The Moore Report - PPTQ Vancouver Report
I’ll start with the obvious: I didn’t play temur or abzan whip this weekend. As I talked about in my previous article, these decks were the two I was most likely to play. However, I was really worried about a heavy presence of abzan midrange, since that seemed like the best deck, and I didn’t want to walk in with temur if that was going to be the case. I was leaning towards abzan whip, and then I read a Brad Nelson article. Brad had played a four colour midrange deck in his last big tournament and had put up a top 8 performance with it. As I read the article I was more and more sold on this being the deck to play. I put it together to play some testing games with my main man PodgyPanda. Here’s the list:
We played a bunch of games, and it seemed decent. Abzan was what I was most worried about, so we focussed on that first. Brad Nelson described the match-up as good, and I definitely felt ahead in a few of the games. But there were other games that felt like I was playing temur again and just couldn’t catch a break. Abzan had better top-decks, or my removal couldn’t deal with their threats, or my threats would get brushed aside, or a combination of the above. It’s also possible that I was playing badly, but it’s hard to tell. Either way, I wasn’t extremely happy. I took it along to the new HobbyMaster store on Friday night for FNM, partly because I wanted to see the new store and partly because I wanted a bit more practice. I ended up going 1-2, which didn’t help my confidence in the deck, but being in that tournament was definitely important in helping me find my deck.
All around the room that night I saw the card Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and I was very impressed. It seemed like every time it got to live it was taking over games very easily. Ashiok has always been a card that I think is awesome (just look at that art), so I was intrigued to say the least. It was then that I got a text from Dave GJ, who had read my most recent article and mentioned to me that he thought there would be a lot of whip decks at the PPTQ because of the results of the World Championship. I hadn’t actually looked at those, so I fired up the Magic homepage to find out what he was talking about. That’s when I found this piece of art:
What a sweet looking deck! After taking this in, I knew two things. The first was that I couldn’t play 4 colour midrange in a tournament packed with Whip of Erebos. That was one of the things that Brad Nelson mentioned – that the whip strategies were very hard to beat. The second was that I was definitely playing this deck. Not only did it include all of the elements that I really liked out of the abzan whip deck, but it also allowed me to play Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and to a lesser extent Disdainful Stroke out of the sideboard (a card which is very good in standard right now). Luckily, I was able to scrape together the cards though a combination of late-night HobbyMaster orders and requests to borrow cards, and come Saturday morning I was ready to battle.
The tournament itself really impressed me. The new HobbyMaster store in Ellerslie is excellent. There is an abundance of store space, a cool little lounge area to chill out between rounds while watching TableTop videos, various friendly staff and an awesome tournament area. The PPTQ ended up being 71 players, I believe, and all of them had plenty of space to play in comfort. The staff did a great job of organising and judging the event, and it makes me excited about the future of tournament Magic in Auckland. But enough about that, let’s get to the Magic!
Round 1 I played against Conner Black who was on mono-red aggro. He won the die roll, and proceeded to demolish me game 1. I believe it was multiple Foundry Street Denizens backed up by Hordeling Outburst, which is pretty obnoxious. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about the turn of events. Luckily, after sideboarding I was able to masterfully draw my Doomwake Giants when all Conner had was 1/1s, and that combined with a timely Whip of Erebos let me win back to back games to seal the match.
In round 2 I had a feature match (of course) against Ethan Hills. Ethan is a great dude who I remember playing way back, but I haven’t seen him around for a while. He’d decided to come and play because one of his buddies was able to lend him a deck. Awkwardly though, the deck he ended up playing wasn’t the same one he thought he was going to be, as his friends had changed their deck choices, so rather than playing against green/black devotion I was up against mardu midrange. This match was a bit strange, as both Ethan and I made a couple of mistakes. Ethan wasn’t sure exactly how good Crackling Doom was, and I hadn’t really read Sidisi, Brood Tyrant properly. Of course, both of us had to come to these realisations on camera, which was kind of funny. I managed to win game 1 with a combination of sidisi, whip and ashiok, which was very powerful. Sidisi attacking each turn with a whip creates a huge amount of advantage, and ashiok provides not only a distraction from your life-total but also a steady stream of free threats. Game 2 could have been quite bad for me. Ethan opened with a Seeker of the Way into Goblin Rabblemaster, and all I had to respond with was a turn 3 Courser of Kruphix. That was, of course, until I drew the 1 Drown in Sorrow that I had sideboarded in. I happily destroyed all of Ethan’s men, after which he stumbled on mana. This gave me a window to Thoughtseize him then start deploying threats. The information I got from his hand allowed me to play in such a way that I wouldn’t get blown out by his Wingmate Roc or Sarkhan, The Dragonspeaker, and I eventually closed the game out.
My third round was against a man by the name of Tommy Gibson, who had brought along quite a brew. In the first game I saw Heliod, God of the Sun, Soldier of the Pantheon, Nyx-Fleece Ram and Hero’s Downfall. Unfortunately for Tommy, my cards matched up quite well against his, since Doomwake Giant takes care of heliod tokens and various soldiers, and Whip of Erebos went unanswered for a few turns, which was enough to take it out. I wasn’t quite sure how to sideboard for this match-up, and in the end I think I did it incorrectly, but luckily game 2 played out similarly to the first. My team did meet the sharp end of an End Hostilities, and I was 1 Disdainful Stroke away from losing to Tommy’s Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, but, as was becoming a theme for the day, I was able to keep an ashiok around long enough that the advantage I gained was too much for him to come back from.
