Jeff Zandi is a four time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events.

Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.


 

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Red or No:

Making the Top Eight with Mirrodin/Darksteel

by Jeff Zandi

 

 

Darksteel matters. Last Saturday, the pro tour qualifier season began for Pro Tour San Diego. The format for this season is sealed deck with one Mirrodin tournament pack (we used to call these starter decks) and two Darksteel booster packs. For players in Texas, this is a fun qualification season for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, itís for an American pro tour. For the past many months, players in my neck of the woods have been getting tired of trying to psyche themselves up to work hard to win a PTQ for Amsterdam or Kobe with the knowledge that even after they qualify, they have to figure out a way to get themselves halfway across the planet in order to compete in the PT. A domestic pro tour event is definitely a sight for sore eyes. Secondly, itís a limited season, and even if limited lends itself to more random results, lots of players love sealed deck PTQs. Finally, Texas players are very happy this season because beginning with February 7th, there is a PTQ in the Texas area for eight straight weeks.

 

I donít know if youíve noticed, but it really isnít necessary for Magic journalists to be the best players in the world. As badly as I want to be a great Magic player, Iíll be happy to be remembered as a better writer than player. This season, however, Iím thrilled to be speaking from a higher level of experience. Mirrodin sealed has been a very good format for me. Including last Saturdayís PTQ for San Diego that was held in Dallas, Iíve played in three Mirrodin sealed deck pro tour qualifiers. I have made the top eight in all three of these tournaments. I also played Mirrodin sealed at Grand Prix Kansas in October. My combined record in the sealed deck rounds of these tournaments is 20-4-4. In the three combined top eights, my record is 4-2, winning a PTQ for Amsterdam that was held in Austin in November. Saturday, I went 5-1-1 in the sealed deck rounds and 1-1 in the top eight.

 

This article is part tournament report and part analysis of the format overall. From all of this, I hope I can clue those of you who need some help with this format. I think I can keep it pretty simple.

 

Play red. Mountains. Youíre going to want to play Mountains. The top eight sealed decks from Saturdayís PTQ in Dallas ALL included red. Out of sixty-nine players, there were fourteen that finished with a record of 5-2 or better. EVERY ONE of these fourteen players played some red in their decks. Spikeshot Goblin appeared in five of the top eight finishersí sealed decks, one more Spikeshot Goblin appears in the rest of the top fourteen decks. Three of the top eight sealed decks contained a red uncommon from Darksteel that we havenít had to worry about for a long time, Fireball! Some people do not believe that Spikeshot Goblin does not automatically merit at least a red splash. Fireball is a different story. If you open it, youíre playing it. In the years since the card disappeared from Magic, I had forgotten how powerful Fireball is. Itís very dangerous, swinging games drastically many times, allowing players to steal wins by top decking Fireball and pointing it at their opponentís face. Fireball will be a bigger factor in this format than it has ever been before in competitive limited play. In past, sets that included Fireball (or other very similar red X spells) also included playable counter spell and/or more damage deflection or prevention tools. Usually, you donít have Fireball without Circle of Protection: Red or something like it. In reprinting this massively game-changing card for use in limited formats, the only apparent controls that WOTC has put on the card is changing its rarity from common to uncommon. As you can see from the results of this tournament, however, He Who Opens Fireball turns out to often be He Who Makes The Top Eight.

 

Colors and Power Cards

 

Of top fourteen decks, all of which finished 5-2 or higher, fourteen featured red, ten contained black, six used green while only four included white cards and only three included blue. Ask anyone about sealed deck tournaments and theyíll tell you one thing every time, you have to open some powerful cards if you want to finish in the top eight. Here is a sampling the more powerful cards that just happen to appear in the top eight sealed decks of the day. 5-0-2 finishers Chris Gregory and Anthony Rubino each played Leonin Bola, a cheap piece of equipment from Darksteel that turns any creature into a virtual Icy Manipulator. Of course, Rubino also had a real Icy in his deck. Both undefeated players had Spikeshot Goblin. Chris stayed out of the loss column with bombs like Detonate, Troll Ascetic, Furnace Dragon and Skullclamp, while Anthony survived without loss thanks to his bomb cards Loxodon Warhammer, Fireball and Bonesplitter.

