The L train was out so I had to get up extra early, around 5:30am, to ready myself and take three trains to midtown west to meet Monique, Rob, and Josh, for the hour and a half drive to Mount Holly, New Jersey, site of that day’s ProTour Qualifier. I missed my alarm and woke automatically at six as I do every day. Train transportation wasn’t an option because of the delay and I had to spend $35 on a black car to the pick-up location. As I exited the car I saw Josh’s head, bushy salt and pepper hair, bobbing above the frosted glass of a Duane Reade window and went inside.

“They have toothpaste for 99¢!” Josh had bought four or five tubes of Crest.

“Does toothpaste expire?” I asked. We didn’t know. We Googled “does toothpaste expire” and found out that it does. The fluoride gets weak. I bought two large bottles of Poland Spring and declined the toothpaste sale. Crest isn’t my jam—I’m more of an Arm & Hammer man.

“But it’s such a good deal! I saved like nine bucks.” Josh is occasionally psychotic.

There’s a bagel place on the corner and I spent around a thousand dollars on a whole wheat/cream cheese/tomato/onion/lox combo and a coffee. Monique and Rob showed up half an hour late. Fish-mouthed, I walked to the car with the crew and motor to New Jersey. Monique drives 20MPH slower when she’s eating than when she’s not. There’s some question as to whether or not we’ll make it in time. The ride is filled with jokes, stories, and failed attempts at helping me resleeve my deck from purple to orange. Purple Dragon Shields are the worst kind of purple. Josh is horrible at double sleeving.


When in a car, it’s safe to draw treasure maps on windows.

Matt Guido, NYC expatriate and former NY State Champion, had been talking up a Junk deck that had no Unburial Rights in it. It features Varolz (vair-alls) and Voice of Resurgence, two cards I’ve been itching to play. He convinced me fairly easily to play the deck at FNM and if I liked it enough to give it a go at the PTQ. He had sent me several lists and I chose this one:

Junk Aristocrats by Matt Jones and Matt Guido

Creatures (26)
Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Doomed Traveler
Young Wolf
Skirsdag High Priest
Voice of Resurgence
Blood Artist
Cartel Aristocrat

Spells (11)
Lingering Souls
Tragic Slip
Orzhov Charm
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Land (23)
Gavony Township
Temple Garden
Sunpetal Grove
Isolated Chapel
Woodland Cemetery
Overgrown Tomb
Godless Shrine
Sideboard (15)
Unflinching Courage
Deathrite Shaman
Abrupt Decay
Sin Collector
Golgari Charm
Garruk Relentless

I took out an Unflinching Courage, assuming the aggro matchup wasn’t something I had to worry about ‘cuz the deck looked so primed for it, and added a Golgari Charm.

We signed in, sat down, and filled out our deck lists on plastic tables with a fair bit of soot on them. 160 people had showed up this holiday weekend to try and qualify for the ProTour.

Round One vs. Adam’s Green White Populate deck


Adam didn’t have it together in time game one and neither did I. With Adam at eight life, after doing some math badly, I sacrificed a number of dudes to put Adam at one. Originally I thought I could sacrifice Cartel Aristocrat to deal the final damage but, alas, you can’t sacrifice Cartel Aristocrat to itself. I gave Adam another draw step, which yielded nothing for him, and sac’d a spirit token on the following turn for the win. The bad math would’ve seriously cost me if he had played Thragtusk on the following turn. The two spells Adam played game one were Scion of Vitu-Ghazi and Growing Ranks, so I figured he was on the GW Populate plan.

+1 Golgari Charm
+2 Abrupt Decay
-3 Varolz, The Scar-Striped

Game two, I fought through Armada Wurm, populated Wurm tokens, and a Scion of Vitu-Ghazi. Early on I Charm’d a Growing Ranks, though I almost didn’t, and it saved me a lot of trouble. Adam populated a wurm token instead of a bird token and I think it cost him the game as he lay in ruin after an assault from my demon tokens. He admitted as much after the match.

We talked a little about my fear of Thragtusk in game one and he said he wasn’t running any. I don’t know boo about GW Populate decks, but Restoration Angel paired with Armada Wurm and Thragtusk seems insane. It doesn’t work with Scion of Vitu-Ghazi but I’d probably not play that card anyway. I later had a conversation with the crew about it and they said those decks don’t run any of the cards I thought would’ve been good in Adam’s build. I still think they’d be dope.

