FFfreaky Friday – Five Premiere Events Moments

I am finally home for a couple days to get things straight before Grand Prix Portland. It took this last month to really appreciate sleeping in my own bed, seeing my girlfriend, washing clothes, and getting a chance to catch up with you guys. It has been a very fun couple of weeks but I am so glad to get a chance to unwind.

I was thinking about doing my tournament report this week. I had another great tournament and my best finish yet, but I have so many things I want to talk about. Another reason to not do round by round coverage is because almost half of them are on Magicthegathering.com. Instead I want to talk about my five favorite parts about Pro Tour Amsterdam.

#5 Playing around the improbable

In round 5 I sit down against Robert van Medevoort. I do not know Robert personally, but I have seen his name around the block and know it will be a good match. I get info that he is playing Goblins, but I don’t know a single card in the deck but Punishing Fire. We shuffle up for our match and my opening hand is this:


This hand just looks insane against a Goblin deck, even if I don’t know exactly how he is attacking me. I lead with Rainforest and pass. His start astonishes me when he plays Mountain, pitches Simian Spirit Guide and plays Warren Instigator. I untap and know that his deck might have Teetering Peaks or something else, and that holding the instant removal could have its benefits. The other thing to think about is that I don’t think any card in the format will beat me except for Brute Force. I will wait a minute for you to read it.

So I kill the creature right away and tell him that I can’t let him Brute Force me. He gives me the weirdest look and untaps. I give a good chuckle when he plays Lavaclaw Reaches and Tattermunge Maniac. I untap and slam Doran onto the board. He sends in the stupid goblin and after I block plays Brute Force and Punishing Fire to finish off the Treefolk.

Now this is not the most amazing play of the tournament. What I value here is that I was able to process a card that I have not seen or tested with in years. My mind just crunched the numbers and gave me the card I have to be afraid of. This 6th sense type ability is something I have when I am playing great Magic. This made me feel very good going into the draft portions of the tournament.

PS. His turn one play game two was the Manic while I played Loam Lion. CHUMP ATTACK!

#4 Brian Kibler

I first met Brian Kibler during Pro Tour Austin. He had a great weekend there if I do remember correctly. I had a few conversations with him there and a few more the next weekend at the Grand Prix in Florida. This was a beginning to a great friendship.

The best part about Brian is that he is exactly the same as when he is on camera. He is always ready for a good night out on the town as well as countless hours of playtesting. His love for the game and for the lifestyle is something I have learned to make part of my experience at the Pro Tour. He is just good at everything when it comes to Magic.

When I got into town we all started testing at Luis’s apartment. The first day there Brian had a sweet Doran list. Well it wasn’t actually good. The idea was great, but it had many problems. He did have the most important part of technology already figured out, Loam Lion. From there I was all aboard testing the deck. When someone thought of Treefolk Harbinger I was sold; I was playing Doran. The only problem with the deck was its manabase. Kibler, Tom Ross, and I worked for almost an entire day figuring out the holes and we had a deck.

We worked on the deck for a few days and went to battle. We both were undefeated going into draft until we got paired for the first round of draft. This was a train wreck for him. He was playing the White Aggro deck with 4 Infantry Veteran. My deck was Prodigal Pyromancer, Fauna Shaman to find it, Pyroclasm, Triskelion, and more goodies to beat his archetype.

I made easy work of his deck and got to a point in game two where I was dealing him lethal damage with [card]Hornet Sting[/card]. Once I showed him the spell he didn’t look frustrated from the dominance of the match, or not from losing to me nut perfecting him two games in a row. He laughed and instantly told me I punted. I was confused for a second because the way I play Magic is concentrating on the games. Focus is important and I wasn’t even thinking about how I could have a good joke or make an impressive slow roll.

