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Martelling Time – PT Journey into Nyx Report

PT Journey into Nyx is in the books and I am thrilled with how it played out for Team Pantheon. 1st, 5th, 8th, 14th, 20th with another handful of Top 50s is a great result. Personally, I am happy to have locked up Platinum for next season but still a little disappointed to miss Top 8 by a win for the 3rd time in the last 4 PTs. I really need to figure out how to get a few more wins on Day 1.

Preparation

As per our usual, Pantheon assembled in Atlanta 2 weeks before the PT. The first wave arrived on May 3rd, with the remainder of us trickling in over the next few days. I was stuck at work that week so I didn’t make it out until Friday, May 9th. I jumped into Constructed testing when I arrived and found several promising decks in place. I got up to speed on our BUG control deck and several enchantress or graveyard-themed decks that Patrick and Sam had been working on.

My first serious flirtation was with a 4-color control deck that Nassif built featuring 4 Interpret the Signs and 4 Ashen Riders. Drawing 8 cards is pretty fun, but after playing some games against other blue control decks, I found myself getting decked repeatedly. There was so much great black removal that you couldn’t count on non-hexproof win conditions. Even up 8 cards, if they just sat on a few Silence the Believers, it was incredibly hard to win. This was the beginning of Prognostic Sphinx’s reign in the house. Our BUG deck saw the number of Sphinxes steadily climb from 1 to 2 to 4 over the next few days.

For the first few days, I was leaning toward playing a B/W control deck featuring Brimaz and Elspeth Andrew Cuneo was favoring. It was doing well against most of our brews and the stock aggro lists but I was nervous about the control matchups. I finally built a stock Esper list from Magic Online and played a set against Andrew. I went 7-1 game 1 and 4-0 game 2that was the end of B/W.

Patrick was doing well with his Junk list, which at the time was more midrange than where he wound up. We discussed the right creature mix and agreed that Fleecemane Lion and Brimaz were great at pressuring the control decks. Reid had a R/G aggro deck that took advantage of Oracle of Bones to punish unsuspecting opponents with Revel of the Fallen God and Hunter’s Prowess. The deck seemed solid but I’ve never liked R/G aggro midrange decks so I didn’t consider it for myself. With a few days to go before the event, I decided to play one of Junk, BUG, or whatever Sam came up with that might break the format. He tried his best, finding several promising shells that ended up just being a little low power, but in the end it was down to BUG and Junk.

I really liked both decks but I had considerably more experience piloting the BUG deck and it had way more man hours invested in it by the house as a whole, so I was confident it was well tuned. I decided to join the majority and play it. My contribution to the deck list was a last minute push to switch 2 Polukranos to 2 Reaper of the Wilds. I was worried about other B/G decks punishing us with Reaper, which we had basically no answer to. Most of the team made the switch and we registered the following:

Day 1

Day 1 kicked off with a draft. I was seated to the left of Ari Lax and opened a pretty underwhelming pack. Ajani’s Presence was clearly the best card and the pack was missing Oreskos Swiftclaw that comes in the same print run, so I didn’t even have to pass another good white common. Ari passed me a pack with another Ajani’s Presence, a Fleetfeather Cockatrice, and a rare missing. I took the second Presence to stay on color.

The next pack was missing a common and uncommon and had a third Ajani’s Presence and a Spawn of Thraxes. I thought for the full time on this pick. The missing common made me worried that Ari had taken the 3/1 for 2, and while I really like Ajani’s Presence, I didn’t really want three in my deck. I hadn’t passed any playable red cards yet so there was a great chance I could get hooked up in red in pack 2. I don’t love Spawn in my red decks as I prefer to be aggressive, but I decided to pick it up. Next pick offered me the choice of Eagle of the Watch vs. Riptide Chimera, and I took the white card to stay on color. I added a Bladetusk Boar, Akroan Line Breaker, and 2 Sigiled Skinks to round out the pack, passing almost no red but not seeing much white. It felt like Ari was W/G on my right and I hoped my neighbor to my left was blue, as that made it pretty unlikely he would also be red.

I opened a really bad pack in Born of the Gods and take Akroan Skyguard over nothing. Skyguard has gotten a lot worse with only 1 pack of Theros as there are now so few heroic enablers for it. I would have gladly taken a Kragma Butcher over it but unfortunately didn’t have the option.

