My first goal when I go to a Pro Tour is to do well. When that doesn’t happen, I try to at least have fun and improve.
One entertaining thing happened when a few of the people I tested with and I went to a restaurant we found on Yelp. We were turning onto a street, and suddenly a police car turned its siren on and pulled us over. The officers told us we were going the wrong way on a one-way street. We told them where we were trying to get to, and they offered to help us. What we didn’t expect was that we got a police escort with lights flashing for the entire route! The food tasted even better when I won the credit card game at the restaurant, so I didn’t even have to pay for my meal.
In the first round of the Day One draft, I played against Grand Prix Houston Top 8 member Pete Picard. He was playing Blue White Levelers against my Black Red deck. In game three, I had a Valakut Fireboar out against his army of small creatures. Pete wanted to push through some damage, so he attempted to Narcolepsy my Fireboar. When I say “attempted,” he didn’t actually put the Narcolepsy into play. Instead, Pete accidentally reached for the wrong card, putting an Eel Umbra on my Fireboar. Pete attempted to take it back, but he wasn’t allowed to do it. He then did Narcolepsy the Boar, figuring that if a 1/7 was worth enchanting, a 2/8 certainly was.
From this point on, Pete was completely tilted and he began attacking illogically. His first attack allowed my now 2/8 Boar to eat a Venerated Teacher. The very next turn, a pumped up Zof Shade took down a Caravan Escort. Each attack was only getting through one or two damage and was costing him a guy, but Pete was just hellbent on attacking.
I think this may have been a more extreme case of tilt than is common, but getting tilted after something bad happens is just way too common. Whether it’s a punt, an online misclick (or a real-life misclick, as in this case), or simply your opponent getting lucky, there is no excuse for letting tilt cost you a game. What Pete did at first was exactly how he should have handled it: he calmly evaluated the situation after the irreversible effect happened, and made the correct play (Narcolepsying the now 2/8 Boar). If Pete had continued to keep emotion out of the situation, he would have had a chance to win. Instead, he simply became hyper-aggressive. If the Fireboar had been Eel Umbra-ed by me, there is no way Pete would have played the game the same way even though the situation was the same.
I lost my next round in the draft which left me playing for Day Two against Jan Reuss. Game Three was an extremely odd game. I was mana flooded the whole game, and Jan was mana screwed. Late in the game, I came across a situation where I had all lands in hand and a twice-leveled Lord of Shatterskull Pass in play. I had enough mana to fully level it next turn. Jan had a Dawnglare Invoker with a Hyena Umbra on it and an unleveled Kabira Vindicator in play. He had 5 lands out. I was at 8 and Jan was at 12.
The critical point in the game came when Jan attacked with both the Dawnglare Invoker and the Kabrira Vindicator. Obviously, Jan would attack with the Vindicator regardless of what he had in his hand. Thus, I had to figure out which cards would make me want to block and which would make me not want to block. If I block, my Lord would be vulnerable to a Flame Slash. I had seen two in the previous game, but he had already used one. It would certainly fit that he could have a Flame Slash in his hand because I didn’t play any targets for it.
On the other hand, if I didn’t block, I would take 5 down to 3. On the following turn, I would crash with the fully-leveled Lord and attack. This would take the Hyena Umbra off the Invoker and take down the Vindicator. On the next turn, Jan could crack back with the Invoker, putting me to 1. This would leave me vulnerable to a number of cards, Spawning Breath being the only one I had seen. It would not make sense for Jan to have Breath in hand because I had played some x/1s and he was mana-screwed and thus would probably want a Spawn.
Thus, I decided I should play around the card he was more likely to have. I took the damage and cracked back with the Lord. Unfortunately, I had forgotten about one of the cards Jan was playing: Akoum Boulderfoot. It was so obvious! Jan didn’t have the mana to cast Boulderfoot all game, so it would be perfectly logical for him to have one in hand. The card is not too powerful, and even though I had seen it in Game 1, I did not make a mental note of it because it is usually a 23rd card. Of course, instead of ripping the land to cast his Boulderfoot, Jan simply drew the Spawning Breath that was left in his deck. He did not have a Flame Slash in hand.
