6/14 Columbus PTQ Report

Written by aldaryn on June 15, 2008

6/14 Columbus PTQ Report

by Derek Thompson (aldaryn)

PTQ season is starting again, and I got enough positive response to my last article that I felt I should do this again. I played in the PTQ in Columbus, Ohio today which had 122 players, and 7 rounds of Swiss. Let me start off by showing you my decklist:

Main Deck Sideboard
4 Smokebraider
4 Fulminator Mage
4 Incandescent Soulstoke
4 Mulldrifter
4 Reveillark
4 Cloudthresher
2 Horde of Notions
3 Shriekmaw
3 Makeshift Manneuin
4 Nameless Inversion
4 Vivid Crag
3 Vivid Marsh
1 Vivid Grove
1 Sunken Ruins
1 Wooded Bastion
2 Mystic Gate
2 Fire-Lit Thicket
2 Graven Cairns
4 Primal Beyond
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Spitebellows
4 Firespout
3 Kitchen Finks
1 Shriekmaw
3 Wispmare

Some comments about the deck:
You’ll note this looks like Akira Asahara’s main deck (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/bd334) with Raphael Levy’s manabase (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgevent/gpbir08/top8decks). The manabase was actually very good; the games in which I got mana-screwed were my own fault. (I should warn you that some very dumb mulligan decisions lie ahead.) The hybrid land counts look strange, but you would like to have one at least four different hybrid lands to chain together to play Horde of Notions and its ability. 
As for my card decisions, the first thing you’ll note is the lack of Flamekin Harbingers. I wanted to like this card, but I hate it. Primal Beyond is the only land in your deck that allows it to be played on turn one. Granted, sometimes you have no turn two play when you could play a Harbinger, but the body itself is basically irrelevant in almost every matchup, so it’s ultimately virtual card disadvantage. I replaced them with Fulminator Mages, and I was very happy with this decision throughout the tournament. Since I had no tutor anymore, I relegated the Wispmares to the sideboard and played a second Horde of Notions, though I kept Levy’s spell counts. In the sideboard, I made room for Spitebellows because I was having trouble against random green decks that played Doran or Chameleon Colossus; whether this is worth the space I can’t say because I did not face either card all day. You could definitely make an argument for Crib Swap (especially if you are playing Harbingers). I knew going in that the Kithkin matchup was supposed to be terrible, and though I couldn’t justify main deck Firespouts since I don’t like them in any other matchup, I had Kitchen Finks there to stem the bleeding, and I also boarded them in against Quick’n’Toast just to get rid of useless Nameless Inversions. 
So, after arriving at the tournament site an hour early with about three hours of sleep, round 1 finally began.
Round 1 – Faeries
This guy was not a bad player, but he made bad decisions with his deck that were only bad because he did not seem to know how my deck worked. For example, in game two he had only a Pestermite and land, and then when I had four lands on the table, he went to upkeep-Mistbind Clique me, which got an evoked Cloudthresher in response, making the game a cakewalk from there. I had already taken the first game by finally keeping an Incandescent Soulstoke in play, and then chucking Cloudthreshers and Reveillarks at him. Also, in game two he sat with three cards in his hand for several turns, but seemed resigned to his fate. After the game I asked him about it, and they were a Mistbind Clique with no champion targets, and 2 Incremental Blight. I explained to him that the Blights weren’t good against me; as tapping out is bad and I rarely need to even get three creatures on the board. I told him he should have brought in Thoughtseize instead, which I think is correct.
I do remember a stupid mistake in game one suddenly being fortunate: On the play, on my turn three I had Smokebraider active, but nothing worth using it on, while he just had an Island and a Mutavault. Without thinking, I attacked with the Smokebraider, right into the Mutavault. However, this allowed me to evoke Shriekmaw and kill the Mutavault, which set him back on lands and let me get the tempo in the game. We’ll pretend I planned that.
My sideboarding: -4 Nameless Inversion, +1 Shriekmaw, +3 Wispmare
I don’t know if this sideboarding is correct. Originally, I was actually taking out the Shriekmaws and also bringing in Kitchen Finks; however, Mistbind Clique can be a major problem since it gives him his most “real” clock and isn’t sweeped by Cloudthresher, so I wanted to have a solution. I’d love to hear some advice. However, I’d rather not bring in Firespout. It’s not that good against Faeries in the first place (despite popular belief), but in this deck it is especially irrelevant since you have so many ways to cast and re-cast Cloudthresher.
2-0 games, 1-0 matches