Adam and I shook hands and wished each other good luck.

1-0 matches.
2-1 games.

Round Two vs. Eric’s GWBR Reanimator


This match was frustrating.

Game one, if Eric doesn’t Grisly Salvage into an Angel of Serenity he’s dead on my attack the following turn. “Moment of truth,” he said as he cast Grisly Salvage and flipped a land then Angel of Serenity. He wipes my board of cool cards that would kill him and has an enormous blocker. I needed to top deck a sac outlet, don’t, and he dropped a Thragtusk taking him out of the danger zone. He was at three life prior to playing Tusk. All of my work was eaten up by and Angel of Serenity.

+3 Deathrite Shaman
-2 Orzhov Charm
-1 Varolz, the Scar-Striped

Game two the deck hums beautifully. There was lots of talk of optimizing the engine of Monique’s Cadillac on the drive to New Jersey. Rob had read owner’s manual and went on about pistons optimizing their thrust and the engine requiring a certain octane level in the fuel to make this happen. That all probably sounds wrong or weird to someone who knows more about cars than cards because I’m not one of those people. Anyway, my deck had the right octane fuel in it for game two. Young Wolf, Voice of Resurgence, Blood Artist, Cartel Aristocrat, oh my! I kept sacrificing spirit tokens to give my Aristocrats protection from green or white and did almost all of my damage that way. On my final swing I beat through an untapped Thragtusk and Angel of Serenity to win. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad showed up, too, and his emblem was incredibly helpful.

“I really like what your deck is doing, it’s really interesting,” said Eric.

Game three we both entered into a mana flood-induced board stall. I have a ton of creatures unable to attack and for whatever reason Eric didn’t attack me with his giant monsters. He was at 19 life for a long time and had I drawn a sacrifice outlet I could’ve actually won with double Blood Artist in play. Instead I drew seven lands, one Charm, and three more lands. There’s a note on my sheet that says “Put Sever the Bloodline in the board”.

1-1 matches.
3-3 games.

Round Three vs Charles’ Traditional Junk Reanimator


I automatically called Charles “Chaz” ‘cuz I’m so used to calling our Charles Hagaman “Chaz.” He doesn’t like it but laughs it off saying it was an honest mistake. He’s got an earbud in one ear and I asked him what he was listening to. He said something I’ve never heard of and I said “Regardless, it’s antisocial behavior,” and he laughed, adding that it’d be anti-social only if he had earbuds in both ears. I conceded the point. He said he was from Pittsburgh and, looking at his playmat, I asked if he won States and he said he got second place, only losing the final match after going 7-0. “Jeez,” I thought.

Game one had me mulling to five. All sorts of crazy things happened and I didn’t give up. He Fiend Huntered my Blood Artist and I thought I was up Shit’s Creek with a turd for a paddle. Somehow I had Charles down to one life, myself at six life. During his main phase two he reanimates a Restoration Angel, blinks his Fiend Hunter, giving me back my Blood Artist, grabs one of my two spirit tokens, and passes the turn. He must’ve figured that if I attacked with the two tokens he was dead. Truth is I had been holding onto a Cartel Aristocrat for something like six turns and seeing he was tapped out I played it, sac’d the spirit and won one hell of a game.

When I was mulliganing to five Charles said that he’d recently won two mulls to five. It’s a thrilling feeling.

+3 Deathrite Shaman
-2 Varolz, The Scar-Striped
-1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Game two, my turn one Deathrite Shaman was a huge pain for Charles. He tried to reanimate an Angel of Serenity and Deathrite ate it. It seems that Reanimator decks aren’t siding out Unburial Rites like they once were. Deathrite is good regardless, so I hadn’t thought twice about siding them in.

Charles was at 13 life and I was still at 20. I had two Blood Artists in play, one spirit, one Voice of Resurgence, and one Cartel Aristocrat. I drew a Voice of Resurgence and played it. This represented 13 sacrifice damage. Eight from Voice, two from spirit, two from the first Blood Artist, and one from the final Blood Artist. I had done the math maybe four times, remembering how lousy I had math’d in round one, and decided I had it right. Charles asked me if I was sure and I went through it with him out loud and he shook his head and extended his hand.

