PPTQ Coverage – Pro Tour Ravnica Allegiance – 21-22/07/18 M19 Limited and Modern

Hi All, last weekend was the first opportunity I’ve had in quite a long time to play in a local PPTQ simply because I was lucky enough to win the first one of the previous season. Within striking distance were a Sealed event in Bradford on the Saturday and a Modern event in Hartlepool on the Sunday.

If you would prefer to skip straight to Modern, scroll to the playset of Militia Bugler below.

M19 Limited

I wasn’t able to attend an M19 Prerelease (or Release event) for this set due to other commitments. I managed to squeeze in a single draft Online (going 2-1 with what I thought was a great deck but then realised if the Pelakka Wurm didn’t show up, it was pretty average). I also access a few resources concerning M19 Limited which I’ve briefly listed below. I decided to mainly focus on learning some tips for drafting the new cards. In an event with a Sealed Swiss format and Top 8 Draft you need to be good enough at Sealed to make the Top 8, which can be done even if you lose matches. You need to be good enough at draft to not lose any matches at all.

There are a lot of draft videos out there that are worth watching, but I’ve highlighted Ben Stark’s draft videos in particular as they really stand out for me. Ben talks through his thought processes very thoroughly – sometimes to the point that there will be a five minute debate on the merits of two possible plays. I understand that this level of technical articulation is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the possible information and learning that can be reaped from this content is off the charts and something I’m personally a big fan of and highly recommend if you want to improve at Limited.

I won’t go into too many specifics, but I’ll share two important broader points I learnt with regards to M19.

  • In Sealed you almost always want to choose to play second. The format is slow and risk of flooding out is bigger than dying in the early turns. I think the only deck that wants to go first is a deck that has basically no removal and needs the powerful 4-7 drops that it’s relying on to hit the battlefield first. In draft, faster aggressive archetypes are much more possible. White/Red go-wide aggro might just be the strongest archetype with Heroic Reinforcements being a total bomb at uncommon for this deck. There are still a number of decks that would prefer to go second but more decks can punish you for doing so if you’re deck is already slow.
  • In both Sealed and Draft you want to be saving your removal for either bigger creatures or evasive creatures. The cheap X/1 or X/2 creatures in the set are generally very bad unless they instantly replace themselves (Skyscanner, Elvish Rejuvinator). There are so many cheap X/3s that can halt them in combat, and even Goblin Instigator can cause problems. This means you want to avoid playing cards like Child of Night, Viashino Pyromancer, Cavalry Drillmaster if you can. Skeleton Archer is a common 2-for-1 against them. Given the opportunity to use blockers to deal with these kinds of cards is so plentiful, you shouldn’t be using removal on them unless absolutely necessary. This is a bit different to previous sets where abilities like Exert, Raid, a specific creature type or Legendary status have been more important than creature size.

Limited PPTQ

The event was held at Laserzone in Bradford. I met up with fellow Leeds players Alex Roebuck, Craig Stevenson and Rob Catton at the venue. There were five rounds with a cut to Top 8.

My Sealed deck

I won’t reproduce the entire pool but here are the Mythics/rares I opened and the deck I played.

Mythics/Rares: Detection Tower, Remorseful Cleric, Phylactery Lich, Apex of Power, Mistcaller, Hungering Hydra

Lands (17)
Stone Quarry
Timber Gorge
Forest
Swamp
Mountain

Creatures (14)
Diamond Mare
Doomed Dissenter
Centaur Courser
Skyscanner
Bristling Boar
Poison-Tip Archer
Two-Headed Zombie
Epicure of Blood
Rhox Oracle
Thornhide Wolves
Vigilant Baloth
Colossal Dreadmaw

Other spells (8)
Shock
Lightning Strike
Rabid Bite
Gift of Paradise
Luminous Bonds
Blood Divination
Strangling Spores
Lich’s Caress

I went 3-1 in the Swiss before intentionally drawing into Top 8. Here’s a summary of what worked and what didn’t.

