PTQ Berlin #2 at PT Hollywood 2008

After my eight-round dry run at the first PTQ for Berlin, 2008, I retooled my deck and hit the second PTQ on Saturday. This was a huge PTQ, even by oversized NorCal standards, with 274 players (that’s nine rounds). I went 3-2 drop, being unwilling to burn another 4 rounds in hope of prizes or competitive intelligence for later in the PTQ season. In the extended, I’ll give an overview of my deck, and the matchups. I ran a Planeswalker control build heavily influenced by Stuart Wright’s Worlds deck in 2007, and my general-purpose affection for Ms. Vess.

Wonder Twins
That’s what I called this deck on my deck registration form. Here we go:

10 Creatures:
Chameleon Colossus
26 Spells:
Fertile Grond
Nameless Inversion
Garruk Wildspeaker
Liliana Vess
Profane Command
24 Land:
Reflecting Pool
Gilt-Leaf Palace
15 Sideboard:
Faerie Macabre
Profane Command
Primal Command

This is a creature format, right? Sure.
When I look at the curve for this deck, I place the Elementals at their Evoke costs, as I expect to be using them that way much of the time. The Manamorphoses help power out ground-sweeping Firespouts, as do the Fertile Grounds. The Grounds also combo well with Garruk, and the Manamorphoses also act to thin the deck. The Lignifies were a day-two addition, after I realized just how many things, like Chameleon Colossus, Doran, and Reveillark, are complete pains and not the best targets for black removal (have you killed a Lark recently? it doesn’t help at all). The one-of Profane is tutorable with Liliana, although I’ve considered going to more Profanes in a revised build. I think it needs more testing.
The Faeries in the sideboard were meant to be for the elemental-mannequin builds, but I brainlocked and didn’t side them in during my one mannequin matchup of the day. Shucks.
Round 1: The Mirror!
There weren’t many green-black decks that I saw on either day, but I hit one as a mirror match in the first round. Sam Feeley (SammyTime from Mana Nation) brought a B/G Rock-like deck that felt similar enough to mine, although sans Liliana and sans Firespout, if I recall correctly. Instead, he brought Kitchen Finks and Woodfall Primus (clocking in at an exciting eight mana). In game one, I was Vaulted once by Sam, then sat at 18 life for a long time. I stuck a Liliana and Sam Primal Commanded a land with a Fertile Ground away — a play he later said was a mistake. Liliana kept cranking away at Sam, even as he gained more life from Kitchen Finks and tried to get through to her. At the end, I dropped Liliana’s ultimate effect, reanimated a whole host of Sam’s creatures, and won.
Sam’s quote on the game. “I forgot about her.” And well he might, as I was the only person in nearly three hundred who brought Vess to the tournament, I think.
The second game saw me taking more harm from Sam, but I’d sided in my own Primal Commands and gained fourteen life over the course of the game. This was a long one, sprawling over onto a second page of life totals and notes. With me at 19 life and Sam at 12, I once again stuck Liliana and got her ultimate effect off, and that was that.
Round 2: Elementals
There’s a fundamental rule of Magic: “Burn the bird.”
In an elemental deck, the part of the BoP is played by Smokebraider, and in this matchup I try to make sure to kill them off as soon as possible. The Lignifies were also put into the deck for this matchup, as the ability to Tree a Horde of Notions is incredibly useful — it forces your opponent to two-for-one themself if they can’t remove the Lignify (sadly, many of these decks run a random, one-of Wispmare). I took significant beats in this game, going down to 5, but I eventually stabilized, stuck Liliana, and pulled off her ultimate effect.
The quote from the person seated to my right, staring at Garruk, LIliana, and the contents of both graveyards in play on my side: “That’s a scary board.”
Game two saw me try to stabilize, but fall to the elemental beatdown. Faerie Macabre didn’t feel like a good sideboard in on this one, despite the Larks.
Game two ran the same way as game one, minus any damage to me, as my opponent mulliganed — Liliana, discard, discard, “RISE FROM YOUR GRAVES” and a concession.
Round 3: Mannequin
Elementals? Tricky, but not bad. Elementals with Mannequin? Ugh.
I managed to stretch game one out and take my opponent to 9 life, but from there he recovered control via massive card advantage from Mulldrifters and Mannequins and took me out.
I made a large error here and didn’t side in the Faeries. This is why they are in the sideboard. Silly. Game two went much like game one, as I carved my opponent down to 7 life and once again he regained control and took me out. The Faeries would have been great here, effectively fizzling one or more Mannequins.
One upshot of this second game was confirmation of the value of Lignify.
“It’s a tree.”
“Cool. Reveillark.”
“It’s a tree.”
Someone behind me saw that I was repeatedly Lignifying things and commented on how Lignify is “so good in this format because all the creatures do things.” That’s what I thought, certainly.
Round 4: Faeries
My round four opponent was late, and received a game loss for that. A little frustrated, he opted to play and ended up mulliganing down to five. He’d kept a hand with lands and double Bitterblossom, so he played out successive Blossoms on turns two and three. I took a single Faerie hit, then swept the skies with Firespout. He built up two more tokens, flashed out a Scion, and I followed that up with an evoked Cloudthresher. He built up two more Faerie Rogues from the Blossoms and I Profaned him for six and returned Thresher to play, prompting the concession.
This was my fastest round all weekend. A reminder for everyone — watch your clock and don’t pick up a game loss for being late.
Round 5: Elementals again
In game one, I mulliganed to four and nearly won. This was not a very solid elemental deck, I’m afraid. Unfortunately, my recovery from this excessive mulligan was incomplete and I couldn’t quite manage the win.
Game two was my single biggest play error on the weekend. My opponent played out a Chameleon Colossus. I Lignified it, then thought, “He Wispmared a Lignify away last game — I should evoke Shriekmaw and kill this thing now, even though that’s effectively a one-for-two.” Then I second-guessed myself and thought, “He won’t have a Wispmare right now.”
Then he Wispmared the Lignify away and Colossus beat me to death. Sigh. After the fact, I learned that he had just the one Wispmare. Doesn’t change anything, of course — I should have killed that sucker right away as soon as I could.
Despite some play errors on my part, I really enjoyed how my deck performed, and Liliana is still my favorite. As I was telling SSO, I really need to tally kill markers for each time I manage to fire off her ultimate effect in a tournament.