This past Saturday I played in my first PPTQ, and my third IQ in Boonton, NJ. It was a PPTQ with IQ prizes. So like an IQ that also gave the winner an RPTQ invite. I’m typically a blue control/tempo player. I had played Jeskai aggro for a while, and after that played UB control. However, with an unpredictable metagame at this store I’d never been to, I picked Abzan control, as I had never known the power of Siege Rhino, and my friend just top 8’d an Open event with the deck. I felt pretty safe going with it.
The turnout was about 55 people. Six swiss rounds cut to top 8.
Round one saw me sit across from Noah. Noah is a friend of a friend, and this meant I wasn’t just going to roll over him. He was on Abzan control. Of course. With my luck, and just having little experience with the mirror, I figured my tournament was over before it had even started.
Games 1 and 2 were blowouts to whomever won the draw, with the eventual winner just drawing better action spells.
In game 3, I was on the play. My hand contained 2 Siege Rhinos, a Thoughtseize, an Abzan Charm, and all three colors of mana. I turn 2 Thoughtseize him, seeing his own two rhinos and a Fleecemane Lion. I took his lion, thinking I had his two Rhinos covered, and with charm, was even up one. My next draw step is a second Thoughtseize. I scry into…Siege Rhino the third. How can I lose? So I Thoughtseize him and take out the downfall he had drawn.
Over the next three or so turns, six Rhinos end up hitting the field after each other. Three for each of us. He unfortunately was not able to draw action spells while I was able to blow out his double attack into my own two Rhinos by putting a counter on each of my Rhinos with the Abzan Charm in my hand.
Round two was weird. I had to triple check the pairings board. My points were correct, 3, but I was playing at table 26? Even my opponent, Adrian, asked me what the deal was. I had as much a clue as he did. We sit down and he unrolls his…My Little Pony playmat…if I lose to this guy I’m done. Pretty much my life is over.
Game 1 of another Abzan control mirror, and I flooded out while he drew the perfect 6 mana, and not another land, and was just able to brute force past me.
My life is over. It has to be.
Game 2, I decide to take a risk. Knowing that in the mirror, most people side out their small creature removal and discard spells, I board in my 2 deathdealers and 2 Duress on the play. My goal is to outgame him by being faster and attack with more annoying creatures while pressuring his hand and slow removal spells. It worked, as I took game 2 in convincing fashion.
Game 3, I sideboard back into the more planeswalker control deck, the typical sideboard that the matchup requires. Again, my opponent might sideboard differently seeing what I did game 2. He never got past 5 mana however with multiple Elspeths in his hand while my Nissa was able to wake the world and get me the win.
Brony defeated. I can rest easily tonight. 2-0.
Round 3 against (another) Noah on a really neat Abzan Rally the Ancestors strategy. Nothing really of note here, as game one I had no idea what the hell was happening until he blew me out with a Rally the Ancestors and Mogus’ Marauders just kicked my head in. The same thing happened in game 2.
Round 4. Philippe on B/W warriors. Game 1 he kept a very slow draw, and I was just able to punish him with Ultimate Prices and Bile Blights while Rhinos and coursers jumped down his throat. Game 2 he kept a much faster hand, but his only black source was Caves of Koilos, and he Thoughtseized me a couple of times, so he put himself pretty low, and windmilling twin Rhinos put him on the defensive very quickly.
Round 5 I sat across from Anthony on Atarka Red. We start shuffling and the judge decides we’re going to have our decks checked. I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach. You know. You did nothing wrong, but there has to be SOMETHING the judge will find. Anthony is a boisterous person with a funny personality, so our small talk was comical.
The judge hands me my deck. Phew, test passed. Then the judge asks Anthony to come with him. O…kay… Anthony sits back down and says “Well how do you feel about game 2s?” The judge explains Anthony had a decklist error and was issued a game loss. So he goes on the play game 2. I keep a reasonable hand with Ultimate Price and courser, and drawing Bile Blight. I’m able to keep off his early pressure the best I can, and stabilize at 5 life with a downfall and Abzan Charm in hand to his 1 card.
And then came the herd.