There are a couple of important lessons from my play mistake that ended up costing me a chance to play on Day Two. First of all, I had forgotten about cards in his deck. There was no excuse for this, as taking notes is legal. Even though Boulderfoot isn’t a very good card, there are a lot of situations where it is relevant to know about. It is more important to remember cards that you can play around rather than simply remembering the best cards in your opponents’ deck. There’s a simple way to solve this: write down any card and every card that you think might ever be relevant. Even if you have a good memory, it’s easy to get confused about cards you saw in as earlier round. Writing down cards is absolutely allowed: it costs you nothing and can save many games.
Another thing I did not take into account when making my decision was the cost. If Jan had the Flame Slash, I was going to lose my Lord. This would put me in a bad situation, but not an insurmountable one. However, if Jan had the Spawning Breath in hand, I was simply dead. Thus, even if I thought he was more likely to have Flame Slash, playing around direct damage would still have been the correct play. The key point is that when you calculate, don’t just think about the likelihood of a devastating card; there is a big difference between a bad situation and a loss.
Using the Rest of the Weekend
Although I missed Day Two in the PT, I did get the extra pro point I needed to get to Level Three and to have an invite of my choice. Because I want to use that invite for Worlds, I decided to play the side-event PTQ. I played a Mythic list from my friend Tom Raney, who had Top 8ed back-to-back PTQs with the deck. His build was heavy on Planeswalkers, which I liked in the Blue/White Control matchup. Here is the list he recommended:
I started off 5-0 and I felt like I couldn’t lose. Basically, one game per round I would get a nutty draw with Cobra and a Bird/Hierarch, and then I’d only have to win one of the other two. Unfortunately towards the end of the PTQ, I found the downside of this nut draw deck: mulligans. I began mulliganing to five on a regular basis and started getting destroyed. I ended up losing the last three rounds and failing to make Top 8. When the Mythic deck was good, it was great, but when it was bad, it was terrible.
Tom Raney ended up winning the PTQ with Mythic, which was awesome. The deck has been so good for him I think it’s safe to say it is one of the best choices in Standard if not the best. Clearly, the mulligan issue has not gotten to him, so I think it might’ve just been a fluke. I still think Mythic is a good choice and would definitely recommend it for PTQs, but you do have to be prepared to mull any hand that doesn’t have an accelerator.
Sunday I mainly did drafts on the side. For me, the best drafts were when I played on a team with LSV and Wrapter against Jon Finkel, Gabriel Nassif, and Adam Yurchick. Not only did we win both, which was awesome, but it was also just really cool to play against the best player of all time, Jon Finkel. Both times, Finkel drafted decks that were completely based on card advantage. In fact, I’m pretty sure he would take Mnemonic Wall and Cadaver Imp over just about anything. In the first draft, I had double Vengevine with lots of creatures which was basically impossible for his blue black removal deck to handle, so I beat him.
In one of the games from that match, I had three lands out (it was Turn 3) and another land in hand. I also had a bunch of dudes in hand, including a Daggerback Basilisk and a Vengevine. I tanked, and eventually chose to just pass the turn. This was definitely the correct play, as the Basilisk ended up help recurring the Vengevine later and won me the game. I was proud of myself for making such a clever play when it was clear the natural instinct would be to curve out. However, after the match, Luis mentioned that I thought too long on my turn. At first, I thought this was unreasonable because it was not an obvious play and I’m not good enough to make that play on the spot (although Luis probably is). However, after talking with Luis about it more, he pointed out that I could’ve thought about the play on Finkel’s turn. Nothing I drew really affected the decision, so there was no reason I shouldn’t have been thinking about it. Luis pointed out that a player as good as Finkel could infer that I had Vengevine and a three drop in my hand from my tanking. Even though it was hard to admit I had made a mistake after I made what I thought was a good play, Luis was right. The lesson is clear: never miss an opportunity to think; it will give you more time and will keep your opponent in the dark.
Overall, even though I missed playing for Day Two in San Juan, I still had a great time, learned a ton, and got to see a lot of friends do really well.