He told me that I HAVE to ask what you are at before I make that play. It was very funny once he told me the scenario of saying,” What are you at? 1? Ok, Hornet Sting you!” It would have been funny, but to find out he was sad I didn’t do that to him was just another chance to see into his psyche. Seeing first-hand how well he takes every situation with this game with that great ear to ear smile makes me know he is Hall of Fame quality and I am so glad for him for making it in. He is simply one of the best.

I also spent the Monday after the tournament hanging out with him. The guy know how to have a good time and even though he is six years older than me, he still can party circles around me. As Zach Hill would say,” The guy is just DI Gas!”

#3 Kill you with my G instant

So you already know about Hornet Sting, but I won four separate games of limited this weekend by casting a different G instant as my last spell. The second story comes from round 7 against non other than Guillaume Wafo-Tapa.

When Guillaume was winning Pro Tours and playing the best Magic in the World I was just a young fan boy. My favorite Magic player? Guillaume Wafo-Tapa. I thought Guillaume was the best thing about Magic. I watched his Pro Tour winning videos more times then my favorite movies. I took in anything I could learn from this man. I was even on the Pro Tour for about a year before I built up the courage to talk to him.

This is a foolish thing since I know that everyone on the Pro Tour are just great people and very easy to approach. For some reason I just couldn’t do it until I sat down with him at Grand Prix Columbus a couple months ago.

I was about to play him in round 7. I walked into the feature match area to see him talking with Zach Hill. I told Zach (with Guillaume standing there) that I used to idolize his play. We sat down to play and what do I do next? SPILL MY ENTIRE DECK ALL OVER THE TABLE! How embarrassing. I felt like the fan boy that he might play in round 4 of a Grand Prix, not his undefeated opponent late in a Pro Tour. I needed to refocus if I wanted to play a good match. What did I do next in our match? I played an unlimited stream of Green guys against his Blue/Black control deck. In game three he played Mind Control (trading for two of my six power guys), Doom Blade, Assassinate, and a few counterspells. I played….DUDE, DUDE, DUDE, DUDE, DUDE, DUDE. I play my first non-creature spell on the last turn of the game when he tries to kill my last guy. I also have to read the card to make sure it does what I want it to. I cast Autumn’s Veil. Sloppy wins are still wins.

The next story is from round 9 against Conley Woods. I get some great inside information before I play against Conley. Brian Kibler was passing to Conley for pack two so I get to find out that he has Overwhelming Stampede in his deck. This is some great information to have.

Deep into game one the board is a train wreck. There are multiple guys on the board with him also having the Magma Phoenix + Protean Hydra combo. I finally get to a critical mass of spells to combat his board even though he has been telegraphing Lightning Bolt. I attack with everything but a Giant Spider and he blocks thinking his Phoenix would die. I then Diminish the creature that is going to kill his Phoenix. He thinks forever and lets damage resolve.

At end of turn he asks if this will blow me out and tries to bolt his Phoenix. I respond with Giant Growth. I love this game since it was almost the opposite of a normal game. I was trying to keep his creature alive by throwing away as many cards as possible while all he wanted to do was get it in the yard. Magic is a great game.

Now that I knew he had Overrun in his deck I boarded in Fog over a bad creature for game two. The game goes long and I win the game because Fog was in my hand. When I cast the spell against him he looks a bit distraught and questions why I would Fog him. I told him I knew he had the Stampede and he questions how I knew. This is when Brian Kibler chimes in with an instant,” I told him?” He then laughs and smiles at Conley. This is yet another reason why Brian Kibler makes my top 5.

#2 Draft theory in action

Now this theory might already be out there somewhere and I have never heard of it, but I was working on a strategy of drafting when you know what the guy to your right is going to do from pick one. This also only works when there are two different ways to draft a specific color. This idea was pure theory and it is only for very specific situations so I thought I would never have a chance to try it. All of the stars aligned and I was finally able to put this theory in action.

For draft two I was sitting to Guillaume Wafo-Tapa’s left. This would mean he would be passing to me for packs one and three. I knew Guillaume would have a preference to blue and probably ignore green cards. This is what he did in our first draft and knowing so much about him would help me with this pack.