Round 2 – Quick’n’Toast
This round I have to admit that I got very lucky. I was on the draw game 1, and kept a decent 3-land hand with Mulldrifter, Fulminator Mage, Reveillark and Cloudthresher. My opponent (and many other players at this tournament) had opted for Fulminator Mage in Quick’n’Toast over Kitchen Finks, and he hit me with one turn 3 and then Mannequined it on turn 4 while I drew no more land, and was stuck on a Mystic Gate until about Turn 9. I considered scooping a few times for the sake of time, but my opponent proceeded to lay about 15 lands by the end of the game, even after sliding a few to the bottom with Broken Ambitions, and I somehow pulled this game out on the back of Reveillarks. I remember very few details, other than that I was a total lucksack.
Game 2 I give him the same treatment, but he’s not so fortunate as to recover. Between 2 Fulminator Mages and 2 Makeshift Mannequins, the turn I swung for lethal he still had nothing but a Sunken Ruins and had not played a spell.
I want to comment about Fulminator Mage: He is suddenly VERY popular, and it’s probably a good idea to start packing some basics (unless you’re playing this deck, where you can’t afford to). In particular, my deck and Quick’n’Toast often play 8 or 9 hybrid lands, and all it takes is a Mage to whack your Reflecting Pool or Vivid land and leave you stranded. 
My sideboarding: -4 Nameless Inversion, +1 Shriekmaw, +3 Kitchen Finks
I would advocate bringing in Wispmare if you are playing against the Fertile Ground / Oblivion Ring version, but I didn’t see that anywhere today. 
2-0 games, 2-0 matches

Round 3 – Quick’n’Toast
Honestly, I can’t be bitter about this tournament because of the good luck I had early. Now is the beginning of the worst mulligans you’ll ever see. I could chalk it up to being tired, but ultimately I just hate mulligans, even though I knew far better.
Game 1 I keep a hand with 2 Smokebraider, Soulstoke, Mulldrifter, Reveillark, Shriekmaw, and a Vivid Crag, on the play. I never see another land.
Game 2, on the play again, I keep 6 lands and Horde of Notions. Yes, I’m bad at Magic. My turn 2 draw was Smokebraider.
Game 3 we have an actual game, and we jockey creatures in and out for the first few turns until I resolve a Horde of Notions. He deals with it, and when all is said in done the board is wiped except for my Smokebraider, but I’m holding 3 Shriekmaw, a Reveillark for next turn, and a Cloudthresher. On his turn, he Mind Shatters me for 5. I hear that card is good. On my turn, with nine mana up, I top-deck Makeshift Mannequin, which I play on Horde of Notions, and then use his ability to play Reveillark, and take it in a few turns. 
My sideboarding: same as last round
2-1 games, 3-0 matches
I’m feeling pretty good at this point, with high hopes of at least another PTQ Top 8 (and some more Shadowmoor packs to leave sitting around my apartment unopened). Side note: bringing a bunch of Nutri-Grain bars with you to PTQs is tech.

Round 4 – Kithkin
When I see a turn one Windbrisk Heights I’m a little worried, because this definitely seemed like my worst match-up. Strangely though, I never lost game one to Kithkin all day. Even though common sense tells you to board out the Cloudthreshers (which I did), they were always awesome game one at eating Spectral Procession, 2-for-1’ing on blocks, and just being big. Game one I remember that he had to spend a Mirrorweave to kill a Cloudthresher when I flashed it in to block Thistledown Liege. Game 2 he had a lot of four-drops in his hand, and I kept him off the mana with Fulminator Mage and eventually just beat down with Reveillarks. 
At this point, I start to get the jitters. I always seem to freak out the round when I know a win clinches the top 8, and then I just lose focus. Also, this round I’m paired against a player I recognized from coverage, and there are a few people watching the whole time, which is something else I still need to learn to handle mentally. 
My sideboarding:
-4 Cloudthresher, -4 Incandescent Soulstoke, +1 Shriekmaw, +3 Kitchen Finks, +4 Firespout
4-0 matches