  • Poison-Tip Archer was basically my bomb for the day, and I had two of them! Being able to deter/trade with large flyers or grind the opponent out with death triggers in a stalled out board makes this a very versatile card. The deathtouch also works nicely with Rabid Bite. Unfortunately, it took me until about round three to have a game where I was awake enough to not miss any triggers from this creature! This actually cost me game one of round one (and I lost game three)!
  • Deckbuilding error: I sideboarded out Diamond Mare for Suspicious Bookcase pretty much every game, except against an opponent who had Goblin Instigators and Trumpet Blasts. A lot of opponents had similar-style decks to mine and being able to make your biggest threat unblockable on a gummed up board after holding off their 3/x creatures outweighed the 1/3 horse. Against the tokens + Trumpet Blast opponent, I decided Diamond Mare had more merit and actually boarded in 2 Walking Corpses for a Two-Headed Zombie and a Centaur Courser as the defensive speed was more important than attacking power.

Top 8 Draft

The Top 8 all ID’d and there was no dependency on the results of any of the other matches for the purposes of the draft, so the Head Judge got the agreement of all players to start the draft while the final round was playing out, which made sense in terms of moving along the tournament!

I drafted what ended up a Blue-black control deck splashing white for a Regal Bloodlord and Dwarven Priest. My first six picks in pack one were (in order):

Meteor Golem, Mirror Image,Gargoyle Sentinel, Star-Crowned StagRegal Bloodlord,Liliana’s Contract

This kind of sums up my draft really. For quite a long time it wasn’t entirely obvious whether I should try and be ‘white/blue splashing black’ or ‘white black splashing blue’ or ‘blue black splashing white’ but this probably came down to me trying to be the middle option at the start (splashing the Mirror Image – if at all) and not actually drafting many other blue cards until a Bone to Ash wheeled in pack 2. I should have abandoned the white and commited to blue earlier. Nevertheless, I was still relatively happy with what I ended up building.

Lands (17)
Meandering River
Rupture Spire
Submerged Boneyard
Island
Plains
Swamp

Creatures (15)
Departed Deckhand
Doomed Dissenter
Reassembling Skeleton
Wall of Mist
Aviation Pioneer
Gargoyle Sentinel
Mirror Image
Skymarch Bloodletter
Dwarven Priest
Fell Specter
Gearsmith Guardian
Regal Bloodlord
Vampire Sovereign
Meteor Golem

Other Spells (8)
Macabre Waltz
Marauder’s Axe
Dwindle
Mind Rot
Murder
Bone to Ash
Lich’s Caress
Liliana’s Contract

In the quarterfinals I squared up against an aggressive green white deck with some decent beatdown creatures, Titanic Growth and Vivien’s Invocation. I got run over in game one, but in both games two and three I was able to land Meteor Golem, clone it with Mirror image, force trades in combat and then recur them with Macabre Waltz! I felt playing a cube draft deck!

In the first game of the semi-finals, I mulliganed to three lands three spells and didn’t draw a single land. I also mistook Sure Strike I knew about (It killed my Departed Deckhand) for Fervant Strike and foolishly blocked a 2/2 with a 2/2 and 3/3 thinking that +1/+0 and First Strike wouldn’t help them. I would have still lost even if I hadn’t been blown out there, but it’s a reminder to not get combat tricks mixed up! The second game played out mostly as planned. I stabilised at a healthy 15 life with a decent board against a relatively unthreatening one from my opponent, a Sleep and a Lava Axe later I was dead from seemingly nowhere!

I heard the final was decided by Lava Axe too!

