Getting There: All the Small Things
While I’ve been wanting to really hunker down and write an article for about two weeks now, I decided to wait until all of the M10 rules changes died down as they were the last thing I wanted to discuss. For this article I’d like to talk about my recent trip to an Indianapolis PTQ and how things could’ve gone better.
Leading up to regionals about 6 weeks ago, I scoured the internet and tried to figure out which decks I could build, and which deck I wanted to play. I only had Faeries built, so no matter what I chose I was going to be borrowing cards. I also wanted to play Maelstrom Pulse, which led to either 5cb, Jund, or GB Elves. Well I’ve always been partial to Elves, and that’s what I would sleeve up that Saturday. To spoil any suspense…I didn’t get there, and that probably had something to do with the fact that I’d only goldfished the deck maybe 3 times.
This tournament however, Faeries was back in style, and I was only to eager to sleeve up the blue menace. I was a little rusty as I hadn’t played a great deal since regionals, but felt comfortable with Faeries, and felt like I had a decent shot. This is the list I put together:
4x Mistbind Clique 4x Underground River
4x Spellstutter Sprite 4x Mutavault
4x Scion of Oona 4x Secluded Glen
1x Sower of Temptation 4x Sunken Ruins
Spells: 2x Swamp
4x Broken Ambtions
4x Cryptic Command Sideboard:
4x Bitterblossom 1x Sower of Temptation
4x Agony Warp 2x Infest
2x Thoughtseize 2x Plumeveil
2x Peppersmoke 3x Flashfreeze
2x Jace Beleren 2x Deathmark
1x Terror 3x Razormane Masticore
Looking back, I feel the maindeck was trying to do much at once, and not necessarily concentrating on what a Faerie deck tries to accomplish game 1. The Thoughtseizes and the Sower should definitely be in the board, maybe for the Plumeveils, I’m not real sure. The quad Agony Warps were absolutely amazing, and are much better than terror right now. While there is certainly nothing revolutionary about my mana base, I did feel that the full set of Underground Rivers were needed because of the pair of maindeck Thoughtseizes. The only glaring decision about the Sideboard that I simply can’t stand are the Masticores, which should have either been another Infest, Sower, and a Warhammer.
First Round I played against Naya ‘Walkers, which I easily dominated because I guess 5-mana sorcery speed spells aren’t that good against me (Chandra anyone?).
The next round I face a pretty bad matchup in Doran Aggro. Game 1 goes long when I get stuck on three lands but I draw out of it and Clique him two turns in a row. Game 2 He has turn 2 Teeg which I agony warp, into turn 3 Doran, which I Deathmark, then another Doran turn 4 which gets there. Game 3 I have turn 2 Bitterblossom (finally) and never look back.
Round 3 I play one of the best players in the state Jon Agley, who had sleeved up mono-white Kithkin for this event (as he usually does). This round was really the start of a long day for me. Game 1 I take a trip to paris, but wind up getting the nuts (2x Secluded Glen, Thoughtseize, Bitterblossom, Spellstutter, Agony Warp) and I’m able to beat his double Procession draw. Game 2 I mulligan yet again, and this time can’t recover. Game 3 I draw 0 lands in my first 7 (I was shuffling I swear), and see the following hand of 6:
I keep this and get promptly smashed by turn 5 or so with only the Island and Mutavault as my lands to speak of. Looking back on this, it is hard to mulligan it but I’m not sure what the right answer is still. If draw any source of black mana, I have a very reasonable chance to win that game. On the other hand, if I mull to 5 and see spells that I can cast, am I at a better position?
Round 4 I play a Jund Aggro deck that I beat in 2 games, getting decent draws and not having to mulligan helps I guess.
Round 5 I sat across from UW Reveilark and got to mulligan to 5, keeping:
3x Lands (Sunken Ruins, Vault, Island)
This didn’t go over well as he drew about 12 cards in the first six turns and killed me. Game 2 I see all four of his Sower of Temptations and just want to shoot myself.
Round 6 I get to play the very favorable matchup of BW tokens where I finally see my opponent mulligan and stumble on mana to which I promptly crush him. Game 2 and 3 are very awkard as we both keep very reactive hands and neither of us play a threat till turn 4 or 5. I’m not quite sure how I could’ve played better in these two games, but they somehow slipped away.
At this point I was more upset with my luck than anything and dropped from the tournament to go update my cube.
