Standard

Yes I Won Another PTQ

I don’t know where to begin. If there’s anything I hate more than playing a deck that turns creatures sideways it’s a deck that relies on drawing two cards together to win. We all know how that’s going to turn out, right? I’m not going to draw one piece and I’ll draw several of the other. That was my mentality about [card]Splinter Twin[/card] for a long time. For the first time ever, I had some disposable income to make a couple of decks on MTGO, one of them being [card]Splinter Twin[/card]. I didn’t have access to all the cards but I had a goal in mind for standard. Make U/B Control happen. I don’t care what it takes. If there is a way to make this deck good I will find it. I bought the Tar-Pits, the Shores, toyed with [card]Consume the Meek[/card] vs BSZ, GFTT vs [card]Doom Blade[/card] vs [card]Dismember[/card], [card]Ponder[/card] vs [card]Preordain[/card] and every combination of Karn, Beleren, MEGA SURFER JACE, [card]Grave Titan[/card], [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card] etc I could think of.

I couldn’t make it work.

I would win a 2 man every now and then but there was always something wrong. If I went against Caw Blade and hawk resolved and I couldn’t resolve mass removal I would ALWAYS lose. If I didn’t draw near-perfect against twin I would lose. Mono red just destroyed me. There was really no hope for the deck. I will confess I’m not the best brewer, but I really don’t think the deck is anywhere near tier one (though one is in t8 at US nats!). I owe a lot of my success to an amazing combo player and Canadian Magic Tour Superstar Robert Pambianchi (Babadaboopi or Babadascoopy). He’s relatively new to competitive magic, makes some ‘interesting’ lines of play, but his theory on decks is rock solid. When he showed me Twin was not a good matchup for me it really showed me the light. He is the reason I abandoned my dreams of a U/B deck that beats everything and draws perfectly every time. So I went with my plan B deck. I built Caw-Blade.

Long-time friend Jacob Harris wanted to play in the PTQ and I was glad since he hasn’t played in a competitive event in a long time. We sleeved up a good Valakut list and I played a few practice matches with Caw.

I couldn’t win.

Ever.

I’m not sure why, I mean my deck has an early clock and counters and stuff, I should crush Valakut right?

Not if your opponnent is half-competent, and knows when to go for it and when to wait for Leak mana. I discarded Caw, disgusted, and called the Ontario crew who were on the way to my house to crash. I called Dan Macdonald (Dmac) at roughly midnight to ask what the holdup was. “Oh we’re gonna be there at like 5am”

What the hell? So basically, since I normally go to bed at 2-3am, I’m going to have to sleep for 2ish hours, wake up, show them their rooms etc then sleep for another 3 hours? My body doesn’t work like that. I don’t sleep for less than 3 hours or my body will not function properly. I don’t want to get into details but it’s not fun. So, what choice did I have? Stay up until 5am of course. Luckily for me, Sammy T was in the car as well heading to my place, as well as Kyle Duncan, Trevor and one of Sammy’s friends. There are probably two people in this world that can make me play a deck no matter what, and they are Sammy T and Jasar Elarar. If I test a deck for weeks and love it and Jay comes to me the morning of a tournament and tells me to play another deck I will do it. I just respect their opinions that much (or maybe I just have no self-esteem, I dunno.) Sammy says two words and I’m hooked.

“Play Twin”

The main reason to play Twin is that your opponents will have The Fear.

The fear is what paralyzes them from turn 3 onward. They can no longer tap their mana. They can no longer add threats. They are just. Paralyzed. WHAT IF HE EXARCH TWINS?! AHHH!!! The truth is, THE CORRECT WAY TO PLAY AGAINST TWIN IS TO ASSUME HE WILL NOT KILL YOU ON TURN 4. YOU NEED THREATS. THE MORE TIME YOU GIVE HIM, THE MORE YOU ARE LOSING. /end segment on “The Fear”