2nd pick I took a Bolt of Keranos over a Butcher, followed by Fall of the Hammer, Loyal Pegasus and Kragma Butcher. I felt great about my decision to move into red, and I was further rewarded with a 6th pick Fated Conflagration. I hated a Kiora’s Follower 8th over nothing, as the high-powered gold cards can be pretty scary. There is usually only one person at the table in each color pair and getting a card as good as Follower 10th or 11th can give someone a really busted deck. I finished the pack with Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass, Pharagax Giant, and Rise to the Challenge.

Unfortunately my Theros pack wasn’t very good and I first picked a Favored Hoplite over a Ill-Tempered Cyclops, which I think was a pretty bad decision. I was trying to maximize my aggression but I had no good enablers for the Hoplite and only 1 Loyal Pegasus that I needed to turn on. The pack also contained a Gray Merchant and a Prophet of Kruphix, so I was shipping some powerful cards to my left. I second picked Arena Athlete over nothing and then added Lagonna-Band Elder (over a 2nd Gray Merchant), Traveling Philosopher, and Titan’s Strength out of bad packs. I did get a 6th pick Purphoros and 7th pick Lightning Strike, obviously both great additions so late, which somewhat salvaged Theros for me. Thankfully the Cyclops tabled and I took it 9th while also adding a 2nd Traveling Philosopher and a Ray of Dissolution. I was very happy with my deck but felt I got a little unlucky with my opens. Add in a random white or red bomb and I would have felt great about 3-0’ing.

My deck ended up a little short on heroic enablers but still quite good:

I thought about going as aggressive as possible, cutting the Spawn and a few other expensive cards for the Hoplite, Titan’s Strength and Elder but I didn’t feel like I had the right tricks to make that deck great. My last cut was playing Akroan Skyguard over Lagonna-Band Elder, which I was very unsure about during deckbuilding and in retrospect I feel was wrong. I cut Titan’s Strength because it plays so poorly with my 1-toughness creatures and I liked my other tricks more.

The deck played out pretty well. I was able to defeat a B/R aggro deck that had the two Gray Merchants I passed left in round one. I played against Jesse Hampton’s Esper control deck in round 2 and it felt like everything went just slightly wrong. I played a Sigiled Skink on the play on turn 2, but Jesse had the Omenspeaker to shut me down. I missed my third land drop for several turns while he played Triad of Fates and Oracle’s Insight. I had the Fated Conflagration to kill the Omenspeaker, but he used Retraction Helix to bounce the Insight and replayed it on his Triad. I continued to miss land drops as he pulled further ahead. I finally got some offense going with an Ill-Tempered Cyclops, but Jesse stole it from me with Hypnotic Siren and then played a Unicorn the next turn so he could even monstrous it. I played a Spawn of Thraxes for 6 damage and decided to kill the 4/4 Cyclops before he untapped instead of going after his Triad of Fates wearing the Insight, and he had a Triton’s Tactics to save the Cyclops. I died a few turns later.

Game two started off very well, as Jesse stumbled on mana and I had a good curve. I was able to get him to 1 with Akroan Line Breaker and Bladetusk Boar in play, but he stole my Boar with Siren. I had five or six turns to draw another threat or a burn spell but I drew lands and died to my own Boar.

In the final round I played against Mike Sigrist, who drafted U/B behind Jesse. His draws were pretty mediocre, including stalling on land in game 2, and I was able to play around his 2 Hour of Need and take the match 2-0.

I was happy to head into Constructed 2-1 though disappointed at losing what looked like a great matchup against Jesse. I didn’t get much time to warm up with BUG as I was paired against Shahar Shenhar in a round 4 feature match. I was not thrilled to learn that he was on a BUG list that seemed to be pre-sideboarded for the mirror. He had Thoughtseize into Ashiok game 1, and then I missed land drops in game 2 while he stole my Reaper of the Wilds with an Intrusion and killed me with it. Little kid luck is powerful.

In round 5 I played against Neal Oliver and his Naya planeswalker deck. I’ve played Neal a lot over the last 6 months and I seem to have his number; this was no different. He played Jon Finkel the previous round so I knew he was on Naya with Ajani. I crushed him game 1 and he got his planeswalkers going in game 2. For game 3, I was able to drop an early Sphinx and ride it to victory.

In round 6 I was up against Mike Majors and the SCG take on Naya. Games 1 and 2 were both quick affairs as we each won with a nut draw. Game 3 looked great when he missed several land drops and I stuck a turn 3 Ashiok, but I failed to flip a single creature in my first 4 activations. He had a Banishing Light to stop me from ultimating, but I disenchanted it the next turn and resumed my nightmare weaving. I was able to hit a Polis Crusher, but I made a big mistake and didn’t play a land, leaving me one mana short of being able to monstrous his Crusher and play a removal spell in the same turn. I had to use the removal and wait a turn to monstrous, which cost me at least 6 and maybe more damage.