2-1 matches.
5-3 games.

Round Four vs. Dan’s Junk-Jund Reanimator


Game one Dan crushed me. Game two I beat him quickly. Game three Dan was at 12 life at his end of turn. He had an Angel of Serenity, three Thragtusks (that’d just attacked, eating some spirit tokens along the way), and an Olivia Voldaren in play. At the end of his turn, I cast Tragic Slip targeting his Angel of Serenity. On my turn I cast Orzhov Charm, took some damage from it, and cleared a path by removing his Olivia. I swing in with my two demon tokens and something else, dealing 14 damage. Dan was pissed, limp wrist shook my hand, and went off mumbling. I can imagine how frustrating it is to cast three Thragtusks, an Olivia, and an Angel of Serenity and still lose the match to a non-control deck. I was amazed that it happened, too. My notes say “Skirsdag High Priest is a hero.”

Looking now at my report filing form it says that I played a Zach Taylor round four and beat him, not Dan Jessup. There is no way that I’d know this during the tournament as on our match slip it said I was playing Dan Jessup, and Dan Jessup signed the sheet. Was this a judge’s error?

3-1 matches.
7-4 games.

Round Five vs Jason’s Naya Blitz

(I forgot to take a photo of Jason – sorry Jason!)

I was anxious to try my deck against aggro. Jason was a freaking nice dude, a real sweetie, and a pleasure to play against. He seriously blitzed me game one.

+2 Unflinching Courage
+2 Garruk Relentless
+1 Golgari Charm
-3 Skirsdag High Prist
-2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
-1 Varolz, the Scar-Striped

Game two Unflinching Courage was a hero. Jason never got me below 11 life.

Game three, Jason kept a one land mull to six and I figure the game is in the bag. I have a shit-ton of spirits and he casts Gruul Charm, wipes my spirits, and eventually stabilizes at two life. I top deck lands for the next five turns while he beat the snot out of my life total. Jason was ecstatic and I was super fucking pissed, but didn’t want to eat into how amazing his win was. He deserved to be happy. “You were blown out by a card you weren’t expecting him to play,” said Josh. It was true. I could’ve not gone all in on spirit tokens and held back. I dunno. If I had top decked a Blood Artist in any of five turns (or really anything other than land) I was in with a chance. I didn’t know he had anything other than spot removal so played for the quick win ‘cuz Blitz can come back from no where fast.

Later in the tournament I found Jason and said I was sorry I wasn’t more congratulating on his spectacular win ‘cuz I was so devastated but his win was really awesome, coming back from a many turn one land situation, and he deserved to relish it. “Thanks!” he said. “I have a chance to draw into Top 8 I think.” HA! Good for him!

I went out for a walk and some fresh air. They have more of that in New Jersey, though not much more, than in the city. Or maybe it was just the smell of grass that I was after. The National Guard Armory, host of the PTQ, certainly had a ton of that.

3-2 matches.
8-6 games.

“I’m ready to go home when you guys are,” I said to the group. Monique wanted to get to 3-3, out of a losing record, so we agreed to hangout another round then drop and head back to the city.

Round Six vs Austin’s Traditional Junk Reanimator


Austin is one hell of a nice guy. We had a nice rapport during our match, one I expected to be my last, and I was even more chatty than usual. I mulled to six, continued to make jokes, and Rob, sitting next to us, said “I bet you never expect to play people like this guy,” to Austin. He laughed.

Game one, I did what I did in round two and flooded my way into an Angel of Serenity and lost.

+3 Deathrite Shaman
-1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
-2 Varolz, the Scar-Striped

Game two nothing went right for Austin and I was once again on some of that high octane fuel. Austin said this was his first PTQ and first big non-FNM tournament. I told him he was doing terrifically and to just wait until he went to a Grand Prix. “They’re the total best most fun time you can have as a Magic player!” I basically shouted at him. It’s completely true.

Austin was stuck on mana, whiffed with a Mulch, and his two Fiend Hunters weren’t enough to stop me from smashing, sacrificing creatures, and doing lethal damage.

