October dressed up as December for Halloween: a PTQ Report

This article hinges upon the blatant misuse and overuse of parentheticals.

The New York PTQ at St. Anthony’s of Padua in NYC was slated for Oct.29, and Battlegrounds Gaming had a large contingent of players planning to show up (at least initially). Due to the other members of said contingent having jobs and engaging personal lives, the actual group boiled down to me, William Roberts, and Geoff Bassore braving the trains and taxis of NYC in a meager trio. (quick aside- Geoff has a job and an engaging personal life, and was just there to try out a PTQ).

When we arrived at the venue ( the basement of a church) at 9:00, we were told that we would not be  admitted until 9:30. I thought this was a bit silly, since it was cold and raining and we were at a church ( Good Samaritan, Sanctuary, All are Welcome). I am, of course, not a tournament organizer, so I’ll assume they had their own valid reasons for denying us entrance.

Regardless, after taking shelter in a nearby Starbucks until 9:45,then returning and bumping into some of the PTQ grinders with whom I’m familiar, I sat down to register and receive some card pools.  The pool that ended up in my hands was reasonably complex, with two definite builds that were each viable in their own right. I personally think that one was better than the other, although I only reached that conclusion after a whole day of playing.

Here is what I played, broken down by curve:
1 Silent Departure
1 Traveler’s Amulet
2 Stitcher’s Apprentice
1 Walking Corpse
1 Deranged Assistant
1 Mask of Avacyn
1 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Lantern Spirit
1 Tribute to Hunger
1 Village Cannibals
1 Night Terrors
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Smite the Monstrous
1 Slayer of the Wicked
1 Galvanic Juggernaut
1 Moon Heron
1 Makeshift Mauler
1 Grasp of Phantasms
1 Fortress Crab
1 Heretic’s Punishment
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Skaab Goliath

1 Clifftop Retreat
1 Shimmering Grotto
7 Island
6 Swamp
1 Mountain
1 Plains

Quick Reference Facts:  13 creatures,  4 Flashback cards,  2 stupid powerful bombs, both at 5cc, and a relatively cluttered 4cc slot. Also Sever the Bloodline, which is the best removal spell in the format.

The mana was never, ever an issue, and I was only unable to cast what I wanted to when I wanted to in one game. I was probably drawing pretty well, but the consistency was there.

This deck was certainly well above average, and I think it was easily possible for it to make the Top 8. Its weaknesses were aggressive starts from opposing decks, a propensity to mulligan poorly, and a rather mana- intensive endgame. When I say that I mean that I typically spent most of my games blocking or using removal or digging through my deck until around turn 6, when I would resolve one of my two bombs or flyers / Goliath, suit it up with a Mask of Avacyn , and kill them. This meant that until turn 6, they had a pretty high life total. If I wanted to kill them, I had to make sure that I was bashing AND still playing spells to keep the things they drew off of my back.  That isn’t so hard to do with Bloodgift demon, but Heretic’s Punishment is quite mana-intensive, and if they keep playing creatures, it’s hard to pay the 4 mana necessary to blast the creature and play a creature of one’s own to apply pressure.  Yes, the card is still an absolute house and I probably misplayed with it a few times, but it should still be kept in mind.

As I was building this deck, I had another deck in my mind, and was constantly shuffling the cards around on the table before me, trying to figure out which version I wanted to play. I went with the above version because of its late game, flyers, and reasonably feasible mana-base. Here is the much more streamlined, aggressive deck I could have built. ( Yes Harry, I know you’re unhappy about it.)

1 Traveler’s Amulet
1 Champion of the Parish
1 Selfless Cathar
1 Avacynian Priest
1 Bloodcrazed Neonate
1 Village Ironsmith
1 Cobbled Wings
1 Moment of Heroism
1 Butcher’s Cleaver
1 Village Bill Ringer
1 Elder Cathar
1 Feral Ridgewolf
1 Riot Devils
1 Sever The Bloodline
1 Smite the Monstrous
1 Slayer of the Wicked
2 Thraben Sentry
1 Galvanic Juggernaut
1 Instigator Gang ( Relax, damnit, I’ll explain.)
1 Heretic’s Punishment
1 Pitchburn Devils
1 Scourge of Geier Reach

1 Clifftop Retreat
1 Shimmering Grotto
1 Swamp
8 Plains
6 Mountain

Quick Reference Facts: 9 Humans, with Werewolves being .5 of a Human, 16 creatures, again Sever the Bloodline

What does this deck have that the other did not?