Mike’s Courser of Kruphix let me know he had 2 Revel of the Fallen Gods in hand and he finally assembled enough mana dorks to cast it off of his 4 land. I had a Bile Blight for the first one and enough blockers to make the second manageable. My Ashiok continued to take 3 cards per turn and miss entirely. Over the course of the game, I milled 33 cards with Ashiok and only managed to hit a Polis Crusher in the first 30. On the final mill I finally found a Stormbreath Dragon, and I mistakenly held back my Polis Crusher instead of attacking to trade it for some Satyr tokens. Mike played Elspeth and minused it, killing my Crusher and Reaper. I needed to find a land on top of my library to gain 2 from my two Coursers, which would give me just enough life to not need to chump with my Caryatid so I could have double-red to monstrous Stormbreath Dragon and kill him. I missed and died. I made at least 2 if not 3 big mistakes this game, any one of which would probably have let me win.

Just like at the last PT, I found myself at 3-3 after misplaying a Constructed match. I took a quick lap around the site to refocus myself and start another run.

I finally got to play against mono-black in round 7 and won quickly, locking me for Day 2. In round 8, I played against a version of Junk Constellation that didn’t have any of the hard cards for the matchup and Silenced him into next month, finishing Day 1 at 5-3.

Day 2

My second draft pod was a bit daunting as I was seated between Canadian superstar Alexander Hayne and his Canada-sympathizing teammate Josh McClain. I started things off with a Oreskos Swiftclaw out of an unexciting pack. Second pick there was a Reprisal waiting for me with a common missing, which I was a little surprised by as we had Reprisal ahead of all of the commons. There was also an Akroan Mastiff so I thought Hayne may have taken something like Magma Spray either for color preference or signaling. I happily snapped up the Reprisal. I took a second Swiftclaw third over a second Mastiff. There wasn’t a Presence in the pack, so I was worried someone to my right had taken the trick over the guy and was also white. 4th pick I added a Stonewise Fortifier.

5th pick was pivotal for the draft. I had the choice between Feast of Dreams and War-Wing Siren. The pack had no white cards in it and I was worried I was getting cut. I think War-Wing Siren is a slightly better card but I was much happier being black than blue, so I took the spell. I think this pick was probably wrong in retrospect. I didn’t see another white card for the remainder of the pack as I drafted a Bloodcrazed Hoplite, 2 Grim Guardians, and 2 Cruel Feedings. I was not particularly happy with my deck at the end of the pack.

Pack 2 at least brought me an on-color rare in Hero of Iroas. Hero was pretty ridiculous in BTT but I think he’s gotten much worse now that there is one fewer pack of good bestow creatures and other Aura enablers. He was still an easy pick out of the pretty empty pack. I second picked a Loyal Pegasus and then had to take an Excoriate third out of a pack with only green and red cards. Fourth pick I took another Excoriate over an Ephara’s Enlightenment and then fifth I took Sudden Storm over nothing. I was pretty frustrated with how badly the pack was going. I took a Temple of Enlightenment sixth, setting myself up to possibly splash blue if necessary, and then finally got a good white card in a 7th pick Elite Skirmisher. 8th and 9th picks I took two Forsaken Drifters to try and get enough playables before tabling the Enlightenment. It looked like I might be the only U/W drafter at the table.

I was somewhat unhappy with my deck at the end of pack 1; I was very displeased at the end of pack 2. During the review period I went back and forth on my color optionsI needed pack 3 to be a home run and my blue cards were better than my black ones, but I only had 12 playables in U/W and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get enough.

Pack 3 started off with back-to-back Wingsteed Riderssomething I would have been thrilled with in BTT or TTT, but like all heroic creatures was much less exciting now. Third pick I took Evangel of Heliod over a Battlewise Hoplite as I decided I really couldn’t afford to go blue.

Fourth pick was bizarre. I had to choose between Bident of Thassa, Voyage’s End, Gray Merchant, and Erebos’s Emissary. I decided the Emissary was my best option and took it. I fifth picked a Sentry of the Underworld over Thassa’s Emissary (darn) and then added a Scholar of Athreos and a Glare of Heresy for my sideboard. I closed out the pack with a Traveler’s Amulet in case I would need to splash blue and a tabled Battlewise Hoplite with 3 cards in the pack.

My deck was almost awesome and instead it was mediocre to bad. I didn’t have any good way to enable my great heroic creatures.

