When I was twenty-five it was a very good year
It was a very good year for Ravnica drafts and soft spring nights
We’d hide from the lights on the West Village green
When I was twenty-five

When I was thirty-one it was a very good year
It was a very good year for win-and-ins and Scars of Mirrodin
With all those artifacts and it came undone
When I was thirty-one

Then I was thirty-four it was a very good year
It was a very good year for PTQs
Down Pennsylvania way, we’d drive home a win
When I was thirty-four

But now the days grow short, I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as Vintage Magic from fine old boosters
From first pick to the land, and it poured sweet and bomby
It was a very good year

Of course it’s not as dramatic as all that. But I feel nostalgic for the old ways this week. Last weekend I went to what’s going to turn out to be the next to last (or maybe even last) of PTQs in the old style for me, when a man or woman could make his or her way onto the PT honestly, through a hard day’s grinding—but no more.

Things change, though, and I’m not mad about it. But I wonder about the viability of grinding for Planeswalker Points in the new era of pre-PTQs. Part of what has motivated me in the past to attend PTQs has not only been good times with my friends and the possibility of spiking a win, but the slow, reliable grind of a 5X multiplier—in my experience the best way to meet PWP-based bye milestones.

So anyway, last Saturday I rolled out with Carrie O’Hara and Dave “Bones” McCoy to Selden, NY, and the Khans of Tarkir sealed PTQ at Brothers Grim Games. As per usual, I sat across from Frank Skarren, who—due to the super-close spellings of our last names—I tend to sit either next to at not only most Northeast PTQs but GPs as well.

As you can see, sure enough, I ended up with the pool Frank registered:


Thankfully for Frank, he did not end up with the pool I registered—the classic double Dragon Throne of Tarkir, Altar of the Brood, fetchland pool. Ugh. Even still, I heard later that Frank, a bonafide Limited master, went 0-2 drop, which just goes to show that even the best players sometimes have bad days or pools they can’t win with.

I was decently happy with my pool, though the build—as my headline indicates—was very tough. I had some very strong cards in the form of Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Icy Blast, Murderous Cut, and Mantis Rider. How the hell to get all these into one coherent deck? Or should I abandon half my bombs and just build Jeskai or Mardu?

First I decided to go with the safer build, mana-wise, which was Jeskai (the cards you can’t see b/c of the glare are 2X Arrow Storm, as well as a second Crippling Chill at the top:


Obviously this card’s mana curve is bonkers, with a billion threes, four fours, two fives, and two mostly variable spells, Treasure Cruise and Icy Blast. And, of course, it leaves Sorin and Murderous Cut on the bench. I felt like I had the fixing to go deeper, and so I did. Here’s what I registered:


And here’s the board:


End Hostilities was my last cut. I did so because I tend to err on the side of safety when I build, especially when I’ve got a strained manabase already, and having double-red *and* double-white spells in the deck just didn’t sit right with me. That said, I ended up boarding in End Hostilities almost every match, taking out a Jeskai Student and a Mountain, and adding the Wrath of God and a Plains.

Here’s another takeaway: I fucking hate Jeskai Student. That card is goddamn worse than useless. It is maybe my least favorite card in recent memory, because it looks so unoffensive and passable but just always ends up being total bullshit. Go to hell, Jeskai Student. Get thee from my sight. <Rant over.>

I lost a very tough R1 to Max Brown, who won two out of three games with Flying Crane Technique, which in G1 was the last damn card in his library. In G2 End Hostilities got me there, and in G3 with very little time left on the clock I died again to the powerful flying, double-striking instant. So right out of the gates in this seven-round tournament (we were at exactly 128 players) I had zero fucks—I mean losses—left to give.

Long story short, I didn’t get there—though another member of our team, Richard Tan, did. Congrats, Richard! Best of luck in D.C., man.

I didn’t play poorly, though I did make some unforgivable mistakes—thinking I was getting clever with a Mardu Charm on 1/1 first-striking warriors mode to block my opponent’s Heir of the Wilds, after my opponent had just tapped out for a Tusked Colossodon (see the problem there?), as well as stupidly not swinging in with a morph in addition to another 2/2 and 3/3 when my opponent was at seven life and I had an Arrow Storm in hand; he killed the attacking 2/2 with a Kill Shot and I had to struggle to do the final two points of damage before the Arrow Storm was lethal.

And at another point after we were both dead for Top 8, Carrie and I were forced to beat up on each other:


I ended the day at 4-3, after a pretty disappointing loss in R7 to put me out of a prize finish. Interesting note from that last match, though: I had a Jeering Instigator face down on the ‘field and an Icy Blast in hand. I wanted to know whether, if I stole a four-power guy from my opponent by flipping up the Instigator, and then after declaring attackers tapped down the stolen guy (in addition to my opponent’s other creatures) with Icy Blast (triggering ferocious b/c I had stolen a four-power durdle), my opponent’s recently stolen creature would untap after I passed it back to him. Here’s the card, just for easy reference:


I spoke to the judge away from the table and he informed me that the creature would in fact *not* untap when I passed it back, which I suppose you could say is obvious, but there’s another way of reading the rules text on Icy Blast in which this would *not* be the case, so I thought it would be useful to share with you, dear reader. My opponent was salty about the ruling, but who cares.

Another interesting rules point, which doesn’t come up all that often in Limited: In one game, I had Sorin out, and my opponent declared his attack, turning his guys sideways with no indication as to who he was swinging at, me or Sorin. I waited a full five seconds, aware that he had not declared at whom he was swinging, and then asked, “Who are you swinging at?”

“Sorin,” he said. But—and forgive me if you think this is rules-lawyering, but PTQs are Competitive REL and I think we are all required to play at that higher level of rules enforcement—I later discussed it with my teammates and established that (as I sort of knew already), I could have just gone to blocks at that point and ticked down my life total rather than Sorin’s loyalty, since by default, if my opp. doesn’t say that he or she is swinging at the planeswalker, then he or she is swinging at me.

Again, just something to keep in mind.

After the end of the tourney, I drove back to the city with Dave, Sean Morse, and Quint, and royally fucked up by accidentally driving over the G-D Queensboro Bridge, when in fact I meant to hang a Louie on Jackson Ave. and drop the boys off at the Court Street G station. This hilarious boner elicited the following side-splitting gas-cash text from my now-mortal (but immortal, b/c he’s a robot) enemy Dave McCoy:


Well played, Robot.

GL to everyone who is PTQ-ing this weekend in Philly during Eternal Weekend! I may or may not be there with you, trying to spike one last PTQ, and join teammates Abe “Thrag” Lusk and Richard in D.C. this winter at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. I’d be very curious to hear what y’all think about my build, and whether or not the straight Jeskai version might have been better.

Final note: I saw this in the case at Brothers Grim Games, and at first I read the card to say, “Shaven Clanrats,” which is hilarious and awful.


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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