PTQ Hollywood 2008 – Sacramento

Yesterday, SSO and I made the two-hour drive to our state capitol to play in the last nearby PTQ of the season. We joined a crowd of 206 people in the Sacramento Convention Center for eight rounds of Extended leading to a blue envelope and an invite to Pro Tour Hollywood. Incidentally, they’ve posted the full information for Pro Tour Hollywood, including side events and the last-chance qualifier.
I played Kokusho, and SSO played a slightly different version of the Red Burn deck. We both went 4-4, and had a good, if exhausting, time. I woke up at 6am, and got home at 11pm.
The full tournament report is in the extended.

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PTQ Hollywood: Burn

One of the emerging stories of this PTQ season has been mono-red burn. The canonical burn deck, called “$40 Burn” in some places, is a package of creatures that all double as burn, burn spells, and a topping of Shrapnel Blast powered out with artifact lands. The goal here is simply to race every other deck, knocking them down before they get to do their thing.
As part of attempting to talk SSO into going to Sacramento with me this weekend, I’ve put together a slightly variant take on that deck design. Full list is in the extended.

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First Shadowmoor preview: Demigod of Revenge

I missed this on the first pass. Hidden within the Shadowmoor art previews was the full card for Demigod of Revenge.
Naturally, I’ve already seen someone post a complaint about how utterly insane this card is. Of course.
A flying, hasted 5/4 for 5 mana seems crazy-ish, but it’s not. With all five mana coming from a color — even given the hybrid cost flexibility — the Demigod requires that you be firmly in black, red, or black/red, and it denies you the ability to accelerate it out especially quickly. As always, we need to wait and see the full scope of Shadowmoor before deciding if this makes the cut in constructed decks or not.
(…and hey, it’s a Spirit. It interacts with Kamigawa block.)

Quirks of the PTQ week

The middle of the week saw a new crop of PTQ decks appearing on the PTQ Hollywood 2008 page, per usual. Also as usual, Northern California decks were absent. Come on, Matchplay — get those decklists in! You can read my PTQ experience from last weekend, but I’m afraid I can’t comment much on the overall pool of competing decks. We need Riki Hayashi hanging around and counting decklists or something.
What do we learn from the decklists this week? Well, first off, if you want to attend a small tournament, go to one in Anchorage in early March. 15 participants. The Honolulu PTQ was also small at 40 people. All the other tournaments were over 80 attendees, with the biggest being the 156-person PTQ in Des Moines, won by Adrian Sullivan. Of course, the San Jose PTQ was 180 people…but once again, it’s not being reported.
When I look at the decklists from each week, I’m looking for two things. First, I like the general feel of what made top eights, as there’s some chance that will inform people’s deck choices for the coming weekend, which will in turn inform my thoughts about what I’ll be playing against. Second, I want to see what odd, quirky things people managed to top eight with.
In that latter category, this week delivers with some fun notes. Click through on the links to get to the top eight decklists for that PTQ.
Paul Ewenstein’s sixth-place finisher at the Boston PTQ is a Gifts Rock deck, an archetype that’s not particularly in favor right now. In this case, Gifts lets him have a bevy of one ofs, including a singleton Damnation, one Extirpate, one of each of Primal and Profane Commands, one Putrefy, one Smother, one Vindicate, one Shriekmaw, and most fascinating of all, one Reveillark. I have no idea under what circumstances you find yourself thinking, “If only I had a single Reveillark!”
Rusty Kubis made it to third place in Des Moines with a G/W aggro deck packing such Extended favorites as Worship, Otherworldly Journey (Kamigawa represent!), Phantom Centaur, and Tallowisp. Seems weird, but hey — how many Extended decks can actually kill a Phantom Centaur? Especially with Saffi waiting in the wings to bring it back (ah, right — Saffi’s in there, too).
Honolulu saw the return of Ninjas, with Michael Ching’s sixth-place finish. Unlike the second-place finisher in LA, Michael is all in on the Ninja plan, with Higure, the Still Wind in the main. He still has the Standstills. I have to respect his solid 4-4-4-3 sideboard that includes four more Ninjas, as well as Stifles, Threads, and some Crypts.
Rick Powell hit fourth place in Manchester with a Scepter-Chant (AKA “No Stick”) deck that packs a little extra something in the form of a pair of Leonin Abunas that presumably sits in to guard the eponymous No Stick and three Lightning Angels. Just because. It honestly looks janky, but apparently it works.
We round out this week’s PTQ touring in New York, where Josh Meckles took Gifts Rock to fifth place in a field of over a hundred. His deck looked pretty normal, until Meloku caught my eye. However, it wouldn’t have merited posting about it until I realized that in addition to the Clouded Mirror, Josh ran a single Visara the Dreadful. Go on, click through. Although I’m never one to turn down a 5/5 flyer for six mana (and my deck of choice runs four of them), I wonder for which matchups you Gifts and show the opponent Eternal Witness, Genesis, Meloku, Visara.
As a final fun note, the given in Extended right now is that you really need to be prepared for Dredge, and that that probably means 6+ cards in your sideboard dedicated to the Dredge matchup. Consider this quote from feature match coverage of PT Houston 2002:
This weekend in Houston there is a sea of Reanimator despite the fact that everyone else knew the deck was popular. The average sideboard seems to have 6 to 10 cards specifically against Reanimator and even many main decks have cards that were chosen because of their ability to deal with a single huge monster. Coffin Purge, Diabolic Edict, Chainer’s Edict, Reprisal, Gilded Drake, Parallax Wave, Rushing River … there’s a lot you can run if you want to beat Reanimator.
It seems that living from the graveyard is a popular way to avoid interacting with other decks…until they decide to bring the hate.