Two Pristine Angels appeared in top eight decks, as well as one Mask of Memory and one Sword of Fire and Ice.

 

Two Colors is Better than Three

 

Of the top fourteen sealed decks, six decks stuck to just two colors while the rest contained at least a splash of a third color. The common wisdom across the greater number of Mirrodin limited players is that a third color is no big problem, especially in sealed deck play. I may be able to agree with this thinking in Mirrodin only, but now that Darksteel is here, I think it is again important to refine your sealed deck down to two colors if possible. If you do play a third color, make it a splash and make certain the card or cards in that third color are really important to your deck. All-world limited player Neil Reeves says ďdonít splash dudesĒ. This bit of homespun wisdom is as important in Mirrodin limited play as it is in the Menís Room. A good candidate for a red splash is Fireball, Shatter or Detonate. Spikeshot is not a very good candidate for your red splash unless you are playing several very good power-increasing pieces of equipment. As good as Spikeshot Goblin is in the early game for destroying Myrs and small early game creatures, he is not automatically a reason to play red. Almost, though. I really donít think itís necessary to defend the value of playing two colors instead of three. In X number of games, itís going to be easier to play cards earlier, more often when you need fewer colors. Yes, Mirrodin/Darksteel is a format where many, sometimes most, of your spells do not require mana of any color at all. Regardless, you will need the mana of the right color for some number of cards in your deck, and if you play three colors instead of two, you will have more problems getting the needed colored mana.

 

Here are the decklists from the tournament Saturday. First the sealed decks from the top eight finishers in the sealed deck portion of the tournament followed by the draft decks of the top eight players.

 

SEALED DECK TOP EIGHT

 

Chris Gregory

1st place Swiss finisher 5-0-2

Forest x8

Mountain x6

Great Furnace

Detonate

Fractured Loyalty

Spikeshot Goblin

Deconstruct

Tel-Jilad Exile

Troll Ascetic

Turn to Dust

Bonesplitter

Crystal Shard

Elf Replica

Granite Shard

Leaden Myr

Leonin Scimitar

Lightning Greaves

Myr Enforcer

Arcbound Bruiser

Arcbound Hybrid

Arcbound Worker

Leonin Bola

Skullclamp

Tangle Golem

Echoing Ruin

Furnace Dragon

Krark-Clan Stoker

Echoing Courage

 

 

Anthony Rubino

2nd place Swiss finisher 5-0-2

Mountain x6

Swamp x7

Great Furnace

Betrayal of Flesh

Moriok Scavenger

Nim Shrieker

Wrench Mind

Atog

Krark-Clan Shaman

Shatter

Spikeshot Goblin

Bonesplitter

Chromatic Sphere

Frogmite

Goblin Replica

Icy Manipulator

Iron Myr

Loxodon Warhammer

Myr Incubator

Rustspore Ram

Synod Sanctum

Yotian Soldier

Chittering Rats

Scavenging Scarab

Barbed Lightning

Fireball

Tears of Rage

Leonin Bola

Specterís Shroud

 

Avi Wolfson

3rd place Swiss finisher 5-1-1

Island x4

Mountain x6

Swamp x4

Seat of the Synod

Vault of Whispers

Looming Hoverguard

Regress

Thirst for Knowledge

Nim Shrieker

Shrapnel Blast

Spikeshot Goblin

Aether Spellbomb

Hematite Golem

Leaden Myr

Pewter Golem

Pyrite Spellbomb

Silver Myr

Talisman of Impulse

Neurok Prodigy x2

Dismantle

Furnace Dragon

Arcbound Stinger x2

Arcbound Worker

Vulshok Morningstar x2

 

Robert Chou

4th place Swiss finisher 5-1-1

Mountain x3

Plains x5

Swamp x4

Great Furnace

Raise the Alarm

Skyhunter Patrol

Slith Ascendant

Betrayal of Flesh

Irradiate

Ogre Leadfoot

Shatter

Clockwork Vorrac

Goblin Replica

Isochron Scepter

Myr Enforcer

Silver Myr

Soldier Replica

Vulshok Battlegear

Auriok Glaivemaster

Emissary of Hope

Leonin Battlemage

Pristine Angel

Echoing Decay

Fireball

Arcbound Bruiser

Leonin Bola

Panoptic Mirror

Vulshok Morningstar

 

