Taking Down a PTQ with Black-White Midrange, by Jonathan Marsh

A few weeks ago, I won a PTQ in Dothan, Alabama, playing B/W Midrange. I owe a huge thanks to the tournament organizer and store owner of Fanatix, Phillip Chalker, for hosting one of the best-run PTQs I’ve ever participated in. Also, thanks to Brainstorm Brewery and Danny Brown for giving me the opportunity to share this experience with you guys!

Choosing a Deck

I knew going into this PTQ that I wanted to play a deck that gave me the opportunity to win any game of Magic. Most people who know me notice that I usually pilot U/W/x control decks. But I knew that playing Esper or U/W would give me a huge disadvantage versus R/G Monsters. A week prior to this PTQ, SCG St. Louis saw not four, but five Monster lists make top eight (if you include the Jund Monsters deck piloted by Kent Ketter). Knowing that this was a deck I would have to face multiple times in the tournament, I became extremely disillusioned with U/Wx Control and I immediately began exploring other options. To be completely honest, I was originally disgusted by the idea of choosing another deck, as I love [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card], and [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]. Every day for the week prior to the event, I almost switched back to Azorious Control. Then the nightmares came, and these bad boys were the culprits!

domri                                     xenagos

Leading up to the event, I kept having the worst mental images of someone windmill slamming turn-two [card]Domri Rade[/card] into turn-three [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card] into turn-four [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]! I thought, “Yep! I’m not playing blue…”

Playing a deck and losing a game just because someone cast a certain hard-to-answer card is one of most difficult and frustrating places to be in the world of Magic: The Gathering. It wasn’t until the night before the PTQ that my friend and I decided to switch to B/W Midrange. We hammered out plenty of games versus Monsters. We worked on sideboarding a lot and determined how we wanted our decks to look post-board versus a lot of the major decks in the format.  Below is the list we both decided to sleeve up for the Dothan PTQ.

[Deck title=B/W Midrange by Jonathan Marsh and Jesus Buenrosto]
*3 Pack Rat
*3 Lifebane Zombie
*4 Desecration Demon
*3 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
*2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
*4 Devour Flesh
*4 Hero’s Downfall
*2 Ultimate Price
*4 Thoughtseize
*3 Underworld Connections
*2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
*4 Godless Shrine
*4 Mutavault
*2 Orzhov Guildgate
*2 Plains
*10 Swamp
*4 Temple of Silence
*2 Bile Blight
*2 Dark Betrayal
*2 Doom Blade
*1 Drown in Sorrow
*2 Duress
*2 Glare of Heresy
*1 Revoke Existence
*2 Sin Collector
*1 Underworld Connections

I really liked the above list going into the PTQ. The wonky two-drop removal may seem a little weird because of the zero copies of [card]Bile Blight[/card] in the main deck, but if you are expecting a lot of R/G Monsters, Blight isn’t a removal spell I would recommend. If you are expecting some Mono-Black Devotion, then maybe play two copies, tops. It doesn’t kill any creatures except for [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] versus R/G Monsters. I knew [card]Devour Flesh[/card] would always trade with a card in any matchup and that [card]Ultimate Price[/card] would hit a large percentage of the creatures I would want dead. Our combined record with the deck was 13-3-1, which is pretty good. We moved [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card] to the main from the sideboard because we wanted to have a chance versus control decks in game one. An empty board with Obzedat is usually GG for most matchups if you have decent follow-up.

Onward to the PTQ!

Round One – David Mathis – U/W Devotion

I’d actually met David previously through a really good friend at a New Year’s party. It turns out we know a lot of the same people. At this time, we were only acquaintances, but after hanging out a few times afterward, I now consider him a friend.

Game One: I opened up with [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and I was able to win game one with a lot of rats. There was a key turn I attacked all out, knowing he couldn’t crack back and lethal me. I knew I would lose if he drew [card]Detention Sphere[/card], so I had to force the issue by attacking and hoping he wouldn’t draw it. He didn’t, so I won.

Sideboarding:  I like bringing in 2x [card]Bile Blight[/card], 1x [card]Revoke Existence[/card], 2x [card]Doom Blade[/card]. Out—3x [card]Underworld Connections[/card], 2x [card]Ultimate Price[/card].

Game Two: We both mulliganed and David started out slow after I [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d his [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card]. I played [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] knowing he would have to [card]Detention Sphere[/card] it. He did, and I jammed [card]Desecration Demon[/card] on an empty board and followed up with Obzedat.


