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24 December, 2006


PTQ GENEVA in Paris - A Top 8 Story

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My name is David Whitelaw but if you are an average, normal, run-of-the-mill Magic player, you already know me. I’m the guy who normally finishes somewhere in the middle of the pack at FNM, wins the occasional one, and can just as easily scrub out at the next. Up until I travelled to Worlds, my stand-out performances were winning Thurso (try multimap) Champs in 2006 (field of something like 13 players where I had the only real tier 1 deck) and 14th at a recent PTQ Geneva in Dundee in a field of 39. Not exactly a glittering career.

Now I have only recently moved to the glorious city of Aberdeen and, as always happens when you move to a place with a larger Magic community, I have found myself facing a higher calibre of Magic player. These guys aren’t the best in the World but they are significantly better than me. The first few weeks in Aberdeen were spent realising I need to up my game somewhat. And the last few months I have spent doing that. Please be gentle with me when you read this – this is my first ‘big’ result and my first piece of Magic writing.

And with that backstory all tucked away now (you can wake up in the back), I entered the Louvre with the excitement and trepidation of any other passionate but average Magic player. There were a lot of problems with the first couple of days organisation insofar that Wizards had completely underestimated how popular the PTQs were going to be. This resulted in me queuing for 3 and a half hours with Bogi on the Wednesday only to not get in to the PTQ. Instead I had to wait for Friday’s PTQ.

Friday I awoke bright and breezy. There was no way I was going to miss this PTQ seeing as it was now looking like it would be my only one when I was at Paris. My lovely girlfriend Denise had me booked for the Thursday and Saturday for Disneyland (sic) and Paris itself, respectively. I joined the queue only 9 or 10 men from the front around 0815 as registration started around 0900. Got myself registered ok then killed a couple of hours playing Chrononauts with Chris, Bogi, Richard and a couple of the Aberdeen lads whilst waiting to be seated for deck registration.

I registered a fairly mediocre pool and the judges announced that we would be swapping our deck boxes with the players sat opposite. The guy looked over at me and said ‘Well done, nice Top 8’. Here’s why......

PTQ Geneva - 1st December 2006
Time Spiral Sealed Deck


Durkwood Tracker
Thallid Germinator x 2
Chameleon Blur x 2
Tromp the Domains
Herd Gnarr
Ashcoat Bear
Havenwood Wurm x 2
Durkwood Baloth
Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
Gemhide Sliver
Sporesower Thallid


Looter il-Kor
Telekinetic Sliver
Stormcloud Djinn
Eternity Snare
Temporal Eddy
Merfolk Assassin
Tolarian Sentinel
Think Twice


Gaze of Justice
Sidewinder Sliver
Zealot il-Vec
Children of Korlis
Detainment Spell
Flickering Spirit x 2
Temporal Isolation
Cloudchaser Kestral
Pentarch Paladin


Ghitu Firebreathing x 2
Barbed Shocker
Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
Kobold Taskmaster
Basalt Gargoyle
Blazing Blade Askari
Coal Stoker x 2
Ironclaw Buzzadiers
Mogg War Marshall
Thick-Skinned Goblin
Two Headed Sliver


Vampiric Sliver
Gorgon Recluse
Faceless Butcher
Viscid Lemures
Tendrils of Corruption
Nightshade Assassin
Soul Collector x 2
Curse of the Cabal
Deathspore Thallid
Mindslash Sliver
Urborg Syphon-Mage
Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder


Venser’s Sliver
Chronatog Totem
Brass Gnat


Dementia Sliver
Ghostflame Sliver x 2


Dreadship Reef
Fungal Reaches
Terramorphic Expanse

And here’s my build…

Thallid Germinator x 2
Tromp the Domains
Herd Gnarr
Ashcoat Bear
Havenwood Wurm
Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
Gemhide Sliver
Sporesower Thallid

Gorgon Recluse
Faceless Butcher
Tendrils of Corruption
Nightshade Assassin
Soul Collector x 2
Deathspore Thallid
Urborg Syphon-Mage
Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder

Jaya Ballard, Task Mage

Fungal Reaches
Dreadship Reef
Terramorphic Expanse
Swamp x 7
Forest x 7

Yes I know. For the millionth time, I know! Why is Ballard maindeck with Baloth in the board? Look, I did try to warn you beforehand that I wasn’t very good. I just didn’t feel I could cut Jaya. And I had Fungal Reaches, Gemhide Sliver, Terramporphic Expanse and a Mountain to get her on the table. Thankfully the rest of the pool could easily carry this mistake and I always sided Jaya after game 1 every match and brought the Baloth in. As an aside, I kept the lone Mountain in the deck to help with Tromp.