Standings and pairings go up for round 6. Final round. If I draw, I’m not guaranteed top 8, but my breakers are pretty good. Paired against another 4-1. I explain the situation to my opponent, and at this point I’m prepared to play. He declines a draw, which, again, I’m fine with.
Round 6. John on…oh yuck, Esper Dragons? Really? In the last round, my win and in, I get my (possibly) worst matchup? Let’s get this over with…
Game 1 I draw possibly the BEST game 1 hand I could ask for. On the draw, I have Thoughtseize, Fleecemane Lion, Siege Rhino, Siege Rhino, three colors of mana. I Thoughtseize him turn 2. His hand is also possibly the BEST game 1 hand I could ask for. Ojutai, Ojutai, Bile Blight, Crux of Fate, lands. Take his Crux of Fate. I draw a second Rhino, and he’s unable to draw any answers to anything.
“They travel in packs…”
“It’s actually a crash, John.”
Game 2, he has just a bit more interaction than game 1. He Disdainful Strokes a rhino. On the last turn of the game, I’m attacking him at 6 life with a monstrous fleecemane and Rakshasa Deathdealer and I have six untapped lands. He foul-tongues me. I sac the Fleecemane, and pump the Deathdealer, and he extends his hand.
5-1. Top 8 secured.
At this point, I could lose in top 8 and be the happiest man on the planet. I was second seed, which means I was able to be on the play in almost any matchup going forward.
Quarterfinals. Chris on Mardu. I don’t really remember these games that well, other than thoughtseizing a Hordeling Outburst out of his hand, taking some damage from a Seeker of the Way, getting a courser stoked, playing around Stormbreath Dragon, and winning the match 2-0 because I’m playing Siege Rhino and he’s not. I was just elated and in the zone at this point.
Semi-finals. I bring up a prize split for the cash and packs. My opponent is the only one who declines, which is fine, he’s within his right to do so. Also, at this point, I realize that before top 8, I should have gotten a coffee.
Louis on Mardu. Seems that Chris and Louis were in the same car. Game 1 I just one for one removal him while Soulfire Grandmaster does its best to shut the door, but that honey ain’t no Seeker of the Way. He floods out really bad and is never really in it past turn 3.
Game 2, he mulls to six on my keep. I turn 2 Thoughtseize him after he misses his second land drop. Hit his Soulfire Grandmaster. The rest of his hand is 3 Outpost Seiges, Stoke the Flames, and Hordeling Outburst. I put on some courser beats for a while, and he’s able to get to 4 land, but I have 2 Utter Ends for 2 of his sieges. I eventually get him to 5, I have 3 ready to fight Elspeth soldier tokens and a courser. He’s tapped out for an Elspeth on his turn with three dudes of his own. Life check. 5 confirmed. Downfall token. Downfall token. Attack. He blocks courser with his remaining token, I put 2 counters on 2 of my tokens with Abzan Charm and secure my place in the finals.
Elation. Also reallllllly kicking myself for not having had a coffee.
Finals. Pat on Abzan control. We split prize, so we each get $125 and 12 packs. I already have my new IQ playmat from top 8, and my neat pin that I have no idea where to put. I couldn’t really ask for much more, so it seemed fine that my heat would run out at this point.
Pat is also a friend of a friend. He put on a real clinic. Game 1 I flooded and he just outvalued the crap out of me. Game 2, I think I had already decided I had lost before I had mulled to 6. I sideboard incorrectly, and am really loose at this point. He puts on yet another clinic to take me out. Good for him. He was a sweet dude, and played really tightly and deserved to win.
Overall, my first real IQ/PPTQ experience was really sweet. All of my opponents were courteous and a joy to play against. I have another IQ next weekend, and am thinking about either playing this deck with changes, or Esper dragons. There was a lot of red deck wins at this event though, so I’m not convinced that Esper dragons is the best deck for an open IQ event with little practice with the deck.
I’m also really very worried about Abzan control going forward if people are going to jam Den Protectors and Deathmist Raptors into their green decks. I’m not convinced with the deck’s matchups against graveyard decks.
One thing I am sure of though, Siege Rhino is one of the best cards in standard.
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