Shadowmoor previews

The Wizards site has a “preview booster pack” for Shadowmoor on the front page. I clicked through, expecting generic product info, and instead got a cool, fifteen card art preview. Check it out:
Yup. Hybrid costs are back. But take a close look at “Beseech the Queen.” Yeah, instead of two-color hybrid costing, you have a spell that comes in at a discount if you play black, but that can be played out for pure colorless (or any incremental mix of the two). It was actually the art that caught my eye first on that one, but the costing option there is truly neat.
Click here to see the rest of the preview booster.

Extended changes

Up until the first of this month, the plan for Extended was a massive rotation in October of this year, during which every set before Mirrodin would drop out of Extended — this would mean the loss of the Invasion, Odyssey, and Onslaught blocks, as well as Seventh edition.
In the most recent DCI Banned and Restricted List Announcement, Wizards announced a change to this policy. Instead of occasional, massive shifts in Extended, they’re now going to a model of dropping the oldest block off each year as a new block comes in.
I find this somewhat funny, as I just listened to old coverage (PT Philadelphia, I think), in which Randy explains the rationale behind shifting Extended in giant chunks, rather than in block increments.
With the new change, Wizards is still dropping Invasion and Odyssey blocks from Extended, along with Seventh edition. Onslaught, however, stays in. On the new schedule, this means that Onslaught will not rotate out until late 2009.
So what’s the upshot of all this? Well, all of Invasion block is gone with the rotation, so there will be no more Vindicates, Deeds, or basically any other worthwhile multicolored card not from Ravnica block. In addition, the Invasion sac lands that power out Ideal and TEPS will be gone.
On the other hand, we have another year of Onslaught fetchlands ($$$) and Instant-speed Storm spells. Hmmm.
Assuming no changes, then, we’ll lose Onslaught in late 2009, Mirrodin in late 2010, Kamigawa in late 2011, and so forth.

Jeff R honors the master

Jeff Rients and pals are playing a classic Gygax module in honor of the man. As usual, Jeff’s game sounds just plain old fun:
Doug came up with a character with high Int and Dex. We tried to trick him into playing an illusionist, but he opted for a straight up magic-user. When he diced for the initial spells in his book he came up with light for his “offensive” spell. He didn’t cast it or any spells all night, as I recall. He threw some daggers and even hit a couple of times. But in the grand tradition of crappy 1st level m-u’s he spent most of the night leeching xp’s off the rest of the party.
Stuart ended up with a human cleric, which he opted to play as a harsh Lawful Neutral servant of a harsh, Old Testament-style Lawful Neutral god. I’m thinking Marduk is a pretty good fit, but we didn’t spend any time worrying about the specific deity. Stuart brought three live goats along, in case he needed to sacrifice something while in the dungeon. (Fortunately “virgin” is not listed among the standard equipment in the PHB.) Anytime the goats misbehaved he lectured them sternly.

Bay Area PTQ for Pro Tour Hollywood 2008

Yesterday I attended the second Bay Area Pro Tour Qualifier feeding into Pro Tour Hollywood 2008. According to the tournament organizers, we had 180 attendees, which puts us on the high end for PTQs for this season (compare with the attendance numbers shown here.
I did not win, but I enjoyed most of my games, and thought I (and my Kokusho deck) did well. My tournament report is in the extended.

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