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Feature Article – The Last Chance Pro Tour Report, Part 2 *32nd*

 

Sorry for the delay in getting this out to you! Unfortunately I’ve been squeezed between two crazy weeks at work and a move across the country back to San Francisco. Finally, our exciting conclusion
We left off with me sitting at 5-3 heading into my second pod. The only name I recognized was Darwin Kastle, who was sitting to my right. I was hoping that he liked levelers as I really wanted to draft Green tokens.

Day 2 – Drafto!

The draft started out with a Nest Invader out of a very weak pack. I am a big fan of this little guy and he set me up for the archetype I wanted to be in. I followed him up with a 2nd pick Pelakka Wurm and a 3rd pick Flame Slash, setting me up to at least splash Red for removal. A 4thpick Artisan of Kozilek and a 7th pick Ulamog’s Crusher hit my quota for big men and only in pack 1. This let me adjust my dynamic pick order, moving down the bigger guys and moving up acceleration. I was also able to pick up a pair of Bloodthrone Vampires to put me solidly into the tokens deck and a pair of Essence Feeds to compliment them.

Going into pack 2 I stuck to my revised game plan, aggressively taking acceleration. I added an early Overgrown Battlement and a Growth Spasm. I didn’t see any Red at all, so I continued to pick up reasonable black creatures. I also added an early Wildheart Invoker. In decks like this that have a lot of mana generation, I put a priority on acquiring “pseudo-big men”. I don’t actually want to play 4-5 things that cost 8 mana, but I do want that many effects. I really like picking up on curve options like Wildheart Invoker or splashing a Dawnglare Invoker in this type of deck.

My hardest pick of the draft was the first pick of pack 3, where I was forced to choose between Nirkana Revenant and Corpsehatch. I was a little light on removal but I also didn’t have quite as much acceleration as I wanted. I went to time but I ultimately selected the Revenant. I am still not sure if that was right, but similar to my logic above with the invokers, Revenant serves a dual purpose here and gives me a creature that can win the game on its own earlier than my 8 slot in the curve.

The rest of pack 3 was pretty disappointing. I added a Heat Ray and a Last Kiss but nothing else really showed up.

The deck:

I was very happy with this deck. It had a superb high end with Pelakka Wurm, Crusher, Artisan and Revnant. I wanted 1-2 more removal spells, but I was not completely devoid of answers to their threats. I expected to 2-1 or 3-0.

Round 9: Christian Bateman (B/G)
This round was a pretty straightforward mirror, where he had more aggressive creatures and I had the late game inevitability. My only early play was a Bloodthrone Vampire so I took a few hits early while I developed my board. My Essence Feeds quickly brought me back up close to 20 as Christian flooded a bit. He had an active Black invoker, but I found a Pelakka Wurm and then a Crusher to outdistance
him.

Game two was similar. I weathered the early pressure, outclassed his guys with a fatty and rode him to victory.

Win 2-0 (6-3)

Round 10: Kenny Oberg (B/G/u/r)
Kenny seemed to have a spicy brew. Game 1 he was short on mana and didn’t hit double Green for quite a while. I came out of the gates aggressively and put a lot of pressure on him, quickly getting him into the single digits. He finally drew a second forest and cast a Mul-Daya Channelers, revealing a Regress on top of his library. I killed the Channelers with a Flame Slash and continued to pressure. He played a second Channelers on his next turn, revealing a Corpsehatch. I was drawing blanks at this point, but thankfully he did not reveal a land the next turn and so both his Corpsehatch and Regress were stranded for one more turn. This proved critical as I was able to alpha strike in just enough damage to kill him before his powerful spells took over.

