Today I would like to present a two-part article that will hopefully help in your pReparations for block constructed season this summer and the current London sealed PTQ season. I am far better in constructed than limited, but I want to share the hardest deck build I have seen all year after going over my pro tour experience at Philadelphia.
Three guys from our Columbus Ohio shop, The Guardtower, qualified for PT Philadelphia, so we had almost three full months to work on the format. We started with a fast R/G spiritcraft deck but quickly realized it did not hold up against any other aggro or control deck in the format. We broke the gauntlet down to Snakes splashing all colors, White Weenie (Tallowisp and legendary), and Gifts Ungiven based control decks. We also investigated the Sway of the Stars control deck, a nice 4-5 color Honden deck, and mono-black control. Although I felt like control was the best path to victory, I ignored my better instincts and decided to run the deck I had the most practice with, G/B/r Snakes. I will not debate our team's card choices, as that is not the scope of this article. I also think we did not build the best color combination for future tournaments (see Meloku) and leaving out Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro was unintelligent. Here is the deck we used for the Pro Tour:
Round 1 vs. Tim Aten (GBUw Gifts Control)
I do not know if it was lack of sleep or Pro Tour jitters, but I end up keeping some lands and Seshiro on the draw hoping to find better cards. I drew Ink-Eyes, Kokusho, and some land and Tim responded by only playing Cranial Extraction on Kokusho the Evening Star. Despite my superb start, turn 6 Seshiro the Anointed, I actually drew well enough to put pressure on Tim's slow hand. On the turn before lethal damage would come across, Tim resolved Gifts Ungiven to find his infinite Ethereal Haze combo.
Game two started with turn 3 Kodama's Reach against a turn two Sakura-Tribe Elder from Tim. I decided to run Cranial Extraction on my fourth turn and debated between Gifts Ungiven and Soulless Revival. I hoped he would still be relying on the combo, so I named Soulless Revival and saw a hand of two land, Kodama of the North Tree, Gifts Ungiven, and Kokusho the Evening Star and a deck with no combo. Apparently Columbus did not agree with TOGIT on sideboarding strategy. His Gifts Ungiven on my end step found some legendary creatures and I could not keep up for the rest of the game. Our team has been disagreeing about what to name, but I am beginning to think Gifts Ungiven is not a bad choice.
Round 2 vs. Mattias Jorstedt (Snakes)
This mirror match was not all that exciting, but we had a great conversation over the Slaughter on the table. Game 1 he Accelerated with Orochi Sustainer and Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro. Two Sosuke's Summons and a Seshiro the Anointed later, I was easily knocked off.
Game two was pretty similar though I killed his Sachi with a Hero's Demise to try and slow him down. I had Seshiro in my hand but it came down one turn too late as his Snake tokens were allowed to attack once with his Seshiro on the table. Then, as I remember, he had Time of Need that became legendary snake lord number two. Not having acceleration stinks, but his hands were so good it would be hard to keep up. This match seemed to prove Sachi's worth in the deck, so keep that in mind if you choose to run Snakes in the PTQ season.
Round 3 vs. Conrad Duncker (GBru Control)
Another type of mirror match; however, I have the advantage because the Snake engine is simply quicker than the extra removal and legends. Game 1 was won by the creature advantage I had with Sosuke's Summons.
Game two we drew many of the same legends or Time of Needed for the appropriate answers until he had an extra legend on the table called Godo, Bandit Warlord. That was plenty to win the game and send us to a single elimination game. I sped out Kodama of the North Tree and Kokusho the Evening Star. He dropped Kodama as well to remove mine and followed it with Godo who found Tatsumasa the Dragon's Fang to play with. I played Sosuke's Summons and Umezawa's Jitte on the next turn, holding back mana for Hero's Demise and swinging with Kokusho. The race was on as he lost Godo on his attack step to my Hero's Demise and he followed that up by making a blue 5/5 dragon token out of the equipment. I found a timely Orochi Sustainer to return Sosuke's Summons and swing with a Jitte-equipped snake token. Not having an immediate answer to Jitte, Conrad joined the poor group of players who walked away from Philadelphia with no money. I felt a little bad for him in reality because I know how I would feel at 0-3, but I also felt like he (like myself) was running a slightly sub-par version of his deck.
