The False Rationalisation and the PTQ

By Chris Bewley                                             4/7/11

24 players. What? Yeah, so that’s how many people showed up for the just-past PTQ Philadelphia in Christchurch.  After much deliberation and hesitation I had settled on a deck. I call it UR Splinter Twin. Here was my list:

Deck: UR Splinter Twin
Main Sideboard
4Deceiver Exarch2Wurmcoil Engine
1Inferno Titan2Act of Aggression
1Consecrated Sphinx3Flashfreeze
4Sea Gate Oracle2Manic Vandal
2Jace Beleren2Spellskite
4Jace, the Mind Sculptor1Arc Trail
4Into the Roil1Pyroclasm
3Mana Leak2Spell Pierce

2Gitaxian Probe

2Spell Pierce

4Splinter Twin



4Scalding Tarn

4Tectonic Edge

 Display Deck Statistics

Yeah, yeah. It’s just a Mike Flores rip off, who I really should never copy, imitate or aspire to be. Mr Damo da Rosa most certainly isn’t impressed by Pilgrim’s Eye (at least I cut that!) and friends. In my defense though, I did add Consecrated Sphinx

The sideboard is a bit weird right? One Arc Trail, one Pyroclasm. No, I’m not a super genius who figured out how to break the format with my one-offs -  I just couldn’t find the second one. Of either. Didn’t even know what I wanted two of in the first place! Ha! Hmm. I have a feeling this isn’t the best way to build your trust in me… Okay let’s give you a run down of how things went.

All righty five rounds with 24 keen players for final farewell of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic. I thought it was a good idea to have a “grown-up sleepover” at Dan McKays…oh wait. That came out way wrong. So I stayed on Dan’s couch the night before. We could have got in a few more games and thought while we were at it, we would propose the darkest, most twisted hypothetical situations, ethically, morally and recreationally to each other in a conversational context, along with our homie, PTQ Paris 2011 Auckland winner Sam Weily. Turns out our RDW vs CawBlade vs SplinterTwin gauntlet was very quickly overshadowed and extinguished not only by our game of absurdly immature conversation, but also by the new Mortal Kombat on 360. (Which is terrible by the way and was returned to EB games the next day.) We did what all PTQ hopefuls do and got a good four hours sleep and launched ourselves headfirst into Saturday morning.

I got to the Wizard’s Retreat. Signed up. Wrote decklist. Checked decklist. Got a coffee. Checked decklist. Checked deck. Did my hair and then gave my decklist a quick once-over. Pairings went up. I checked my decklist and handed it in and here’s a brief summary of my five rounds of intensity, integrity and intelligence. Or lack thereof.


Round One!

VS Matt Ogier (Boros)

Matt is most definitely a broski of mine and it was both awesome and intimidating to sit in front of him. Now, I don’t have the best record when it comes to magic, but I know I’m a pretty decent player. I also know that Matt has a fantastic record at Magic and is an even more decent player. After his performance with Faeries a few years ago at Nats to his fantastic effort at Grand Prix Paris this year, I knew this one was going to be a slobberknocker.

He starts off with a Goblin Guide and I’m pretty stoked. I kinda expected CawBlade, which I’m supposed to be favoured against also, but would much prefer to play against ANYTHING but, all day long. So Goblin Guide is having his way with me and drops me to 14 before I start to do anything about it. I have been holding Deceiver Exarch for a while now and at five life it was a great time to draw my Splinter Twin. I Gitaxian Probe, just to make sure things will go to plan, spying Koth of the Hammer, Steppe Lynx, Goblin Guide, Batterskull and Stoneforge Mystic. Seems like we’re good to go, so I hit the switch, beat for a million and go to game two. Now I’m pretty excited I can drop out any card starting with the letter “J”, so I do so and bring in two Wurmcoil Engine, two Spellskite and my Arc Trail/Pyroclasm format breaker.

We hit game two and it went like this.

Matt: Goblin Guide.

Me: Go.

Matt: Steppe Lynx.

Me: Go.

Matt: Attack.

Me: Go.

