There’s no point in slow-rolling it: I won the Khans of Tarkir limited PTQ last Saturday in Bridgewater, New Jersey! I’m going to the Pro Tour! Here’s how it all went down.

I met up in Williamsburg with Monique and Rob to make the short drive out into the Jersey hinterland. The three of us are a team in the current Team Draft League season, and we’ve mostly lost. But we were determined to make up for our prior failures in Khans limited and take down the PTQ. We made it just in time to grab quick pastries and sit down for the player meeting. Luckily only 120 players showed up, so it would be a mere seven rounds of Swiss.

My sealed pool was quite spicy. I had plenty of lands so I could play most anything, although my lands centered in Jeskai. The best cards in my pool were all spells: Ghostfire Blade, Duneblast, End Hostilities, two Arc Lightning, and two Treasure Cruise. I felt sure I could assemble an insane deck around those cards and spent my build time mixing and matching creatures until I found something that would work.

Casting Duneblast was going to be difficult with only one black and two green nonbasic lands, but I determined to make it work. I had just enough good black cards that I strongly considered making black a main color, but that didn’t make sense. I had so many good blue and white morphs and other strong creatures that I could make my creature curve essentially those two colors, plus my best off-color morphs. Finally I added Mardu Warshrieker and Burn Away, once I saw that I had reasonable access to red mana. I chose Burn Away over Smite the Monstrous because the red spell can kill annoying high-toughness blockers.

Here’s how it looked:

photo 2

I ended up having to push my mana base a little with the dreaded full suite of basics. I could only fit seven white sources, which made End Hostilities hard to cast on turn five, but I felt confident in my early game. Morphs plus Ghostfire Blade and Arc Lightning let me fill my first five or six turns with almost all colorless spells, giving me plenty of time to draw the correct lands.

Jeskai Splash Duneblast

Creatures (15)
Jeskai Elder
Abzan Falconer
Jeskai Windscout
Mardu Hordechief
Monastery Flock
Mystic of the Hidden Way
Sage-Eye Harrier
Kheru Spellsnatcher
Abzan Guide
Snowhorn Rider
Glacial Stalker
War Behemoth
Woolly Loxodon
Mardu Warshrieker
Alabaster Kirin

Spells (7)
Ghostfire Blade
End Hostilities
Arc Lightning
Burn Away
Treasure Cruise
Lands (18)
Frontier Bivouac
Tranquil Cove
Swiftwater Cliffs
Wind-Scarred Crag
Bloodfell Caves
Thornwood Falls

Sideboard (19)
Smite the Monstrous
Treasure Cruise
Ride Down
Mardu Hateblade
Sultai Banner
Mardu Banner
Jeskai Banner
Dragon-Style Twins
Armament Corps
Swarm of Bloodflies
Debilitating Injury
Ruthless Ripper
Rite of the Serpent
Sultai Soothsayer
Sultai Ascendancy

My tournament started with two quick losses to Wingmate Roc. In game two I managed to Arc Lightning away my opponent’s board to keep the turn five roc from bringing a friend, but it didn’t matter. I was devastated. Finally I had an insane pool at a PTQ and I was one loss away from squandering it. Not only that, with the impending switch to tiered PTQ tournaments, this was one of the last old-style limited PTQs I could ever hope to win. My back was against the wall.

Knowing that I could not afford to lose another match, I set my mind to do just that. Focus on each game. I did, and I felt calm and worry-free. It was like being unable to play around a card that beats you—just assume they don’t have it and stop worrying. I had faith in my deck to deliver winning cards, and that’s what happened. Having two wraths helps calm your nerves. Sure enough, I went 6-0 through the rest of the Swiss rounds, ended up second in the standings, and made my first PTQ top eight! On top of that, Rob absolutely crushed and was able to double-draw to join me there.


Sitting down for the top eight draft I was uncertain at first. I actually haven’t drafted Khans of Tarkir that much, at least compared to previous sets. All told, I’ve drafted the format maybe twenty times. Magic exhaustion has crept up on me lately, thus I’ve spent more time analyzing the format and reflecting on my matches than just jamming tons of games. Despite this, I felt very comfortable and calm as the draft began. Khans is an exciting but difficult draft environment, so my plan was to read the draft as well as possible and make disciplined choices.

When my first pack revealed High Sentinels of Arashin, I thought just maybe this was my top eight to win. Nothing like starting off with one of the best cards in the format! After next taking Mardu Hordechief, I was passed a third pick Raiders’ Spoils. I read this as an engraved invitation to draft black-white warriors and dove right in. I could tell as the draft developed that someone else downstream was also drafting the archetype—it turned out to be my finals opponent—but it stayed open enough in packs one and three that my deck ended up quite powerful. I never saw either Chief of the Edge or Chief of the Scale, but in pack three I opened Duneblast and then got shipped Master of Pearls and Abzan Charm. I scooped up two key dual lands late as well, and I was very excited about my deck as I sat down to register it.


photo 1(1)

Keeping with my recent commitment to playing more creatures and less spells in my limited decks, I left my second Kill Shot in the board and threw in Venerable Lammasu as my 22nd card. A seven-mana Butcher of the Horde is still great in this format, and I wanted one more powerful late-game card because my deck was not as aggressive as I would have liked it to be.