Modern

I previously touched on the Modern format in an article in May where I surveyed the Modern scene and gave a brief overview of what I thought the main tiers of the metagame are based on premier play (GP) results and Magic Online tournemants. Not much change has occurred but there are a couple of things to note:

Tier one

The top spot is becoming more divided. We’re seeing Humans decline slightly and share its spotlight with more of the other decks around. Looking back on GP Barcelona it’s impossible to ignore the three White/blue control decks in the Top 8. By playing Terminus and Detention Sphere, the control deck gains access to more answers to the Hollow One deck, which was very annoying the Jeskai deck. UW also commonly runs more land disruption in Spreading Seas and Field of Ruin making it a better choice against Tron and Valakut than Jeskai. I’ve added Krark Clan Ironworks combo into Tier one. It’s no longer known only as a rogue choice that Matt Nass plays at GPs, As more have turned to trying the deck, it’s clear that it is a legitimately good choice for a Modern event if you know how to play it!

“He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of company B”

Even though I didn’t win the Limited PPTQ on Saturday, at least I could console myself that I would get to play Militia Bugler this weekend in my 5 colour humans deck! I bought four earlier in the week and played them to a comfortable 4-0 in a midweek casual modern event. I jammed two in the maindeck and two in the sideboard and the card really impressed me! Here are some thoughts on the card:

  • Helps you reload faster after your board gets decimated by removal – or maintain momentum in building a bigger board.
  • Helps you dig for key pieces – if you are particular need of Kitesail Freebooter, Reflector Mage or Thalia’s Lieutenant this increases your chances of getting one. After sideboarding it can help you find ‘answer’ cards like Kataki, War’s Wage, Izzet Staticaster or Sin Collector.
  • If you simply want to gum up the board you can get a Phantasmal Image, copy the Bugler and try again. Some opponents might pre-emptively shoot down your Buglers to avoid this, putting them down on cards and allowing you to copy other creatures instead with Image.
  • It has vigilance (I forgot this the first time I attacked with it) which is a nice free random bonus!

I think in any attrition-style matchup it’s a card you want thanks to the above points. I find that playing it in the dark early and nabbing a generic human for ‘card advantage’ is almost always less valuable than playing it a turn or so later with the additional info of knowing what you need to find to win the game.

In any matchup where speed is very important and you are basically trying to race, as good as the card is, playing it and deploying what you find is an additional step in the race unless you can do both in the same turn, which is very hard early on. I’d therefore err towards him being a board-out against decks like Burn, Infect and Affinity for example.

As I’ve mentioned, there are a number of Facebook groups dedicated to ideas and information about Modern archetypes. At this point I’m going to shout Tanner Chase in the 5 Colour Humans group who produced a comprehensive sideboarding guide for the deck vs 36 different decks. While it’s inadvisable to blindly follow sideboard guides to the letter without supporting it with your own opinions/experience, it provided me with a good starting point for understanding what cards I might want to take out in different matchups as I think this is the part of sideboarding I struggle with the most. I had to deviate a little from his guide in any case as I wasn’t running the exact 75 on which it was based. If you’re a Humans player who is interested in seeing it, I’d recommend joining the group where it is posted for all users.

Modern event

This was held at Tea@Hart in Hartlepool. So far I’ve attended two PPTQs here and lost the finals of one and won the other, so it’s so far a haven for my good luck! I travelled with fellow Leeds players Alex Roebuck, Laurence Arnelll and Matt Duggan. Alex played Lantern, Matt abandoned his faith in humanity and went with Mardu and Laurence played Jeskai.

Given I’m playing Bugler, I decided I’d play 2 Fourth Bridge Prowler instead of Gut Shot/Dismember as they are ‘findable’ by the trumpet man. Here is the 75 I registered for the event.

