4 Breakthrough
3 Cabal Therapy
3 Careful Study
2 Darkblast
2 Dread Return

4 Bridge from Below
4 Leyline of the Void

4 Cephalid Coliseum
3 Flooded Strand
2 Island
3 Polluted Delta
3 Watery Grave

Since the decklists for our event didn't make it online, my deck – specifically my sideboard – is an MTGS exclusive… Lucky you. "That's the first sideboard for Dredge that I've seen that I like," said the Gus. Admittedly, my list is similar to Chris Heath's second place deck from Louisville (note the maindeck Leyline), but I am representing motherland Japan with the almighty Merchant Scroll sideboard. Mr. Heath probably shared my line of thought: Leyline protects your plan A (Bridge from Below) while simultaneously destroying the mirror and creating relevant splash damage for two-thirds of the format (Gifts decks, Witness decks, and making Grim Lavamancer into a vanilla 1/1 whilst his buddy Mogg Fanatic wantonly sacrifices himself to try to stop the relentless Zombies, but to no avail).

I miss writing about Magic. Here, I get to talk about Goblins and Zombies like they matter or something.

When I was looking at the decklists from PT: Valencia, three things about the Dredge lists appealed to me:

1. Cephalid Coliseum. I knew that if I were to run the dredge gambit, I would be playing four of this card. I feel that it's not feasible to run the coliseum in the ten-land builds as they are hellbent on "going off" as soon as MTG development will let them with cards like Tireless Tribe and Street Wraith. As much as I like Wraith, Coliseum just takes the cake here. It allows you an uncounterable way to dredge multiple cards as early as turn two in matchups where counterpells actually matter, and otherwise it lets you keep more hands, as your deck has more than ten lands.
2. Wonder. The card is wonderful. Although I must apologize, to be fair, for being punderful. I knew that I wanted one of these between my maindeck and sideboard, because as crazy as Tarmogoyf is, he doesn't block flying Zombies, Horrors, and gargantuan Grave Trolls (cue foreshadowing). Consequently, this means playing Islands (sorry Zac Hill).
3. Merchant Scroll. The main thing I like about this card is that it gives you a feasible out against multiple Leylines in Echoing Truth. Bao Luong's build, featured by MJFlores here features one scroll, but also has several choices that I don't agree with. Like not playing maindeck Leyline of the Void.

The second basic Island should in fact be a Watery Grave, but I couldn't find one before the tournament and registered two basics instead. After this tournament, however, I gained a newfound respect for Blood Moon, and one can certainly make the argument (albeit less so with this deck) for more basic lands.

Nine months ago, this card was $3
Thursday night, I read on Team Santa Cruz's forum that our good friend Richard would be unable to attend the PTQ because of work:

So yeah, if anyone needs last minute cards for the PTQ let me know and I'll see what I can do (I'll send them out tomorrow morning, since it's Santa Cruz it should arrive on Friday). I have some fetchlands, Goyfs, Damnations, Vensers, etc. etc. etc. oh and a fully built Gaea's Might Get There list and a nearly built Elf Alarm Combo deck.
Power Rangers take home the blue envelope, yadadamean?!

I'll reserve the story behind our identification with the Power Rangers for another day.

So of course, I read this on Thursday at about 4 PM while at work. After class I called Richard, and Steve who was interested in testing. Eventually, after Steve made fun of me for considering the desperate gambit of driving to San Leandro just to get cards, I decided to trek up to Richard's (about 60 miles each way) to borrow cards so that I'd have the option of playing a deck with Tarmogoyf in it. I borrowed three Goyfs, ten Fetchlands, two Vedalken Shackles, and one very lonely Golgari Grave-Troll. Somehow, Gauntlet Dredge for Standard Regionals ate my fourth Troll.

As fate would have it, the Grave-Troll would be the only card that I needed.

Of course, the team would need Goyfs (who doesn't these days), and luckily we had Richard's.

This time, Bryce was the one making the ridiculous trip for the PTQ. Out of the sheer kindness of my heart, and by no means out of love for Bryce, I allowed him and his two hapless victims – er, friends he drove with – to stay with me in the Santa Cruz beach house. Sometimes it looks like this:

Photo courtesy of Michael Tucker, and yes, it's real. I was there

Other times, this being one of them, there is a countywide storm warning, and the University's chancellor sends out an email about power outages and falling trees on campus. Pretty crazy, actually.

Bryce, Ryan, and Forest drove up in Ryan's convertible Mustang, a hot car at any time other than this. They were made to park in the mud across the street from my house, which I'm sure made Ryan even happier about being there.