Round 5 – Quick’n’Toast
I was very happy to play against Q’n’T all day, as it is a very good matchup for me, but I keep a decent hand with three lands…but all are hybrids, and my next two lands are also hybrids. My deck further insults me by making my next land Vivid Crag, which gets Fulminatored. I didn’t win that one. Game two I’m even more on tilt and keep an even worse hand, and just punt his entire round. It was embarrassing; I know I can play better Magic than that.
My sideboarding: Same as before
0-2 games, 4-1 matches

Round 6 – Kithkin
Now I need to win out to stay in contention, but I blow it again. Game 1 Cloudthresher gets in for more again, and I want to comment about Fulminator Mage in this matchup. He is great. Though they play a lot of plains, their nonbasics are pretty scary, and he often sits on the board as a mini-fog when they don’t want to get 2-for-1’ed, and I only had 1 Windbrisk Heights activated on me all day (as I was usually able to blow them up). I also only had 1 Cloudgoat Ranger cast on me; their deck is very mana hungry and I was able to strand my opponents pretty often. 
In game 1, just like round 4 my opponent wastes a Mirroweave to deal with a flashed-in Cloudthresher block. He didn’t have much gas once I had the bigger guys on the table. Another side note: Rustic Clachan is a pretty techy way to kill Mannequined creatures.
In game 2, he mulligans so somehow I justify keeping a shaky hand: I had 2 Nameless Inversions, Firespout, Shriekmaw, Makeshift Mannequin… and 2 Reflecting Pools. I feel like this was a little less shaky than the earlier keeps, because any non-Pool puts me mostly online, but instead my only other land that game was a 3rd Reflecting Pool. 
In game 3, I have nothing until turn 3, but I have a Mulldrifter to fix my opening mana (2 Reflecting Pools again, but this time with a Mystic Gate). I feel like I understand this match incorrectly, so I think I just misplayed this game. In my testing, I thought that in this match, game 1 is a punt, and then you try really hard to morph into a control deck in post-board games. However, I had already learned today that surviving the first few turns and then going on big-man offense was working for me just fine in pre-board games, so I shouldn’t have transformed my strategy so much. I kept Mulldrifting this game while taking damage to try and find a Firespout; and of course it was on top of my deck the turn I died. I think if I had played him in a normal race and then just capitalized on a Firespout if and when I finally drew it, I could have been fine. 
My sideboarding: Same as before
1-2 games, 4-2 matches
So now I’m out of contention, but I want practice for next week and some packs if I make Top 16, so I stay in… and get paired up to a 5-1.

Round 7 – Kithkin
This is where I go on a rant.
I will further justify myself in a minute, but let me lay out the situation as I understood it. First, I explain to my opponent that I got paired up, which he didn’t realize (I should have probably just kept my mouth shut). Then he begins to plead for a concession, since I have no chance of making Top 8. A player next to him chimes in too, basically agreeing that I should scoop. Well, I didn’t. Let me delineate my reasons.

1. This is the shallow, irrelevant one, but it should be mentioned: I shouldn’t have to take a hit on prize support and ratings points just because I’m being punished for having the top x-2 tiebreakers.

2. My main reason, which I told my opponent, is that I thought it was unfair to the other players. Let me spell it out: We were at table 7. As I understand the situation, at the round before there were 4 x-0’s, so they drew each other in the last two rounds. So tables 3-6 were all 5-1 against 5-1 playing it out for Top 8, and those 4 6-1 players make 8. However, why should someone miss out on tiebreaks just because I scoop him in? That is not fair to the players who are vying it out above him. It’s like he got rewarded for having the worst tiebreakers. Furthermore, it’s not like I wanted to get paired up, but it was his own tiebreaker at that point that put him in this position. Besides, he could still just beat me.
As you’re probably guessing by now, he didn’t beat me. I swept him 2-0 and the games weren’t even close. The second game he was getting visibly upset, and afterwards he continued to beg for a concession until players nearby told him to stop before a judge got on him. 
Later on, I realize that my concession would have been useless: He would have been the one to miss out on Tiebreakers, since he was already the one with the worst tiebreakers before he got paired down. At least then I wouldn’t have been the face on the evil, though. Of course, at this point, I don’t think he wanted to chat with me, so I didn’t explain that to him. I wish I had thought of it before the round, but I don’t know if it would have made a difference. I would really like some feedback on what you all would do in this situation; I don’t want to be known as Midwest PTQ Dreamcrusher That Everyone Hates.
Final standings come up, and I finish in ninth. Now that’s irony.  
Some comments about the format:
I picked Elementals for three reasons:

1. It had good game against Faeries.
2. I thought it was a bit more consistent, and just more fun to play, than Quick’n’Toast, but I probably just don’t know how to play Q’n’T well.
3. All eyes were on Kithkin these past few weeks, which I figured meant that Q’n’T would be popular as a metagame answer, and would in turn make my deck a good choice to beat the Q’n’T decks. I feel like this was a smart move, except for the fact that I punted round five so badly… otherwise, we’d have a much happier tale.
As for the metagame, though I a few random Doran/Elf decks and Mono Red Shamans at the beginning of the tournament, there was very little innovation. I did not expect to see much Elementals, and though I did not play against it at all, it was –everywhere-. Round three had Elementals vs. Q’n’T to my right and an Elemental mirror to my left. Faeries seemed the most under-represented; Kithkin and Q’n’T still showed up in large numbers. I know the Q’n’T list played by several people who made Top 8 had Fulminator Mage main and Oona, Queen of the Fae as the win condition, but mostly there was nothing new, which I’m afraid might end up being the case because of the tribal restrictions in the format. Hopefully Eventide (or some secret tech) will blow the format wide open. 
As for my deck, I’m not sure what I would change. I liked the main deck just fine. I never boarded in Spitebellows, but you never know what you will face in the first round of a PTQ. I’ve found that Chameleon Colossus is a major problem for this deck. I suppose Spitebellows could be Oblivion Ring, too. I’m not convinced Kitchen Finks is necessary either, though I really like the card. This is the style of deck that would love Thoughtseize in the sideboard, but the manabase makes casting Thoughtseize extremely awkward. However, since you rarely have a turn two play against control or mirrors, casting it off of a Vivid or a Pool on turn two is just fine. Another advantage of Thoughtseize is that if you are on the draw in Fulminator Mage match-ups, you can take theirs before they play it and then cast yours. A friend suggested Mournwhelk, since he’s an Elemental and a good Mannequin target, and that seems like a good idea as well. I’d love some feedback on the deck, too.
Good luck, and see you at GP: Indianapolis!

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by Lynolf on 2008-06-15 13:42 CET

I disagree. With Harbinger you can search for any elemental in your deck in favor of the game situation. You also get a blocker and its cool with Horde of Notions. And what's better than turn 3 Horde of Notions in block? :)

Makeshift what? :s

by Pekken on 2008-06-15 14:26 CET

People who ask for a confession and get pissed off when you decline <3

by OldBear on 2008-06-15 16:10 CET

You did nothing wrong what so ever, concessions should not be expected and people should not be rude to you when you wont. They should be extremley gratefull too you when they do. I mean hell you were doing your opponent a favour as he was too dumb too understand tie breakers.

by DESTRUCTOR on 2008-06-15 18:30 CET

you did nothing wrong on playing the last round

harbinger is a good card in elementals deck it provides many choices

by Lynolf on 2008-06-15 18:37 CET

Oh forgot to say: Another nice article. Hope more of these can be published here. :)

by Ggerg on 2008-06-15 19:00 CET

definitely a good insight into what's actually being played and such. good article. gonna have to disagree with the no harbinger decision as well tho. as said before, it fetches horde, and will basically allow u the win when combined with horde. tutors are good, especially when u have mulldrifter in hand. i dont, however think your list is bad, quite the opposite really.

and a question: did you stay for the top 8 and what was in it?

again: good work, nice article.

by aldaryn on 2008-06-15 19:24 CET

I did not stay for top 8, but there was at least 1 kithkin and 1 quick'n'toast; I wouldn't be surprised if there were nothing but these two decks... I never saw Faeries near the top tables, and Elementals seemed to trickle out.

