PTQ report from that one guy!

Hello, ManaDeprived readers, Sean McClay here.  You may find that name familiar from this site, as I was the ringleader of a very short-lived (but hopefully returning) podcast called Draft Punk.  I also showed up on the Eh Team one time and insulted a bunch of pro players, so there’s that.  KYT was kind enough to ask me to write up a little tournament report on my PTQ exploits this weekend in Austin, TX; which, since Canadian education is better than ours, you know is NOT in Canada.

Nonetheless, I feel qualified to write for ManaDeprived because it’s entirely possible I was conceived during one of my parents’ frequent booze runs from Detroit to Windsor.  For those of you who don’t know who I am, I graduated last year from the University of Minnesota and now work in Austin, Texas.  I’ve been playing Magic on and off since Mercadian Masques and competitively since Lorwyn block (Kithkin 4 Lyfe).  I don’t necessarily have an archetype preference, but I do have a weakness for Boros-style aggro decks.  To that end, my favorite card is probably a tie between [card]Ajani Vengeant[/card] and [card]Gaddock Teeg[/card].  My EDH general is Nath, and I am scared of clowns and spiders.

So, the PTQ: I’m going to save us all a little time and just let you know right off the bat that after a promising 2-0 start (including a win over semi-pro-ish Kyle Sanchez) I then lost twice in a row, dropped, and got some gourmet ramen noodles (the correct play).  I was fully prepared for this to happen, considering how wide open the Standard format is right now.  It’s just so easy to run up against matchups that you aren’t expecting or metagamed against; or you don’t draw your answers on time in the matches you are prepared to face.

I was playing a pretty standard UW Delver list (which I will detail below) and I beat Grixis control and RUG ramp and then lost to UW Talrand Delver and Naya Aggro.  In the match against Delver I kept a poor hand in game 2 and was raked over a series of coal pits by two [card]Mental Misstep[/card]s.  I narrowly lost the Naya match, and my opponent, after looking at how I boarded, was amazed to leave with the W.  Thanks for reminding me how upset I was at that loss, broham! Anyway, here is the list; I am a moron and took it apart before writing it down, but I am fairly sure this is the list:

[deck title=UW Delver]
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Restoration Angel
4 Ponder
4 Vapor Snag
4 Mana Leak
3 Gitaxian Probe
2 Thought Scour
3 Gut Shot
2 Runechanter’s Pike
1 Sword of War and Peace
1 Cavern of Souls
2 Moorland Haunt
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Glacial Fortress
9 Island
1 Plains
2 Phantasmal Image
2 Day of Judgment
1 Gideon Jura
1 Plains
2 Timely Reinforcements
1 Dissipate
1 Flashfreeze
1 Divine Offering
1 Oblivion Ring
3 Celestial Purge

I played Delver because it’s the deck with which I have the most experience; I lost playing for top 8 of a recent PTQ with a different Delver list so I felt confident with my ability to pilot it semi-competently.  I was expecting a fair amount of Naya-colored decks, Zombies, and a smattering of all the other popular archetypes.  To that end, most of my sideboard was devoted to those two aggro matchups; I wanted to be able to cement my position as the control deck in those matchups with cards like [card]Gideon Jura[/card], [card]Day of Judgment[/card], and [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] (with Purge being an obvious answer to both Zombies and MBC, which had a decent showing as well).  My Naya opponent agreed that this was a legitimate plan against him, but I was unable to draw the Gideon or the Days, and he was able to grind me down with multiple [card]Blade Splicer[/card]s.   I will admit to being pretty shaky in the mirror match; I brought in the Images, [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card], and a [card]Day of Judgment[/card], but I think that I should have done minimal boarding and focused on getting an aggressive start, as he seemed to be more willing to play the control role with multiple Missteps, [card]Dismember[/card]s, and Talrand.