I'm not sure if Russian Zombies are scarier than Russian Vampires.
We built decks (or tried to), I had commons, uncommons and Shackles for Forest, Bryce had Russian Bridge from below for me.

They spent the night testing, I spent the night sleeping well. In my own bed.

Never underestimate the importance of a good night's sleep before a long event.

Or a good breakfast! In spite of Bryce sleeping in 20 minutes past what we had originally planned, I took the guys to Santa Cruz Diner, famous for crowds of customers with hangovers on Saturday and Sunday, for reasons that should be obvious. Kevin, a longtime acquaintance of mine, but only a recent addition to Team Santa Cruz (I ran into him at GP:SJ and was weirded out, not knowing he was of the Magical persuasion), met us at the Diner and expressed concerns about time.

Me: "Don't worry, it's fine."

I drove about 75 over highway 17 to get us there at 10:01 AM, "just in time, right guys?" I received 2 Bridge from Below and a Pithing Needle from Gus who chuckled at me for barely making it. Forest was missing half his deck and went into a frenzy trying to get cards.

What people played:

Me: Mise Deck Wins
Gus: Blood Moon Loam
Kenta (on loan from Japan): Gobrins
Nick: Red Deck + Goyf + Terminate (I wanted to play this, but hindsight being 20/20, I'm glad that Nick did instead).
Kevin: Rainbow Dredge with Cephalid Coliseum before Zac Hill suggested it
Eck and Vin (the Scotts Valley contingent): Cephalid Snacktime (Breakfast, Brunch, whatever, albeit it's less powerful than old builds with En-kor and Vampiric Tutor, ergo the smaller meal size).

Guest Power Rangers (Third Planet Represent):
Bryce: Tog
Ryan: Red Deck
Forest: BryceAtog, having not played Magic in 3 years (probably not the best choice)

196 people. 8 rounds.
One chance for glory.

Round 1: Charles with Mono-Blackalicious Control

This was largest PTQ I've played that wasn't at a GP or PT. Charles is one of the many reasons that I enjoy competitive Magic. A middle aged man, thin, with an accent (Italian?) and a Pro Tour T shirt from an event in 1999 all put me on severe tilt, but as it turns out I didn't need to worry that much.

"Let's put a smile on his face…"
I played Polluted Delta on turn one and passed. Charles played Swamp (regular old Swamp) and laid Pithing Needle naming Delta, in spite of my sacrifice in response. I drew for my turn, Cabal Therapied him (for Extirpate) and saw the following:

Twisted Abomination
Nantuko Shade
Diabolic Tutor
Diabolic Tutor

Yeah. Wow.

I played Cephalid Coliseum, Brokethrough my hand away, and killed him three turns later. He actually topdecked Wrath (I had Therapied away the Shade and Tutors) and had to use it to fend off lethal Zombies before dying to Ichorid/Akroma.

Before you ask, blind Breakthrough for none on the play is perhaps too crazy even for me. Going for it on turn 2 also allowed for Coliseum and Therapy. Perhaps I just have played Therapy too much in fair decks. In any case, Akroma got there.

LotR: Aragorn, Gung-Ho, The Riddler, Ed & Al, Lara, and Number Six
A note on the Zombie tokens I used: Gus had brought an ample supply of Unglued tokens for me, but I used a fistful of boosters from obsolete cardgames that were found in a grab-box at Epic Adventure Games in Scotts Valley. My stack featured such winners as GI Joe, two iterations of Tomb Raider, Fullmetal Jacket Alchemist, Battlestar Galactica, and Batman Forever. I could probably write an article (or at least a mini) on the importance of accessorizing properly. The creepy, undead card games reflected zombification better than any art depicting rotting corpses could.

+2 Merchant Scroll
+2 Chain of Vapor
+1 Echoing Truth
+1 Tolarian Winds
+1 Cabal Therapy
-4 Leyline of the Void
-2 Darkblast
-1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath

I put him on Leyline and indeed he had it. It was okay, as I had lucky Chain of Vapor in my opening seven. I got off to a relatively slow start, with only the lonely Golgari Grave-Troll to dredge with and no Putrid Imp to keep discarding. I had two Bridge from Below, however, and Therapied away Charles' nonland cards. The board was my two Zombie tokens to his three lands in play and more lands in hand (all basic Swamps by the way). I had another Therapy, so I hit myself for the Grave-Troll so I could keep winning, sacrificing a Zombie. Of course, he drew Extirpate for my one dredger, letting the Bridges remain. I groaned, but was resigned to my fate; after all I was playing Dredge. I drew and cast Narcomoeba and then Putrid Imp, and 5 power of random guys was enough. It shouldn't have been, but sometimes, Narcomoeba just gets there.