Matt: Hero of Oxid Ridge.

Me: Tap your Hero with this Exarch. Untap. Play Splinter Twin. Sign slip. RUN!!!


Round Two!

VS Remi Pearce (UG Vengevine)

Another broski of mine. It’s always great playing against your friends, but even better when they suck. Which is probably what he would have been thinking while I was sitting there thinking “Why me!” Oh well. Dear reader, you may, or may not know of a wee semi-recent tradition we have here in the Garden City that we like to call The Championship Belt. This is a prestigious piece of plastic that is put on the line during prestigious matches for prestigious gladiators. Now at this time in the round the current title holder was the Dave Marshall, recently returned from Pro Tour.

OR SO I THOUGHT!!!!!!!!!!!

Due to his absolute slackness in the past when it had come to defending The Championship Belt he had lost all title privileges. I mean, not taking it to 2010 Nationals was excusable, neglecting to bring it to the last few PTQs, yeah that’s fine, leaving it at home while at the Pro Tour…hmmm, but when Dave refused to defend or even show up at the Games Day tournament (being in Japan is a weak excuse) well, that was inexcusable. Our tournament organizer and store owner Chris Williams had informed us that Mr Marshall had been stripped of the belt and Remi and I would duke it out for title right now! All of my wildest dreams were about to come true!

Our game one was okay. Some reasonable interactions and a fun game all in all. Remi leads off with a Birds of Paradise and I thought this was A-OK. He had given me a sneak peek of what he was playing before the tournament began and I was pretty impressed and confident that I could take the match. He was rocking a sweet blue/green Vengevine deck. After the Birds, he rocks a Fauna Shaman; unanswered as I’m not seeing any counterspells. That’s one of the great things I find with this combo deck. Much like my game against Matt in round one, I can be taking the beating of a lifetime, then simply combo off. But alas, Fauna Shaman’s starting to get some Vengevines in the graveyard. I double Preordain into oblivion then lose the game. Fair enough. Oh, and by the way he has two Spellskite in play. Maindeck. Yuck.

In game two I get my sweet, sweet revenge, except I feel a bit bad. We shuffle up, cut and draw our hands. Then Boggart Rem Gang says “Oh no.” He’s left three cards from the previous game just hanging out, chillin’ at the edge of the table. =( Game loss for him.

Game three is the best of the three though, narrowly edging out the excitement of game two. I’m Preordaining, he’s Fauna Shamaning and I, like I always do, have my combo in my hand just itching to jump onto the battlefield. He’s smacked me up with a few dudes by now and the Mind Sculptor made a rare appearance on Remi’s side of the board. At this point in the game he leaves one green mana open. The two cards in my hand are of course the terrible twosome. I’m on nine and I need to make a move. So I go for it, end of turn Exarch and it’s good! No Dismember! I’m away! Then I untap and it all went down hill. I thought Remi was playing hardball and making me demonstrate the whole show, but in reality there’s a card out there called Nature’s Claim and it crushed me REAL good. My Exarch is left naked and over the next two turns Remi sticks a Frost Titan and I’m stuck with a Wurmcoil, a Consecrated Sphinx and an Inferno Titan in my hand. I lose the match and all of my wildest dreams of championship gold go up in smoke.

Okay so I’m 1-1 and my dreams of championship glory are all but dead and buried but my PTQ dreams are still alive and kicking!


Round Three!

VS Dave Marshall (RDW)

Here he is! The former Christchurch Magical Champion of the Multiverse Dave Marshall. Now this round I was a bit worried. Dave’s pretty good. A pretty good player. A pretty good guy. Plus he’s real mean to me so that was a bit scary. Anyway, I give myself a pep talk and pull it together and we get on with it. I give him my best MTGO macro impression (hello and good luck) and we’re underway. Dave drops a turn one Celestial Coll- no sorry, a Mountain (????) and I pause for a second. I say “What bet did you lose to have to play this deck?” and I’m swiftly met with “This is the best deck in the format”. A valid point, but I believe that this is not the best deck, but the best deck choice, CawBlade being the “best deck”. Dave smacks me round with a Kiln Fiend for a bit. My Sea Gate Oracle tries to hold off the assault, but I fall to burn, lack of land and the almighty Shrine of Burning Rage.