Jeff Zandi

5th place Swiss finisher 5-1-1

Forest x8

Mountain x8

Shatter

Spikeshot Goblin

Battlegrowth

Tel-Jilad Chosen

Viridian Shaman

Wurmskin Forger

Cathodion

Gold Myr

Granite Shard

Hematite Golem

Leaden Myr

Mask of Memory

Solemn Simulacrum

Viridian Longbow

Echoing Ruin

Stand Together

Arcbound Crusher

Arcbound Hybrid x2

Arcbound Stinger x2

Arcbound Worker

Oxidda Golem x2

 

Nicholas Pavlov

6th place Swiss finisher 5-1-1

Forest x6

Mountain x8

Plains x2

Arrest

Rustmouth Ogre

Slith Firewalker

Vulshok Berserker

Fangren Hunter

Tel-Jilad Archers

Tel-Jilad Exile

Copper Myr

Goblin War Wagon

Gold Myr

Mirror Golem

Myr Retriever

Pyrite Spellbomb

Talisman of Progress

Vulshok Gauntlets

Pristine Angel

Purge

Barbed Lightning

Fireball

Echoing Courage

Tel-Jilad Outrider

Arcbound Bruiser

Arcbound Worker

Sword of Fire and Ice

 

Mark Dean

7th place Swiss finisher 5-1-1

Forest x6

Mountain x3

Swamp x6

Mirrodinís Core

Slith Bloodletter

Woebearer

Spikeshot Goblin

Battlegrowth

Copperhoof Vorrac

Journey of Discovery

Tel-Jilad Archers

Tel-Jilad Chosen

Clockwork Vorrac x2

Copper Myr

Dragon Blood

Goblin Replica

Granite Shard

Hematite Golem

Mindstorm Crown

Myr Enforcer

Pentavus

Pewter Golem

Scale of Chiss-Goria

Silver Myr

Chittering Rats

Murderous Spoils

Darksteel Gargoyle

Whispersilk Cloak

 

Gerald (Jim Bob) Sixkiller

8th place Swiss finisher 5-2

Forest x6

Mountain x6

Plains x2

Ancient Den

Great Furnace

Ogre Leadfoot

Shatter

Spikeshot Goblin

Vulshok Battlemaster

Deconstruct

One Dozen Eyes

Tel-Jilad Chosen

Bonesplitter

Chromatic Sphere

Clockwork Condor

Elf Replica

Iron Myr

Lodestone Myr

Loxodon Warhammer

Talisman of Impulse

Purge

Unforge

Arcbound Hybrid

Arcbound Lancer

Arcbound Stinger

Gemini Engine

Oxidda Golem

Vulshok Morningstar

 

 

TOP EIGHT DRAFT DECKS

 

Gerald (Jim Bob) Sixkiller

First place finisher and PTQ winner

Forest x8

Plains x9

Swamp

Blinding Beam

Raise the Alarm

Skyhunter Cub

Skyhunter Patrol

Soul Nova

Molder Slug

One Dozen Eyes

Slith Predator

Tel-Jilad Archers

Viridian Shaman

Chromatic Sphere

Leonin Scimitar

Mindslaver

Neurok Hoversail

Vulshok Gauntlets

Auriok Glaivemaster x2

Loxodon Mystic x3

Test of Faith

Nemesis Mask

Oxidize

Tangle Spider

 

Nicholas Pavlov

2nd place PTQ finisher

Forest x8

Mountain x7

Great Furnace

Incite War

Krark-Clan Grunt

Shatter

Creeping Mold

Deconstruct x3

Tel-Jilad Chosen

Tel-Jilad Exile

Bonesplitter

Copper Myr

Pyrite Spellbomb

Vulshok Gauntlets

Fangren Firstborn

Arcbound Hybrid

Arcbound Stinger

Arcbound Worker

Darksteel Ingot

Drill-Skiller x2

Oxidda Golem

Specterís Shroud

Tangle Golem

 

Jeff Zandi

Tied for third place

Island x8

Plains x5

Mountain x2

Great Furnace

Arrest

Leonin Den-Guard x2

Annul

Fatespinner

Looming Hoverguard

Somber Hoverguard

Grab the Reins

Aether Spellbomb

Bosh, Iron Golem

Gold Myr

Leaden Myr

Myr Enforcer

Slagwurm Armor

Talisman of Progress

Hoverguard Observer

Neurok Prodigy

Barbed Lightning

Echoing Ruin

Darksteel Gargoyle

Darksteel Ingot

Leonin Bola

Specterís Shroud

Spire Golem

 