1-0 (2-0)

On that note, Vin was seen terrorizing people with Narcomoeba wielding multiple Shuko. He did this more than once that day. Just sayin'.

Round 2: Andrew with Enduring Ideal

This card is so pretty.
I found out that Andrew heralds from Santa Barbara, home of Metro Entertainment, the Sunday draft, and State Champion Basil Nabi, who I got to befriend during my short stay in that town over summer. Andrew got deck checked (by your friendly neighborhood Luis Scott-Vargas). He registered 59 cards and I'm up a game.


Seriously, LSV as a level 7 pro and a judge? What a gentleman.

Andrew elected to play and mulliganed. He kept Lotus Bloom, Ancient Spring, two Form of the Dragon, Orim's Chant, and Plains. He drew Dovescape, or the second Form, because I'm not sure that's a keeper if he drew anything else. In any case, I only knew the full contents of his hand because I killed him on turn two with much Therapy, Zombies, and dredging involved.

Turn 0
Leyline of the Void

Turn 1 (off the top, felt so bad)
Careful Study, discard Grave-Troll, Stinkweed Imp

Turn 2 (not off the top, but still)
Breakthrough for none, hit enough creatures to Dread Return Cephalid Sage, dredge some more, Therapy you a couple times, make more Zombies, watch you punt by not playing Chant.

To be fair, even if he had played it, he had zero outs as he'd need to topdeck another Chant, and be willing to sacrifice his Ancient Spring to pay the kicker. Then he'd need to do it again and make a white mana out of nowhere.

2-0 (4-0)

This left me with an hour to mull around, as the TO allowed a lunch break for the event. This was the single best play of the tournament, if you ask me.

Round 3: Jonathan with Turtenwald Blue

Jonathan rolls with Shane Mason, whose crew brought a doozy of a pickle to this tournament: Tooth and Nail with Burning wish. I'm upset that none of them made the Top 8, because their deck seemed strong. Moment's Peace is a card that will give me nightmares until I play the Moment's Peace deck.

Then dreams involving it will be, well, peaceful.
Unless, of course, they are Devastating Dreams.
Or Insidious ones.

I'm sorry. I'm like this in person too.

Card Selection > You
Game one, Jonathan Topped into the singleton Tormod's Crypt at the perfect time to make me lose.

Time for my second sideboarded game of the day…

+4 Pithing Needle
+1 Wonder
+1 Cabal Therapy
+1 Crippling Fatigue
-4 Leyline of the Void
-1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
-1 Flame-Kin Zealot
-1 Cephalid Sage

Eck was so excited (Eck-cited?) about Crippling Fatigue. He and Vin boarded one also. You see, as Eck pointed out, this card has been without a purpose since 2002. We had no idea what it was for. But now, it has become readily apparent that it's Cripplin' fo' Teeg.

Fo' Teeg.
Cripplin' Fo' Teeg.

I'm glad to have Eck around. I don't feel as bad about dropping awkward puns that nobody laughs at but me.

Things signed by the artist are intimidating.
I opened on Pithing Needle for Top, followed by Needle for Tormod's crypt. He fetched a Steam Vents and Ancient Grudged the Top-Needle in response to a Therapy. I named the only card that beats me in that situation, which is Trinket Mage, and Jonathan showed me Ancient Grudge, some land and a very, very sad Trinket Mage that he was sandbagging. He topped into Goyf and Hierarch, and I made seven zombie tokens and a 12/12 Grave troll while he was tapped out. Oh, and I had dredged Wonder, so this play put him on lethal. He drew nothing of relevance, but made me tap my hilarious booster pack Zombies, one Horror, and frighteningly large Skeleton Troll to kill him.

3-0 (6-1)

He revealed that he did indeed have the Teegs, but having had to fetch the Steam Vents meant he was unable to cast it at a relevant time. Or, you know, draw it.

Round 4: John with Doran

I like that the StarCity types call this deck "Doran the Explorer." Pretty clever, although I really want to call it "Doran Doran" – Girls on Film et al. The folks at the old Apprentice league call the deck "Tarmofolk," which makes the least sense, so let's mock them mercilessly.