I decided against the blue for the main deck, relying on consistency and my relatively low curve to win me some games. I played against a U/B control deck in the first round. In game 1, his turn 3 Grim Guardian stopped my pair of Swiftclaws cold and the game went late. He had a Gray Merchant to try and swing the race but I was able to barely hold on, racing his 8/8 Squelching Leeches with a Wingsteed Rider and a Loyal Pegasus while my Swiftclaws chumped. He played his first Island on turn 9 and I was surprised to see he wasn’t mono-black. I boarded out my pair of 3/1s as I saw a second Guardian later in the game and it seemed pretty bad against him. I decided against bringing in the blue as he had multiple 6-mana removal spells so I didn’t want to get 2-for-1’d. Instead, I brought in Forsaken Drifters and Thoughtrender Lamia to get some larger men.

In game 2, I thought I was going to kill him with a strived Cruel Feeding on my two Wingsteed Riders on turn 6, but on his turn he cast Extinguish All Hope, dashing my plan. He followed it up with another huge Squelching Leeches and I drew lands and died.

Game 3 went terribly. He played a Thassa’s Ire on turn 1 and didn’t miss a land drop for the first 8 turns of the game. I was able to put some pressure on his life total early but he played Akroan Horse on turn 4 and that shut down my ground attack. I made a chump attack on the last turn before he locked up the ground, cashing in my Cruel Feeding to put him to 7 and me to the high 20s. He began tapping my 3/3 flier every turn with Ire and I couldn’t get through. I was sitting on 6 lands and holding Erebos’s Emissary but I didn’t see any reason to play it. Two turns later, he tapped down to just 2 mana to cast Tromokratis.

Unfortunately I didn’t have a creature to go with my Emissary and I drew a land, so I was only able to hit him to 1 when I bestowed and attacked. He attacked me the following turn with the big guy and I used Reprisal to buy me time. Two turns later I drew a Grim Guardian for the last point, stealing a game I thought for sure I was losing.

In round 2 I played against PT Theros Top 8 competitor Kentaro Yamamoto. Game 1 he mulliganed and never got much going with his U/G deck. I curved out and killed him easily. The only spells I see are Stymied Hopes and a Voyage’s End. In game 2, he played a flier every turn from turn 3 (War-Wing Siren) to turn 6 (Gold-Forged Sentinel). He had the Fleetfeather Cockatrice and two Cloaked Sirens and killed me in the air before I could put up a fight.

I brought in the blue as I felt I needed to trigger heroic to be able to race his fliers.

Game 3 was extremely close. On the critical turn, the board was:

Me: Hero of Iroas, Bloodcrazed Hoplite, Loyal Pegasus, Wingsteed Rider with 2 Plains, Temple of Enlightenment, Swamp

Hand: Excoriate, Reprisal, Sudden Storm, Stratus Walk

Him: Wavecrash Triton, Pheres-Band Tromper (tapped with 1 counter), 4 Forest, 1 Island, 4 or 5 cards.

I’m at 13, he is at 16.

At this point, he hasn’t seen a blue card out of me so he probably assumes the Temple is just in my deck for scrying.

I considered two lines of play.

Line 1: Stratus Walk on my Hoplite, taking a counter from his Tromper and then attack with everyone. If he has a flash flier, he will play it and trade with my Wingsteed Rider and his 1/4 will block my 3/2. He will take 4 and go to 12 and I’ll pass or play the card I draw from Walk.

This line is very bad if he has Sudden Storm or Voyage’s End.

Line 2: Attack with everyone. If he flashes in a flier, Sudden Storm both blockers and hit him to 8.

This line is bad if he just blocks my 2/1 with his 1/4 and then flashes in a flier EOT to try and race. I would have to Excoriate in my second main phase and would just lose my 2/1. It is much better if he goes for the blocker as I should be able to easily win the race if I get so much value out of Sudden Storm.

I think for a while and I get the feeling he wants to block and is going to flash in Siren in combat, so I go for line 2. He flashes in Cloaked Siren and I cast Sudden Storm. He is visibly surprised to see me casting a blue spell and slumps in his chair. On his turn, he taps out for Gold-Forged Sentinel and says go. I Stratus Walk my Hoplite, stealing a counter from his Tromper, Reprisal the new flier and hit him to 1. He plays another flier and says go, leaving up Voyage’s End. I draw Ephara’s Enlightenment to give my last guy flying and kill him.

I was pumped to win the round as his deck matched up well against mine and it was such a close game 3.