For starters, the potential for MUCH quicker starts.  I was talking with Ciaran Kelahan about the format throughout the day, and watched him pile drive people with an aggressive Green/ White deck that turned sideways A LOT. I think that it really behooves the savvy player to build an aggressive deck in Innistrad Limited, unless they have great support for a control deck. ( low mana cost removal, Dissipate, and large cc bombs, of the flying variety.)The quick starts that some of the combinations in this deck allow for are reasonably overwhelming, and would have awarded a few easy wins.  This deck also had some synergy with the Humans of Innistrad, which is something that should always be prioritized whenever possible. Its curve was also slightly better, although it also hit a glut of cards at 4cc.

Why didn’t I play this version? Because It wasn’t as blatantly aggressive as I wanted it to be. If I was going to forego my Demon, Goliath, deck manipulation and the few flyers I had, I wanted it to be for a clearly more aggressive deck.  Essentially, that means I wanted around 3 more 2cc. creatures and 2-3 more 3cc. creatures, and probably 2 less 4cc. In retrospect, I think I should have played this, and probably would, given the chance a second time . Am I right? Wrong? Send me an e-mail and let me know.

Ok, sit down, I know there is an Instigator Gang in my second version that wasn’t in my first, despite my claims of mana fixing and drawing all the lands I needed, and already splashing red for Heretic’s Punishment.  The card is obviously a bomb, and easily splashable, and is always good, whenever it is played during the game. It absolutely should have been in my first deck. I didn’t include it because I was leery of having 4 cards that weren’t in my main colors ( Slayer of the Wicked, Smite the Monstrous, Heretic’s Punishment, Instigator Gang), and because I knew that I didn’t want to get colored or mana-screwed out of the tourney. My arguments to myself when building version 1 were:

-by not including the Gang, I was preserving the integrity of color balance and consistency in my deck
– I had enough ways to close the game
-by turn 4 my deck would have hit it’s stride in terms of curve, and I would be playing spells for awhile

Have you ever read Instigator Gang? Have you ever attacked with creatures in a game of Magic? If you answered yes to those questions, you probably know that those above arguments are relatively flimsy, and I made a mistake right at the beginning by not including it over Makeshift Mauler or Fortress Crab. It was a natural inclusion in the stalling, late game deck I had decided to play. I guess I sat there with too much 5-hour energy in my system and thought myself out of the appropriate thing to do. I did, however, board into the Gang each game 2, although I only drew it once, so justice is served.

I did not board into my aggro deck, as I was committed to playing the slower style of my first version, and wasn’t feeling the mental agility necessary to switch from one play style to the next, and board out and in each game. I also think that v1 is still a very good deck, and I still could have made Top 8 if I had played a bit better.

Ok, deck construction and whatnot done, onto the actual report.

I apologize in advance, I did not write down names, and the Planeswalker Points site does not have the matches currently listed, so I’m going on memory. I don’t remember exactly what happended in each game, so the games detailed below are basic summaries. The PTQ was 8 rounds.

R1. Vs ?
I know that he was a local New Yorker, and had a name derived from Spanish ancestry, but I’m not sure what it was exactly. I believe he was on the play for G1,I kept a hand of Island,Swamp,Island, Demon, Night Terrors, and Sever The Bloodline, Moon Heron. He started with Village Blacksmith into Crossway Vampire, and commenced the beats. I take a Smite the Monstrous with Night Terrors, leaving him with a grip full of lands. My fourth land does not make an appearance, and on turn 5 he drops a Falkenrath Marauders, which I block with my face.

G2 I choose to play, and stymied his early offensive with double Stitcher’s apprentice into a Makeshift Mauler. He plays a Galvanic Juggernaut, which I kill with a  Smite the Monstrous.  I drop Bloodgift Demon, which he kills with Smite the Monstrous, and then my own Juggernaut, for which he does not have a good answer ( I can untap it forever with my Apprentice).