Round 4: John with Tarmofolk

Game one against Tarmofolk is the reason I play this game. So many dreams crushed. Pink Ranger Kevin kept asking me if I felt like physically hurting people as I smashed them on this day. My answer is no, I was actually pretty sympathetic to the collective plight of many of my opponents, apologizing many, many times.

If you're as empathetic as I am, please, for your own health, do not play Dredge this season. It will lead you down the dark path, which according to Master Yoda can end only in suffering.

John got the Cabal's unique brand of Therapy, which unfortunately wasn't covered by his health insurance. He lost Doran, and got kicked in the teeth by Akroma. Witnessing back Doran and playing Doran wasn't enough for him, unsurprisingly.

+1 Ancestor's Chosen
+2 Chain of Vapor
+1 Darkblast
+1 Echoing Truth
+1 Wonder
-1 Cabal Therapy
-4 Leyline of the Void
-1 Cephalid Sage

I boarded wrong this round, but I was on too much of a high to care.
I kept in the Flame-kin Zealot, which randomly killed John on turn three. I think it comes out, but who knows. It's good with Wonder and what not. John mulliganed this game. Twice.


4-0 (8-1)

Round 5: Marshall D. Fine with Domain Zoo

In recent memory, Marshall's name is synonymous with "California PTQ." I'm pretty sure he's been at every event since I've been playing at them. He is most certainly a cut above. He really needs to get and stay on the Tour so that I don't have to play against him anymore.

I loved this reprint – until I played Dredge.
Game one is a bit… awkward. I didn't stick a Leyline (they're for this matchup, which is tough), but Marshall saw them as they got dredged. Marshall had two Tarmogoyfs and two Mogg Fanatics. I was at 10 with two Putrid Imp in play, when on my upkeep I activated Cephalid Coliseum in response to the Ichorid trigger. I dredged a Narcomoeba, Marshall shot Narcs and Ichorid, getting rid of Bridges and keeping me from having three guys to Dread Return should I have that.

I stared at the board and my graveyard for a while, then said "Combat," and turned my guys sideways.
Marshall: "You have a draw step, sir."
Me: "OH. Yeah, I guess so. Dredge Grave-Troll…"
…flipping Akroma, and, you guessed it, Dread Return.

"But wait," you say, "Tim, you didn't have 3 guys!"

My last card?
Putrid Imp

And then I played the fourth one that was in my hand all along.

Akroma got there.

Marshall: "I feel like I've just been one-outed…"

I'm bad. But in my defense, like nine things happened during my upkeep.
I would have had to have the Imp in my hand, or hit another Narcomoeba to win that game (it had to be a 1-drop because I spent my mana activating Coliseum). Racing double-Goyf is a scary prospect any day of the week, in any format.

+1 Ancestor's Chosen
+1 Wonder
+1 Darkblast
+1 Cripplin' Fo' Teeg
-1 Cabal Therapy
-1 Flame-kin Zealot
-1 Cephalid Sage
-1 Golgari Thug

I put him on running no Leylines, as Zoo may or may not have them. If I guess wrong, I'm dead anyway and I can't bring in the whole board (well I could have, but it would suck).

Game two, I kept a hand with Leyline, some draw spells and didn't find a dredge card. I died to 3/4 Tarmogoyf (Enchantment, Sorcery, Land), Bob, and Grim Lavamancer beats backed up with burn.

Game 3: I got the nuts with Leyline backup. Careful Study, Breakthrough off of one land. He had Yixlid Jailer, I had two Darkblast in my hand. Out came Akroma, Ancestor's Chosen, and a majillion zombies in a turn to prompt the concession.

5-0 (10-2)

Thoughts of actually making the Top 8 started to materialize.
Marshall was one of two opponents who wouldn't shake my hand. To be fair, I wouldn't have shaken my hand either. He would before the day was done. He also had given me game one by reminding me to draw, which was a classy thing to do. I'd return the favor before the day was done.

Albeit, not by choice. Karma really freaks me out sometimes.

Round 6: Gim Chu with U/G Tron

Gim is also one of the better players around these parts, but I suppose when you play in the X-0 bracket, you play against good people. I knew I should have IDed round one to avoid this.

Kidding. Playing against good players can only make you better.

Time walk twice seems okay...
Gim's Moment's Peace is a card I am woefully unprepared to deal with, aside from Leyline. Even with Leyline, it's a Time Walk, though not with flashback anymore.

I mulliganed to four on the play and kept the following hand:

Golgari Grave-Troll
Putrid Imp
Watery Grave
Cephalid Coliseum

This deck is stupid.