Pack one was even influenced by this information. The pack was


The best card in this pack in my opinion is Pacifism. The white deck is also the most powerful draft strategy you can draft in M11. This is the deck I would want to draft given any other circumstance, but I knew I would have the chance at a decent green deck, making Triskelion a better choice. I took the artifact ready to get an abundance of green cards. This is when something strange happened. I got passed this.


The best card in this pack by far is Conundrum Sphinx. The other strange thing about this pack is that it is the sickest Blue card that costs four or less mana. Why would Guillaume pass such a powerful card. I had to do some thinking before I could make my pick. The only uncommons I could see anyone taking over Sphinx would be Fireball and Mind Control. I put Guillaume on taking the Sphinx over Fireball for signaling purposes, so he had to have taken Mind Control.

In most draft formats this type of information can be very good for getting out of the way and trying to hook the guy to your left into the same color as the guy on your right. I decided to try something different. Instead of getting out of the way, I would help Guillaume cut the color. I knew Guillaume would take the more controling spells from blue and even the bombs.

The only way this was going to work is if he gave me a great opening into another color that I could have be my dominant color and allow me to draft an aggressive deck. Blue is a great color to try this in since there are many cards that are blue and only go into aggressive decks. Guillaume would pass me all of the Cloud Elementals and Sleeps while I still would be able to pick up on my base colored cards.

Sure, enough the draft went according to plan when he passed me Cloud Elemental and every green card on this side of the draft. Pack one ended with me having multiple Garruk’s Companion’s and even an 8th pick Llanowar Elves.

Pack two found me taking 8 blue cards in a row before my first green card. With Guillaume’s help we were both able to make sure blue was wide open for the pack. I had all the blue cards my deck needed besides an Unsummon I wanted to pick up. Pack three still had an abundance of green cards for me to finish my deck with.

The strategy worked out perfectly for me. I ended up with a very impressive deck and was able to slightly weaken my most feared opponents deck. I was ready to go to battle and eventually 3-0ed the pod. The funny thing is so did Guillaume.

#1 Meeting and beating Kai

This is obviously my favorite part of this trip. When I started playing Magic, Kai Budde was the legendary myth of Magic. His name would come up from time to time and it was always about his dominance over the game. He was just the best player to play the game during his time and everyone knew it. People wanted to be like Kai and for good reason. I never thought I would get the chance to meet the man.

When I saw Kai walking around the site during registration I was a bit awestruck. I might finally get a chance to meet him. I did not even dream I would get the chance to play him in the tournament, let alone on Sunday. We had our first conversation some time during day two outside. We introduced ourselves and made some Magic small talk. This was such a great opportunity to finally meet the game’s biggest legend.

The great part about this meeting is that he is in fact one the game’s best. His approach to the game and how he carries himself is impressive. He was so laid back and easy to talk to it was unbelievable. Just with a few small conversations that day I was able to learn so much about him. I was yet again a fanboy. A fanboy about to face Kai in the top 8.

After all the procedural things where taken care of, Ben Stark, Tom Ross, and I went to find food before testing. We found a great steak place and talked theory about the match. Ben was the only person who has seen Kai play Magic so I learned as much about how he plays from him.

After that we got about 6-8 hours of testing in before I was back at the site for the top 8. An hour before game time Kai came outside to chat. We ended up talking theory about our match and he even talked about things he learned about in testing. He only spent a few hours testing and was on the same page I was. I knew I was facing a master when I came into this knowledge. Kai was very friendly and seemed to be so happy playing Magic on the big stage again. I was in a different boat.

Last time I was on the big stage of a Pro Tour Top 8, the lights were too much. The draft did not go my way and I did not draft to my full potential. After I had a bad draft I was against one of the most powerful decks at the table. Once I was down a game I went into a state of fear. This fear was not about losing, but of looking stupid on the main stage. I kind of broke down and was looking for an excuse to give up. I lost the quarterfinal match and my tournament was over. I told myself I would never allow this to happen ever again. I had to take all fear out of my game when playing at that level. I just didn’t know my next chance would be against Kai Budde.

