For those who don’t know, “justifying one’s seed” means doing as well in a tournament as you are “supposed” to do, according to how you’ve been seeded in that tournament. For instance, a No. 1 seed (aka a really good team) should go all the way to the finals, whereas a No. 16 seed, well—not much is expected of them. For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to call my deck a No. 1 seed, and an average sealed pool probably an 8- or 9-seed.

This past Saturday I and Brendan “None Shall Pass Bombs” McNamara, aka BMac, rolled up into Fairless Hills, PA, and its Fraternal Order of Eagles Hall for the PTQ hosted—and hosted very well!—by All-Stars Collectibles. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% on attending until late the night before; I’d been a little sick the week prior and had a ton of freelance work to do over the weekend. But I decided at about midnight that I would be happier if I went, and so I did.

I was glad I did. I got seated among 185 other players, did the deck-reg hokey pokey, and opened my pool. I saw this:

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Hell yes. I kept going through the pool and saw that I had been passed the stone nuts. I’m not even going to share the whole pool with you, because it’s pointless; blue-white was incredibly strong. Here’s my deck:

UW Best Deck Ever

Creatures (15)
Eidolon of Countless Battles
Hero of Iroas
Prognostic Sphinx
Celestial Archon
Griffin Dreamfinder
Nyxborn Shieldmate
Oreskos Sun Guide
Vanguard of Brimaz
Deepwater Hypnotist
Meletis Astronomer
Heliod’s Emissary
Hopeful Eidolon
Wingsteed Rider
Triton Fortune Hunter

Spells (7)
Retraction Helix
Stratus Walk
Sudden Storm
Griptide
Voyage’s End
Dauntless Onslaught
Gods Willing
Lands (18)
10 Plains
Island

So I knew what I had to do: top 8 this thing.

A quick note on deckbuilding before I get into my matches. I made a late change, almost when  time was up, and I think it was a smart one: I originally had 10 Plains—I needed early double white for Vanguard of Brimaz, Wingsteed Rider, and Eidolon of Countless Battles—and seven Islands in the mix, with a Nullify in there as well; but I decided at the last minute to cut the Nullify for an eighth Island, bringing me up to 18 lands. With a deck this powerful I figured that one of the only ways I was losing was if I stumbled on mana; and the Nullify was a shaky include, anyway, what with only seven Islands (however I figured it would be a late-game play, so maybe it wasn’t that bad, but whatever).

So here’s what happened: I didn’t top 8 the PTQ. It kills me to say that, but that’s what happened. I’m not going to go through each match I won, but I would like to show pictures of my (almost to a man) cool opponents, and talk about the two matches I lost.

R1—Allen, UB (1-0)

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R2—Chris Manning, UW then WG (1-1)

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This is exactly who I did not want to see sitting across from me in round two. Now, don’t get me wrong, Chris Manning (who I know through some friends, and have seen play several times before), is a totally friendly and cool dude—but he also is a stone-cold genius when it comes to MTG. I’m not kidding, Manning is an awesome machine.

G1 I rolled him good, ending the game at something like 26 life. Here’s a cool thing that happened, though: I had an Oreskos Sun Guide and Vanguard of Brimaz on the field, on my turn, with four open mana. Chris had just tapped out on his T3 to play a Lagonna-Band Elder. I had Gods Willing in hand, so I swing in with Oreskos and Vanguard, thinking that I’m safe no matter what happens. So what does Chris do? He snap-blocks *not* my Vanguard, but instead Oreskos Sun Guide.

I felt like I had leveled up, in the parlance of Limited Resources, at that moment. Maybe the play seems obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me. You see, Chris wanted to deny me extra value by not allowing me to use my trick to save Vanguard, which would have gotten me a 1/1 vigilance kitty. So he blocked the Sun Guide. I really didn’t know what to do, for a split second—and putting your opponent off his or her game definitely has value, too, even though that wasn’t what Chris was trying to do. At any rate, I briefly debated *not* saving the Sun Guide, and just allowing the trade to happen, but in the end I cast Gods Willing and went on to win the game.

Chris was on UW initially, and during sideboarding I saw him making a big swap, likely into one or more different colors. So I decided to try to next-level him by *not* sideboarding in my Glare of Heresy. Turns out, Chris had sideboarded into white-green, and played a T2 Fleecemane Lion … so, yeah, maybe my decision to leave the Glare on the sidelines was too clever by half. That was a mistake.

I went on to lose in G3 to Chris, who was on the ropes against my Eidolon of Countless Battles bestowed onto Hero of Iroas [shudder]. He was at six life and had out a Scholar of Athreos, a naked Akroan Skyguard, and a Nessian Asp. I had out three other middling creatures, and my Hero was an 8/8. So I swung with just Hero into Chris’ board. He triple-blocks, and I order blockers as follows: Asp, Skyguard, Scholar. Then Chris casts Reap What Is Sown—lord, what a blow-out—and I manage to kill only the Asp, leaving behind a 3/3 Skyguard and a 2/4 Scholar. I still could have been fine from that position—I think I was at almost full health—but I proceeded to draw three or four lands in a row and Chris took the game. GGs—they really were.

So that was my loss to give. And it’s no shame at all to lose to a player as good as Manning, and it’s always awesome to learn something new (as with the Oreskos Sun Guide block) in a game of Magic. But I knew I had to toughen up and win out from that point.

