Magic:The Gathering Sealed Deck Tech – PPTQ 4/24/16

So this post is for Magic nerds. Book nerds and writing nerds probably won’t understand half of what I’m saying. Oh well, it happens.

Yesterday I played a PPTQ (Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier) at a local comic & game shop. The format was sealed Shadows over Innistrad, which I have been enjoying greatly, and played with some success, and the field was very small, only 13 players. The format was to be four rounds of Swiss, with a cut to Top 8 and then Top 8 would draft and play single-elimination until a winner was determined. Winner got an entry into the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier, which comes with a limited-edition card (Snapcaster Mage) and a shot at getting onto the Pro Tour.

I felt pretty good about my chances to make Top 8. Really, I only needed to win two matches to do so, and as I opened my pool of cards to build from I saw that I had the most expensive card in the set, and one of the best cards in the set, in my pool – Archangel Avacyn.

My pool was fairly straightforward – I only had enough creature density in Green and White to build decks out of those two colors. I probably could have gone with a Blue/White deck if I was willing to stretch to get enough playable creatures, but I felt like my green cards were so good once I got delirium online, that green was the stronger play.

That was my first mistake. I was missing a couple of key delirium enablers, particularly Vessel of Nascency, and that made it just a little bit too hard to get delirium going. I really think that if you’re going to be as all-in on delirium as I was, that you need at minimum one, and probably two, green Vessels to make it happen.

But anyway, here’s the deck list I played –

Loam Dryad

Threaten Gargoyle

Stern Constable

Topplegeist

Moldgraf Scavenger

Obsessive Skinner

Autumnal Gloom

Paranoid Parish-Blade

Militant Inquisitor

Byway Courier

Runaway Carriage

Solitary Hunter

Intrepid Provisioner

Inspiring Captain

Pack Guardian

Archangel Avacyn

Reaper of Flight Moonsilver

Wicker Witch

Haunted Cloak

Eerie Interlude

Quilled Wolf

2x Aim High

Vessels of Ephemera

Warped Landscape

So there are a few things to notice here – 1) there’s not a removal spell in the deck. That’s a problem. It meant that if I fell behind and I couldn’t get Avacyn on the board, and get here to flip, I was fucked. And with a curve this low, if I stumbled out of the gate on mana or on threats, I got behind quick. Since I mulliganed to five two games and to six in three other games, you could say that I stumbled out of the gate a little. I ran 17 lands for a total of 41 cards, so I don’t think my man abase was the problem, but you have to account for variance in deck construction, and I didn’t.

Another thing you might notice are the cards that are just really mediocre if you can’t get delirium online. Reaper of Flight Moonsilver is a house of delirium is happening, but not really worth a shit otherwise. a 3/3 flyer for five mana just isn’t where I want to be in this set. Paranoid Parish-Blade is fine, he’s a 3/2 for 3 that gets +1/+0 and first strike with delirium, but I’d play him anyway. Runaway Carriage is just bad, and I was playing him just to have an artifact that was easy to get into the graveyard. But I had Wicker Witch for that, and it not only counts for two card types (artifact + creature) but it probably takes something with it when it dies. Ditto Thraben Gargoyle. I should have only played those two artifact creatures.

I also shouldn’t have played Haunted Cloak just to get the +1/+0 on Militant Inquisitor. Again, a 2/3 for 3 mana isn’t great, but he’s still a playable 19th-23rd card even if I can’t pump him, and the ability isn’t worth playing terrible equipment. Autumnal Gloom can be a trap card, and I fell right into it. if you have delirium, it flips into a 4/4 trample hex proof dude, and that’s significant. But again, without delirium, it’s pretty unplayable.

Stern Constable just doesn’t have enough impact, and I didn’t have any madness to turn on, so he was a bad call. And Eerie Interlude – yeah, that’s a constructed card. It’s very fringe useful in limited, but I misread the card and thought it could blink a bunch of my opponent’s creatures, which would have been way more effective.

So here are the cards I should have not played, in retrospect –

Autumnal Gloom

Runaway Carriage

Reaper of Flight Moonsilver

Haunted Cloak

Eerie Interlude

Stern Constable

Without any equipment, Militant Inquisitor gets put on the chopping block, too.

Upon looking back at my pool, G/W is still the only deck to build, unless I wanted to try to go three-color. I had fixing in U/R and U/W, so maybe there was a Jeskai build. Let’s see what that would look like.

Topplegeist

Threaten Gargoyle

Village Messenger

Insolent Neonate

Daring Sleuth

Ember-Eye Wold

Wicker Witch

Paranoid Parish-Blade

Apothecary Geist

Drown yard Explorers

Pyre Hound

Archangel Avacyn

2x Stormrider Spirit

Press for Answers

2x Inner Struggle

Gone Missing

2x Catalog

Uncaged Fury

Ongoing Investigation

Vessel of Ephemera

This makes a 40-card deck with a very different game plan, and I don’t know if I can stall long enough to get a couple of big flyers out there, but that’s kinda the plan. Basically this deck wants to get Insolent Neonate or Village Messenger out on Turn 1, following that up with Ongoing Investigation. I’d likely include 2 green mana sources to activate the investigation, but that might be too greedy. This deck plans on everything but Topplegeist dying early, using its removal and tempo cards carefully to make my weaker creatures trade up in combat, and then use Stormrider Spirits and Avacyn as finishers. This deck won’t ever go as wide as the first deck, but it might be a little better. I do think it’s more resilient, because the creature base in general is better initially than the first deck. The GW deck’s creatures are much better if I can make delirium happen, but that doesn’t always happen.

Or since I have UW fixing, maybe the answer should have been Bant. What does that look like?

Topplegeist

Threaten Gargoyle

Loam Dryad

Daring Sleuth

Hinterland Logger

Moldgraf Scavenger

Obsessive Skinner

Wicker Witch

Paranoid Parish-Blade

Apothecary Geist

Drown yard Explorers

Solitary Hunter

2x Stormrider Spirit

Archangel Avacyn

Ongoing Investigation

Gone Missing

Press for Answers

2x Catalog

Vessel of Ephemera

Aim High

 

I think that’s probably the deck I should have built. Flyers are strong, and the Stormrider Spirit is a house, especially if I can flash it in on Turn 4 with Loam Dryad. The power of Catalog is something I overlooked, because I was so focused on the delirium beatdown, and that was to my detriment. There were several games I would have won if I’d had enough horsepower to tussle with my opponent’s slightly larger creatures, and while the Bant deck doesn’t do that all that well, it has enough more reach and card draw than the GW deck I built to make me think it would have at least won me the one more match I needed to make Top 8.

So there’s an exceedingly long-winded explanation of my scrubbing out of a Magic tournament that I should have realistically made Top 4, if not won outright. Thoughts? Feel free to post them in the comments or hit me up on Facebook.

 

 

John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the author of the EPIC-Award-winning series The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books, the Bubba the Monster Hunter series of short stories and novellas, the Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter novella series, and the creator and co-editor of the Big Bad anthology series, among other projects.

In 2016, John teamed up with a pair of other publishing industry ne’er-do-wells and founded Falstaff Books, a small press dedicated to publishing the best of genre fictions “misfit toys.”

In his copious free time John enjoys long walks on the beach, rescuing kittens from trees and playing Magic: the Gathering.

For samples of John’s ridiculous sense of humor, check out these free ebooks – http://bit.ly/1U8eASF

 

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