I sat down against Kai ready to battle. I knew the matchup was in his favor, but only slightly. I also had the die roll so the chances of pulling off a 2-1 lead was possible. This just did not happen. Game one went long with his deck doing what it does best. The matchup is very interesting.

White Weenie has two advantages in the matchup. The deck is better in the early and late game. This means that Doran either has to come out to fast or win in the middle game. If the game goes deep his deck has way more powerful spells off the top. It is also very hard to deal with a [card]Steppe Lynx[/card] on turn one.

I ended up going in the hole two games to none. This was when I could have broken down and given up. I almost did just that. Then a little voice in the back of my head told me I was going to win it. I knew the deck was stacked against me but I had to win this match. It would get me to level eight and a good chance at player of the year.

Game three was the first game my deck did what it was supposed to and I quickly got a win. Now it was time to win back to back games on the draw. Kai’s hand in game four was a bit sketchy if he didn’t draw some spells and that’s exactly what happened. He started off with a [card]Figure of Destiny[/card] but didn’t have any other guys to go with it. He just turned it into a really big 9/9 holding back my guys. When I topdecked [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] to stop him from killing me I got my chance at game 5.

We shuffled up and resolved mulligans. He had to go to 6 while my opener was


We then got paused so they could have both the Kibler/Jacob game 5 and ours on camera. As I was walking around Kai did not look happy. He then told me he didn’t have the Lynx and I started to think this could be real. The game started and my draw easily overpowered his. I ended up coming back from 0-2 to win the match. It was my biggest match ever against the best player ever. It is and probably will go down as my favorite match of Magic. Well, unless I win a PT down the road…

Brad Nelson
[email protected]

70 thoughts on “FFfreaky Friday – Five Premiere <strike>Events</strike> Moments”

  1. Very nice change of pace tournament report, and I am excited for you. I look forward to seeing what you do between now and GP Nashville. If you’re there, I would very much like to pick your brain if there’s time.

    Keep living the dream.

  2. Great job man. I saw you at Gencon hanging around with Chapin, and quite frankly it’s great to know i was in the same room with someone who beat Kai Budde.

  3. WHEN you win a PT down the road! good job, congrats on the huge run! Hope you keep it going in Portland!

  4. Man, the site’s graphics are going crazy with the Inferno Titan art thrown in. Next time they’ll stick your head on an Emrakul with tentacles coming out of your mouth. Awesome.

  5. Congrats on the amazing streak you’re on. I hope you take player of the year; you deserve it. See you in Portland.

  6. I think the run you’ve put together is great, especially when I think about how honest your article was several months ago where you were talking about needing to refocus on your play. Looks like it worked!

  7. This was so much more informational than the standard tournament report. I hope to see more like it in the future.

  8. You are one of the only pro players I truly root for. I love to see you on this winning streak, you just seem like such an honest and likeable guy, and I think you really deserve it. Well done.

  9. You’re a master. That’s all there is to it. You have more potential than any other to be the next Kai.

    Use these powers well, Padawan.

  10. All tournament reports should be like this, or at least 50% this.

    This was the most enjoyable Magic-related read I’ve had in quite a while. Well done.

  11. I can’t think of anyone else that deserves player of the year more than you… like everyone else has said, great run, great article. Congrats!