R3—Vincent, UB (2-1)

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R4—Jason, RW (2-2)

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Here’s where the fucking wheels came off the bus. This kid was a fucking madman, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. As we were shuffling up, he was talking to a friend of his behind me, saying that he won his quickest match that day in four minutes. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean anything—but when the kid went T1 Nyxborn Shieldmate I was like, “Holy shit, strap in.” I envisioned an Ordeal of Whatever coming down the following turn—but then the kid goes T2 Shieldmate, and I’m like, “What the fuck?” He pings me for a couple damage here and there, but I manage to kill him G1 with Battles on Prognostic Sphinx [chills]. He didn’t know he was at seven life, and I hit him for seven. He had thought he was at 14 life, because I guess he didn’t record my previous turn’s hit for seven? I think at some point during this game Jason even cast Chained to the Rocks targeting my Sphinx, and I was like, “Um, OK, discard and give it hexproof?” The Chained to the Rocks fizzled, and I wondered what was going on.

G2 he did the whole T1 and T2 Shieldmate thing again, and pinged me down to 16 life before I was able to mount a defense. He kept developing his board but couldn’t attack through my forces, and then at one point played a Thunder Brute, which I let be hasty and didn’t block, bringing me to 11. And then the next turn he Glimpse the Sun God-ed my three-creature team and hit me for 13. Dead. Christ almighty.

In G3, Jason blocked my naked Hero of Iroas with his freshly cast Anax and Cymede … I never figured he would block, as he was tapped out, and I used my Dauntless Onslaught to kill A&C Music Factory. He seemed sort of confused as to what had happened. It was so weird. But then I experienced mana troubles and didn’t have much to do while he played out Wingsteed Rider, Sentry of the Underworld (he was *splashing*!), and then fucking Forgestoker Dragon. (I suppose I can’t complain, what with my pool and all, but you know how it is.) I couldn’t get any defense together, Jason put Spiteful Returned on the dragon, and that was all she wrote.

You know this feeling. My face was hot, and I felt ashamed. What the hell had just happened? How did I lose that match? In G3 I don’t think there was anything I could have done, but in G2 maybe I could have played differently—I knew he had Glimpse, and yet I declined to tap out and play my hand, instead trying to keep up Voyage’s End and/or Griptide (I forget what, exactly) to try and get him on stuff that really didn’t end up really mattering … but who knows. I just lost. A better player probably would have won, but the kid’s madman style and (what seemed to me like) nonsensical plays really put me off my game.

I was pretty bummed, and I was going to drop and go home. But thankfully BMac sort of gently suggested that I stay in, and I took a walk around outside, composed myself, wrote down my notes from the match, and decided to soldier on. Here’s how the rest of it went:

R5—Ryan, UG (3-2)

Nice dude, seemed relatively new to the game, declined the photo.

I think after this match I had some time and wandered around a bit in the Fraternal Order of Eagles’ hall, eating the following food, served by the super-nice concession-stand ladies, one of whom made the cupcakes at home (so how could I not get one?):

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And cracking up at this awesome sign behind the concession stand:

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Then I went into the barroom that was attached to the hall—during deck reg the head judge had announced that there was a bar next door, and that if we were of age we should feel free to partake, but only if we didn’t do anything stupid at the tournament. This place was awesome. First of all this sign was on the inside of the door:

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Well that’s clear.

And here’s the general scene of the place:

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There was even a legit Winston cigarette machine behind the pool table. I gotta admit, it was kind of awesome to take a between-rounds Miller Time break:

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But back to the tournament proper:

R6—Josh, UW (4-2)

No photo. He seemed like a sour guy from the get-go, and I just didn’t want to deal with it.

R7—Clay (5-2)

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R8—Luis, UB (6-2)

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Luis is the man! A friend and a good-humored dude, as this picture proves. I fucked up the trigger from Luis’ Siren of the Silent Song, milling first and then discarding, and got a game rules violation … and then I almost did it again, but Luis was a gentleman and stopped me before I could. I was just rattled and worn out.

So I won out, finishing in 22nd place, which was good for, um, four packs. Oh well. I did score a ton of Planeswalker Points, though, and I learned some lessons. Who knows when I’ll get that good of a pool again, but—when I do—I know I’ll be more prepared than I was last Saturday. You never stop learning, right?

It was a long day, though. Big congrats to Sean Morse for top-8-ing with his mono-removal.dek and a 7-1 record. So sweet! Here’s the man himself after his big win:

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And then me and BMac took off. It was raining really hard, I was feeling drained from the day, and we were starving. We drove off into the middle of nowhere trying to find a Wawa (great hoagies, in the Northeastern parlance), had no luck … and then, miracle of miracles, came across a fucking Chick-fil-A in the middle of godforsaken New Jersey or Pennsylvania, I don’t even know where we were. It was like a gift from Heliod himself. We ate the shit out of that spicy chicken.

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And, yeah, I felt sort of bad for eating at CFA because of their stance on gay marriage, but I’m not made of stone. Also the CEO of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy (I know this because I used to work there in high school) recently recanted—somewhat at least—and said he wished he’d never gotten involved in the whole gay-marriage debate. So that’s something.

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23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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