Next Level Scholar of Athreos

Creatures (16)
Ruthless Ripper
Ainok Bond-Kin
Jeskai Student
Mardu Hordechief
Sage-Eye Harrier
War Behemoth
Master of Pearls
Abzan Guide
Bellowing Saddlebrute
Unyielding Krumar
High Sentinels of Arashin
Venerable Lammasu

Spells (6)
Abzan Charm
Kill Shot
Feat of Resistance
Raiders’ Spoils
Bitter Revelation
Lands (18)
Blossoming Sands
Jungle Hollow
Scoured Barrens

Sideboard (17)
Kill Shot
Sage-Eye Harrier
War Behemoth
Firehoof Cavalry
Brave the Sands
Rotting Mastodon
Sidisi’s Pet
Shambling Attendants
Dutiful Return
Awaken the Bear
Abzan Banner
Barrage of Boulders
Dragon Grip

I absolutely crushed my quarterfinal opponent, who was playing Sultai and stumbled on mana game one then mulliganed game two. I earned extra style point for my game two win. My opponent was at three life with Woolly Loxodon and Archers’ Parapet back to block. I had two medium-sized creatures and two Jeskai Students. I attacked with everybody, then used Kill Shot on one of my creatures that he blocked. The prowess triggers made the two Jeskai Students lethal.

In the semifinals I faced a formidable foe: northeast PTQ top eight regular Robert Seder. We played once before, in a Theros sealed PTQ. I cast a turn five Thoughtseize and then he drew and played Elspeth, Sun’s Champion on turn six. So needless to say, I was looking to even the score. Robert’s Sultai deck curved out well in game one and his early Jeskai Windscouts and Mistfire Weaver put me too far behind to recover. Fortunately I took a bunch of Sage-Eye Harriers in the draft and quickly added the third from my sideboard. That card is already strong with Raiders’ Spoils, which is why I took them in the first place, but it becomes fantastic when it also blanks your opponent’s aggressive fliers. This is a perfect example of gaining tactical advantage in a matchup, and it paid off big in games two and three.

Game two was very close, but I was able to make two attacks with my full team including a face-down Master of Pearls. The first time he made solid blocks, so I used Feat of Resistance to keep the morphed master alive while holding up Kill Shot to stop his lethal crackback. That worked, so I was able to flip the master for the win next turn.

The third game was crazy. At one point I had four creatures out and a favorable attack if I sent everything. Robert had a morph and a couple small creatures, with seven open mana. I wondered aloud if he had Thousand Winds, but decided to attack anyway. I had just drawn High Sentinels of Arashin, also held a Kill Shot, and I had to be the beatdown. Sure enough he flipped it and bounced my team. I had seven mana, so I chose to play out the High Sentinels and then pass the turn with Kill Shot up rather than replay my bounced Mardu Hordechief (which would have had raid). I was pretty sure he’d read me for Kill Shot—why else would I not play the Hordechief? On his next turn he cast Treasure Cruise for one, then used Savage Punch to have Thousand Winds fight High Sentinels. Then he attacked with both the now-7/8 and a 4/3 Jeskai Windscout. I could not have snapped off that Kill Shot faster. From there I replayed my creatures, incluing a Sage-Eye Harrier that erased the Windscout yet again, and slowly took over the game once I drew Raiders’ Spoils. Just like that I was in the finals!


There is one more left.

My finals opponent was the other black-white warriors drafter, who was splashing red for Mardu Roughrider and green for two Abzan Ascendancy. I don’t remember any other off-color cards, but I was so focused on winning that my memory of the match is spotty. In game one, I played an early High Sentinels of Arashin, eliciting a “gross!” from my opponent. That made me pretty sure it would survive, and sure enough it did. I got beaten down pretty hard but eventually stabilized with the High Sentinels and two Ainok Bond-Kin. From there I could finally start spreading around counters and assembling a first-striking wall of defense. He was able to use Abzan Ascendancy to generate spirit tokens to chump block my High Sentinels for a few turns, but I drew Venerable Lammasu and had two lethal fliers to win the game.

In game two he mulled to six and after keeping that hand made a comment that he wasn’t going to be winning this PTQ. I’m usually wary of opponents who claim early defeat—it’s often a ruse aimed at instilling you with overconfidence—but this seemed genuine. When I started out ahead and then drew Duneblast on turn five, I knew it was pretty much in the bag. Duneblast had yet to show up for me in the top eight, and boy was I glad to see it there. A few turns later I cast it, clearing his three new blockers, hit for four damage with Unyielding Krumar buffed by Raiders’ Spoils, and paid a life to draw a card. The handshake came soon after.

It was actually funny that Duneblast never showed up until my final game since my opponent had been able to see most of my deck from watching the second half of my very long semifinal match. Not that he could have played around it, but he had no idea it was coming and I was able to really savor the dramatic irony, as it were, over the last few turns of the game. I was truly in the zone, and I became a spectator of my triumph while simultaneously playing it out.

As Monique drove us back to the city, it started to sink in that I had actually won a PTQ. I knew I could do it, but here it was an actual reality! Wow. Looks like I need to learn to play Modern. Do I wait until they ban Treasure Cruise?

Finally, time to say thank you. To Monique and Rob, great teammates and travel companions. To Hugh and Matt, for organizing Team Draft League and thus helping four of us (and counting) qualify for the Pro Tour. To all of my colleagues here at Hipsters, for the opportunity to write and the support of a great community. To Marshall Sutcliffe, for making it cool to talk about limited Magic at a high level. To Luis Scott-Vargas, for inspiring me to take the game seriously. To my readers, for following along on my journey. And finally, to Duneblast, for everything.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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