  12. I’ll never forget chilling at PT Hollywood and Nationals a couple years back. I can’t believe how far you’ve come!

  13. I was standing behind Robert cheering him on for that match. Whenever you called that Brute Force in his hand, I made a throw-up-in-my-mouth face that I was sure you saw. I thought I gave it away from behind the table, or that you had some ninja scouts running around from previous rounds. I briefly thought you coulda called it from pure knowledge, but sorta dismissed that. Touche, sir. Well done

  14. Really enjoyed this article. Maybe this format should be used more in place of traditional tournament reports?

    As for that Giant Growth on Magma Phoenix… :-O

  15. yourprettyawfulimo

    Hi Brad. I have a challenge for you. My friend and I would like to run a 2v2 draft competition against you and whoever you would like to be your partner. We would like to run a best of 5 or best of 7 2v2 drafts across various formats. Because you are clearly a master of magical cards, we want to be laid 1.75:1 odds. My friend and I have played little magic in the last couple of years and you have surely never heard of either of us. We will play for whatever stakes you wish/can afford.

  16. “Wait, how did you and Wafo-Tapa both go 3-0?”

    Pairings at Pro Tours are based on overall record, not record-in-pod. For instance, if Kibler’s 9-0 going into Day 2, and 0-2s, and Nelson’s 7-2 going into Day 2, and then 2-0s, they’re both at 9-2, and may get paired, even though Nelson’s 2-0 in pod, and Kibler’s 0-2 in pod.

    This sort of disparity usually only happens at the top pods, since, unless I’m mistaken, there’s often enough people at the lower points totals such that everyone in a pod has identical points. Maybe a few people with a point higher or lower due to ties.

  17. Can an editor please correct the spelling of Zac Hill’s name? It doesn’t exactly ring true as an idolization when you don’t know the guy’s name.

    That issue aside, awesome article! Even if you don’t think of Brute Force, there’s certainly no reason with your deck not to just play Nameless Inversion while he’s tapped out. There doesn’t need to be a specific reason! You’re doing it when he attacks anyway, which assumedly is the first thing he’ll do on his turn. I think this would have been a great example to be educative about when to sorcery your instants as a more general idea. Too many players are obsessed with playing instants as instants, and it gets them blown out pretty often. That said, it’s QUITE sick that without knowledge of Brute Force in his deck you specifically mention the card and the called shot is right. Hitting that is pretty sick =P

    It’s also unfortunate that #4 was already covered in Wizards’ coverage, but that’s not your fault.

    @DCroom: Outside Interference much? Where I come from, the durdle railbirds are expected to maintain a poker face.

  18. Congratz on your success. This was a good read. Some of us still like tournament reports. You know how you mentioned “I talked with BenS, Kibler, Kai, and we discussed this theory and blah blah”

    Well, alot of want to learn what you learned. Only by actually telling us the theories, plays, game situations, etc will we.

    Saying “I ran good and won again” doesn’t help us learn jack shit.


  19. Brad,

    You are my favorite pro player to follow right now. I started playing magic when I was 14 (In Darksteel). I quit for about 5 years and just recently started playing again. I have always been competitive, and just really enjoy watching you play. But most of all I enjoy your attitude. You are always so greatful to just be where you are, and I am the type of person that is the same way. Instead of arrogantly thinking you are better than everyone else etc, you simply smile and just enjoy the pure bliss that magic brings to the table.

    For that, you deserve everything you get and I am glad to sit back and watch you become a legend.

  20. I very much appreciate the insights; they are more valuable than step-by-step details. The thought process of a play is more of the game than the physical play.

    And as far as the PT thing, I have two comments. First, you have proven to the world you are awesome by being one of three people to take down Kai on Sunday of the twenty-five or so who have tried. Second, the stars haven’t aligned for you yet. They will align at World’s.

  21. I’m sure this article had nothing to do with my post after your last tournament report but since you listened and didn’t bore us to death again with the standard-form play by play, I’m going to live in a fantasy world and assume this had everything to with me!

    Anyway, if you DID read my comments last time I’m sorry my words were so harsh because I really do enjoy reading your articles and this one was right on the money. I just HATE HATE HATE tournament reports.

    Thanks Brad and congrats!