Round Two – U/B control

This was the most bizarre deck that you could ever hope to face playing a [card]Thoughtseize[/card] deck. His deck was [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card] and [card]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver[/card] followed up with removal and counters…

Game One: After he played a Jace, I Downfalled it during his end step, then untapped and played a Connections. This pretty much won the game as he had no way of removing it once it resolved.

Sideboarding: I like—2x [card]Duress[/card], 2x [card]Sin Collector[/card], 1x [card]Underworld Connections[/card]. Out—1x [card]Bile Blight[/card], 4x [card]Desecration Demon[/card], 1x [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card], 1x [card]Ultimate Price[/card].

Game Two: Game two was a tragedy for me. I mulliganed to six with a very threat-light hand and was quickly dispatched by a few counters and Jaces. The biggest dagger was when I kept a [card]Pack Rat[/card] on top off a scry land. He untapped and Ashioked it.

Game Three: I managed to resolve a [card]Pack Rat[/card] after I [card]Duress[/card]ed him. The rat was able to outpace his one-for-one removal spells and it eventually won me the game.


Round Three – U/w Control

Game One: Whew! I got blown out. I drew almost no pressure versus him and he started chaining multiple Revelations.  I immediately conceded and went to sideboard.

Sideboarding: I like 2x [card]Duress[/card], 2x [card]Sin Collector[/card], 1x [card]Underworld Connections[/card], 2x [card]Glare of Heresy[/card], 1x [card]Revoke Existence[/card]. Out—2x [card]Ultimate Price[/card], 4x [card]Devour Flesh[/card], 1x [card]Pack Rat[/card], 1x [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card].

Game Two: I managed to deal 15 points of damage between [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] and [card]Mutavault[/card]! He eventually [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]ed the Zombie and I then used a [card]Duress[/card] I saved to protect the Obzedat I gripped forever to win the game.

Game Three: Turn four, I managed to bait out a counter with a Connections when he had a [card]Detention Sphere[/card] and multiple [card]Revoke Existence[/card]s that I saw off [card]Duress[/card]. I played [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] on turn five. The next turn, I untapped, [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d his Elspeth, and won quickly when he couldn’t [card]Celestial Flare[/card] my Blood Baron (because I kept sending my [card]Mutavault[/card] in as well).

NOTE: I feel like a lot of players use [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [card]Duress[/card] wrong. From playing both control decks and black discard decks, I’ve noticed the negative repercussions a misused discard spell can have on a game. Game one on the blind, it’s almost always correct to open up with [card]Thoughtseize[/card] on your unknown opponent, especially when you know you’re going to be tapping out over the next few turns. Against control, though, I almost always save my [card]Duress[/card]es and [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s for key spells I want to resolve. If I didn’t wait on my [card]Thoughtseize[/card] in this match, I would have never stripped the Elspeth he drew the turn after I played my Baron.


Round Four – Ryeland Barnard– R/G Monsters

This entire match was an example of how our decks weren’t supposed to run. We both got significantly mana flooded, with me drawing a few more spells to dictate the match at two games to zero.

I’ll talk about sideboarding since there really wasn’t much to discuss about our match.  I sideboard differently in this matchup depending whether I’m on the play or the draw. On the play, I’ll leave in one Connections and side out a Blood Baron for two [card]Doom Blade[/card]s and a [card]Duress[/card]. On the draw, I board out all three Connections and one [card]Pack Rat[/card] for two [card]Duress[/card] and two [card]Doom Blade[/card].


Round Five – Michael Malone  – R/w Devotion

Overall, the games I lost here were very close. Mike played extremely well and I was still happy for him even in defeat. We’re great friends and we often joke about matches like this. We contemplated drawing but we both agreed that it was best to lock one of us in for sure.

Game One:  This was very close, like I said. I had a turn to do an extra few points of damage with my [card]Pack Rat[/card] but opted to play conservatively because I had drawn a second [card]Pack Rat[/card] and I knew he had mortars in his hand because of an earlier [card]Thoughtseize[/card]. In my mind, I wanted something to follow up with, since at the time my rats could only reach 3/3 with discarding. I was punished for holding back when he played [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] the following turn. After he cast Mortars the turn after that, he attacked with exactly lethal.

Sideboarding: I like 2x [card]Glare of Heresy[/card], 2x [card]Bile Blights[/card], 2x [card]Doom Blade[/card], and the one-of [card]Revoke Existence[/card].

Game Two: This game played out exactly how I wanted it to. I played multiple demons backed up with removal. Off for a game three, boys!