Game 2 was very different; Kenny had a great curve. He led with T2 Beastbreaker, T3 Null Champion, T4 Boar Umbra on Beastbreaker, T5 level Null Champion, T6 level other Champion and a Black invoker. This gave him 16 power on turn 6. Thankfully, I wasn’t sitting around doing nothing. I played turn 2 Battlement, T3 Growth Spasm, T5 Nirkana Revenant with a Black mana up. My land at this point was 4 Swamps and a Forest. He passed and I played a 5th Swamp and attacked. He blocked with all 4 of his creatures, I pumped my Revenant to 14/14 and then Might of the Masses’d it to 17/17. He lost his board, I kept my Revnant, and the game was over a few turns later.

Win 2-0 (7-3)

Round 11: Andrew Lipkin (U/R)
Oh, the one that got away, Andrew drafted a U/R deck with two Brimstone Mages, at least one Skyscout and a Crab Umbra. He seemed pretty all-in on the Mages. Game 1, I put early pressure on him and I was trading blows with a Skyscout. He had out a Mage but his curve was awkward given the pressure I was applying. He eventually leveled the Mage and stuck a Crab Umbra on it. Fortunately, I was able to keep just enough pressure on him to take him to 6. Two Essence Feeds later and I had stolen a game that looked pretty bad.

Unfortunately Game 2 did not go as well. I stalled on lands and couldn’t get any of my big creatures into play. He quickly leveled up a Mage and that is enough to force a decider.

Game 3 I choose to draw and mulliganed to 4. I kept land, land, Battlement, Battlement. My first draw was Ulamog’s Crusher. Unfortunately, that is as close to living the dream as I get. He had a Flame Slash for one of my Battlements, stopping me from playing a turn 4 Crusher. He missed a land drop for a turn and I Perish the Thought’ed him a turn later, taking his See Beyond. He then curved up to 7 and killed me.

Loss (7-4)

Constructo: Part Deux

I was disappointed with my last loss as I thought it was a good matchup, but I was still poised to make a run and I got to go back to Constructed. I really liked our deck and was very confident.

Round 12: Gaudenis Vidguris (Mirror)
This was not a pairing I was happy about. Since Gau moved to NY from Madison, we’ve had the chance to hang out a lot and he is one of my favorite mages. We briefly discussed if it made sense for Gau to scoop, as I was still in contention for Top 8 given my great breakers and he was out, but ultimately we agreed it was just too early to do that. So instead he smashed me.

I won the roll and chose to play. Game 1 I kept a hand with [card]Arbor Elf[/card], [card]Nest Invader[/card], [card]Wolfbriar Elemental[/card], Predator and land. If I drew a crusade this hand looked pretty good. Unfortunately, I drew a few more lands and another 4-drop. Gau had a similar hand but he had a [card]Beastmaster Ascension[/card] and killed me on turn 5.

Sideboard:
+2 Naturalize
+1 Eldrazi Monument
+1 Beastmaster Ascension
-2 River Boa
-2 Wolfbriar Elemental

This is a matchup where you must be as explosive as possible. Naturalize gives you a way to interact with them on their turn, and you want all of your crusades to make sure you stick one.

We both mulliganed game 2, and I kept a hand with no 1 drop but a good curve after that. Unfortunately, I died on turn 4. Gau had “the draw” with turn 1 Arbor Elf, turn 2 Lotus Cobra, Nest Invader turn 3 Predator turn 4 Ascension.

Loss (7-5)

At this point, I was pretty tilted. Two rounds ago I was sitting at 7-3 and felt poised to make a run at Top 8. Now I was 7-5 and I felt I hadn’t really played any Magic in the last 2 rounds. I was having flashbacks to GP DC, when I spent the last 4 rounds in a hellish parade of mulligans and awkward draws to derail my great start.

Thankfully, I had a few friends around to make sure I didn’t go on ubertilt. Both Chapin and Billy Moreno smacked some sense back into me, helping me regroup and get my mind back on the task at hand. The last two rounds were just some temporary setbacks and I had this tournament right where I wanted it.

As a quick aside, there have been some great articles recently about the mental approach to the game and I can’t stress this enough. I know my own play is light years better when I am feeling confident. My reads are good, I can deduce what tricks they have and I find the optimal on the board plays. When I am tilting, I expect to lose because the universe hates me and I find a way to actualize that result.
Going into round 13, I wasn’t completely out of the woods but I was on the right path.

