Todd is a 30-something actuary who lives in the Twin Cities area. He's been playing Magic for years, and has qualified for the Pro Tour before. But it's been years since he did that, and I've seen him make some pretty freaking awful plays over the past few years. So for all intents and purposes, he's a tournament outcast like most of my readership.
If you believe in the power of casual players, the Tale of Todd will inspire you.
The Tale Of Todd
Todd went to the Pro Tour Qualifier for Kobe on July 1 in Minneapolis. He woke up not thinking he would – his wife Angie was going to a Minnesota Twins game later in the day, so he'd have to cut things short and go home to watch the kids. (His kids are adorable. This would be a real treat for Todd, but a shame for the Magic community.)
However, another member of our group, Bob Drosky, wanted to go but not alone. (Bob could have an article of his own too, because he's just that super; but today is about Todd. Off you go, Bob.) Bob called Todd and convinced him to go.
Todd's build for the sealed portion was a very strong four-color deck. Here are the cards he played:
Upon further reflection, Todd believes he should have run a Remand and a Transluminant instead of the Flash Conscription and (maybe) the Telling Time. A couple of the folks who also made Top 8 that day agreed with him on that point; but of course the deck was solid anyway.
While I'm not here today to do a full sealed deck analysis – we'll leave that sort of thing to my Tuesday compatriot, Noah Weil, who also hails from Minnesota and is nothing but a credit to our fine State – I will give you one more card list:
- Silhana Ledgewalker – too small given what else Todd had at 2cc.
- Golgari Brownscale – always marginal, and not good enough here, especially with .
- Smogsteed Rider – interesting, but at and with Todd already splashing the few good black cards, a no-go.
- Plumes of Peace, Benevolent Ancestor, Watchwolf, etc. – Todd had some good white but the other four colors each had more to say, and five-color was not an option.
- Yore-Tiller Nephilim, Chorus of the Conclave, and Warp World – yeah, I'm kidding.
I just don't want people to gloss over Todd's decklist and complain about all the "bombs" he had. He had two solid rares out of five and five solid uncommons out of 15, which in my experience is pretty good but hardly amazing. As anyone who has made Top 8 in a tournament as competitive as a PTQ will tell you, it's not enough to get good cards. And it's not enough to put them together right. And it's not enough to play well. You have to have all three happen, at once.
Todd had all three happen. Let's be clear about why this deck works:
- The mana is smooth. At four colors, Todd has virtually no mana problems. His two signets cover all four colors, as do his three non-basic lands. He also has a Civic Wayfinder. Todd had exactly one game where the mana didn't work out. In every other game, it came out beautifully.
- There's strong removal. If Todd got "lucky" anywhere, it was with the common removal, which holds some classics: Wrecking Ball, Last Gasp, Cackling Flames, and Repeal. Include Izzet Chronarch, and you can count on some back-breaking moments.
- The creatures are efficient. At first glance Todd looks a bit light on flying/evasion; but in fact at least eight of his creatures arguably have a built-in way to harm the defense – through trample, bounce, flying, non-basic landwalk, +1/+1 counters, and so on. The way Todd said it, "I was always beating down with a 2-power creature." That may not sound like much, but if your opponent is losing tempo or card advantage every turn, it can be enough.
- The mana curve is classic. Todd has plenty of turn two and turn three plays, even if he doesn't see a signet. He also has some finishers later on, but they're not dragons or angels. They're just bigger versions of what he's already fed the opponent in the early game. It's amazing how often a solid build with something to do every turn can beat a flashier deck with a less consistent mana curve.
It's a nice feeling (though it's been a while for me personally, so my memory is faint), cruising through a competitive tournament with a solid deck and racking up the wins. At 3-0, he called Angie and explained the situation. Trooper that she is, she set up alternate plans for the kids so Todd could keep on.
Two rounds later, Todd was at 5-0 and in complete control of his destiny. He drew twice to achieve a record of 5-0-2 and fourth seed in the Top 8. Even better, he got to call his wife and assure her that he wouldn't be home before 8PM, at best.
The Tale Of Todd Takes A Tumultuous Turn
Open Brightflame, draft a terrible red-white pack of Ravnica that has a great blue card and a great green card. Hate the deck, hate red and white.
Things are not going well for our hero. Will Guildpact turn things around? Will our hero overcome this horrific start? Tune in and see:
Then they announce that the seating is incorrect and we have to restart the draft.
Woo-hoo, indeed. Todd drafts a deck more to his liking – no bombs, just solid creatures with enough removal. He has some rough edges, since he's running Sadistic Augermage, Gruul Nodorog, and Coalhauler Swine – but he was thinking ahead to what I would write about him in this article, and he didn't want to take better cards because the story wouldn't read nearly as well. Whadda stud. Doesn't he have dramatic flair, folks?
As with his first deck, color fixing was strong: four bounce-lands and one signet.
The Fate Of Todd
So how did the Top 8 go for Todd?
His first round opponent, with plenty of removal, took him to three games. Color screw decided the third game. Yes, it happens. But I wonder if the guy had four bounce-lands and a signet. (It probably wouldn't have been politic of Todd to ask right there and then.)
His second round opponent has played in the Pro Tour before. His deck is impressive and takes Todd to three games. Color screw decided the second game – again, in Todd's favor. And again, we can't be sure of how the two decks compared in mana-fixing card counts. But you can bet after hearing Todd's story, I'll be picking signets and bounce lands a bit higher than I have in the past.
The finals opponent asks Todd to concede. (There is no prize split opportunity.) Todd, finally feeling frisky now, says no. As with the last two matches, it comes down to game three. (Game two, Todd's loss, saw him draw 14 of 17 lands through 20 or so turns. Note: he did not lose to color screw. He did, however, lose to a couple of Leafdrake Roosts. Yowza!)
In Todd's own words:
I'M GOING TO JAPAN!!! (I think.) And to think I almost skipped the whole thing. Thanks, Bob!
On behalf of older, time-screwed, stressed-out, Magic-playing fathers (and what the heck, mothers too!) everywhere, I'd like to thank Todd for taking a few hours out of his busy weekend to smash through a bunch of college kids and take the prize. Guy didn't practice at all, even though most Magic experts (such as we are) will tell you that like Invasion block, limited Ravnica block is a skill-intensive format. His only experience with the block was drafting it for Emperor games, and a couple of Prerelease tournaments. It does my wizened, crotchety heart good.
Todd, you rock. Congratulations. Enjoy Kobe, and make sure you take the wife so you have something to do on Day 2!
Anthony Alongi has been playing various Magic formats for eight years, at least six of which have been spent losing an awful lot to Todd Petit. In addition, Anthony writes books, including the JENNIFER SCALES series with his wife MaryJanice Davidson. MaryJanice kindly offered to send Anthony to Kobe, Japan to watch Todd play; but somehow this seemed even more humiliating than just writing a nice article about Todd's achievement, which hurts enough.