I have had little success in this PTQ/PPTQ season, and they both end in a couple of weeks. As I run out of live opportunities to qualify, my thoughts turn reluctantly to Magic Online… they have PTQs! To qualify, of course, you have to play a pre-qualifier, so today I rushed home from work to catch a 6:30 sealed deck event. I did the same yesterday, and had a frustrating time.

Let’s see if we do better today.

5:45 — I call Por Que No? tacqueria and order some food as I leave work. Never play hungry!

6:07 — I pick up some delicious tacos and toss them in my bike bag, then rush home. I’m thinking I might not get logged in and signed up on time: I know I have exactly two tickets, and the easy stuff I have to sell is a few packs of Khans and Modern Masters. The event costs thirty.

6:16 — I get home and whip my laptop out of my bag, banging the keyboard to wake it up.

6:17 — I launch Parallels before I even park my bike. God forbid they make a version of Magic Online that just runs on Macs. Who uses Macs anyway, except for young people with disposable income? Useless demographic anyway.

6:18 — Windows is up and running, and I double-click the Magic Online icon. I updated yesterday, so we are looking good.

6:20 — After getting a Bot into a trade, I’m told my packs are worth 26 tickets. I haven’t dug around for valuable singles recently, but if Modo crashes, I might not have time for a trade anyway. I get out the credit card.

6:21 — I am signed up for the event, and I even have time for a taco before it starts!

6:30 — The event kicks off with that charming frozen moment where everyone remembers why they avoid emotionally investing in Magic Online tournaments. Today, though, it unfreezes and we have a sealed deck!

It’s a weird one: a diverse mix of multilands, a little power and removal everywhere, lots of card-advantage, tempting gold cards including morphs. I start with an Abzan core splashing for the [casthaven]Outpost Seige[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sidisi, Brood Tyrant[/casthaven], and some morphs. I end up just turning white into a splash too, and the deck looks viable.


I’m not sure the build is quite right but I’m happy enough. Reid Duke would be proud: we’re just squeezing in as much power, card advantage, and removal as possible with the mana base. The [casthaven]Mountain[/casthaven] was dumb: it should have been another [casthaven]Swamp[/casthaven] or [casthaven]Plains[/casthaven]:

6:47 — I submit my deck with three minutes to spare. I should look at another build but I still haven’t finished that taco…

6:50 — Round 1: Ffancrzy wins the die roll. (I hate how there’s a die roll on Magic Online. I’m an odd/even man.)
6:52 — Ffancrzy has not chosen play or draw. I’m staring at my screen thinking maybe the blue was a mistake.
6:53 — Ffancrzy chooses to play. His turns go like this: [casthaven]Ainok Bond-Kin[/casthaven], outlast, [casthaven]High Sentinels of Arashin[/casthaven], [casthaven]Fierce Invocation[/casthaven]. I slap together enough removal to get rid of the flyer and barely recover to a board where he is down to one card, a [casthaven]Rageform[/casthaven] manifest, and a [casthaven]Mardu Warshrieker[/casthaven]. I have a couple of card, one life, and one creature: but it’s an [casthaven]Abzan Guide[/casthaven]. He draws and attacks, and I block the manifest. He taps six mana:

(The spell he plays is atop his graveyard in the image.)

7:11 — After another fourth turn High Sentinels that takes a couple turns to kill, I stabilize at seven with my X spell ([casthaven]Wildcall[/casthaven]), but he has a better X-spell.


0-1. That was quick. At least I have time to eat properly! I finish off my tacos and read about Jon Stewart’s decision to leave the Daily Show for a while, then watch a video of a seal fighting with an octopus, intermittently flipping back to Parallels to check the round time.

7:45 — Round 2 finally begins: CDM2009 loses the die roll.
I choose to play and keep a two-lander with early action. I can’t find blue or white mana for a while, and I end up with a lot of blue and white cards I need to use. I keep looking at my [casthaven]Jungle Hollow[/casthaven] hoping it will make a different color because Modo is doing that thing where double-lands only show one of the colors. I am repeatedly disappointed. I draw my other [casthaven]Jungle Hollow[/casthaven]. I am helpless against his [casthaven]Dromoka, the Eternal[/casthaven] + [casthaven]Ainok Bond-Kin[/casthaven] + [casthaven]Brave the Sands[/casthaven].
7:54 — I declare a chump block and hit F2, but the block doesn’t take. I was losing this one anyway…
As I go to sideboard, Magic Online crashes. I get logged back in with time to sideboard and make some adjustments.
7:56 — The [casthaven]Sidisi’s Pet[/casthaven] I sideboarded out is in my opening hand: thanks Modo. My opponent just plays lands and card-draw, and I get [casthaven]Outpost Siege[/casthaven] online. He stops playing spells entirely and takes notes on what is in my deck as I finish him.
8:16 — In game three we both stumble at three lands for a while, but this time my sideboarding stuck, and [casthaven]Rakshasha’s Secret[/casthaven] puts me ahead on card advantage, then Sidisi closes the door rapidly.


