Expected and Unexpected

Posted in The Week That Was on June 20, 2008

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

The Lorwyn Block Constructed Pro Tour Qualifier season for Berlin got under way in earnest this past weekend and there are three clear decks that have pulled out in front of the field. The weekend of Pro Tour–Hollywood saw two PTQs for Berlin take place on the tournament site. The events were split between the Kithkin-based Mirror Master deck and the Bitterblossom-based Faeries deck. The two archetypes took up fifteen of twenty-four Top 8 berths featured in Swimming with Sharks yesterday but of the two only Faeries took home an envelope.

As more results have streamed in Faeries seems to be the clear top dog thus far with five envelopes overall. Melissa DeTora is the proud new owner of one of those Berlin invites, having won the Boston PTQ with Faeries. The 26-year-old social worker from Rhode Island will be looking to improve on her recent Top 64 finish at Pro Tour–Kuala Lumpur but it was her finish at Pro Tour–Hollywood that drove her into the waiting wings of the flying blue menace.

Melissa DeTora competing at Pro Tour–Kuala Lumpur."I played Faeries in Hollywood, and did poorly," explained Melissa who had her Hollywood tournament end on Day 1 with a 3-4 record. "I was pretty mad and wanted to redeem myself by playing in the PTQ the next day. I didn't have a deck or a clue what to play, so I took my Faeries deck from the PT, took out the (Standard) cards, and added Block cards."

She consulted with friends, roommates, and boyfriend Brian Lynch, who had all played in the Day 1 PTQ, about the field and felt confident that she was making the right choice. Even though she did not quite get there at the Hollywood PTQ she knew she had found her weapon of choice for the remainder of the season—little did she know her season would only last for one more week of events.

"I played all nine rounds of the PTQ and liked the deck a lot," said Melissa of the deck's Hollywood screen test. "It's so much better than the Standard version. I only went 6-3—losing to the Shaman aggro deck, and Elemental control twice. But the deck was so good! I felt like if I just had a better sideboard I could have won that PTQ. So I just changed the sideboard and didn't change the maindeck at all. I didn't consider playing any other deck."

Melissa DeTora

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Melissa explained that many of her sideboard choices were with the two titans of the format in mind: "From playing Faeries in Standard I knew the mirror match pretty well. I played three maindeck Peppersmoke and four Thoughtseize in my sideboard for the mirror. For Kithkin, the Peppersmokes in the main helped, as well as Sowers. Kithkin usually doesn't have an answer to Sower maindeck. My board for Kithkin had another Sower and three Shriekmaw."

Early this week multiple local players who had attended this PTQ urged me to return Play of the Week as a feature if only to highlight a play Melissa made against Benjamin Peebles-Mundy, which featured another of her sideboard choices.

"He evoked a Cloudthresher, killing my Scion and tokens, then played a Mulldrifter. His board was Mulldrifter and Plumeveil. He was completely tapped out on 14 life," said Melissa, setting the stage for her big play. "On my turn, I played Puppeteer Clique, taking his Cloudthresher from his graveyard. We each took two and he lost his Mulldrifter. My Puppeteer Clique also died and returned due to the persist ability. I took another 'Thresher from his graveyard. It did two more damage to flyers and each of us, finishing off his Plumeveil. I then attacked with both hasted 'Threshers, dealing him fourteen—eighteen damage total—killing him."

Puppeteer Clique
While Melissa has been a fixture on the East Coast Magic scene for many years she has begun to draw attention as one of the most successful female Magic players in recent memory. I would love to live in a gaming community where a handful of strong finishes by a female Magic player was not noteworthy. I know that I am seeing more and more women playing in local Magic events. It seemed as though there was an unusually high concentration of women in the tournament mix at New Jersey Regionals a couple of weeks ago but those remain the exception and not the rule.

"I have been playing Magic for a long time—eleven years—so I don't feel out of place playing Magic," said Melissa when asked if she felt any pressure or special challenges by virtue of being in such a distinct minority at tournaments. "When I started I was very intimidated being one of the only females playing, but I kept playing and getting better. At the Pro level it's different. I am the only girl—there was a girl I saw playing at Kuala Lumpur though—and I feel out of place, or like some people think I just 'got lucky' to be here. I felt like I proved myself in Valencia, and didn't just 'get lucky'. I have seen more and more females playing at PTQs lately. There was even one at the PTQ I won, at the top tables, and she lost the last round to not make Top 8. It would be great to see more females playing the game.

"I honestly think Faeries is the best deck, but it's important to play whatever deck you are comfortable with, and have a plan to beat the top three decks in the format—Kithkin, 5-color, and Faeries," said Melissa, returning to the format at hand while suggesting another option for players heading to PTQs. "My friend Eddie Dunning made Top 8 with a green-black Rock deck. It had Primal and Profane Commands, Thoughtseize, Chameleon Colossus, Redcaps, Devoted Druid, Shriekmaw, black removal, etc. It was pretty good but bad against 5-Color Control."

Edward Dunning

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What is Green and White and Flies All Over?

If you're looking for something off the beaten path in Block Constructed, you might want to take a look at the following decklist that split in the finals (with Faeries, of course) of a $1,300 Block Constructed tournament at Neutral Ground this past weekend that was celebrating the game store's 13th anniversary. Tom Nugent, the latest in the noble lineage of Stuyvesant High School Magic players that goes all the way back to the O'Mahoney-Schwartz brothers and Zvi Mowshowitz, got his hands on this deck that can frustrate many popular strategies with a flying, indestructible, 4/4 Gaddock Teeg.