G3 He has a quick start with some early beaters, and I’m on the back foot for a while, trading creatures while sandbagging a Sever The Bloodline for a Juggernaut or a Marauders. At some point he plays the Juggernaut and I use my Sever. I draw 2 lands consecutively after we both reach board parity( sort of) with me at 2, blocking a Voiceless Spirit with a flickering Lantern Spirit, and he draws the Marauders to shut me down.

M2: ?
My opponent gets a G1 loss for mis-registering his deck, and then mulls to 6. My slightly awkward deck curves out perfectly and it isn’t really a game.  I got a bit lucky here, as while he was looking for the card he mis-registered at the match site, and I saw his entire deck, which notably included 3 Rebukes. He was quite nice despite having such poor luck in the game, and the extreme disadvantage he at which he started. I hope to play him again some time soon on more equal ground.

M3 vs … I want to say “Jim”
G1 He wins the roll and plays, dropping a turn 2 Mindshrieker, and I take 12 off of it before killing it with a Smite.  I can’t recover from that start, and we go to game 2. I choose to play, and start with some deck searching with Traveler’s Amulet and a Lantern spirit into Galvanic Juggernaut. He plays a Cloistered Youth, gets stuck on three, and never draws any other lands or cheap spells while I do.

Game 3 almost the same thing happens, except I come out a bit faster with Deranged Assistant dropping Moon Heron and Mauler while he draws a glut of lands. I bounce a Cloistered Youth and an Elder Cathar around with Silent Departure and Grasp of Phantasms, and he just keeps drawing land.

I think I got pretty lucky in this round as well, because my opponent showed me his deck afterward. It had a spectacular curve ending in Angel of Flight Alabaster and Gallow’s Warden/ Battleground Geist, and had !two! Mindshriekers.

M4. Vs ?
Again, I’m blanking on my opponent’s name, but I think it was Will. He was quite cordial throughout our game, and seemed be a very good player. His deck was a G/W aggro build, and after crushing me in game 1, I came back  to win g2 and g3 with Bloodgift Demon and Heretic’s Punishment respectively. The last two games were both very close.

M5 vs Rob Cierreta ( last name may be misspelled)
G1 begins with both of us casting Forbidden Alchemy. He dumps a Reaper of the Abyss, an Island, and a Rebuke into his yard. The lands he has in play are Shimmering Grotto, Island, Swamp. I’m pretty sure that the Demon is going to make an appearance on turn 5 by way of Unburial Rites, and that is exactly what happens. I don’t draw resources to kill 2 Reaper of the Abyss , and I die.

G2 I choose to draw, which he seems happy about. I soon see why, as he curves Champion of the Parish into Avacynian Priest. His next play is Liliana of the Veil on turn 4.  I take beat after beat until I stabilize at three, having dealt with Liliana and most of the other things he cast. I don’t remember how exactly. Having only 1 card in hand and nothing on board to his Chapel Geist, I drop Bloodgift Demon. I’m at three, and he is at twenty. He draws ( two cards in hand) thinks for a bit, then passes back. I go to two, draw, draw, bash for 5, which he takes, and then play Lantern Spirit and Forbidden Alchemy, which gets me a Slayer of the Wicked.

He draws and plays a Vampire  Interloper. I go to 1 from the Demon, Silent Departure a Chapel Geist, and bash with my flyers, flickering and replaying Lantern Spirit. ( I probably should have just bounced his other guy, that would have been infinitely safer.) He replays Chapel Geist, and an Avacynian Priest, and passes back to me. Now he gets to start drawing off of Bloodgift Demon.

We eventually reach board parity with an equal number of creatures, although his Reaper has not made an appearance. I’m still at 1, and he has a tapper, and I know that if the game goes on for two more terms, I can’t win. His grip was almost full with the help he got from my Demon. He has been put to 2 from a few attacks from Demon, Demon’s effect, and Lantern Spirit. I decide to go for broke despite him having a Rebuke in his deck. I flashback my Alchemy to get a Sever The Bloodline ( There were 6 cards left in my library when I flashed Alchemy) and kill a Chapel Geist, then swing out. He doesn’t have the Rebuke, and we go to game three. I believe he drew 5 cards off of my Demon, and I again felt extremely lucky for having been able to squeak a win out of that game.