I put 30+ power of men on the board and cast Cabal Therapy multiple times, leaving Gim scrambling for answers. He drew two Moment's Peace, which bought him four extra turns, but I had Therapied away his double Gifts Ungiven and eventually he succumbed.

+4 Pithing Needle
+1 Cabal Therapy
+1 Tolarian Winds
-4 Leyline of the Void
-2 Darkblast

As much as I like Leyline in this matchup, Needle is necessary to avoid getting blown out by Tormod's Crypt. Therapy and the miser's Tolarian Winds (Tolarian WINS, maybe) are better against blue cards than Darkblast against x/>1 creatures.

I kept a hand with multiple Pithing Needles, but not much action. I Needled Crypt and Engineered Explosives. Gim's deck did its thing: dig and set up for busted plays. Turn two Gifts (Mox + Signet) into Thirst for Knowledge discarding Leyline of the Void. I was kinda freaked out at this point… I attempted Breakthrough, which got Remanded. Twice. He showed me Platinum Angel, I asked if he has multiple counterspells. He showed me Remand and Condescend, I scooped.

+2 Chain of Vapor
+1 Echoing Truth
+2 Merchant Scroll
-4 Pithing Needle
-1 Akroma, angel of wrath

My plan here was to Therapy Crypt (as it was a two-of) and use my anti-hate slots to fight the Leylines that I saw.
At least, I think that's what my plan was. Also, not having outs against Big Plats was kind of an issue.

Wizards likes puns almost as much as I do.
I blind Therapied Gifts Ungiven on turn one (I was pretty far tilted from the last game). I hit, but he had the Crypt also. I spent my time playing around Crypt; eventually he transmuted Tolaria West for Academy Ruins, a card that is still as dumb as it was last season.

5-1 (11-3)

My breakers were lousy, so I had to win out.
Marshall's breakers were ridiculous; he had an opponent win percentage above 70%. Disgusting.

At this point, Bryce and Gus were also 5-1, Eck and Vin (the brothers Cephalid) had dropped and gone home, Stevo was still in it for the packs. Nick was 3-3. Kenta's math had proven to be inadequate, unfortunately.

Round 7: Joseph with Tarmofolk

Vanilla 2/1 guys are bad in this format.
Unless they cost 1.
This matchup is quickly becoming my favorite, like Frow Srivers against Affinity.
In game one I stuck Leyline, and snuck Akroma into play. Joseph's relevant action was a Thoughtseize that he attempted to Witness back, but I pointed to Leyline (after Witness resolved, of course), and he stared blankly into space contemplating his misplay. Akroma got there.

+1 Darkblast
+2 Merchant Scroll
+1 Echoing Truth
+1 Tolarian Wins
+1 Cripplin' Fo' Teeg
-4 Leyline of the Void
-1 Flame-Kin Zealot
-1 Cephalid Sage

I think maybe one Chain of Vapor could come in for this matchup, but this ended up being the perfect, and let me emphasize, perfect set of cards to bring in this game.

Jonathan seemed like the type of player who would do what LSV's articles told him to do, which is board 4 Leyline and 2 Gaddock Teeg. It pays to read StarCity, even if you don't play any decks that are written about, because they give you more potential information in a world of imperfect information. I hate to give them free advertising, but the undeserved influence of men like Michael J. Flores cannot be denied.

I cut Jonathan to unkeepable hands three times. He kept a two Leyline, no land hand. The game then divulged into what felt like a Stephen Menendian Vintage tournament report (sans Bazaar). I dug with Careful Study, Jonathan played draw-go, and eventually drew Windswept Heath for Overgrown Tomb and played the Birds of Paradise that he had telegraphed. Of course, I had Darkblast in my hand at this point and it allowed us to play draw-go for a few more turns. Eventually, I had four lands on board and drew the Merchant Scroll. I cast the scroll, then Echoing Truth on his end step. I also had Putrid Imp in play at this point, and Cephalid Coliseum among my land, and Breakthrough in my hand. I went crazy. Jonathan attempted Bob and Teeg, but I had Darkblast fo' Bob and Cripplin' fo' Teeg. Akroma got there.

6-1 (13-3)

I could tell Jonathan was upset and not one for handshaking, so I left the table to desideboard. We did get to chat after the Swiss, which was cool; now I can't make fun of him for poor sportsmanship as he turned out to be an okay guy.

Bryce and Gus also won; we prayed that we wouldn't be paired against each other for the final round.