Aside on Talrand: I’m fairly sure that Talrand is just stone garbage (or garbahhge if you’re Boosh).  There was no point in my match against Delver where I was going to lose to Talrand; I was losing to my own mistakes and his superior plan, which he backed up by playing and flipping two Delvers.  Talrand fails the vanilla test pretty miserably, is vulnerable to [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] (so is [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card], but it’s so immediately powerful that the risk feels more worth it), makes you question whether you should play your cheap spells early (which I think you should), and is probably just icing on the cake, since you kind of have to be in a good position to feel comfortable casting her.  This is a classic example of ‘the Danger of Cool Things’ and while I’m certainly willing to accept that I may be wrong, you won’t see me playing Talrand any time soon.  I don’t know if Restoration is really what you are looking for either, but it fits with the deck much better than Talrand.  /rant

Thoughts on my deck and the Standard format as a whole: I am fairly sure that I misbuilt my deck.  Like the Delver decks that made the top 8 of this weekend’s SCG Open, I was pretty intent on putting [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] somewhere in the 75, but moved it out of the sideboard in favor of the Gideon/Day package because I wanted to take a more controlling role and because I was (probably incorrectly) afraid of [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card].  I really felt like I was flying blind in regards to sideboarding, as I have not been testing this deck seriously online or on paper (the lack of Missteps was a real error I think).  I think that I would rather have played a deck closer to what Ben Lundquist was playing with in DC, with [card]Augur of Bolas[/card] adding to the creature count and another [card]Runechanter’s Pike[/card] to solidify my plan.  Augur has been pretty good for me the few times I’ve tested with it, especially when you get to take something like a [card]Vapor Snag[/card] and tuck two needless lands.

I am curious as to why there has been such a move away from the [card]Invisible Stalker[/card] iteration of the deck; I like having access to so many free wins between flipped Delvers and equipped Stalkers.  It’s possible that I will look to return to a more traditional style of the deck so that I can maintain aggression, and then possibly look to a more transformative sideboard to handle creature matches.  The problem is that this format is almost too wide-open; I scoured the MTGO daily event lists for the two weeks leading up to the PTQ trying to find a pattern or a stand-out list, but literally everything was winning.  There were 4-0s and 3-1s from Delver, Wolf Run, GR Aggro, Naya Aggro/Pod, any other kind of Pod, Zombies, UW control, Poison, RUG Delver, etc. This is a very difficult time to prepare for events unless you are one of the lucky few to be either on the cutting edge or very good with one deck.  I thought about just playing Wolf Run at the PTQ because I thought that in such a diverse field it was possibly best to just be the guy jamming Titan after Titan, but I love [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] too much to let it go.  I was also interested in the RUG Delver lists, but the mana is still very much a weak point in the deck, even if it does have access to a lot of powerful spells.  There was a previous version of that deck which was all-in on having Humans, with [card]Mayor of Avabruck[/card] substituting for [card]Quirion Dryad[/card].  I had a lot of fun with that list, so it may be something I look to play now that I’m back to local tournaments.  Like pretty much everyone on the planet, my loins (and wallet) are girded for the release of Return to Ravnica; I’m hoping to play something akin to the Bant Aggro decks of previous Standard formats, as I predict that [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] will become a real threat after [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] rotates (someone told me that it’s really the sixth Titan, but its ability is that it costs three).

Unfortunately that’s about all I have to say; I wish that I had performed better at this PTQ, but I don’t know how focused I really was, and I certainly did not have the best deck in the room.  Hopefully I will be able to make it to some of the larger tournaments coming to Texas in the next few months and return with some tournament reports that are more fulfilling.  Now that I have an actual job I can afford to play the decks I want, so maybe I could land a regular gig here detailing some of my Standard exploits.

Firestarter: If you are playing someone who is on Battle of Wits in a competitive event like a PTQ, do you call a judge and say that your opponent’s deck is insufficiently randomized (it almost certainly is)?  How strict are you about the shuffling time?

-Sean McClay

@seanmcclay on Twitter


P.S. Can I go back on the Eh Team? It was way too much fun to only do once.

2 thoughts on “PTQ report from that one guy!”

  1. “since you kind of have to be in a good position to feel comfortable casting her.”I do not know why people persist in calling Talrand “she”, when it is so obvious from the positioning of the smaller shell that Talrand is a “he” and hangs to the left.That said, this was a great article, Sean! As much as some people only want to see winning lists, seeing not-so-winning lists and a great discussion of what works & what to change is much more enlightening, in my opinion.

    • Kerrydan Haha yeah I guess my brain just got stuck in the rut of assuming it was a female.  and thanks for the praise!


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