I’m Thomas Ma. Most of you may not know me, but that is okay because before this event I had no Pro Points and only competed in a singular Grand Prix before playing in this high level event, but this is my story about how I got to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Amsterdam.
I discovered the game around Mirrodin block from a friend but actually started learning the game in Kamigawa block. My competitive spark happened around Planar Chaos where I was thrown into the PTQ scene with nothing but a deck handed to me and $25 dollars to pay for my entree fee. I obviously did badly in my first PTQ. I mean who didn’t? But even though I was a bit disheartened about it, I knew I wanted to win one of these and play with the elite of the game!
I finally got my chance at Denver’s first qualifier running a Grixis list simply because I love Blightning and Cruel Ultimatum and knew I wanted to play them for that qualifier, and as simple as that I was on the Pro Tour. Because I qualified in May, it meant I had a lot of time looking for post-rotation lists because I felt like M11 wasn’t going affect Extended that much. After brewing literally hundreds of decks with lists scattered all over my desktop, I had a couple decks that looked really promising.
Then the biggest bomb ever dropped. The format was shortened down to 4 years instead of 7, which was bad news for me because the decks I had played with all the sweet cards that just got dropped. Daggered. So now I was looking for new decks to sleeve up and test, but decided to wait for m11 to come to start brewing.
I ultimately came to the Jund list around the end of July because I knew I wanted to play the powerful engine of Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows and I also knew I wanted to be casting Blightning as it has a lot more value in Extended than it does in Standard. I built the first list pretty early but still needed testing and I needed to gather information on what people thought were good. I scoured Magic Online results, birded the practice games, and even got the lists off of Magic League and tested against them and found that I was favored in most of them simply due to the fact that no one played around Blightning effectively! After looking for the best Jund cards that I could think of, I came up with a list that looked like this:
The First Draft
Now that obviously is rough, and quickly made some changes.
I took out the Boggart Ram-Gangs for Great Sable Stag because I feared Faeries. I added Lightning Bolt because in conjunction with Punishing Fire, it became really hard for my opponent to do anything creature-wise, and I added the manlands because they fixed my mana while also being able to attack, which is pretty sick. I also added another land because now that I had manlands I wanted to be able to activate them enough, which ultimately led me to registering this:
Sideboard card choices:
Thoughtseize: Now I’m obviously weak enough to combo to where I would want this, Thoughtseize doesn’t prevent me from losing straight up, but it lets me survive enough to be able to do what I want to do.
Smother: This was a last minute call because I saw a lot of Doran at the pre-registration and I don’t feel like that this was the incorrect call.
Thought Hemorrhage: This is what I believe helps my win percentage against combo improve; resolving problematic cards while also being able to burn them is pretty sweet!
The misers: They were there so I could have more of them whenever I wanted them in certain matchups, fairly simple.
I left Wednesday morning for Denver and met up with the other Denver PTQ winner who I was staying with, and we left together for Chicago, then the Netherlands. We arrived on Thursday morning and fresh off the bus we had one problem.
We didn’t know where our hotel was.
Such a blowout, we ended up walking for about two hours before finding someone that knew where our hotel was, and after that we quickly fell asleep. We woke up several hours later and met up with Conley (he was staying in the same hotel) to go to the tournament site to pre-register. After we received our draft sets, we decided to go out to eat and test Conley’s deck because he didn’t know if he was playing his brew yet, and a couple of games in he quickly started making a new deck. We finally settled on our complete 75s and decided to finally catch some sleep around 2:00 A.M. there.
We arrive at the site around 30 minutes before seatings and before I knew it, it
Round 1 Mono-Green Elves Won 2-1 vs. Nakano, Yoshitaka
Game 1 I was on the play and we both kept our openers. I played my Putrid Leech and he opened on an Arbor Elf. On his next turn, he played a Wrens Run Vanquisher revealing a Bramblewood Paragon and a Heritage Druid. We traded dudes and it eventually got to a point where I had a Leech and a Tarmogoyf attacking into his Joraga Warcaller with two counters and two tokens from Elvish Promenade, and he blocked with his tokens. I pumped, taking me to 8, and he untapped, played his land, played Gaeas Anthem to attack with his Warcaller and Mutavault, and got in for exactsies. 🙁
Game 2 I was again on the play and kept while he barely looked at his hand and mulliganed. I killed his first threat with Punishing Fire and rebought it for his second play, and when he played a tribal sorcery, Tarmogoyf was quickly a 5/6. With my Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows engine online, he quickly scooped.
No sideboard changes.
Game 3 We both kept and he led off with a Nettle Sentinel that quickly dealt me two while I was busy playing my Savage Lands. The beatings eventually stopped when I Bolted his Joraga Warcallers, and left him with just a Heritage Druid and some Mutavaults. I played a Jund Charm end of turn, and he quickly scooped.
After winning my first round of the Pro Tour I was feeling pretty confident, I walked around and waited impatiently for the second round to start.
Round 2 Hideaway Aggro Lost 1-2 vs. Black, Samuel
Game 1 I won the roll and we both kept our hands. During the game he set up enough attackers to be able to attack through removal and getting to activate his Windbrisk Heights, and I really didn’t expect much when he activated it until he flipped over Iona, Sheild of Emeria, naming black. After 2 quick hits, I was promptly dead.
Game 2 We both kept our openers and I played Punishing Fire on his first threat and had the Grove of the Burnwillows to back it up. For this game, I played removal spells on his first few threats and got him so he never could activate his Windbrisk Heights, sweet.