Game Three: The final game would decide who could just double draw into the top eight. This was a tough one for me because I was on the draw and he had a pretty quick hand with [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card]. I [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d him on turn one to take a [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], leaving him with an [card]Assemble the Legion[/card], for which I had [card]Glare of Heresy[/card]. But nope, he played a [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] which I had to kill with Heresy so I wouldn’t fall too far behind. I managed to play an Elspeth after he cast the Assemble with me at four life. We were both making tokens and eventually I built my Elspeth up to seven loyalty. Just when I was looking comfortably ahead, he ripped [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]. Say what? He ripped the Mortars to blow me out!

After the match I immediately congratulated him with the biggest bro hug ever!  I was extremely happy for him and I didn’t mind losing at all because he’s my friend. To me, life is more than what you can do for yourself—sometimes it’s about what you can do for others. Playing this game means nothing if you don’t have the friends to share your experiences with.


Round Six – Jimmy Smith  R/G Monsters

This was yet another match versus a very good friend. I would have preferred to play someone else, regardless of how comfortable I was with this matchup, but I didn’t. Such is life.

Game One: This was a very close game. I should have mulliganed my opener, given that I knew what I was up against. I kept a hand of Connections, Elspeth, Downfall, and four lands, including one scry land. I had an extremely slow start and I dislike Connections in the matchup. However, we both drew pretty poorly and Connections is fine when your opponent isn’t pressuring you. Elspeth landed, which eventually won me the game at three life.

Game Two: Game two was very close as well. I managed to stabilize at three life again, but this time with Obzedat in play. I backed  it up with a Blood Baron and removal managed to seal the deal.


Round Seven – Christopher Brickey- Ww spashing black

Before the match, it was questionable whether or not we would both make it with an intentional draw, as we were in seventh and eighth place. I made an offer to Chris: even if I was up a game, if a way opened up so we both could make top eight with a draw, I would do it. He agreed to do the same for me.

Game One: I kept a pretty good three-land hand with Blood Baron and removal. The tricky part was that I needed to eventually draw into my fourth and fifth lands. I eventually got to five lands, but by that point I was pretty far behind on board and life. He cast [card]Brave the Elements[/card] until I was dead.

Opportunity opened up so Chris and I could draw. We went for it since we were both locked in. We congratulated and wished one another good luck in the top eight.


This put me at eighth seed going into the top eight, meaning I would be on the draw for the rest of the tournament.

The Top Eight 

Quarterfinals – (1st seed) –Black Devotion Splashing Green

Overall, I consider this to be a very bad matchup for me. It’s especially bad if the deck is playing more [card]Devour Flesh[/card]es than other lists, which is good practice against Monsters. The fact that I cut a Blood Baron and an [card]Underworld Connections[/card] for [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card]s makes this an extremely miserable matchup.

Game One: My opponent double [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d me and took a [card]Pack Rat[/card] and a [card]Devour Flesh[/card]. He left me with a [card]Desecration Demon[/card] that eventually won me the game because he didn’t draw an answer for it.

Game Two: He kept a two-lander on the play and didn’t get there. Not much more to it than that.

Semifinals – R/G monsters

The main things I remember about this match is me shaking my opponent’s hand with a “good luck” and shaking it again with a “good match.” This round took maybe a little over 15 minutes and the games played out exactly the way I wanted them to. I turn one [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d him and killed any threats he played until I landed a Demon. This took it home in both games. Demons and Lifebanes were so amazing!

Finals – Christopher Brickey  – Ww Spalshing Black

We both congratulated each other on making it to the finals and we struck up a conversation. He had mentioned that he was just getting back into competitive Magic, whereas I really just wanted to go to the pro tour. I offered all of the prize money in exchange for the invite. Chris understood how much I wanted to go and he accepted my offer.


There are a few things that this PTQ taught me and a few things it reinforced. Playing this tournament opened me up to playing decks other than just control. For those of you who think you can’t win with something else: you’re wrong. Sometimes you get lucky and meet a great person like Chris and sometimes you don’t. Regardless, it’s important that you have good sportsmanship. Magic is an experience for both players—not just you. Some of my best friends in life were once my opponents and I wouldn’t have the same type of friendship with them if I had been a bad sport. They’re worth more to me than any trophy or amount of money. Honestly, my life would be completely different if it weren’t for the friends I’ve met through Magic. I owe them and Chris a huge thanks!

If you guys have any questions, shoot me an email at [email protected] or leave a comment below. Thanks again for reading!

About the Author
This is Brainstorm Brewery's catch-all account for guest writers.

Leave a Reply