He tells me to start with Christian Valenti’s list as a base and we’d talk about it more when he got there. I played a lot of Twin online and fell victim to variance. I went 10-0 one day, invited Alex Hayne over to test and promptly went 0-6 or 7 the next day. I couldn’t really figure out why. So I didn’t sleep until about 6am, and got woken up by my annoyed brother at 8am asking why there were a bunch of people sleeping in his computer room. Why the hell was he up at early on a Saturday? He works a damn night shift! Sammy and I agreed on a 75 that made sense and we sleeved up the following:

[deck title=UR Twin by Robert Anderson]
[Lands]
10 Island
1 Misty Rainforest
6 Mountain
1 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
[/Lands]
[Creatures]
4 Deceiver Exarch
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Splinter Twin
4 Ponder
4 Preordain
3 Gitaxian Probe
2 See Beyond
1 Pyroclasm
1 Twisted Image
3 Shrine of Piercing Vision
4 Dispel
4 Mana Leak
4 Into the Roil
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
2 Negate
1 Azure Mage
2 Mutagenic Growth
2 Combust
3 Pyroclasm
3 Mental Misstep
2 Shatter
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

This is very similar to the Valenti list except we removed cards that make you yell and expletive on the inside when you draw them in a bad matchup. [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] and [card]Into the Core[/card] were far too cute, [card]Negate[/card] was much more reliable as having only [card]Mana Leak[/card] as an answer to [card]Memoricide[/card] was unacceptable. [card]Azure Mage[/card] is actually really good in the mirror or against Caw because those games go LONG and removal is at a premium for your Exarchs. [card]See Beyond[/card] is actually a lot better than I intially gave it credit for, as you can shuffle away excess lands, ‘less useful’ cards (nothing is ever DEAD!) and so forth. The only ‘miser’ cards are the 1 [card]Twisted Image[/card] and the 1 [card]Pyroclasm[/card], which have applications in all matchups, or in Image’s case, cycle themselves. Sammy convinced me [card]Combust[/card] was necessary for the mirror even though I was skeptical, and I’m VERY glad he did. [card]Mutagenic Growth[/card] is to fight other [card]Combust[/card]s, and [card]Shatter[/card] is to stop [card]Spellskite[/card]s and various hate artifacts ([card]Ratchet Bomb[/card], [card]Torpor Orb[/card], SOFF, Inkmoth?) Clasm speaks for itself, it’s good to have as a 1 of in the main because the only matchup it’s truly ‘dead’ is the mirror and if you draw the 1-of clasm in the good matchups it’s truly backbreaking (sorry Nick).

The most difficult card to evaluate and sideboard is definitely [card]Mental Misstep[/card]. You really need to decide if there are cards that you want to counter that aren’t realistically “dispellable”. It’s mostly useful in the mirror for their [card]Dispel[/card]s but also has applications against Pod countering their 1-drops, Vampires and red, and discard-heavy decks. It’s SOMETIMES right to bring it in against Caw but usually only if you see them bring in their own Missteps. Anyways. Onto the tournament!

Round 1: Frankie Richards – Valakut

Mana Deprived Crazy Talk superstar Frankie Richards is not who I like to see round 1. I have a good habit of going against new players playing precons round 1 but I knew Frankie would not be one of those (at least I really really hope not). Game 1 was quite straight forward, I allowed him to resolve a Titan, Probed him to see no hate and comboed him off turn 5 or 6. I was on a roll in drawing what I needed. Game 2 however, set an ominous tone for what I thought might happen all day.

He’s on the play, T1 fetch, I play Island [card]Preordain[/card]. My hand is lands, Leak, [card]Negate[/card], Probe, and [card]See Beyond[/card]. I decide to not Probe him and to see what he does turn 2 to get information about an extra card. He plays a turn 2 Cobra, so I Probe to see what’s up. This is a good lesson for the deck. Don’t shoot your load on your Probes. I know that sounds a bit dirty but just because you can play a spell for free and draw a card (two things every player LOVES to do) doesn’t mean you should do it. I’m not a mathematician but the value of knowing someone’s entire hand is worth… A LOT.

