I had no intention of going to the PPTQ last weekend. I didn’t have a way to get there and other than the pre-release I didn’t have any sealed experience with the new set. However, while at dinner with some friends, they basically called me an idiot for not going or at least trying to figure out a way on how to get there. Always a sucker for peer pressure, I started texted some people and found that I could take a train to Bayside (Go Tigers!) and then get picked up by Richard Tan (for my arch nemesis he was pretty agreeable about giving me a ride). This was my chance to go and it really wasn’t all that inconvenient for me, so I said, “Why not?” set my alarm for some ungodly hour, and packed all of the typical accouterments for the tournament before going to bed.

The train ride up there was great, mostly because of the company which consisted of Zac Clark (The Godfather of HOTC), Hugh “The 20 Sided Store Champ” Kramer, Chris “The Scientist” Manning, Nick “Shoot the Leg” Forker. We talked the whole way up about the format, what cards are better in sealed then in draft, if you should play or draw (I think play is almost always correct), what dream bombs you want to get, etc. Our chats made the time fly by and the next thing we new we were getting off the train and going into Rich’s car.

We drove to the site, which was in a nondescript strip mall in a nondescript town somewhere in NY. The site was at a store (I can’t remember the name) which doubled as a place to play magic or to buy/sell video games & equipment. Inside there were tables crammed together with numbers taped down on them. As I was registering, I asked if there was room in the back with more tables and the clerk’s eyes glazed over and said, “Nah, we have enough for 32 people here”. While they could accommodate a group of that size, it didn’t mean that the accommodations would be comfortable. Oh well, I came to game, not hang out and read a book so I didn’t let the act of squeezing into my seat to register the card pool get me down.

I take card registration very seriously, it is one of the times where I get to show off my alphabetizing skills. You see, in high school I was voted “Boy most likely to Alphabetize,” a title that would continue to follow me my entire life. After all the cards were sorted and registered (first one done, obviously) I looked at the pool that wouldn’t be mine. It was extremely good sporting bombs like Citadel Siege, the new Sidisi, Undead Vizier, and the new Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit. It lacked unconditional removal, but other than that it was a very strong pool and I thought whoever got it would be happy.

We did the deck swap next—and this is something that I find ridiculous. All judges do the deck swaps differently but there is always someone at the table who “knows” how the judge is going to do it and then there are three other people next to that guy nodding their head in agreement. The deck swap oracle was shocked when the decks were passed behind us and not to the right. I saw the defeat in his eyes, he was truly crushed, but his flock consoled him saying that the judge must have messed it up. They would write firmly worded emails to WOTC that evening explaining their discontent.

I was too busy going through what would be my deck to listen to any more of the nonsense from the sticks in the crowd. I sorted out all of the unplayable cards in each color, then scanned for bombs. While none of my cards were insane bombs, they were pretty good. My black and red had a bunch of excellent removal, some decent creatures, and good synergy with the few exploit cards I had. This format has some very powerful sideboard options and I was lucky to get one of the best with Self-Inflicted Wound (I think all of the color-hosing are great with Display of Dominance being the worst). After all was said and done I registered a Black-Red control deck.

Black Red Control Sealed Deck

Black Red Control Sealed Deck

The first two rounds of the tournament went relatively quickly. Both of these opponents seemed to be pretty new to the game (or maybe just inexperienced with sealed tournaments) so my deck filled with awesome removal and value creatures cut through them pretty fast. While waiting for round three to begin something interesting happened. Forker’s opponent accused him of cheating by bringing in his own cards. His opponent was shocked by how many removal spells Nick had (something like eight or nine) and said only a cheater would have that many (I also had about eight removal spells for the record). This obviously made Nick extremely upset and angry at this guy so the judge was called over and watched the remainder of the match. Unfortunately for Nick, they ended their match in a draw. Nick would definitely won that match if there was more time. I think that if his opponent didn’t question his honor, Forker wouldn’t have been tilted and might have played a little tighter to ensure his victory.

There was a lengthy discussion between him, his opponent, and the judge which delayed the start of the next round considerably. I didn’t mind so much because Nick is my boy and his opponent had no grounds for that accusation. After everything got straightened out I was paired against the False Witness. I wanted to avenge my friend by making short work of this fellow, but my deck didn’t agree game one and I only drew two land the entire game. It didn’t agree game two either when he cast a Citadel Siege on an empty board and smashed my face. That lose hurt, but I didn’t want to dwell on it since there were two more rounds left and if I won out I could make the Top 8.