Round 13: Marco Frantuma (U/W Control)
When you are clinging to your mental edge, sometimes fate decides to lend you a helping hand. In this case, a turn 4 kill game 1 was exactly what I needed.

Sideboard:
-4 Lotus Cobra
+2 Naturalize
+1 Ascension
+1 River Boa

Thankfully now I was remembering why I had so much fun playing this deck on day 1. It was really, really sweet. Game 2 was uneventful; I baited out a Wrath from him and then swarmed and killed him with an Ascension.

Win (8-5)

Round 14: Sami Tuomi (U/W Control)
Another round, another U/W player. Most of the U/W builds were very unprepared for this matchup and they just didn’t have the tools to compete. I baited a Deprive with a Wolfbriar Elemental and then stuck a Monument, protecting me from Wrath. A Vengevine and a few attacks later and it was game 2.

-4 Lotus Cobra
+2 Naturalize
+1 Ascension
+1 River Boa

Rinse, repeat. This was really a bad weekend to be playing U/W in any form against me. 7-0 in the LCQ, 4-1 in the PT. These games tend to be very uneventful when you execute your plan, as you stop the U/W player from executing his gameplan. I believe I had to work my way through a Gideon in this game, but it was a small roadblock.

Win (9-5)

This was it. Win and I can draw into top 50. Lose and I might be out. I will admit to feeling very nervous, which is something that doesn’t happen to me often at tournaments. I’ve been competing in mental games for over two decades, first with chess starting in the late 1980s and then with Magic starting in the late 1990s. The biggest difference in myself I’ve noticed over the last two years is a distinct lack of nerves. In return, I’ve noticed a drastically higher propensity to tilt. I’m not sure I like this trade, but it is what it is.

Round 15: Oskar Skold (Devastating Red)
Oskar and I played in round 7 of day 1, when I got very lucky to beat his much better B/G recursion deck with the 2 Keening Stones. Now we were playing for all of the marbles.

I am on the play game 1 and we both mulligan. I keep a mediocre hand of Arbor Elf, Nest Invader and 4 lands. He quickly reveals himself to be mono-Red, but he isn’t playing much beyond spot removal. I take 7 from fetchlands and Searing Blazes, and by turn 6 not much has happened. I am attacking with a Nest Invader and another creature, but I’ve drawn almost no action. He draws a 4th card and decides to kill me. He Spires’ my one blocker, floats RR, casts a Summons for 2 2/2s, a Summons for 2 3/3s, plays the Bushwhacker and whacks me for 15.

Why does he have to be playing Mono-Red?

Sideboard:
-4 Treespeaker
-3 Beastmaster Ascension
-1 Wolfbriar Elemental
+4 Leatherback Baloth
+2 Gigantiform
+1 River Boa
+1 Forest

Game 2, Oskar double mulligans and never gets into it. I have the perfect curve, playing Arbor Elf into Nest Invader into Predator and then Vengevine. I quickly kill him.

It all comes down to game 3. I have a good draw, playing out several creatures and then sticking an early Monument. This is necessary, as Oskar finally has a Kargan Dragonlord. I take a hit from it for 4, but I am holding back roughly 5 creatures to stop him from attacking me again. He begins throwing random burn spells at my head, getting me down to 11. I’ve had a Gigantiform for several turns but I’ve passed on playing it to add more creatures to my board to account for the attrition from the Monument. I don’t want to lose another game to a bunch of Summons’ tokens. I keep waiting to draw a 5th land so I can cast my Gigantiform without having to tap my Arbor Elf.

