Thursday, November 18, 2010

The PTQ Grind

In the Magic: the Gathering world, a pro player is a player who regularly plays on the Pro Tour, which are invitation only tournaments held 3-4 times a year around the world. Being a pro player has a ton of perks: the Pro Tour tournaments have a decent cash payout, you get to travel the world, and if you do well in enough tournaments, the company will start giving you money for just showing up to events. But first to even get invited to your first Pro Tour, you need to get 1st place in a Pro Tour Qualifier (this is simplifying things a bit as there are other ways to also qualify but this is the easiest). A majority of competitive magic players are simply PTQ Grinders, trying to play in as many PTQs as possible with the hopes of living the dream. I am (sorta) a PTQ Grinder.

Last weekend, I drove all the way to Costa Mesa to play in a PTQ. Winning this tournament meant that I would get invited to Pro Tour Paris, along with a paid plane ticket and hotel room. The format was Sealed Deck, which means that I had to build a deck on the spot using 90 random Scars of Mirrodin cards. This is the deck I ended up with and I was super excited about. I actually texted Zach immediately after building it telling me how amazing I thought my deck was. I figured that I had a good shot at doing well in this tournament, but I wouldn't be sad if I lost because at least I got a Masticore and Sword, which together are worth enough to make up my entry fee. 

Alas, I ended up doing terribly at the tournament: 1-3 drop. I probably should've dropped after my second loss, but it was going to take Luke a long time to pick me up so I had to keep myself occupied. 

My deck just losses to this guy.

Round 1: I got mana flooded hard game one, so I took out one of my lands in between games only to get mana screwed game two. LOSS

Round 2: Tel-Jilad Fallen and Wall of Tanglecord absolutely destroyed my deck both games. LOSS

Round 3: My deck actually worked the way it was supposed to! I got a good draw and destroyed their poison deck before they even did anything. WIN

Round 4: I got mana flooded again and got killed by a Carnifex Demon. Game two was almost an exact repeat of game one. LOSS

So what was the problem with my deck? First off, I should only have been running 16 lands. I got scared that first round, when I sided a land out and got mana screwed, but I realize in retrospect that was pure bad luck. My deck had a really low curve and a Palladium Myr, so I could've gotten away with 16 lands easy and not be mana screwed. In addition I should have splashed red into my deck. I think I got a little carried away once I realized I could play mono-white. At the very least I could've added in Galvanic Blast and Turn to Slag. Now that I think about it I was stupid not to run both of those. It also would have given me two more outs to that asshole with protection from artifacts. Oh well...

For the record, I don't think I'll ever win a PTQ. The chances of winning one is very low, and there are tons of players out there who are just better than me in a lot of ways. Most PTQ Grinders go to every single PTQ they could possibly go to. I once had friends in college who drove to Portland from Santa Cruz just for a PTQ. Quite frankly, I don't have that much dedication. I go to the ones around me because they are fun and I usually have a good shot at taking home some prizes. Plus who knows ... I may get lucky one day! While I don't really have aspirations to 'live the dream' anymore, its a good bet you'll see me at the next Los Angeles PTQ on Dec 18th. 

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