I am certainly willing to reconsider my position on Harbinger, but I don't know how else I would squeeze Fulminator Mage into the main deck.

by Ggerg on 2008-06-15 21:14 CET

ya. i can definitely see how you came to the conclusion you did. If the meta continues on like this, i could definitely see trying to figure out a good way to play elementals and still beat kithkin...idk how possible that would be though.

by thranarama on 2008-06-15 21:25 CET

I had a situation similar to yours at Regionals, only I was on the other side, and my opponent was someone I knew well, he goes to the same store as me for FNM and whatnot. He had no way of getting into top 16 for prize and if I won, I would've gotten prize, half a box. I think that in this case, it's probably better for him to scoop to me since I obviously would give him packs, although I can't say that, and because he knows me, so it is better to give an aquaintance/friend half a box than a total stranger.

by gypsy on 2008-06-16 01:09 CET

its random that he got paired down not bad tie breaks. and harbringer is rly rly good you shouldnt cut them. its either a turn 1 drop or a turn 2 drop when u play vivids the first 2 turns. and i play redcap over finks side as it is a 3 for 1 or better vs kithkin, its just so good.

by aldaryn on 2008-06-16 03:06 CET

Are you 100% sure pair-downs are random? If that's true, I still maintain my primary argument - scooping would be unfair to the other players who had to fight it out.

by gypsy on 2008-06-16 04:35 CET

i agree that you should not scoop to someone just cuz they ask you. if you dont know them then whats the point of scooping a random into the top 8. but yes pair downs are random. if he was your friend i can understand being mad at u not scooping him in but its always fun when people are rly mad when you dont conceed you always crush them because they are on tilt.

by ringman on 2008-06-16 11:06 CET

Nice article, good to see that there are still decent players on ml good job better luck next time

by snoopster on 2008-06-16 15:10 CET

i completely agree about the scooping part. i've been saying for years that scooping random people into top 8 is extremely unfair to the people who have to play to make it in. why should bob get in over joe because bob's opponent concede and joe's match ended in a draw? had bob's opponent actually played it out and beaten bob, joe would have made top 8. the fact is, scooping to people hurts the same number of people as it helps (1).

by ReGrill on 2008-06-17 17:08 CET

in Italy is playing PTQ with minimum 8 rounds. Until now, however, we did the first 2 PTQ with over 200 people, that is 9 rounds each, they seem to be GP instead of PTQ ... find a solid deck becomes as difficult, but the elemental deck seem to be an excellent choice.

by Ownj00 on 2008-06-19 23:36 CET

tiebreakers have nothing to do with getting paired down/up. not conceding there is just awful. he obviously gives you packs for it, and you're pretty much ruining someones day. most competent players just take the paired down concession as a given, which pretty much negates the "unfair" arguement. someone just gets lucky and gets in for a bit of their prize payout. i always concede there, and i hope my good karma would get the favor returned when the roles are reversed.

by gypsy on 2008-06-19 23:55 CET

he has no reason to concede, its his choice why should he concede if he doesnt want to let a random person he doesnt know into the top8.

by sheamuffin on 2008-06-21 01:37 CET

If he gives you packs for it you should both be DQd without prizes.

by coat3021 on 2008-06-21 12:41 CET

@ Sheamuffin:
That's simply not true, a player can concede at any time they like, and if their opponent decides of their own accord to give them packs, that's a bonus for them. If packs are _offered_ in return for a concession then it becomes a DQ, but it is common practice to give someone who scoops you in 3 or 4 draft sets for their trouble.

by prauch on 2008-06-22 01:09 CET

This is funny because when i read your article about this i laughed at this person because you wouldnt scoop to them. And when i went to my FNM i found out that it was one of the players that attends the store i play at and i just laughed my ass off.

by gypsy on 2008-06-23 21:52 CET

he would have made top8 if u conceded, 6-1 is better than 5-0-2 so one 5-0-2 wouldnt have made it if u conceded.

by aldaryn on 2008-06-25 03:00 CET

Wow, my math is bad. gypsy is right. I stand by my decision, but it would help if i wasn't an idiot

by Shyft- on 2008-06-30 19:26 CET

Pair downs are 100% random and have nothing to do with tiebreakers. And tournaments are set up with a number of Swiss rounds such that X-1 is guaranteed to make it in. Otherwise, nice article.

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