Other than that, as you can see, a pretty straightforward build. You don’t need to be an amazing player to see the strength of Green and Black in this pool. We have amazingly strong inbuilt removal within the creatures in Nightshade Assassin, Faceless Butcher, Deathspore Thallid and Gorgon Recluse (sort of). Green has a sumptuous Thallid component which along with the Deathspore is just insane. The only decision had been whether or not to splash for Jaya. I think I should have just run the Baloth but there is also an argument for running White as a splash with Temporal Isolation and Fortify. It was also argued that I should have run Durkwood Tracker. I felt it was a little too slow for my deck and my removal was solid as it was. I think this was a good call.

Now I’ll warn you before hand that my match notes are a little sketchy so my game-by-game plays aren’t going to be as detailed as I would have liked. I had fully expected to go 0-2 drop, so early on, writing detailed match reports for a tournament report was pretty far from my mind. Once I was 3-0, I was shaking way too much and concentrating way too hard to even think about writing a tournament report. Hopefully all the key plays are roughly as I report below.

Round 1 – Luc Ta

Sat down happy with my deck and as nervous as I always am in the first round of any event. My opponent was an Asian-Frenchman and polite. He did strike me as a little over-confident and was chatting away with his surrounding friends in their native tongue. Can’t remember much about game 1 except he had a screwed a bit and I curved pretty much perfectly. He was never really in that one. Game two was much closer. I have to admit that even when he laid his 4th different basic land (think the only colour he wasn’t playing was W) that I was a bit surprised. I was even more surprised when I was set up to kill him on my following turn and he flashed Tromp on his turn. He had more than enough creatures and I couldn’t stop lethal damage. Game 3 his deck worked fine, my deck worked fine, but this time I had the Tromp for the win. He shook my hand but was quite short with me after defeat, chattering away angrily to his comrades. It was quite a satisfying win…

Games 2-1
Matches 1-0

Round 2 – Tomas Langer

This match finished with me on 24 life game 1, then all I have written down game two was me on 9 life, my opponent on 18 life and the words ‘Tromp J’. Tromp is just silly. My opponent was a good guy and accepted his defeat graciously. He would get his revenge later on…

Games 4-1
Matches 2-0

Round 3 – Stefan Hecht

Game 1 wasn’t really a fight. I got mana screwed and my opponent’s deck did his thing. He was screwed game 2, and my deck did it’s thing to tie it up. We both shuffled up and offered each other luck with the hope that neither of us would screw game 3. The key play in this game was me hitting his Mountain turn 4 with Mwonvuli Acid-Moss and turn 6, hardcast Mindstab. He couldn’t recover. Stefan said afterwards that he was surprised his deck had went 2-0 and he dropped.

Games 6-2
Matches 3-0

Round 4 – Jean-Babtiste Gouesse

Game 1 has another straightforward ‘Tromp J’ with me on 16 life. Game 2 was also fairly quick, the key card being Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder. It was a pretty close game before that but I was able to just overwhelm my opponent with wee guys.

Games 8-2
Matches 4-0

Round 5 – Remi Fortier

I’m reliably informed that Remi is one of these up and coming players in Germany or Holland or somewhere, I forget. I am extremely nervous at this point in time. To be fair though, he also seems slightly unsure and anxious about things himself. Game 1 is a strange one. I resolve a turn 4 Acid-Moss with him a little flooded but not too seriously. I don’t have a lot of action in my hand but obviously the Acid-Moss had flustered him a bit or seriously damaged his hand. He scooped turn 5 with neither of having done any damage. I honestly think he may have had a chance in that game but we’ll never know and I wasn’t going to complain. Game 2, my opponent gets on the offence early and chinks away at my life total life by life. I manage to cast Tendrils to stay in the game but I’m down to 7 life when I cast Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder and Gorgon Recluse on consecutive turns which swings the tide. He doesn’t recover.

Games 10-2
Matches 5-0

Round 6 – Thanh Hunyh

Game one, I’ve jotted down ‘Acid-Moss for B’. I hit a key swamp of his and colour screwed him. He couldn’t recover and I was able to chip away at his life until he died. Game 2, I went turn 2, Deathspore Thallid, turn 3, Thallid Generator, turn 4, Sporesower Thallid. He didn’t have the removal to deal with any of them and when I hardcast Baloth followed by Faceless Butcher removing his Baloth, he scooped. The life totals at that point were 18 to me, 17 to him but I had Baloth, Butcher, Deathspore with 8 tokens, Sporesower with 5 tokens and Thallid Generator with 7 tokens on my side of the board.