Game two is more in my favour. I start with my good old Preordain. My hand is lucky enough to contain a Wurmcoil Engine from the start and I do all I can to simply play lands and run him out. Dave isn’t doing much but I suspect as much with the possible game two Engine looming. I drop it, he untaps and burns it and it’s life-linking offspring to the ground before I can say “Steven Pinkham is the King of Cawblade”. Two turns after my Engine is dismantled, I’m able to assemble another one. This was enough to have Dave take us to game three.

This was a fantastic game. Now my recollection is a little vague and my notes a little messy but the end of this match went something like this. I’ve run out a few blockers/card drawing walls, and I’m on eight life. Very much on the Wurmcoil Engine plan again, I’m excited. I have this game won. Dave is on 12. He’s also on three land. I’m at six land. The big bad one-eyed monster comes down on my side of the board and I extend the hand. Well, not in person, but in my head. Then everything went silent. The air froze and time seemed to stand perfectly still. A look came across Dave’s face like none I’ve ever seen before. I began to shake. My heart stopped and my lips started to tremble. His eyes flickered and his hair stood on it’s end. He untapped, Windmill SLAMMED his hand on his deck (I think the players in the two matches either side of us lost their decks to the force of this maneuver) and there it was. The Fourth Land. He casts Lightning Bolt on Sea Gate Oracle, leaving me with zero blockers, casts Act of Aggression on my Wurmcoil and sends them in for eight. Exactly, and watches as I drown in a pool of my own despair. An awesome match with an awesome player!

Okay, so my PTQ hopes are pretty much done and dusted. Maybe, maaaaaaybe a 3-2 will make it, but it will probably be the guy that starts off 3 and 0. Not the dude writing this article that’s rocking the 1-2 record.


Round Four!

VS Dr Giles Reid (Valakut)

Here I am paired against Giles. He’s the man and is often found ripping up the top tables with whatever scraps Digby and Dave have left over. Unfortunately today’s scraps were Valakut. About a week too early…

Game one, Giles really didn’t do a lot. He was ramping and I was digging for combo this and combo that. It really was about turn ten and he hadn’t even attempted to resolve a Titan. That was just unfortunate. A long game but I just won. Game two was very similar and again Giles got mega unlucky. This time his bad luck also included missing all seven cards off a Summoning Trap. Ouch. He finally gets a Titan and it promptly meets a Flashfreeze by yours truly.


Final Round. Fight!

VS Michael Willis (Tezzeret Brew)

Michael, or Willis as he’s affectionately known, and I are bros. But we were both tired and heartbroken at this point in the day. I started off with a Gitaxian Probe after winning the die roll but Willis decided to draw a card as I cast it. I couldn’t be bothered calling a judge but did pass on my distaste. Willis, if you’re reading: sorry I was such a grump that game. It was the last round, but I really had no excuse. We mess around with some cards. His deck consists of quite a lot of artifacts as he’s playing an awesome Tezzeret home brew. Ichor Wellspring, Sphere of the Suns, it was all go. Game one he beats me with a Tezzeret’s ultimate, I believe. Game two I win through a Memoricide on my Splinter Twin and again in game three. I got in there around the edges in a very close match which I went into a little too cocky. I thought that this “unknown” deck would be a walk and I most certainly paid the price. I was reckless, careless and borderline rude to my friend. I learnt some good lessons and had the power of Tezzeret reinforced to me yet again, but I got to end the day with a win.

So there it is, another underwhelming 3-2 PTQ from Chris Bewley. I believe I played my matches to the best of my ability, except maybe the last. I had given up on top eight (understandably) and taken my opponents’ deck design for granted. The play that keeps me up at night was the turn when I cast my Wurmcoil against Dave Marshall. I had a Spellskite in hand and I think that if I had cast that instead of the Wurmcoil I may have been able to suck up the burn and the Act of Aggression into the Spellskite and let the Engine have free reign. Of course I did not know that Dave had the perfect combination of cards to put me exactly on zero, so I still stand by running out a Wurmcoil on turn six as the optimal play against Red Deck Wins.