Eventually I run out of + creature plays (2 or more guys for 1 card) before I draw a 5th land, and I Gigantiform a plant token using my Arbor Elf. I hit him for 9, leaving me with 5 creatures (a 4/4, a 3/3 and 3 1/2s). Oskar uses a Spires to stop my Predator from blocking and Flame Slashes my Nest Invader. This doesn’t kill it because I have Monument, but it does mean Kargan can trample right over him. I throw everyone in front of the Dragonlord and I go to 5 after he firebreathes and tramples. He extends the hand and I win an extremely close game 3.

Win (10-5)

I am ecstatic after my extremely narrow win. I felt I played game 3 very well (I’m sorry it wasn’t on MTGO so I could better replay it here) and I pulled out a bad matchup. I raced over to the standings when they were posted to see how things looked.

Round 16: Taisuke Ishii (U/W Control)
We quickly agree to a draw. Taisuke tells me he isn’t qualified for Amsterdam either, so we are both very happy for a peaceful resolution.

Draw (10-5-1)

Epilogue
When standings go up, I find out that I finished in 32nd on tiebreakers, good for an extra pro point! This was pretty lucky and makes up for my 33rd finish in Houston on tiebreakers earlier this year. It brought me to 8 points on the year and puts me in decent shape to make a run at Level 3 in time for Chiba in December.

After the tournament, I generously decided to treat Sperling, Finkel, Rietzl and a few others to a nice dinner at the hotel. I’ll win a credit card game someday”¦

After dinner, we round up a motley crew of gamers and head out on the town. The night starts with GerryT buying me an awful, awful shot of 151. No night ever goes well that starts with a shot of 151.

 

Around 4am, Kibler, Chapin and I are the last 3 standing and I finally stagger out of the club we hustled our way into and I find a cab. I head back to our hotel and wander into the casino, where I find Osyp and Billy hard at work grinding blackjack. I sit down and buyin for $100. I lose my first hand (-$5) and obviously tilt shove my remaining $95 on the next hand. I believe I get dealt 9s against the dealer’s 8 up, so I obviously have to split these bad boys. Unfortunately I have no more money, so I have to borrow. I think I then get the great fortune of splitting another 9, to make this a nice little 3 unit tilt play. The dealer obviously busts. Sometimes you just run good”¦

Sunday was a relaxing day. I slept in a bit to try and work off the night before then headed over to the site to do some drafts and hang out. Billy, Rubin and I quickly lose 2 drafts to JamieP and Ravitz before we see PV finally bring home a trophy. We head off to dinner, where I thankfully did not have to pay, before spending our last night out on the town. Monday is another lazy day. I end up going to the mall with Kitt and Megan Holland where I find some locals playing chess in a coffee shop. I spend the next hour earning my coffee money before finally departing for my journey back the US.

Takeaway

I had a great time in San Juan. It was incredible to finally get back on the Pro Tour, but even more so, it was great to see all of the amazing people I’ve met through this game. I would have had (almost) just as much fun if I hadn’t won the LCQ. If you’ve never attended a Pro Tour or a Grand Prix, I strongly encourage you to do so. You’ll have a great time both at and away from the battlefield.
With respect to the tournament itself, I was very fortunate to have such a great deck handed to me. I can’t thank my fellow Team Mythic members enough for all of their hard work in preparation.
This tournament was also good as it helped me identify what I can be working on myself to improve my game. At this level of competition, you can’t give up any edge. I know I don’t play my best after I get unlucky, but the reality is this will happen and I have to learn to roll with it. I am very focused on learning how to keep better control over my emotions and to keep a positive, productive attitude during these tournaments. With any luck, this will help me pick up the 7 points I need over the next few months to get me to Chiba.
In the meantime, see you in Amsterdam!

18 thoughts on “Feature Article – The Last Chance Pro Tour Report, Part 2 *32nd*”

  1. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  2. I don’t know what to make of his face in that picture. I get the feeling he likes it.

  3. Why split 9’s against an 8?
    Would you double with 9 against an 8? No, so why split up an 18 to have two potential 19’s…Glad it worked out! But def anti-book…
    Loved the magic article… confused by the blackjack 🙂

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