No sideboard changes
Game 3 We played back and forth threats, but I run him out to only having one card in hand before my turn ends. He untapped and snap played Baneslayer Angel. I had two Punishing Fires in hand and 6 lands in play, and I needed to draw a Bolt, Pulse or 7th land to get rid of the Baneslayer and have my Fire/Grove engine going to deal 6 a turn to him. Sadly this didn’t happen and I lost after three swings.
Round 3 Merfolk Won 2-0 vs. Lybaert, Marijn
Game 1- I won the roll and played a t2 Putrid Leech to his turn two Silvergil Adept revealing a Merrow Reejery. When he decided to play the Reejery, I quickly Punishing Fired it and reclaimed it via Grove of the Burnwillows. I untapped and Blightninged him and attacked him down to 10 on turn 4. He played another guy, but I still had the Punishing Fire and he quickly scooped. He played some number of Spreading Seas in there and if he was on the play, I believe I would have lost that game.
Game 2 He was on the play and we both kept our hands, and I played the removal game and Pulsed away his three Silvergil Adepts and he had a little laugh about it. At one point he was at 4 and has three lords (Merrow Reejery, Merfolk Sovereign, and Lord of Atlantis) and I hade a 4/5 Goyf and two Putrid Leeches. I surveyed the board and passed. Doh. I didn’t realize that they were 4/4’s until I passed it to him the second time, and I started attacking like I was supposed to and he died after my second crackback.
Round 3 RDW Won 2-1 vs. Doise, Jan
Game 1 I won the roll and played a Verdant Catacombs while he played turn one Goblin Guide. He attacked revealing Maelstrom Pulse, and I quickly fetched to shuffle it away. I played Putrid Leech and blocked the Guide when he attacked back with a freshly cast Hellspark Elemental. I played the Great Stable Stag in my hand and watched him attack me down to seven, and before I knew it, I was dead.
Game 2 I was on the play and he again led with a turn one Goblin Guide, while I fetched away the Blightning that was sitting on top of my library. I played a Kitchen Finks and that halted his attack while I Blightninged him over the course of two turns with him having no cards in hand and he was quickly dead
Game 3 I was on the draw and quickly went to 9 before I started playing Kitchen Finks, I Blightninged him twice (again) in this game and he was left with no cards in his hand. I cleaned up after he was drawing off the top and I won at a healthy 10 life.
Round 4 Won 2-0 vs. Lundquist, Benjamin
Ben was playing the dredge deck that I have seen being played around me. Luckily, I won the die roll
Game 1 I got an early Putrid Leech and Tarmogoyf to take him to 6 before he decided to go off. He unearthed a Rotting Rats. I discarded my Bloodbraid Elf while he discarded an Iona, Shield of Emeria and had 12 tokens and Iona naming black. Luckily I had two Lightning Bolts in my hand before I draw my cards.
Game 2 We kept our hands and I Bolted his turn two Magus of the Bazaar. He played a Narcomoeba turn three, while I played a Great Sable Stag. I untapped and played Thought Hemorrhage turn 4 naming Dread Return, and he revealed a hand with no gas. I quickly won that one because he couldn’t race the Stag.
4-1’ing Extended was pretty exciting especially since I played some “named” pros to get to that record.
I’ll be honest; I hadn’t draft enough m11 to make me feel confident about the format. I just knew that if I opened bombs I would do well enough… Solid plan right?
P1p1 I opened an Angelic Arbiter and try to force UW skies because that is a strategy that I love drafting.
P3p1 I got a Triskelion, but my deck looked pretty awkward, hopefully I could 2-1 with this at best, but I wasn’t confident.
Here is how the draft ended up:
Sideboard cards of note: 1 Solemn Offering.
Yeah, this deck was terrible and I didn’t feel confident about my deck after being cut off from both sides but also picking up cards I knew I couldn’t beat which was a bad decision, but let’s see how that went.
I boarded in my Solemn Offering every game and that’s it.
Round 7 UW Won 2-0 vs. Lesaege, Clement
Game 1 I was on the play and led with a Blinding Mage. The Mage worked overtime while I waited for him to counter my spells. Didn’t happen.
Game 2 We got to a stalemate when he played a t6 Harbor Serpent. I made a huge attack and Inspired Charged my Cloud Elemental and shot him with my Triskelion to kill him before he could kill me on his crackback.
Another round won with my deck and my confidence was boosted so I try to find the other players that are 2-0 and try to watch the match. I immediately was disheartened when I saw a Royal Assassin on one side and solid green dudes on the other; whoever I was playing against next, it was going to be a rough one.
Round 8 U/B Won 2-1 vs. Van Nieuwenhove, Jan
Game 1 I won the roll and quickly got a Cloud Elemental on the board and started attacking. He took me down to ten before I drew my Inspired Charge to kill him with my Juggernaut.
Game 2 I kept a sketchy no white 2 land hand and decided to scoop on turn 5 after not drawing lands 5 turns in a row.
Game 3 I got an early Merfolk Spy and played my Gargoyle Sentinel (he revealed an Island and a Scroll Thief), and around turn six, he decided to Corrupt the Sentinel and I went to put it in the yard until I saw how many Swamps he had, which was 2. A couple turns later, I killed him with the double Inspired Charge in my hand.
So I was pretty excited that I 7-1’d day one, Conley 8-0’d and my roommate was in day two. We decided to go out to eat and sleep to get ready for an early day two where Conley and I got called lucksacks for making it in time.
In my report tomorrow, day two!