I had a great day. I loved my deck and still do. When I was getting beat up I still felt confident that my combo was just around the corner. Four Into the Roil is an absolute dream and I just love the UR Twin deck being much more combo focused than disruption focussed or bomb focused or even CawBlade focused like other Twin variants. When you have a win condition as powerful as Exarch/Twin, although it is important to have backup win conditions, it’s a great idea to exploit that card combination as much as you possibly can! I think the reason I won many of the games I did was definitely because of the speed in which UR Twin gets to its combo. Sea Gate Oracle is an excellent wall of sorts and of course for digging up what you need, and I won’t say any more about my love for  both Into the Roil and Tectonic Edge, as we all know that I couldn’t give them any higher praise. Maindeck, I wouldn’t change a thing and I don’t feel that my sideboard was severely lacking either. Maybe another Spellskite or two and Dismember would have been welcome. Anyway, I loved the deck and I can say that without a doubt I think UR Splinter Twin will be THE best best deck come July 1st 2011. Not only does it beat every deck, one of those decks includes a deck that features Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. And that’s a pretty big deal.

I think I will find it very hard to not play UR Twin in my Nationals LCQ events and at the Main Event itself WHEN I qualify. But- I am in love with Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. This is a very, very bad thing.

Now before I go I want you to take this thought with you.

“Do not rationalize your infatuation.”


1. Attempt to explain or justify (one's own or another's behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate: "she couldn't rationalise her urge to return to the cottage".

I wrote a three page article on how good UB Tezzeret was for this PTQ. I based it on Shouta Yasooka’s top eight deck from Singpore GP a few weeks ago. In my article I harped on about how amazing Torpor Orb was against CawBlade. How the black disruption was fantastic at being a pre-emptive strike towards CawBlade and how Consume the Meek was the greatest card ever printed. (It’s still pretty sick against Twin…if the Twin player is dumb enough to combo into five mana????) I was wrong and I begged Alan not the print that article.  Thank the Lord he didn’t (It’s true, it’s true – Editor). You see, I found something I liked for one reason or another and I began to try rationalize to myself that this was the way, the truth and the light. Nope. This deck was bad. Well, maybe not bad, but most certainly not the best. I thought Tezzeret was great and I just wanted to play it. I didn’t really have a good reason. I just wanted to. Now this is not a good enough reason to play a deck and expect to win. Maybe something in me just wanted to play something different. Maybe I just really, really hated CawBlade and had talked myself into believing that this UB deck was the solution. Or maybe I had fallen into the trap of trying to rationalize a teenage dream.

Friends, my advice is simply this. It’s a trap! If a rogue deck flukes its way into a top eight, nine times out of ten it’s exactly that. A fluke. A drunken rogue Planeswalker stumbling home from of night out of excuses, mistakes and war stories of a time when Planeswalkers had four, yes FOUR abilities printed on them. With the UB Tezzeret deck I had found something I liked and I created a mindset where this deck was the one. I lead myself to believe that its cards were great, it’s success wasn’t by accident and that it would win me the PTQ. One false rationalisation will only lead you down a long and winding road of many more and ultimately you will end up swimming in mistakes. Do yourself a favour. Learn from mine. Don’t trick yourself into believing that Tezzeret is the best when you could play Jace. Don’t play a Giant Spider in your deck just because it’s foil. And please, do not, under any circumstances, try to rationalise your illogical infatuations.

Friend, they will only end in regret.

Play the best. Play what you know. Play it well.

I can’t wait to see you all at Nationals! It’s gonna be an awesome weekend and in case your were wondering as of right now, the deck I’ll be playing will be either UR Splinter Twin, or ironically, some kind of Tezzeret list. (Don’t worry, he’s actually kinda good now.)

Thanks for making it to the end of yet another tangled mess of linguistic chaos!

See ya soon =D

Chris Bewley

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