Maindeck (60)
Ancient Ziggurat
Cavern of Souls
Horizon Canopy
Seachrome Coast
Unclaimed Territory
Plains
Champion of the Parish
Noble Hierarch
Kitesail Freebooter
Meddling Mage
Phantasmal Image
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia's Lieutenant
Mantis Rider
Militia Bugler
Reflector Mage
Aether Vial
Sideboard (15)
Fourth Bridge Prowler
Auriok Champion
Kataki, War's Wage
Izzet Staticaster
Militia Bugler
Reclamation Sage
Sin Collector

Unfortunately this wasn’t my best event. I lost a couple of rounds early on to inevitably lose the tie-breaker struggle for which 4-2 would make it into 8th place. The rounds and decks I played against were as follows:

  • R1 – Merfolk – 2-1 (1-0)
  • R2 – Storm – 0-2 (1-1)
  • R3 – UW Control – 0-1 (1-2)
  • R4 – Revolt Zoo – 2-1 (2-2)
  • R5 – Jeskai Control – 2-0 (3-2)
  • R6 – Sultai Midrange – 2-0 (4-2)

Here are some things that worked or didn’t during the event:

  • In round one vs Merkfolk my draw in game three was absolutely terrible. I pretty much credit this victory to being able to copy a Silvergill Adept that was boosted by 2 Lord of Atlantis and being able to be an unblocked attacker through my opponent’s superior board.
  • In round two vs Storm I think I misplayed game 2 by underestimating the consistency and power of my opponent’s deck. I opted to play a Mantis Rider on turn two instead of a Sin Collector. I had a Phantasmal Image in hand. What I could have done was play the Sin Collector on turn 2 and potentially Image it to double up on disruption. As it happened, my opponent had a very strong hand and a single piece of disruption wasn’t enough to stop him going off on turn 3.
  • In round three vs UW control I lost game one to a topdecked Path to Exile on their turn five after presenting lethal and naming Supreme Verdict with Meddling Mage. In game two I again, got my opponent to two and fought through all four copies of Cryptic Command fogging the team, two Supreme Verdicts, Settle the Wreckage but couldn’t do the last two points of damage. A judge watched a considerable amount of the game and issued my opponent a slow play warning, but I think I should have called him earlier as the damage to any hopes of a game three had already been done by that point. I was nervous about calling my opponent on slow play because people I’ve called on slow play before have been riled up the wrong way. This opponent was fortunately ok with it and actually receptive to suggestions on how he could play faster. I confessed I’m not a particularly fast player myself, so I am trying to speed up. I suggested speeding up the manual elements of the game like drawing a card, playing a land, tapping lands, moving spells played to the graveyard to make room for new permanents etc – all these were things he could save at least a few seconds on each time which could really add up.
  • In round four I nearly won game two when my opponent fetched a land with Windswept Heath, exiled Simian Spirit Guide, Hidden Herbalists, Burning Tree Shaman, Burning Tree Shaman, Goblin Guide on turn one the play! Thalia and Militia Bugler worked very well against all the 2/2s. I sideboarded out the Kitesail Freebooters for 2 Auriok Champion and 2 Militia Bugler. While they have cards like Atarka’s Command and Lightning Bolt, the deck is looking to go wide with early creatures so being able to at least trade or survive combat with 2/2s was more of a priority for me.

The last two rounds felt very much like another day in the office. Going into the match, I didn’t expect to win against Jeskai, but my opponent and I agreed that he made a definite misplay in one of the games which definitely decreased his chances of stopping my little humans. The Sultai midrange deck was different to what I was expecting. It played Bitterblossom and Tireless Tracker along with Tarmogoyf and generic removal/discard. No Death’s Shadow or Traverse the Ulvenwald.

Unfortunately, nobody in the car made Top 8 so it was a disappointing showing overall. I heard it was Bogles vs Mardu in the finals so it might have been a rough Top 8 for me had I made it.

I’ll just have to keep faith in humanity and give things another go at a PPTQ next weekend!

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter (@Chris54154) or at most PPTQs in the North of England, RPTQs, GPs in England and some other large competitive events like Mega Modern and Legacy Masters that arise during the year in the UK.

As always, thanks for reading, good luck and have fun in your next event!

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