Only Probe when you

A) Need information badly which cannot wait you need it RIGHT NOW

or B) Really really need a land because you’re going to fall behind on the land race

Frankie reveals Titan, Avenger, lands. Okay I guess I can [card]See Beyond[/card] to find some combo pieces. Frankie draws, plays a land, says “add a black”.

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

Game 3 went much better, I had [card]Negate[/card] open for [card]Memoricide[/card]s (if they were Mindbreaks I would have been in the 0-1 bracket) and I comboed off swiftly when he near-tap outed for an avenger. I made sure to have a [card]Dispel[/card] up for the possible [card]Dismember[/card].

1-0
Round 2: Jon Stern – Pyromancer Ascension

I wasn’t sure what deck he was playing after he did a t1 [card]Preordain[/card] but I probed because I needed the info NOW NOW NOW and saw a burst lightning, so I figured I was safe until the Ascension got online. He basically played the deck well and lost due to drawing Ascension VERY late and flooding a bit game 1. Game 2 he had no hand and an active Ascension, I gave him 1 draw step to draw a cantrip to combo off. He drew another Ascension and I comboed off.

2-0

Round 3: Zack Spence – Vampires

I am not proud of how I played this matchup, but this was one of the examples of the deck simply giving you the nuts sometimes. Vampires is probably the worst matchup for the deck and I was lucky enough to play the only vampire player in the room. I knew Zack played a lot of Vampires so I was not happy about it. My opener contained Probe, [card]Ponder[/card], Twin, Roil and lands. I messed up turn 1 of the game and got punished for it. Since he’s likely playing Vamps I don’t want to pay 2 life so I go island, probe. I see a hand of Gatekeepers, a Bloodghast and Arc Trail and am slightly relieved. I draw [card]Splinter Twin[/card]. Damn. He plays tap land says go. I draw [card]Splinter Twin[/card]. DAMN!

Had I simply played [card]Ponder [/card]I would have gotten to shuffle away the garbage and saved my Probe for better information later. He played some bears and dispatched me quickly.

Game 2 and 3 I’m not proud to say that my deck simply gave me the nuts and he had mana issues. Game 2 was quite close, but I made another awful misplay. [card]Pyroclasm[/card] is very very good against Vampires. He went turn 1 pulse tracker, I went t1 [card]Preordain[/card]. I saw [card]Pyroclasm[/card] and roil and nearly jeezed my pants and put the Pyro into my hand and the Roil on the bottom. I’m just gonna wreck him with it! He plays Inquisition, takes my Pyro, plays another dude, then I rip a Pyro off the top and get more than enough time to assemble my pieces. Always keep your game breaking cards on top if you think they might get discarded. Game 3 he was simply stuck on 2 lands and I think I killed him turn 5.

3-0

When I was 3-0 at the lunch break having beaten my worst matchup I thought I was unstoppable. That or I would 0-2 after lunch and go home to sleep.

Round 4: Nick Leblanc – Steel

This match took two minutes. I drew my one of [card]Pyroclasm[/card] to 4 for 1 him g1, and proceeded to kill him t4 or 5. Game 2 I kept a very greedy hand because I just love [card]Pyroclasm[/card] so much. 6 Lands + [card]Pyroclasm[/card] on the draw. It’s not great but seriously the deck is all cantrips and cards that are good against steel so I’ll take a bit of flooding. My first draw step shows me a 2nd Clasm, then I draw cantrips, find the combo and win handily. It’s never fun to beat a friend especially since I always run RIDICULOUSLY well against Nick (and somehow always have his number in my sideboard).

4-0

Round 5: Kirk Michelakis – Steel

Basically, same as last round. Except I didn’t Pyro g1, I just t4 nutted him.

5-0

Sick. I can draw into top 8. Oh wait. How many players are we? Moses the giant says not all the x-0-2s can draw in. WHAT? That’s impossible! I’ve never heard of this! I check how my previous opponents did. Frankie did 1-2 drop. John Stern was nowhere to be found, not a good sign. Zack was 2-2 drop. Nick was 3-2 drop. Philippe Gareau was swiftly crushing my round 5 opponent. My breaks are horrible. I just know I have the worst of the X-0s.