Bryce, Gus, and I were seated at tables 4, 5, and 6 respectively. Gus relocated to the West-facing side of the table where Bryce and I were so that we could play some Team extended.

How much fun would that format be?
I'm not sure I'd put Dredge in the B seat; also we'd be forced to play the rainbow version so that Bryce could have Watery Grave in his manabase. We'd also be splitting Pithing Needle, but Dredge could play Chalice of the Void without too much trouble…


My opponent, Arthur, was playing Red Deck. I won the roll, and my 15-land manabase finally caught up with me. I mulliganed a couple keepable no-landers with land on top of my deck, and finally kept:

Flooded Strand
Watery Grave

I played some land and watched some red spells fly into my face, eventually dying to Blistering Firecat with two Watery Grave and Island on board.

+1 Darkblast
+1 Ancestor's Chosen
+1 Wonder
-1 Cabal Therapy
-1 Flame-kin Zealot
-1 Cephalid Sage

I bet on him not having Crypts because my terrible, terrible acting had hopefully mind tricked him into thinking I was Shackles. We shuffled 'em up, and LSV once again intervened. He ferried our decks away to the Judges' station, and Arthur and I shared some jokes on what to do in the meantime.

Random bystander: "Play pack wars!"

As it happened, I had three Morningtide boosters in my man-purse from the prerelease the prior weekend, where LSV killed me with Titan's Revenge out of B/G. Twice. In two games.

Being susceptible to the power of suggestion, I reached into the bag to reveal the packs and proposed pack wars, in all seriousness, much to the disbelief of onlookers, and of Arthur.

Me: "Infinite mana, no starting hand, Rule of Law ok?"
Arthur: [speechless]

Round 8sub1: Pack Wars vs. Arthur

Game one got off to a relatively slow start. My Prickly Boggart got in past Stingmoogie, which was being held back by my Bosk Banneret. Arthur drew Weirding Shaman, which threatened to end the game immediately if Arthur could draw another Goblin or Changeling. I attempted Rivals' Dual on his Stonybrook Schoolmaster and Shaman; he saved the Shaman with Stream of Unconsciousness (I had Negate, but Rule of Law prevented me from using it). Eventually I had Door of Destinies (set to Wizards, with one counter) with Sage of Fables. I drew the most bombtacular card in my stack: Boldwyr Intimidator. This left Arthur desperate for answers, exacerbated by the fact that I had the Negate for his Thieves' Fortune. Intimidator (in-TIM-idator) got there.

Game two, Arthur had a respectable turn one play in Fencer Clique.
I drew for turn and revealed the man of the hour, Boldwyr Intimidator.
Arthur put up a good fight, but died in short order.


At this point, LSV returned and informed Arthur of the situation. His 4 foil FNM Kird Ape were suspicious as they were the only foils in his deck. He was issued a Game Loss and replaced them, and we were off to perhaps the most anticlimactic game three on the day.

Game three, I went off on turn three with Leyline backup.

Forest later admired my blind Therapy on Arthur's Molten Rain so that I could explode on back-to-back Cephalid Coliseum activations. In that situation, I name the card that beats me, which isn't Crypt because he would have played it.

7-1 (15-4)

Bryce and Gus both won their matches. We all made Top 8.
Gus: "It's about freakin' time!"

Top 8

Bryce Yockey: Tog
Me: Wonderful deck
Otto G. Zoell: Loam (almost tribal Lhurgoyfu)
Gim Chu: U/G Tron (with virtual motorcycles)
Rafael Solari: Goblins (Blood Moon, Boil, and Shattering Spree being the standout card choices)
Standish "Dish" Choi: Tarmofolk
Marshall D. Fine: Domain Zoo with inadequate graveyard hate
Iain Bartolomei: Best Draft Deck ever (Shackles with wacky choices, like singleton Rude Awakening main. Score one for threat diversity).

I think it says a lot that our Top 8 consisted of eight different decks. Ridiculous.


I was paired against Marshall. Game one was a good, good game. I got double Leyline, leaving Marshall without ways to deal with my onslaught. He did get me down to 5 life (unblocked Tarmogoyf + Gaea's Might); however, Zombies and Horrors won the race, with Darkblast epically removing blockers.

+3 Pithing Needle
+1 Darkblast
+1 Ancestor's Chosen
-1 Leyline of the Void
-1 Cabal Therapy
-1 Cephalid Sage
-1 Flame-Kin Zealot
-1 Golgari Thug

I spent some time agonizing over this, but knowing his hate cards (2 Yixlid Jailer, 2 Tormod's Crypt), I think this was right.