Games 12-2
Matches 6-0

At this point in the tournament I’m 6-0 and sitting pretty – except for one important point. Because of draws and whatever, there were 3 of us on 18 points. Getting paired down here would be a nightmare as there is no way your opponent will ID. A tense hour followed as I waited for the round to finish and the next pairings to go up…

Round 7 – Stefano Simoncini

Luck was definitely on my side today! I get paired with one of the other 6-0s on table 1 but we’ve done the maths and know that 20 points is a guaranteed top 8. I offer the ID and he quickly accepts. We wish each other good luck for the top 8 and I head off and chill out again for a wee while.

Games 12-2
Matches 6-0-1

I end up playing Poker for a while with Bogi, Richard, Chris and a couple of the Aberdeen lads whilst the round plays out. We play two full games. I win both. I should have stuck some money on the lottery, I was a guaranteed winner. After the round finishes, standings are put up…



I’m top of the standings! I take numerous pictures. This is the first and last time it’s likely to happen so late on in such a big tournament so I need to remember it.

Round 8 – Mat Mahr

There are 4 of us on 19 points at this point, and we are paired up. The numbers are once again crunched and we figure out that if we ID we can chill out before top 8 draft.  Tables 1 and 2 do exactly that and because of other matches I drop down to 5th on 20 points.

Games 12-2
Matches 6-0-2

As an aside, it’s worth pointing out that after round 6, I was fairly certain that one draw out of the next 2 matches would have been enough. It may well have been but standards were so high in this PTQ that 1st-4th finished on 21 points and 5th-8th had 20. One guy finished on 19 points – 6 wins, 1 loss and 1 draw – and it wasn’t enough.

So, what were the key cards in my sealed pool? Well there are obvious cards which are always good – Master Breeder, Sporesower Thallid, Tendrils of Corruption. Tromp the Domains is insane. I cannot over-emphasise this enough. I will gladly 1st draft it from now on. There some less obvious stars though. The two that I remember are Mindstab and Mwonvuli Acid-Moss. Don’t be afraid to hold Mindstab in hand. You don’t need to suspend it – it’s great when it’s sat there forcing you opponent to make difficult decisions as the counters drop off but sometimes when you throw it at them out of nowhere, it just wins you the game. Mwonvuli creates such a massive tempo advantage and again, can have the effect of you just winning the game if you do hit that key land. It also thins the land from your deck. I don’t see it being as strong in Draft but it’s a house in Sealed.

I also think the ‘Thallid Chain’ is underlooked. I’ve automatically been looking for Rebels when playing Limited. I’m actually beginning to wonder if Thallids is a more sensible way to go. Certainly if you can get 3 or 4 along with a Sporesower, think very, very carefully before sending them towards your unplayable pile.

I will now take this point to advise you, my faithful reader, that Drafting is the weakest part of my game. I’m not looking for sympathy or feeling sorry for myself, I’m just aware that it’s the area of my game that needs the most improvement.

At this point, every man and his dog was offering me advice on what to draft. I was still kind of floating in a bubble. Tiredness was beginning to set in (I had been up since half 7, it was now cracking on midnight and I had only had 6 hours sleep the night before) and a lot of info was going in one ear and out of the other. I had the very vague idea of going for Blue / Black or Blue / Red but you need to be lucky to draft these colours at a table that knows what they were doing. My intention was to remain as flexible as I could for as long as I could whilst giving as clear signals as possible to the people around me.

I asked my friend Stuart from Aberdeen to note all of my picks with the other key cards. Other key cards in the booster are in brackets. I’ll discuss some of the key picks afterwards…

First Pack:

  1. Lightning Axe (Prodigal Sorcerer / Temporal Isolation)
  2. Sudden Shock (Amrou Scout)
  3. Amrou Scout (Mystic Enforcer)
  4. Pulmonic Sliver (Cavalry Master)
  5. Fortify
  6. Fortify (Quilled Sliver)
  7. Coal Stoker (Momentary Blink)
  8. Errant Doomsayer (Chronosavant)
  9. Reiterate (Molten Slagheap)
  10. Blazing Blade Askari
  11. Fungal Reaches
  12. Smallpox (Plunder)
  13. Jedit Dragoons
  14. Drifter il-Kor
  15. Ghitu Firebreathing


Second Pack:

  1. Sulfurous Blast (Castle Raptors)
  2. Blazing Blade Askari
  3. Ancestral Visions (foil) (Opal Guardian)
  4. Goblin Skycutter (Momentary Blink / Benalish Cavilier)
  5. Keldon Halbardier
  6. Empty the Warrens (Barbed Shocker)
  7. Flowstone Channeler (Children of Korlis)
  8. Spirit Loop
  9. Flamecore Elemental
  10. Divine Congregation
  11. Ignite Memories
  12. Havenwood Wurm
  13. Spirit Loop
  14. Sage of Epityr
  15. Forest (foil)


Third Pack

  1. Opal Gargoyle (Coal Stoker)
  2. Temporal Isolation
  3. Gustcloak Cavilier (Ironclaw Buzzadiers)
  4. Empty the Warrens
  5. Candles of Leng (Subterrenean Shambler)
  6. Weatherseed Totem
  7. Grapeshot
  8. Spirit Loop
  9. Flamecore Elemental
  10. Think Twice
  11. Ironclaw Buzzadiers
  12. Children of Korlis
  13. Forsian Interceptors
  14. Slipstream Serpents
  15. Glass Asp


This may have given you all a bit of a laugh but as I have said, please cut me a bit of slack… I’m not a top tier drafter and I was very, very tired. Certainly, if my Sealed Pool was a lesson in what to do, my Draft was a lesson on what not to. Let’s look at some of the picks…

Pack 1, Pick 3 – I made a lot of mistakes in this draft but I actually feel I can justify this one. I know I’ve already passed the Scout pick 2 but after being passed 2 by pick 3, White is obviously flowing from my left. I still have the rest of this pack and all of the third pack so I am willing to accept the fact that I may have cut myself out for pack 2.

Pack 1, Pick 4 – A definite mistake. This pick took me ages. Right to the clock. In the end I felt evasion was more important. The Cavalry Master was the correct pick.

Pack 1, Pick 8 – Another long call and ultimately wrong. I went with the Doomsayers, looking for the Rebel chain. I need the 5/5 fat and the fact that he can recur might be worth that extra turn in a top deck scenario late game.

Pack 2, Pick 3 – lol. This was a blatant rare draft. I was strongly red at this point and white was almost a splash as the second colour. I didn’t feel confident in hitting WWW for Guardian and there was nothing else in the pack. And the Visions was so shiny! … should have taken the Guardian… So shiny though! L

Pack 3, Pick 1 – So given that I’m not confident of hitting WWW, I take the Guardian over the Stoker. I don’t even know what I was thinking here. Especially with the double Warrens I have already taken. School-boy error.

Pack 3, Pick 3 – I talked this through with the guys later on. They don’t like the Gustcloak. They believed the Buzzadiers was the correct pick. I actually think I made the correct pick. Cavalier isn’t a strong pick 3 but it’s better than Buzzadiers imo. And by happy coincidence, the Buzzardiers tabled.

Unfortunately the deck has been disassembled so I can’t give you a list but you can build it yourself from the cards above. The deck is essentially double Coal Stoker, double Empty the Warrens, double Fortify. It’s not stellar but I feel it could have went worse. It’s reasonably solid and with a bit of luck, it could have gotten me a ticket to Geneva.

Round 1 – Tomas Langer

Yep, the same guy that I beat round 2. Tomas has an excellent Red / Black deck with muchos removal and Madness cards. I want to give you some grandiose battle between epic fighters. The unfortunate fact is, I flooded a little game 1 and he had the glorious Lightning Axe / Dark Withering combo on both my guys in play. Plague Sliver finished me off. Game 2, I drew 12 of the lands out of the 17 before I succumbed.

Yes I was unlucky but to be honest even with God draw I think I would have been up against it. Tomas’ deck was excellent and he was a superior player. He was also extremely nice and polite guy to talk to. He went on to win the PTQ and I was glad to have lost to the best player with the best deck and not some guy who would have lost in the semis.

I went and reported to the judge who jotted down the result, offered commiserations and pointed me to the Side Events table for my prize support. A box of boosters – not bad for a day’s work and 25 Euros.
I headed back to Richard, Chris and Bogi’s hotel with Stuart and Scott and proceeded to drink many beers whilst spraying shaving foam on a sleeping form or two.

If you’ve lasted this long, I thank you. Maybe I’ve given some good advice, and even if not, I’m sure you’ve picked up some things not to do. I do hope I haven’t completely preached to the converted and you, the reader, aren’t sitting there wondering how I could have been so stupid not to have already realised many of my ‘discoveries’ (lots of Thallids = good!?) on the fateful day in question. Either way, I’d like to think that this has, at the very least, been entertaining and I hope you’ll give me some feedback, both on my writing and on the actual Magic itself, in the forum.

Until next time,

Dave :-)




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