I went to a PPTQ this weekend, the first of the Battle for Zendikar season. The first PPTQ of the season is always exciting. The energy is high as people sit down to crack packs for their first serious tournament. People wonder if they have correctly evaluated the set and if they understood the main principles. I’ve managed to maintain a 100% PPTQ top 8 percentage, so I hoped to pull that off yet and again, and hopefully win the whole thing. The room was buzzing as we sat down to our first pack, getting ready to register our decks and then pass them to another random person in the room. I opened a handful of packs, and pulled a rare Eldrazi out of each pack. And in the last pack, I opened this:
The shop owner offered me $45 for it, which would more than cover my entry. I faced a moment of crisis. If someone had told me that I could give them $35 in exchange for $45 dollars, I would have instantly taken them up on it. I had nearly a fifty dollar bill in my hand, and I was about to give it to someone else. At the same time, I had paid $35 to enter the event, and now I was basically given the choice of gaining ten dollars to opt out, or giving it up for a chance to win the whole tournament. Looking at it that way, it was an easy decision. I was here to play, and I was here to win. I shipped the Canopy Vista and got my pool.
This was my final deck for the PPTQ:
These pictures are missing one card; I also had Ob Nixilis, Reignited, which I had rated as the best rare in the format.
I lost round one because I apparently can’t count to two for Ulamog’s Nullifier, but I took down the rest of the swiss matches. Ob Nixilis was obviously the best card in my deck, taking down several matches almost single handedly. Ulamog’s Nullifer was also fabulous and few opponents were able to come back from such a back-breaking play. The Sludge Crawlers were surprisingly effective. I don’t think Crawler is a great card, but when you need to Ingest, it gets the job done early and effectively, while also being a decent late game draw. Grave Birthing surprised me the most, and I almost certainly should have played the second copy over Rising Miasma. Coastal Discovery is amazing and won almost every game in which I cast it.
After drawing in the last round to lock up the top 8, I got some food and some caffeine and then settled in to wait. I ended up in 4th place in the swiss, and took my seat for the draft. This was my first draft in the format, though I’ve done a lot of simulated testing for the draft format. I did feel confident that I’d approach the draft format from a stronger position than the other drafters, but we also had a top 8 made from a lot of local ringers to the Vegas area, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I knew that I wanted to avoid white, and I knew that I wanted to be in UR more than any color combination, but I had no idea how the people around me would approach the format. Understanding the metagame is one of the keys to my success in limited, and the first draft in a format is so random that it can often be a trainwreck.
The first few picks were hard. I picked up a Conduit of Ruin and a Skyrider Elf, and so I felt like I was probably settling into a UG deck. After that, I got some red cards and some blue cards, and then the packs just dried up. I ended up with either six playables for a UR deck or six for a UG deck by the end of pack one, and a bunch of lands for whichever direction I went. In pack two, I got the hookup. In that pack I got two Ruination Guides and two Clutch of Currents (even though the person on my left was somehow in UG). I also picked up a Barrage Tyrant and I had something like 11 playables out of that pack. I had definitely settled on UR, and nearly every card in my deck was a colorless creature, including an Eldrazi Skyspawner and a couple of Incubator Drones.
I opened up Pack Three and started thumbing through the pack. There was a Tide Drifter which would be solid in my deck and a second Coralhelm Guide. The red cards were terrible, and I was starting to get sad with the pack. I got to the back and saw this:
The judge walked by and looked at my pack and I couldn’t help by smile like a complete idiot. Not only had I opened an Expedition that was worth three times the value of the Canopy Vista I had passed earlier, but it was on color for my deck and probably just the correct pick. I slammed it onto my pile. (This is a lie. There was no slamming. It was a gentle setting.) Pack three was powerful but not deep. I picked up a Coastal Discovery, Herald of Kozilek, and an Incubator Drone. I even wheeled the Tide Drifter out of pack one. In the end, my deck was kind of just insane, and looked like this:
I faced David Williams in the quarters. He had a very good WGr allies deck. I demolished him with an absurd start in game one after he stumbled on early drops. In game two, I miscounted the amount of damage he could deal with Tajuru Warcaller and he got me for exactsies. In game three, I curved out perfectly and dealt with everything he played.
In faced Tyler Smith in the semifinals. He was in a UG Eldrazi Ramp deck, but he had some mulligans and I got off to a wicked fast start that he just couldn’t handle. When he did play something big, I had Clutch of Currents to tempo him out for the win.
In the finals, I faced Rob Pisano. Steam Vents showed up on T1 for me in both games. He was playing an aggressive RW allies deck which a bunch of 3/1s and 2/1s that matched up terribly against my Kozilek’s Sentinels. I was never really in much danger, and even though I flooded out, I got to wipe out his board with a Valakut Invoker.
I won the PPTQ. Now I guess I have to learn to play Standard.
P.S. – I’m selling the Steam Vents on Ebay at this link.