Don't let it happen to you.
Game two, I kept a hand with Leyline, Cabal Therapy, and Pithing Needle but no dredge cards. Up a game, I felt confident in my mising skills. I put Leyline into play, needled Crypt and said go. After a few turns of inaction on my part and "fair" plays by Marshall, LSV and the other judges came over with grim looks on their faces. They informed me that I had misregistered my deck, with two instances of Cephalid Coliseum, leaving out my Watery Graves, and the Penalty Guide dictated a game loss. They agreed that it was unfortunate that they did not catch this beforehand (I had been deck checked twice – once during round 8 and once before the Top 8). As the Game Loss was not due to procedural errors, Marshall and I were instructed to continue the current game as game three. Of course, this meant that I drew Golgari Grave-Troll while staring down lethal damage and didn't do anything of relevance.

Oh, the Game Loss. It giveth and it taketh away.

As I said, Marshall gave me a game in the Swiss. And in the quarterfinal of the PTQ, I unwittingly returned the favor.
This is why we get to the PTQ before 10:01 AM.
Marshall shook my hand this time.

Jace looks like a skater in a hoodie.
LSV pointed out that had they caught the error beforehand I may not have Top 8d, which is true. Next time, I am triple-checking my decklist the night before, and bringing two copies of it. Giving your opponents free wins is just silly.

For a while – especially after this summer – I had contemplated quitting competitive Magic. All this event did was give me a hunger, a taste of Glory that no matter how I try, I cannot purge from my mouth. As Basil pointed out, Top 8 doesn't really mean anything unless you win. Gus has humble goals: to qualify and then finish in the money at the Pro Tour in May that is taking place about 20 minutes from his house.

As for me, well, let's worry about qualifying first.

Bonus: Bryce and Gus on their PTQ top 8

Rife, from the Roam
OttoGustavLoam (6th)Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Wall of Roots
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Terravore

4 Burning Wish
3 Life from the Loam
2 Devastating Dreams
3 Engineered Explosives
4 Blood Moon
3 Seismic Assault

4 Tranquil Thicket
4 Forgotten Cave
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Windswept Heath
2 Bloodstained Mire
3 Stomping Ground
3 Forest
2 Mountain

Here's what Gus had to say:

Mogg Fanatic was amazing, Terravore was underwhelming, Explosives was awesome as usual. And I punted both games in the Top 8 because I am beyond awful at Magic. I lost game one when I had control simply because I played the beatdown when I shouldn't have. I lost game two because I was unwilling to play the beatdown after game one put me on severe tilt.

My matches would have been Domain Aggro and Tron after Tarmofolk which means I had a very good chance to take it all home since those matchups are favorable for me. Oh well, sometimes I just shoot myself in the foot.

Memo: Still a good card.
BryceAtog (3rd)Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
3 Dark Confidant
3 Psychatog
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
2 Trinket Mage

4 Counterspell
3 Force Spike
3 Smother
3 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Spell Snare
2 Counterbalance

1 Engineered Explosives
3 Sensei's Divining Top
1 Tormod's Crypt
3 Vedalken Shackles

4 Polluted Delta
1 Riptide Laboratory
1 Seat of the Synod
1 Breeding Pool
1 Swamp
1 Vault of Whispers
4 Watery Grave
1 Academy Ruins
2 Tolaria West
7 Island
1 Island (signed by John Wiseman)

Bryce had a lot to say (as expected):

I went 7-1 in the Swiss, with my only loss going to Iain playing some variant of Next Level Blue. Top 8, I was first seed and paired against Iain who was 8th seed.
G1. I managed to stick a 'Tog and he fought the whole game trying to get rid of it. He failed, therefore he died.
G2. He took it home by countering all my relevant spells then played beatdown with Sower of Temptation. The first one took my Trinket Mage. The second one took... my same Trinket Mage. And I died to 2/2 creatures.
G3. He kept a one-lander after a mulligan, and missed his land drop for three turns. I resolved a turn three 'Tog, Vensered his Goyf, then resolved Bob and Trinket Maged for Explosives. He just scooped it up.

Then I played against U/G tron in semis. Another bad matchup for me.
G1. I stuck a turn two Bob on the play and then another on turn three. They went all the way.
G2. I got Scrabbling Claws out and made a ton of potential Gifts stacks bad. He cast Gifts anyway and came up with Thirst for Knowledge, Meloku the Clouded Mirror, Urza's Mine (which would complete the set), and Razormane Masticore. I sent Razormane and Mine to the yard and he topdecked Tolaria West to get another Mine and ran out Platinum Angel. I dug for Venser, couldn't find it, and died.
G3. I suck. I misplayed three times against double Meloku and failed to stop them. Meloku killed me.