Game Three He curves out two drop three drop Liliana, while I play Fortress Crab and lose.

He then tells me that he needs to run home because of some family obligations, and would like to give me the win, having just wanted to play it out. Obviously I’m getting lucky again, and I thank him profusely. Rob, if you read this, thanks again for the gracious win, although I wish I could have capitalized on it. I hope to see you again soon.

M6. Vs Derek
G1 we both mull to 6 and keep 1 landers. Mine was Island, Deranged Assistant, Galvanic Juggernaut, Alchemy, Silent Departure, Moon Heron. Both of us draw lands for 3 turns, and then I start picking up spells  while he does not. G2 is a back and forth, with both of us playing early drops and bashing and trading until I cast Heretic’s Punishment while at 8 life. He then casts Devil’s Play to kill me. G3 I get a Moon Heron equipped with a Mask of Avacyn and beat him to 9 before he draws the Spidery Grasp to deal with it. Then I play Heretic’s Punishment and use it to kill him. He flips over the top card of his deck after he loses, and then the card under it, and there is his Devil’s Play ( Which would have killed me).

The next Match vs Zi.
If I win this, I think I can draw into Top8.  I’m not entirely sure, because I did take my loss in the first round. Game One he plays some early drops in Gatstaf Shepered and Midnight Haunting, and I fight back with spells on each turn and a Silent Departure on his tokens after he pumps them once with Gavony Township. A Slayer of the Wicked dealt with the Sheperd.  I then cast Heretic’s Punishment with no cards in hand besides two lands, and begin using it to burn him out.  The Punishment dumps 3 spells per activation into my yard, while I keep drawing lands. I cast creatures whenever I draw them to develop board presence and apply pressure, those creatures being Makeshift Mauler and Skaab Goliath. He has Tribute to Hunger for both via Creeping Renaissance, and that 18 life makes it impossible for me to burn him out. I think the game ended with him at 5, and me with two card in library, with the knowledge that they were both land based on all the cards I had seen/played.

G2 He beats the hell of of me with double Midnight Haunting, Gavony Township.
5-2, out of contention for Top 8

I play out the last game because I might be able to get some packs. He wins G1, I win g2, and then I decide to mess around g3. Neither of us develop our boards until turn 5 because of my Silent Departure and Grasp of Phantasms shenanigans, and then I drop Heretic’s Punishment. He plays his Orchard Warden for the second time and his Kessig Wolf for the second time and passes back. I decide to just have fun and just throw Punishment activation after Punishment activation at his face while his creatures hit me. I imagine it’s what charging the Spirit Bomb ( against Frieza you nerds) felt like. Much like charging the Spirit Bomb, that effort ultimately accomplished nothing. Anyway, he wins when he’s at 5 and I deck myself. Obviously this was very poor play, and I knew it while I was doing it, but I was way too tired to care. I am rewarded with my antics by coming in 36th, which does not get any packs at all.

Geoff headed home in round 4, so Will and I went to get some New York pizza and head home. October wasn’t having any of that, so we got soaked on our trek to the pizza shop and taxi ride back to Grand Central. We then sat in Grand Central for two hours waiting for the train to New Haven to be readied or however/whatever trains become able to do what they do.

All of the opponents that I played were most cordial and affable people, which I very much appreciated. I apologize for forgetting your names, and I hope to see all of you at future events. The tournament was run reasonably well, so props to the organizers, although a microphone would have sped things along a bit.

Overall, based on a few mistakes and the  mis-build of my original deck, 5-3 is an acceptable outcome. I would obviously have liked to do better, but as I could have played and built better, I got what I deserved.  I do also think my luck carried me a good ways. Next time, I’ll see if I can play like I should be on the Pro Tour, instead of like I just want to be on the Pro Tour. Thanks for reading, and as always, constructive feedback is always appreciated.

Christian Sauer