He made a couple of plays I thought were questionable during our match. He grabbed Voice of Resurgence instead of Blood Artist and/or Cartel Aristocrat a couple of times. I don’t think Reanimator should fear this card, despite it being incredible. I only keep it in there for the double sacrifice potential in game two (and the fact that I don’t have anything I want to side in for it). Just something to think about.

4-2 matches.
10-7 games.

Monique and Rob are sitting near me and we talked about whether or not should drop. “Well, we all won,” said Monique. “It’s totally up to you guys,” I said. We decided to stay in. Josh, not being on in the meeting, instantly dropped and asked if we were ready to go. “We didn’t drop,” I said. He wasn’t happy and must’ve decided to haunt me for the next two rounds.

Round Seven vs Jacob’s Red Deck Wins (RDW)


Jacob’s deck never got to fast enough of a start to seriously threaten me and only had me below ten life once in our two games. He kept drawing land and couldn’t deal with my Cartel Aristocrats continuously getting protection from red from sacrificed spirit tokens. Game one I passed the turn when I could’ve just sacrificed all my dudes to Cartel Aristocrat and killed him with double Blood Artist triggers. He drew a card and said we should go to game two.

+2 Unflinching Courage
+2 Garruck Relentless
-2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
-2 Varolz, the Scar Striped.

Game two was similar but somehow worse for Jacob. I made some more lazy plays but really my deck was doing all the work for me. I was on autopilot. Jacob, another great guy to play MTG with by the way, knew some baseball so we shot the shit about the Phillies and Mets (fierce rivals?) for a bit and wished each other luck before I went off to Match Slip Hand-In Land (a real place).

5-2 matches.
12-7 games.

Round Eight vs Marcus’s Mono Black Deck (with Mutilates and Desecration Demons)


I tell Marcus that we could intentionally draw or play it out and that it was up to him as I had no opinion. If we drew we were both likely to be Top 32 and get some packs as prizes. If we didn’t draw one of us was out of Top 32 and the other had a slim chance at Top 16 and more packs as prizes. Marcus wanted to play so play we did.

Game one I had all the removal I needed, lived through a Mutilate or two and won.

+2 Sin Collector (should’ve been all three)
-2 Varolz, the Scar-Striped (I side this guy out a lot but I don’t want to get rid of him as he’s sacrifice outlet 5-7 game one and potentially so important with Cartel Aristocrat’s unblockability)

A turn three Sin Collector exiled Marcus’s Mutilate and revealed he had no action going in his hand beyond that. I left him with two Unburial Rites (and a creatureless yard). Gavony Township, spirits, and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad did the rest. Beating an opponent who declined a split is always satisfying.

Marcus and I talked a bit about his deck and I asked if he’d seen the black/green deck running Thragtusk and a lot of the cards he’s already running. He recoiled in horror at the suggestion that he look to a net deck for answers. “This is my own brew,” he said. For some people the idea of net decking is actually bad, and I forget this from time to time. While I respect that, as I respect anyone’s decision to do anything that doesn’t cause harm, I do not understand it.

Marcus and I shook hands and went our separate ways. I stood around with Josh waiting for the final standings to see where I placed. Rob’s match is the final match and he lost on turn three (or so) of time in the round. The standings went up and I see that I got 18th, just shy of Top 16 and six additional packs.


Best Magic nickname runner-up “Nugget” and PTQ Top 8’er Mike Glanzer.

The line for prizes isn’t too bad, I picked mine up, got a team photo in front of a tank, and we all pile into Monique’s car for she short trip back to New York City.


I opened my packs and in pack three (of three) I am blessed with a Voice of Resurgence.

We laughed the whole way home. At some point Josh said, “Hanging out with you is what I imagine being on drugs is like.”

From almost dropping to placing higher at a PTQ than I’ve ever placed before, it was quite a day. Going forward with this deck I think I’ll change its name to Ghost Husk (as Matt Guido tells me there was a Ravnica block Standard deck with that name), and swap out the two Ready//Willings for another Golgari Charm and a Sever the Bloodline.


Back lit photos don’t come out very well.

I have endless gratitude for Monique and her willingness to drive me and our teammates all over the East Coast to PTQs and GPs, and to all three of my travel companions for being so understanding, kind, quick witted, and hilarious. They’re all great and I’m a lucky dude to count them as friends.

Thanks for reading!

Lots of love,
MTGO: The_Obliterator

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