Round 6 – Kyle Duncan – Bant Pod

He was sleeping at my house, is an awesome guy and I’d rather we both have a shot of t8 than just one so I’m happy with drawing.

5-0-1

Standings go up. Yup, I’m 4th. 1st is Evan Berry playing Caw, 2nd is a new Valakut player, 3rd is Kyle, and I’m 4th. I’m going to go against Valakut guy and win, it’s the only option.

Evan and Kyle draw and I have a match to win.

Round 7 – I am bad with names – Valakut

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a Valakut player that’s just running good. Lists vary so much that I almost have an aneurysm when they play an Oracle and I can Leak it. AM I GONNA GET TRAPPED? WHAT IF THE ORACLE NETS HIM 10 CARDS?! Needless to say, his turn 3 Oracle was THE NUTS. The top of his library was [card]Harrow[/card] (Draw step), [card]Mountain[/card], Valakut, Titan (Draw Step), [card]Mountain[/card], Valakut, GSZ. Here I am trying to piece together a combo and the only defense I have is Leak and he’s playing 2 mountains a turn off the top of his deck. He plays a Titan which I Leak, but his abundance of lands has me at 9 life. Running Mountains, a [card]Harrow[/card], or a Titan kill me. The only defense I have is a Leak, a Dispel, and my combo. I know he’s got a Harrow in hand, hopefully I can Dispel it at some point. That’s basically my plan, I need to get him to try and kill me with Harrow, I Dispel it, then go off. He beats me to 7, plays a Mountain from the top of his deck to put me to 1, then plays Zenith for 6 with 5 mana up. Yup, I may as well scoop ’em up. [card]Mana Leak[/card]? What? It resolves? Okay….. [card]Harrow[/card]? SURE!! DISPEL!

Game 2 I was TERRIFIED of [card]Memoricide[/card]. Luckily I always carry a probe in my back pocket (or sometimes my REALLY back pocket) so I knew what was coming. This game was less scary than game 1, he had no acceleration and I killed him rather quickly.

Sweet. First in swiss, onto top 8!

6-0-1

Quarter Finals – Round 8: Kyle Duncan Part 2 – Bant Pod

I wasn’t sure on his exact list, and I knew he was sure of mine, so I looked up Olivier Ruel’s list. This looks like a walk in the park. I can literally kill him t4 with no backup because he can’t do anything about it. He mulled to 6 but his hand was strong, t1 Birds, t2 Pod, t3 he Pods for [card]Sylvan Ranger[/card], plays Birds, I Leak it, then I just combo him on t4. I even “Still had all these” him another Exarch and 2 more Twins. I’m classy like that. Game 2 he has no guys, just a Pod, then a Metamorph copying a Pod. I show him the combo and I’m off to semis. This is one thing I don’t like about the deck, which is the fundamental design of the combo. It’s really not fun to play against, it’s just you show your opponent 2 cards at the end of his turn when he’s tapped out and it’s over. It’s also a lot of clicking on MTGO. Also I have a list of everyone who makes me combo off on MTGO and I will be egging their houses.

7-0-1

Semi Finals – Round 9: Philippe Gareau – Mirror FEATURING EXCITING REPRINT!

I was browsing the SCG forums of Twin just to make sure I didn’t miss anything and saw many lists running [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card]. I kinda thought it makes more sense just to combo off, as the plan of “[card]Twisted Image[/card] your Exarch, Lavamancer it” is way too cute. I knew that Gareau trimmed [card]Dispel[/card]s, had no [card]Mutagenic Growth[/card]s or [card]Combust[/card]s in his board. Perfect. Sammy’s [card]Combust[/card] advice was clearly going to pay off. Game 1 we went back and forth a lot, but he drew too much red and not enough blue. I was able to tap his blue and go off with enough backup to ensure I would be ok.