At this point I was on a roll at 3 wins, so of course my arch-nemesis Ka Wing had to swoop down and crush my dreams. Ka Wing was playing the blue/white heroic deck that he has been slinging for a few weeks now, and as I sat down for my 4th round I really had no idea how I was going to win the match. Well, the first game showed me how: Whip of Erebos. It didn’t matter that Ka Wing had created a monster on his side of the board. The huge amounts of life I was able to gain every turn, combined with the value created from sidisi triggers, put too much pressure on Ka Wing’s resources. However, after a heartening game 1, things took a turn for the worse. In game 2, I kept a hand which I really shouldn’t have, and got immediately punished. All Ka Wing needed to do was play correctly, which he did, and I just didn’t have a shot. Game 3 was a bit frustrating. I had to mulligan, and the 6 card hand I was dealt was 5 lands and a Murderous Cut. Two of the lands were fetchlands, and one was a scry land, so I could get a scry trigger to smooth my draws and put 2 lands in the graveyard to fuel a turn 3 Murderous Cut. I’m not sure if I should have mulliganed that hand, but I ended up keeping. It wasn’t a particularly exciting game. After my lacklustre keep, I got behind early, and had to struggle to get back into the game. If I had been able to draw a Whip of Erebos at any point I think I could have put up a fight, but it wasn’t to be and I was defeated.
In round 5 I played against Mark, who had brought along a brutally fast green/red aggro deck. Game 1 was short and bloody. I’m not even sure what spells I cast, but I do know that the ones I did weren’t good enough to stop the onslaught of Heir of the Wilds and Fanatic of Xenagos. Game 2 was a bit disappointing, as far as my own play was concerned. Mark was on 11 with 4 cards in hand, and his only non-land permanent was a goblin token enchanted with Boon Satyr. I had a Sylvan Caryatid, a Courser of Kruphix, a Doomwake Giant and a Stormbreath Dragon which I had stolen with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. I was also on 11, and had a Sultai Charm in my hand. I thought before my attack step then just attacked with Stormbreath Dragon. When Mark said no blocks, I immediately used the monstrous ability on the dragon, using my Sylvan Caryatid and a Mana Confluence that I had in play. If Mark cast nothing, this would kill him as he’d take 4 from the monstrous trigger and then 7 from the dragon. Now, if I’d thought about this carefully, I would have considered Mark’s hand at this point in the game. He’d passed the turn back to me without playing a spell for a couple of turns, which meant that he hadn’t drawn any creatures. Knowing that green/red aggro is very similar to temur aggro, I should have guessed that his hand contained some number of burn spells. If I had done the math further, I would have realised that without using my Mana Confluence, even double Lightning Strike and a full Crater’s Claws the following turn would leave me at 1. This being the case, it would have been very safe for me to simply attack with the dragon and pass the turn. The Courser of Kruphix would gain me life in small enough increments to hopefully mean that the stolen dragon would eventually go the whole way. But, alas, I played too quickly and Mark had the required burn spells to punish me for my mistake.
At this point I was fairly certain that I couldn’t make the top 8, but I decided to play it out just in case. I’d almost made top 8 of the last PTQ by going 5-2, so it wasn’t impossible that I could improve on that result here. Round 6 was against tournament regular Tony Matthews. Unfortunately for Tony, we were deck-checked and Tony received a game-loss for a sideboard card in the maindeck. I can definitely sympathise with this, but we still had games to play. Tony was playing what looked to be a temur midrange deck, eschewing the fast starts for more controlling cards such as Anger of the Gods and Dig Through Time. I had a long list of threats to deploy, which I did, and Tony was able to come up with the answers to these straight away. However, I eventually resolved a Hornet Queen, and Tony’s only way to deal with the army of insects was the aforementioned Anger of the Gods. To find this answer, he had to dig with Steam Augury, so I was able to simply choose the pile without anger in it to allow my bugs the time they needed to finish off Tony’s life total.
In the final round of swiss I was sitting on table 6. To my left on table 5 were two players who had the highest breakers of all of the 12 pointers, so I wasn’t feeling great about my chances to squeak in. It seemed clear to everyone that the winner of that match would be the 8th and final top 8 competitor. However, it was too late to drop, so it was time to play for packs and pride! I was paired up against Carl Chang piloting the jeskai ascendancy tokens deck. I’ll be honest I was never really sure if I was winning in either of the games we played. I think the fact that I had Whip of Erebos in both helped a lot, but honestly I felt the whole time like I was very close to just being dead. Jeskai Ascendancy is a very scary card, and it can do some pretty insane things in this tokens deck. I don’t think I made very many inspired plays in this match, I just tried to kill every creature Carl played on the spot, since that seemed like the most obvious way of stopping him from getting too much momentum. Doomwake Giant was definitely my friend in this match too. It’s hard to tell whether it was this card or whip which did the most damage, but it was nice to have both.
I was hoping for 9th, at this point. If you’re not going to make top 8, I like being 9th because at least it’s a good story to tell. “Oh man it was brutal, I played really well but I just got wrecked by tie-breakers!” and so on and so forth. The standings went up and I was 10th. What a heartbreaker. Zen Takahashi took 9th, and I feel like he wasn’t even aiming for it, so he should have done the honourable thing and just dropped or something. Is he even getting value out of his 9th place by telling the story? I hope so. And with that, the tournament was over! I had an excellent day, and I can’t praise HobbyMaster enough for not only the incredible venue they’ve worked so hard to put together, but also the efficient and professional manner in which the tournament was run. I look forward to playing there in the future!