Best card - Spell Snare, Tog
Worst card - Vedalken Shackles, Scrabbling Claws.

Spell snare does what it does best: shut down everything good in the entire format. 'Tog stole so many games it was incredible. I killed a RDW player on turn five one game when he had lethal damage in play with two Barbarian Rings and Seal of Fire. I killed him before he could untap.
Vedalken Shackles wasn't relevant in many of my matches. It helped me steamroll Rock in round two, and was good versus CounterTopGoyf in round five, but other than that it was simply too slow. I'm going to cut either one or all three.
Scrabbling claws. It's good versus Blue-Green Tron and better than Crypt against a lot of decks with Goyf, but frankly it's simply not worth the sideboard slot. It was good but there are just better cards I can play.

During Bryce's Semifinal, I made some offhand comment that was punderful whilst the room was watching the final two matches intensely.
Bystander: "Dude, you're just full of Magic metaphors and stuff, aren't you?"
Me: "Yeah. I mean, it's really a lifestyle. Like, I just finished my ice coffee drink, and it was like, 'Brain Freeze targeting me? NOOOOO!!!'"
Even Gim chuckled.

Dish ended up winning, with Tarmofolk.

Look how suspicious he is.
*The Japanese Tech, as always
*Kenta Shima for not being too cool for us (he is currently doing grad work in Japan to become a Japanese banker, of all things)
*Paul Yale, local judge who is my buddy
*Riki Hayashi, Judge and writer over at TCGplayer, for encouraging me to write this
*LSV, who now recognizes me, which is scary to think about
*The rest of the judging team and TO for running a smooth tournament
*FNM Kird Ape for being suspicious
*Steve, for 6-2ing and staying under the radar
*Akroma for getting there
*Nick, for playing a deck with Loxodon Hierarch, Living Wish, Counterbalance, and Top LAST season. So far ahead of the curve.
*Me and Steve for opening three (!?) Countryside Crushers at FNM
*Walla Walla for editing
*EatThePath (aka Nick) for having proper banner-making software
*The MTGS team for being supercool
*Ryan and Forest for being SOLDIERS, and making the trek in spite of its fruitlessness

*Guy who stole Forest's case, and consequently my two Thoughtseize, some Shackles… I appreciate Gus' attempt to replace them. Forest lost his livelihood.
*Steve, for not letting me write about his deck
*Eck and Vin for scrubbing out with what is obviously the most broken graveyard-based deck in the format
*Josh Silvestri for writing about an event he didn't go to, subsequently getting things wrong
*Diminutive Asian girls who talk too much (sorry April Yu, sorry Mom)
*The weather for sucking

Neither Props Nor Slops
*Flores, for playing a Biorhythm deck, which is a card very close to my heart, but it's Flores so I'm ambivalent
*Kevin for being a slam poet

Bonus Bonus: Lorwyn Team Draft

It just so happens that the Monday after the event was my 21st birthday. What better way to celebrate than a Lorwyn team draft at the pub? German Last Names (me, Nick, and Gus) beat Ethnic Balloon Brigade (Stevo, Esteban, Ariel) in Ariel's first non-Cube draft since 2006. Standout performance was Gus' nearly mono-red Giants deck featuring Incendiary Command, which swept.

Here's my deck:

My deck was Dreadful…
Dread the DreadMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
1 Ashling the Pilgrim
1 Boggart Harbinger
2 Caterwauling Boggart
1 Ceaseless Searblades
1 Dread
2 Dreamspoiler Witches
1 Flamekin Harbinger
1 Glarewielder
1 Glen Elendra Pranksters
1 Mournwhelk
1 Mulldrifter
2 Sentinels of Glen Elendra
1 Smokebraider
1 Turtleshell Changeling

1 Lash Out
1 Nameless Inversion
1 Peppersmoke
1 Tarfire
1 Whirlpool Whelm
1 Springleaf Drum

1 Auntie's Hovel
2 Island
6 Mountain
1 Shimmering Grotto
1 Spinerock Knoll
4 Swamp
2 Vivid Creek

A 21-page article, for a 21-years old boy.
Until next time,

Who's laughing now, Steve? Oh, I guess you are. WELL I AM TOO HAHA


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