Game 2 I was a bit scared of him going nuts with Lavamancers, so I actually ADDED a [card]Pyroclasm[/card] to the deck instead of removing one. I brought in my [card]Misstep[/card]s, [card]Combust[/card]s and no Growths (woohoo!) to game 2. This game went on very long, but he ultimately ran out of [card]Splinter Twin[/card]s. I killed or bounced all his Exarchs in response to Twins and he Dismembered, fetched, and Missteped himself down to 2(!) life. EOT Exarch, Exarch, beats for 2. The only game I didn’t combo off.

8-0-1

Finals – Round 10: Evan Berry – Caw Blade

Man, I went all this time without facing the dreaded Caw. I was getting scared. Evan just beat a U/B Player in the semis. U/B is my pet deck! Alex Hayne and Justin Richardson were 0% win against Caw in their winning PTQs. Is this the end of the road? Luckily I could tell in Evan’s mannerisms that he was not confident, despite having a dedicated Ontario team cheering for him in Zack Spence and Andrew Noworaj. He went to get some air before our match and in passing said “I don’t think I can win game 1, but we’ll see about the other 2!” It was certainly the other 2 I was afraid of.

Game 1 was actually very scary. This round was the only round in the tourney that I would consider my draws “average” rather than “abso-ridonking-diculous”. I was consistently tapping out for Shrines, See Beyonds, and cantrips to try to get my combo going. I had to [card]Into the Roil[/card] a SOFF that was on a Nexus for fear of falling behind. Luckily, I waited as long as possible and I’m glad I did, because he had 2 [card]Dismember[/card]s waiting for my Exarch. Good think I didn’t put away those [card]Dispel[/card]s.

Game 2 was the kind of game that I have nightmares about, where they’re on the play, have Hawk on turn 2, then [card]Spellskite[/card], and an active sword. I took two sword hits and decided I couldn’t risk it anymore, I had to go for it with only ONE dispel. I had to use the dispel on a Mana leak on my Exarch, then my plan was to draw a land, Roil the Skite and Twin my Exarch. He saved me a lot of trouble by simply Dismembering my Exarch while I was tapped out. I was going to draw the land though. I looked. I always look.

Game 3 was long and grindy. The Longest and The Grindiest Game of the Tournament. I was lucky for a few reasons, namely he didn’t draw a Colonnade or a SOFF. He played two Hawks, I Pyro, he Flashfreezes. He plays a 3rd Hawk, I try to Roil it, he counters it. I Pyro again and luckily there is only 1 Hawk brother left in the flock. That little bastard pecked me down to 3 life! We were playing draw go, and I was very very slowly trying to assemble the perfect hand. I Shattered a [card]Spellskite[/card], had a Shrine at over 20 counters (a demonic tutor shrine) and another one at 8. I cracked the one at 8 to see if I could find a probe to see what’s up. I find one, cast it (with mana) and see a hand of Leak x 2, [card]Celestial Purge[/card] x 2, [card]Spell Pierce[/card]. I have 10 or 11 mana at this point and he has 10. He draws for his turn and goes for it. [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card]. It’s now or never. I have to go for it. EOT I play an Exarch, it resolves. My hand is Exarch, [card]Dispel[/card], Leak x 2, Twin. I draw a land and play it and start counting. I figure “there must be a way this will work, I have a demonic tutor shrine if I need something”. I cast Twin. The crowd goes nuts at the war that’s going to happen. “resolves”. What?! His plan is clearly Purge, which was his fatal mistake. I make a token, he Purges. I Leak. He Leaks. I Leak. He Purges again. I [card]Dispel[/card]. He Roils. I respond with… Exarch! He’s tapped out, I target my Exarch, make a billion guys, then my fateful Twin maker is Roiled to my hand and I swing for a billion. Had he Pierced and Leaked the Twin he may have had enough goodies to take me out.

9-0-1

Winning a PTQ is amazing and I’ve been blessed with run goods at Montreal PTQs. I had my share of bad runs, which is why I’m no longer qualified for nationals (thanks again for the ratings date change after my hotels are booked Wizards) but winning a tournament like this just feels amazing. And the best part, my friends and teammates Justin Richardson and Alex Hayne get to come along for the ride. Awesome.

-Robert A

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