8:38 — Round 3: BennyBoy2525 wins the roll.
I keep a strange one. We have an epic game in which he starts on [casthaven]Temur Charger[/casthaven] into morph, and I am forced into a turn three [casthaven]Wildcall[/casthaven] to get the defenses set. He plays [casthaven]Dragon Bell Monk[/casthaven] and attacks with just the Charger. I trade, allowing me to play [casthaven]Hooting Mandrills[/casthaven] the following turn. He misses a land drop, but plays a [casthaven]Debilitating Injury[/casthaven] on the apes, hits me for three with the Monk, and casts [casthaven]Jeskai Student[/casthaven]. The only thing I can do this turn is play a tapped land and tap out for [casthaven]Outpost Siege[/casthaven] naming Khans.

He casts [casthaven]Sorin, Solemn Visitor[/casthaven] and cracks for ten. The rest of the game is wild, as my 2/2 Ape keeps his Sorin off ultimate while BennyBoy2525 goes after my life total, unmorphing a [casthaven]Ponyback Brigade[/casthaven] at some point. I play two morphs to block, then morph an [casthaven]Icefeather Aven[/casthaven] and block, bouncing a token. I think I have it locked up when [casthaven]Sidisi, Brood Tyrant[/casthaven] is revealed off the [casthaven]Outpost Siege[/casthaven], but then realize I have found zero black mana in the top 20 cards of my library. I find black off [casthaven]Enhanced Awareness[/casthaven] but can’t cast Sidisi. However, I get [casthaven]Archfiend of Depravity[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Destructor Dragon[/casthaven] into play to go after the 50 or so life my opponent has. I draw my last card the same turn I kill him.

The next game is not as interesting: I have a good start, and he is missing a color.


9:37 — Round 4 vs 11_jaguar_11. I win the die roll.
He has a nice start but is only on two colors. He doesn’t have enough follow-up pressure, so my powerful cards arrive and I win with little fanfare.
10:06 — He pretends to be land flooded, casting nothing but [casthaven]Sultai Emissary[/casthaven]. I fall for it and lose three creatures to [casthaven]Crux of Fate[/casthaven]. Later, I make a misplay by tapping my mana wrong, not allowing me to [casthaven]Grim Contest[/casthaven] when I need to. Then I screw up again the next turn, and we are on to game three. I sideboard in [casthaven]Rakshasha’s Disdain[/casthaven].
10:09 — I am behind on time, and am starting to worry about it. As soon as that thought occurs to me, Modo crashes.
10:10 — I log back in to modo.
10:11 — My match finally loads, I have less than seven minutes. We are in a board stall: he has [casthaven]Temur Sabertooth[/casthaven] but I have more creatures and larger, and draw a few cards off [casthaven]Abzan Beastmaster[/casthaven] before he can get his [casthaven]Mer-Ek Nightblade[/casthaven] big enough. I use all my removal in a flurry to force him to bounce a bunch of guys, then attack, losing only one creature to his Sabertooth and dropping him to seven. He bounces his last creature and casts [casthaven]Crux of Fate[/casthaven]. I have [casthaven]Rakshasha’s Disdain[/casthaven] and he concedes.

3-1. After losing our first three games, we have rallied back almost all the way!

10:27 — Round 5 vs RandomDrooler. I win the die roll.
I start with [casthaven]Typhoid Rats[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Abzan Beastmaster[/casthaven]. His turn three play is [casthaven]Scout the Borders[/casthaven], and he agonizes about taking one of the three black lands, but eventually chooses [casthaven]Wingmate Roc[/casthaven]. I have [casthaven]Hunt the Weak[/casthaven], Sidisi, and two draws each turn. He never gets to trigger raid.

I side in the full Rakshasha’s package (Disdain and Secret) to make the Wingmate harder to resolve. It doesn’t matter: he puts two 3/4 flyers into play on turn five. I have [casthaven]Icefeather Aven[/casthaven] to eat the token, though, and [casthaven]Throttle[/casthaven] for the other half. He follows up with [casthaven]Whisperwood Elemental[/casthaven], but I rip [casthaven]Suspension Field[/casthaven] off the top clearing the way for Sidisi.
10:42 — My opponent stairs at my dominant board presence for a while, then conceeds.

4-1. We did it!

Magic tournaments can be anxious experiences, and this was no exception. Losing the first round always makes things exciting… but the crashing is the real anxiety treat. The mid-sideboarding crash followed by drawing the card you had taken out is a particular delight. The sense of injustice is hard to overcome, and the last thing you need when you are trying to win a match of Magic is to get distracted by a (useless in this context) sense of justice.

My prize for overcoming frustration, of course, is the right to play in another Magic Online tournament. How fortunate.

Gabe Carleton-Barnes has been playing Magic for over 20 years, mostly as a PTQ grinder and intermittently as a Pro Tour competitor. Currently based in Portland, Oregon, where he is an Open Source web developer by day, Gabe lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for three years. While there, he failed to make a documentary about competitive Magic but succeeded in deepening his obsession with the game. Gabe is now a ringleader and community-builder for the competitive Magic scene in Portland, wielding old-timey slang and tired cliches to motivate kids half his age to drive with him to tournaments.

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