2HG PTQ Impressions

23:48 Sat 19 May 2007. Updated: 22:21 06 Jul 2007
[, ]

I played in a Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour Qualifier today, teaming up with my friend Lev. It didn’t go very well, but was nevertheless enjoyable.

Tournament MTG is normally played one-on-one. Even the team formats are mostly sets of one-on-one matches, a team wins a round if it wins more individual matches than the team opposing it. However, the organizing body has been pushing 2HG recently, a format in which the two teams (of two) play as a team, in the same game. The first 2HG Pro Tour (a major “professional” MTG tournament, where prize money is significant, e.g. the winning team gets $50K) is Pro Tour San Diego. To play in that tournament, you must qualify, hence the Pro Tour Qualifier today.

It was my first PTQ in quite some time. In 2004 and 2005, I played in most of them in the Bay Area. Since then, I’ve been less into the game, and finding that other things have gotten in the way of attendance to a greater degree. At the same time, the number of PTQs has fallen, so I have fewer opportunities to attend. This PTQ had a very different atmosphere from any other I’ve been to: it was much more casual and friendly. The four-person format, with talk between teammates very common, lends itself to a lot more talk than one-on-one, and that was evident in the three matches we played as well as in the wider tournament.

It’s not clear whether 2HG is more or less skillful than one-on-one. This was a Limited PTQ, meaning that we opened randomly-assorted cards at the tournament rather than bringing our own decks with us, and it seems that it’s quite difficult to do well with a mediocre card pool. On the other hand, I suspect that most players lack the requisite knowledge to build decks correctly (I certainly don’t know how), and so players quicker on the uptake have more of an edge.

It could be argued that it takes less individual skill, as one player is the “dominant head” that makes the final decisions, and so one strong player could carry the weight for two.

The play situations, however, tend to be more complicated than in one-on-one, partly because four players tend to have more stuff in play—it’s just a bigger and more crowded board. That makes the games more interesting, as well as a lot longer, which is why 2HG is best-of-one instead of the typical best-of-three.

Lev and I won our first match, but that early success was an illusion, and we lost two very similar matches thereafter, going behind on tempo early, making a recovery, and then having our defenses broken down again. We didn’t build our decks optimally, playing some stupid cards for sure. And that did hurt us in the matches.

After getting our second loss, we dropped out with a one-two record, because it was mathematically impossible for us to win after that. In many ways this was better than a stronger showing, because any stronger showing short of making Top 4 (which was unlikely with our decks) would have meant a much longer day without any significant reward.

My friends Steve and Brett won the tournament, an excellent showing, so they’re now qualified for the Pro Tour. It’s not the first time for either of them, but it’s definitely impressive, and I’ll be rooting for them come 29 June.

« (previous)

Leave a Reply