Avi Wolfson

Tied for third place

Forest x6

Island x6

Mountain x5

Domineer

Regress

Detonate

Electrostatic Bolt

Ogre Leadfoot

Shatter

Tel-Jilad Archers

Tel-Jilad Chosen

Bonesplitter x2

Clockwork Condor

Copper Myr

Hematite Golem

Iron Myr

Unforge

Pulse of the Tangle

Tel-Jilad Outrider

Tel-Jilad Wolf

Arcbound Hybrid

Dross Golem

Oxidda Golem

Skullclamp

 

Chris Gregory

Tied for fifth place

Mountain x9

Plains x7

Altarís Light

Blinding Beam

Leonin Skyhunter

Fists of the Anvil

Fractured Loyalty

Goblin Striker

Shrapnel Blast

Spikeshot Goblin

Goblin Replica x2

Goblin War Wagon

Needlebug

Nuisance Engine

Pyrite Spellbomb

Titanium Golem

Loxodon Mystic

Drill-Skimmer

Barbed Lightning

Echoing Ruin

Unforge

Vulshok War Boar

Leonin Bola

 

Anthony Rubino

Tied for fifth place

Forest x7

Plains x7

Auriok Steelshaper

Skyhunter Cub

Skyhunter Patrol

Journey of Discovery

Turn to Dust

Bonesplitter

Bottle Gnomes

Chromatic Sphere

Duskworker

Grid Monitor

Leonin Bladetrap

Loxodon Warhammer

Rust Elemental

Steel Wall

Synod Sanctum

Welding Jar

Wizard Replica

Purge

Reap and Sow

Tangle Spider x2

Arcbound Hybrid

Arcbound Worker

Chimeric Egg

Darksteel Pendant

Myr Matrix

Tangle Golem

 

Robert Chou

Forest x10

Mountain x7

Electrostatic Bolt x2

Grab the Reins

Shatter

Fangren Hunter x2

Tel-Jilad Exile

Cathodion

Goblin War Wagon

Leaden Myr

Malachite Golem

Mask of Memory

Nim Replica

Talisman of Dominance

Talisman of Unity

Flamebreak

Echoing Courage

Karstoderm x2

Tanglewalker

Tel-Jilad Wolf

Arcbound Lancer

Oxidda Golem

 

Mark Dean

Tied for fifth place

Island x6

Swamp x6

Great Furnace

Seat of the Synod

Darksteel Citadel x2

Annul

Thirst for Knowledge

Irradiate

Nim Shrieker x2

Terror

Bansheeís Blade

Crystal Shard

Goblin Dirigible

Iron Myr

Pewter Golem x2

Scale of the Chiss-Goria

Silver Myr

Skeleton Shard

Wizard Replica

Quicksilver Behemoth

Chittering Rats

Essence Drain

Arcbound Bruiser

Arcbound Stinger

Specterís Shroud

Spire Golem

 

Another PTQ win was so close for me, yet so far away. In the end, I was very happy with my sealed deck build and my play all day. I was never happy in the top eight, practically from the very start of the draft. Once you make it to the top eight, itís so important to be on top of your game so that you can seal the deal and win the tournament. You get so few opportunities to be in a top eight with the chance to win a seat at the Pro Tour by ďmerelyĒ winning a booster draft.

This tournament was a particularly good opportunity to qualify, because it did not contain local legends Dave Williams or Neil Reeves. Both of these PT regulars, who each need to qualify for San Diego, were in California at the Grand Prix. Another local star, Brent Kaskel, was also at the GP with Dave and Neil, making the road to the top eight in Dallas just a little easier.

Tomorrow, Iíll be in Austin, Texas, trying to do it all again at another PTQ. If your significant other is actually allowing you to play in a PTQ on Valentineís Day, good luck to you, I hope you do well.

 

Jeff Zandi

Texas Guildmages

Level II DCI Judge

jeffzandi@thoughtcastle.com

Zanman on Magic Online

 

 

 

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