  22. @ Chris Davis

    Brad said that he wanted to wait to kill the instigator in case he had teetering peaks, for more value. Nice rant though :/

  23. I’d be interested to hear how Kai plays. When watching the live coverage it seemed like he took a fair amount of time between plays. Is that part of his game?

  24. Congrats Brad, you’re an easy guy to root for, especially when these solid articles come out of your success. I definitely prefer this type of article to a play-by-play of each round.

  25. Congratulations, man. Keep it up, we’re all rooting for you!

    I noticed through your writing this week that your self-image has grown tremendously; I think you’ve come to terms with the fact that you are, in fact, a Master. I think self confidence is definitely a huge part of the game, as you pointed out talking about playing under the lights.


  26. How in thw world does he remember those packs whe he was drafting, or all the hands, down to every card? Is it all on camera or are they really just that much better than the 17-1800’s of the world?

  27. Brad, its such a pleasure following your career and reading your writing. Your love for the game and its community is abundantly clear, and after this past year so is your amazing talent and work ethic.

  28. Congratulations!

    Your run has been amazing and I’m big-time rooting for you in every event from here on out, as it looks like a lot of us are. Great job and good luck, sir!

  29. Focusing on moments seems a lot better than writing a comprehensive report. Why have I never thought of this.

  30. Jess Nelson....aka Fffreaks dad

    Congratulations on a magnificent run and a wonderful week in Amsterdam!! Well done my son. Good luck in Portland. Love ya, dad.

  31. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  32. You are one of the best player around at this instant Brad, you did great this weekend and you should be proud of it. Continue to think you’re a Fanboy inside, but play in tournaments like you know you’re really the best outside…

    btw awesome article 🙂

  33. No ifs. When you win an PT! Think about it, 15 months ago you where a MTGO bogeyman and now you have a GP win, Back to back PT top 8’s and Kia called you one of the best players of the game at the moment. Talk about a monumental and deserved rise!

  34. Go Doran! Great job, this was a really enjoyable article. And the part about the in depth thinking with the draft building process was cool to.

  35. Of course you will destory the Warren Instigator. There is no reason not to, especially if you know that you WILL be killing it no matter what. So why wait and take the risk. Even without considering the cards that would blow me out (like Brute Force) the inversion mainphase is a no-brainer.

    Also as I understand you had a hefty string of topdecks against Kai while he drew poorly. This shows in the final match when Rietzl easily takes you down 3 to nothing. Of course that happens, but my concern is that you downplay the difficulty of the matchup and people assume that’s how it is.

    That said, props to your finish. With the determination you show it certainly was justified. The article was kinda short, though.

  36. Great article, deep insight. As a player and a teacher you do a wonderful job! I was too hung over to catch the finals but on watching them from download, its insane how good Reizel’s draws were! None the less you took it like a champ, and still had it in you to play some bonus rounds of Tezeret vs Dave Greskin’s Elspeth. That was Super entertaining, and also quite insightful. Hope you got to enjoy some of Amsterdams finest coffeshops!
    Thnaks for the quality entertainment, and just being yourself! Keep it REAL

    -Another Fanboy

  37. I played in the prerelease of Rise at PAradox Games in Fargo. I think I saw FFFreak there. Casually walking around. After that, all i do is sit here and read his articles about conquering the world of magic.

  38. @nubtoken He could get his opponent to waste a Teetering Peaks on the instigator. If I forgot that Brute Force existed, it’s 100% the right play to cast the inversion on the opponent’s turn.

  39. yeah. 100 %. It’s not like he could play an island and manaleak or a forest and giant growth.
    You make yourself vulnerable to a blowout to save 2 damage further down the road. Which might not even be relevant since your blockers are 5/5 anyway. Great hinking.

  40. Your aritcle was fun and interesting to read. It’s nice to see Pro’s with such a positive attitude. I appreciate your time and effort!

  41. @xambin: I moved to Japan, so I’m not able to mess around with Brad’s room anymore. Don’t tell Brad, but I have big plans for his hotel room in Chiba…

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