Barkshell Blowout

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The deck was being worked on by Mike Flores and Julian Levin for the upcoming PTQ season and Tom borrowed the deck from Julian for the tournament.

"I chose to play it over Kithkin, which was my initial choice," explained Tom, after his most successful tournament experience to date. "The deck has really favorable matchups against both Kithkin and Faeries, with a fairly good matchup against Reflecting Pool control. Bigger creatures and maindeck Kitchen Finks beat most of the aggro decks you will face, and Gaddock Teeg is insane against the current control decks, which are packing lots of high casting cost spells like Cryptic Command, Austere Command, and Makeshift Mannequin. Elementals is the only really bad matchup for the deck, but it can be improved after sideboarding—the sideboard for this deck could use a lot of work."

Barkshell Blessing
"I played against Rob Seder in the quarterfinals, who was playing Reflecting Pool control with Cloudthreshers, Finks, Firespout, etc," recalled Tom of his Top 8 matchups. "All of the games were pretty close, and the only way I won Game 3 was because of a Barkshell Blessing that protected Gaddock Teeg from a Firespout. After that, I just had room to play out my hand, including a Shield of the Oversoul on Teeg, and overwhelm him."

Gaddock Teeg would not seem to be an ideal card against traditional White Weenie decks but in this Mirror Master era the Teeg shuts off the game-breaking Mirrorweave and the converted-mana-cost-six-sporting Spectral Procession. Tom then split with the Fae deck in the finals.

"It was a pretty long tournament, and I needed to catch a bus," said Tom before adding with a touch of newfound bravado, "but I think I could've won if we had to play it out."

"I think it's an okay choice for PTQs, although I'm not sure if I would play it anymore due to the growing popularity of Elemental decks," said Tom to anyone considering this deck for the remainder of the Block season. "If you're expecting a lot of the mainstream decks like Fae, Kithkin, and 5-Color Control, then you should play this list, but it's not a choice if your metagame is advancing towards the better, newer Elementals lists."

Not So Standard Standard Decks

At the close of last week's Regionals column I asked readers to share with me any interesting decks they may have seen that did not quite get there. There were a few interesting anecdotes in the forums and more than a couple of exciting stories came in via e-mail—and for some reason the first two both involved Slivers!

Michael Meucci wrote:

I know the deck's been around a while now, but I actually saw a guy swing with a "poisonous 10" Virulent Sliver—three of them actually—on turn three via the Elfball deck:
Turn 1: Yavimaya Coast, Llanowar Elf
Turn 2: Forest, Boreal Druid, Heritage Druid. Tap three Elves to play Ambush at end of turn. Five Elves in play.
Turn 3: Island. Tap three Elves and Forest for Elvish Promenade. Ten Elves in play now. Then tap three more, Island, and Yavimaya Coast to play Virulent Sliver and cast Mirrorweave turning all creatures into Virulent Sliver. Swing with three Slivers, each with poisonous 10. Talk about a god-hand!

Liam Brophy wrote:

I took a walk after I had finished up my third round of Swiss, only to stumble across a guy playing rainbow Slivers/poison/Glittering Wish from last year! I watched as he played this young boy who was holding his own with mono red. The first Glittering Wish he drops he goes to the sideboard for an Oros, the Avenger. This didn't help much as the red deck was throwing damage every turn and had the Sliver player on his last leg. The guy looks at me with his hand on top of the deck and says, "Glittering Wish," and as a shock to even him he top decks it. Ok I thought... where is this going? What could possibly get him the win THIS turn. He looks at the kid and says, "I'm really sorry for this, Glittering wish for Coalition Victory. Coalition Victory." I almost dropped my deck and counters... We laughed a little, with no disrespect to the kid, but come on... Coalition Victory? HAH!

Mike Viviano wrote:

A very cool decklist that you might want to do some serious looking into is a deck that I only saw one of at Regionals. It is a deck based on Cephalid Constable. The deck would use Zur, the Enchanter to fetch powerful enchantments to give the Constable evasion, such as Steel of the Godhead or Griffin Guide. A single, successful blow from this combination can result in locking down the game almost immediately. Without some lucky removal to deal with it Greater Auramancy comes down and Constable is just about untouchable.

Brian Guess wrote:

There is a friend of mine that played red-green Dragonstorm. He called it D'storm 4.5 because his average kill was 4.5 turns. He was effectively 7-2 at Atlanta Regionals. He was running a combo of Devoted Druid and around 6 or 7 pump spells -- Might of Old Krosa and Giant Growth -- to tap the Druid for a ridiculousl amount of mana, use Manamorphose to make it red and up the storm count, then BOOM. It ran most of the standard D'storm fare, Rite of Flame, Lotus Bloom, Wall of Roots, Search for Tomorrow, storage lands, 4 Hellkites, 1 Knollspine Dragon.

Cephalid Constable is certainly an exciting Tenth Edition reprint to see people playing with but if you're looking for something that is both off the beaten path and battle proven you need to look to Japan where Takafumi Einou went 7-0-0 in the Osaka Regionals to qualify for Nationals playing a deck with the quietly reprinted Warp World.

Takafumi Einou

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Firestarter: Fantasy Draft the Grand Prix

Good luck to everyone attending Grand Prix–Indianapolis this weekend—and to everyone attending those player-depleted PTQs that might be up against it. Head to the forums and make your picks for the Top 8 of this Limited Grand Prix that will feature Sealed Deck on Saturday and Booster Draft on Sunday and in the Top 8.

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