The final round was against the W/G heroic deck that defeated both Hayne and McClain. We played two pretty uneventful games as I had Evangel of Heliod in both to make a ton of blockers. There was an awkward moment in game 1 as I was attacking him for 3 a turn in the air with my Sentry. After a few turns of just playing lands, my opponent tossed a Traveling Philosopher on the table and said go, visibly frustrated. I hit him for 3 and passed. He tossed another Grizzly Bear on the table and said go, but this one landed a good foot to the right of the table number, almost in play on the match to our right. I didn’t notice and attacked against. He drew and passed for 2 more turns and I finally drew my second Swamp. I played it and cast Disciple of Phenax. My opponent reached over and grabbed the Aegis of the Gods that was sitting a foot away from his board and dropped it in front of me. I considered calling a judge but I was pretty confident he hadn’t played it like that on purpose, so I revealed my hand discarded a land. My flier killed him two turns later, so it didn’t matter much, but it was an odd situation.

In game 2 he tried to set up a lethal attack with Glimpse the Sun God, but I had Reprisal and Ray of Dissolution to stay at a healthy life total and kill him on the swing back.

I was very pumped to 3-0 with my deck and make it back to Constructed. Now I just needed a 4-0 to draw into Top 8.

In round 12 I faced Ken Yukuhiro and his Naya deck. I mulliganed to 5 on the play in game 1 but had a perfect hand. He kept a really slow draw and I had a Prognostic Sphinx in play before he cast his first spell. I was able to win easily from there. In game 2, he kept a 7-card hand and played a G/W scry land, leaving the card on top. I Thoughtseized him and his hand was:

I took Ajani as with my hand it looked like the only way I could lose was to him putting counters on his Flamespeaker. He played the Mountain and said go. I played a scry land and passed. He played a Plains and said go. I cast Caryatid and played a scry land. He said go. I cast Sphinx and he conceded.

Round 13 was a feature match in the 75-card mirror against Owen Turtenwald. I had an interesting decision on turn 5 of game 1. Owen had a Courser in play so I knew he had an untapped land in his hand, but on turn 5 he played a scry land so I didn’t think he had Sphinx. My hand was a pair of Sphinxes and a Intrusion; I decided to run the Sphinx out. He played one of his own on the next turn, but my 2-to-1 advantage was enough to keep ahead. He added a Reaper to the board and we were actually in a very close race, but I hit running removal spells to squeak out a win.

In game 2, Owen Thoughtseized me and I immediately drew and played a Sphinx. The game was close but he wasn’t able to come back from that advantage.

The games were both actually incredibly complex and I can’t do them justice in a few paragraphs, so I’ll have to settle for that synopsis.

Round 14 – just two more and I’d have completed my 9-0 run from 3-3. I faced another 75-card mirror in Jamie Parke. Unfortunately, this time things didn’t break my way. Game 1 Jamie had an Intrusion for my Hero’s Downfall and I never found an answer for his Kiora. I ended up with 3 Coursers in play and didn’t find a spell in my top 14 cards (scry land, bottom, draw land, scry land from top, bottom, etc). Game 2 we both Thoughtseized each other, leaving us with only lands and Caryatids. He had Ashiok on turn 3 and it immediately hit a Sphinx. That, combined with the Sphinx he drew, was too much. The dream was dead.

I was really disheartened to get knocked out in two pretty uneventful games, but I took a few laps around the hall to refocus myself. I needed to Top 25 to lock Platinum, so there was more Magic to win.

Thankfully, the pairing gods rewarded me with a matchup against mono-black in round 15. In game 1 I drew more removal than he drew creatures and I crushed him. Game 2 was very close but my opponent stalled on 2 lands despite drawing 4 extra cards with Pain Seer (and dealing himself 14 damage in the process). By the time he found lands, I had enough mana to strive a Silence and then stick a Sphinx to finish the game.

I looked at the standings after the round and with my poor tiebreakers I was dead for Top 8. Jared Boettcher was closer but still had no shot to make it so we drew into Top 16.

Coming into the tournament, I would have been thrilled to finish Top 16. Sitting at 10-3, it was frustrating to not make Top 8. Now with a few days to settle, I am quite happy with the result. Hopefully I can break this run and actually put up another Top 8 in Portland.

I would also like to congratulate Jamie, Reid, and Patrick on their tremendous finishes. I know a huge part of my success is due to the great team I have around me, and watching them do well was almost as great as making the Top 8 myself. A special congrats to Patrick, who was playing incredible Magic all week leading up to the PT and was more locked in than I’ve ever seen him. I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see him hoisting that trophy on Sunday.

Cheers,

Tom

@tommartell on twitter

 

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