Round 4 vs. Shuuhei Nakamura (GUR Frat PAddle)
I was feeling fine, one Benjamin in my pocket and still alive in the 1-2 bracket. Then I read my pairing for round 4 and said, "what the heck is Nakamura doing in the 1-2 bracket…didn't I watch him in the finals of the last constructed Pro Tour?" I knew he was playing the PAddle deck but still had not quite figured out how it worked having only seen strange things like Konda's Banner on Meloku the Clouded Mirror beside me in previous rounds.
Game one I had a quick start with turn four Kodama, but it did not hold up against his Meloku and Jitte. The game was very close despite me not finding an answer to his Jitte, so I felt confident bringing in more removal for the next two games.
Game two I had played turn four Kokusho, turn five Nezumi Graverobber and Sosuke's Summons, turn six Kokusho number two for the win. Shuuhei returned the favor in game three though.
I thought I had a great opening hand with turn four Kokusho and Rend Flesh and Hero's Demise backup. He played turn four Keiga the Tide Star which I blocked with my Kokusho on his fifth turn hoping to bait out more legends to kill with my removal. Well he had more than a few legends. Turn 5 Meloku found Rend Flesh, turn 6 Meloku found Hero's Demise, but there were no answers for turn 7 Meloku, turn 8 Jugan the Rising Star, and turn 9 Jugan the Rising Star (making a lot of 3/3 flying illusions to combat).
Realizing I am completely outclassed by the Japanese master, I wish him luck and remove myself from the game and tournament. As most of you already know, I was just the first victim on Nakamura's eight match winning streak and race into ninth place. I do not think I will ever find a harder opponent in the 1-2 bracket of any tournament, but I felt good because I came pretty close to knocking him out.
Well, until I realize he won about $3400 more dollars than me on the weekend, but I'm not going to complain too much. Getting $100 for a 1-3 finish and playing against three well-known Pro Tour players was a good experience and I look forward to qualifying again. Which of course leads us to the second half of this article; trying to qualify for London!
The following day, I played in a PTQ for London. This was essentially a Grand Prix with only one invite, as 260 players (over half of them pro) found their way into this sealed deck event. I opened a very hard build I would like to share with the community to spark discussion and perhaps help you qualify for future Pro Tours. Here was the set of cards I opened split by color with more playable cards at the top of the list (in my opinion):
Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens
Kami of Tattered Shoji
Kami of Ancient Law
Kami of the Honored Dead
Lifted By Clouds
Stir the Grave
Kami of the Waning Moon
Kami of Lunacy
Blessing of Leeches
Yukora the Prisoner
2 Psychic Spear
Soul of Magma
Genju of the Spires
Kodama of the North Tree
Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro
Strength of Cedars
Honden of Life's Web
2 Moss Kami
2 Harbringer of Spring
Feast of Worms
Gods' Eye, Gate to the Reikai
Before you take a look at the deck I built, seriously consider how you would build this set of cards. I was forced into green because I had seemingly twice as many playable cards in that color than any other. I saw a lot of synergy in the white cards and decided two solid colors with a small removal splash would work the best. Well here is the deck.
The Deck I Built - G/W/b - May 7, 2005. 1 Kodama's Might
1 Orochi Sustainer
1 Orochi Ranger
1 Humble Budoka
1 Dripping-Tongue Zubera
1 Serpent Skin
1 Gnarled Mass
1 Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
1 Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro
1 Kodama of the North Tree
1 Strength of Cedars
1 Honden of Life's Web
2 Moss Kami
1 Blessed Breath
1 Kami of Ancient Law
1 Split-Tail Miko
1 Waxmane Baku
1 Kami of Tattered Shoji
1 Innocence Kami
1 Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens
1 Throat Slitter
1 Pull Under
I did really poor with this deck, finding myself a tourist in Philadelphia after a 0-1-2 finish. My only complaint with the deck was how slowly it played. I dropped by the Pro Player's Lounge on the way out, which was the best part of my pro tour experience (not counting the payout structure). A couple teammates agreed with my build during the PTQ, but I still do not know if it was correct. If I built the deck again, I think I would run G/r/b to add more removal and allow time for my green beatsticks to come out and play. What mistakes did I make? How would you build the deck? I hope the discussion following this article will help, as I am no limited mastermind to say the least. Until next time, good luck in Regionals and PTQ's.
David Fitzgerald, The 888 Collective