The next couple of days I tried to figure out what I did wrong, had I kept the wrong hands? Not shuffled properly? Thoughseized the wrong card? Blocked or attacked incorrectly? I think it was probably a mixture of these, including others such as not sideboarding correctly and just having a sub-optimal deck in general. After having evaluated this I started to think of how to rectify this in future events. This is what I came up with.
Test diversity: Leading up to the tournament I hadn’t played hardly at all for about 3 weeks. The day before however, I tested for about 7-8 hours, mostly against 5cb. At the end of this session I felt that I knew that matchup like the back of my hand, which probably isn’t true, but the fact still stands that I knew it better than most of the other matchups, such as BW tokens, Reveilark or the mirror. If you only have a small amount of time to test, it is much better to test against several of the top decks that will be representing the field rather than just one or two of them. How many of the Jund/5cb did I face? 1. The rest of the field? 5.
Clear Sideboard Plan: Throughout the extended season, whether I was playing burn, faeries, or elves I had a pretty clear cut sideboarding plan for them. However, in my leave of absence from competitive Magic, I had become pretty lazy in this department and it really showed in this PTQ. Game 2 against the BW tokens deck was very long but ultimately ended with him drawing a Kitchen Finks into Murderous Redcap with me having no answer. As I look back on this game and try to decipher what I could’ve done differently one thing sticks out in my mind was the fact that I had decided to take my 1 Sower out and leave the one board out as well. There is really no reason I would never take a Finks, a Redcap, or Cloudgoat, especially if they have an Ajani token on them. The only way they have to take down a Sower is with a Redcap or a Path, neither of which are very good when I’m playing four Scion of Oona. Of course, this won’t become near as big a problem July 11th when I can use notes between games.
Shuffle…a lot: this isn’t a preparation before the tournament, but just something that I feel I didn’t do very well at the PTQ. The first 4 matches I played I shuffled quite a bit, something about having to mull to 5 though right after I had mulliganed down to 6 three games straight really got me out of the mood to shuffle. Determination, endurance, and stamina are all keys to playing a successful full day of Magic. This time it just slipped me by, but that won’t be happening again.
Being in the right mental state: I got about 4 hours of sleep before the tournament, which is actually pretty good. The bad part? I then drove four hours to the event site, and almost had an aneurysm trying to find a parking spot, after a mad dash to sign in, register my deck and go to the bathroom, I was ready to play. 4 hours of sleep is pretty good, I’m not complaining about that, but the frantic mess of trying to do everything in about 10 minutes really tore on my nerves, not to mention the fact that it took me and about 3 of my friends to correctly write down my deck (I’m really bad at counting). Getting a good night’s sleep, being ready, calm and collected is always a good way to start a tournament while being driven to insanity as you try and figure why you’ve only got 59 cards listed is a pretty poor way to start the day.
Staying fed and hydrated: Brian Kibler and Riki Hayashi have both talked about this in recent articles and after this past Saturday I can say with earnest that they speak the truth. This was one of the things I actually did correctly at this tournament, I was never fatigued or hungry, always hydrated and ready to go. This is, however, in deep contrast to my past tournaments where I would go the entire day without so much as a bite, and maybe one bottle of water. Staying healthy is one of the easiest ways to give yourself an edge against many of the players in any given room. Some of them haven’t eaten in 8 hours, others are working off a hangover, and others are going on no sleep in 36 hours.
Mulligan Correctly: One of the lost arts of Magic is mulliganing correctly and I have a bad track record when it comes to keeping sketchy hands. I feel that I mulliganed pretty well this tournament and would like to think that is due to me working on that part of my game so much. In the 6 matches I played in, the toughest hand to evaluate I felt was the following:
This was on the play against an unknown opponent, and I went into the tank, although my initial gut reaction was to mulligan. I knew that with the Mutavaults my Sprites wouldn’t be dead, and the fact that I was on the play helped in this matter. Additionally, Cryptic Command is pretty good I hear. But ultimately I decided that the hand didn’t have enough things to do, and that I’d have to draw pretty incredibly in order to beat any type of aggro deck, namely Kithkin, BW Tokens, and Doran Aggro. I proceeded to mulligan to 6, draw the nuts and beat my Kithkin opponent. Throughout the tournament though, if I would ever lose a game, the one thing I kept telling myself was that I should remember to mulligan efficiently and with thought. Every tournament before this one I can remember multiple instances when I clearly made a wrong mulligan decision.
Standard is a very healthy format right now and I’m enjoying it very much. As I write this, we have about 174 cards spoiled from M10 and standard will definitely be shaken to its core by the likes of Silence, Captain of the Watch, Duress, and that Lightning Bolt card everyone keeps talking about.
‘Til next time…
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