I took my round four opponent down in two games. My last opponent seemed bummed out when I told him we had to play. He figured we could just draw into the Top 8, but my tie-breakers weren’t what you would call good so I had to play and I had to win. My deck cooperated with me and I beat him game one after he over extended and I five for one’d him with Crux of Fate (I should have won an Oscar for my performance or at least a People’s Choice Award). Game two he played around Crux this time, but it didn’t matter. I just killed off all his guys and beat him in the air with Swiftwing Warkite and a buddy. That win locked my for Top 8 and also gave me the first seed. Our car had managed to put four people in the Top 8, only Hugh and Zac didn’t make the finals (they would Top 8 the next PPTQ the following weekend and Hugh would be the champion that day).

It was now time for the Top 8 draft. I like this format a lot and prior to this I had already done about seven drafts. Except for one of those drafts I had a winning record and few 3-0’s. So I was fairly confident I was not going to dishonor the Dojo by drafting a pile of garbage. As long as I read the table, stayed open, and remembered my training I could put together a solid deck. My first pick was Arashin Foremost which made me think I could draft a BW warrior deck and get rewarded with Harsh Sustenances in pack three. However, I didn’t see any black cards or any warriors in the following picks, but it looked like blue was open so I grabbed some Ojatai’s Summons and Elusive Spellfists. In pack two I was gifted with Dragonlord Ojatai as well as more Spellfists and some other solid cards. It was pack three though, that made be believe there was justice in this world. The player to my right shipped me a Citadel Siege. I could have given him a big fat kiss on his big bald head I was so happy. The remainder of the Fate Reforged pack went well and I ended up with what I thought was an amazing deck.

I had to play Forker in the first round. It is always tough playing one of your close friends but it is inevitable that it will happen. I imagine that this is what it must of felt like for families that were split due to the Civil War (from American history, not the Marvel series). Ok, maybe it wasn’t close to that, but it still sucks. Forker drafted a scary red black agro deck. In game one I was stuck on two lands for the first five turns, but my Spellfists provided me with blockers until I could draw into more lands. Luckily, I managed to rip three lands in a row and cast Citadel Siege. It was only a matter of time before a Spellfist (growing each turn from the siege) would go unblocked and deal the final blows. Game two went much better for me and I curved out into Citadel Siege and he scooped when big daddy Dragonlord Ojatai hit play. Even though he lost, Forker was pretty happy since this was the first time he ever Top 8’d a tournament like this. It is stuff like that which fuels the fire to keep playing.

In the semi finals my deck operated like a well oiled machine. I took games one and two easily despite not drawing my Citadel Siege either game. Ojatai did make an appearance in one of the games though and he was quick to dispatch my opponent. If you are wondering if a 5/4 flyer with quasi-hexproof and who draws you a card is any good, the answer is yes.

Time for the finals, the match for all of the proverbial marbles. My opponent was the False Witness who gave me my only loss of the day and had thrown accusations at my friend. He also took down Manning and Rich before having to face me, which is no small feat in of itself. In game one, I only had two land for the first few turns and he was expanding his board presence with some decent threats. It also didn’t help that I made a terrible misplay when I blocked one of his creatures (I thought it was a Dragon-Scarred Bear when in fact it was an Artaka Beastbreaker) so he was able to kill one of my creatures for free. However, I managed to scrape back, cast my Citadel Siege, stabilize the board, and eventually win. In game two he came out too fast for me and beat me before I could get anything going.

The deciding game was a slug fest. I had finally taken care of his horde of creatures and cast my siege but I was at a low life. I only had a Misthoof Kirin in play with five counters on it which took him down to nine life the previous turn, I needed one turn to live so I could activate the siege and fly over exactsies. On his turn he swung with the team, I ate a guy, but was put to four life. He followed up the attack with Archers of Quasi which could block my flyer. I needed to draw any non land card in my deck, any spell that was left could tap the blocker or any creature could chump and I would win on the following turn. The chances for me to draw any business time card were high and I also felt that I was due to draw something since I drew land in my three previous draw steps. I drew the card off slowly from my deck and when I saw it, I sank into my chair. It was an Island. I attacked, he chumped, and on his turn swung with the team and killed me.

I felt terrible, feeling that I wasted my entire day (I did). My final opponent was a good player though, he beat me fair and square, beat the best players in the room before facing me. My only consolation was that I didn’t make any misplays in the games he beat me and that I played well all day. It looks like I will have to continue my grind trying to get on to the Pro Tour. I will see you at the next tournament!

Andrew Longo has been playing Magic: The Gathering at a mediocre level since 1994. He managed to get lucky on the backs of his teammates to win Grand Prix Providence. When not playing Magic he runs a D&D campaign, plays video games, and reads comics (a real triple threat for the ladies).

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