I wish I had a first place report to bring you guys this week, but Paris didn’t exactly go the way I wanted. Fellow Channelfireball writer Ben Stark won, so worse things could have happened since he is a terrific player. David Sharfman won the humongous Grand Prix. Brad Nelson won player of the year to top it off. It’s now safe to say that the United States is back on top of Magic!
My performance in Paris was not as stellar as the other names mentioned above, but I did begin 4-0; a personal best. My weapon of choice was none other than a Jace deck. It was my first time playing a Jace at the Pro Tour level and he didn’t let me down.
The maindeck is similar to a list I posted in an article before the Pro Tour. I owe all of my wins to Adam Yurchick because my original list didn’t have maindeck Ratchet Bombs. I expected Valakut to be very popular so I stuck with the four maindeck Spreading Seas. Inquisition of Kozilek became very good against ramp because players have universally adopted Green Sun’s Zenith and dropped maindeck Summoning Traps.
Grave Titan is still my win condition of choice because it doesn’t get owned by Jace like Wurmcoil Engine does. I went with all Go for the Throats since I expected Vampires and the mirror to be popular.
The sideboard is a thing of beauty, featuring seven singletons that include Clone and Mimic Vat. I talked about Clone before and how it copies Thrun, the Last Troll, Grave Titan, Precursor Golem, and primeval Titan. The Mimic Vat technology was actually shared with me by Colosso Fuentes. His plan was to play it then Go for the Throat a Primeval Titan. The copies of Primeval Titan can fetch out Tectonic Edges to destroy their Valakuts. The logic was sound so I decided to give it a try. It could have been the nut or utter trash since I never drew it a single game.
Precursor Golem was by far the best card in the sideboard as I brought it in every matchup. It may be making a maindeck appearance in future lists.
Here is a brief summary of how my matches went in the Constructed portion.
Round 1: R/b Kuldotha Red
I lost the die roll. My Ratchet Bomb got Inquisitioned and I casually drew another one the following turn that destroyed him. He mulliganed both games because the deck isn’t very consistent.
Decks like this are obviously very powerful, but they wouldn’t be allowed to exist if their consistency matched. Kuldotha Red has been referred to as the Dredge of the format due to its all or nothing nature and I feel that is absolutely correct.
In the second game, Evil started out strong by giving me three Jinxed Idols before I even reached the fifth turn of the game, and they knocked me all the way down to one life. My turn five play was obviously Precursor Golem which allowed me to sacrifice three creatures to get rid of all of the Idols for a turn. I also had a turn 4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor that fatesealed all of the creatures to the bottom of his deck. The second Precursor Golem made an appearance the following turn to make sure I didn’t get any false idols.
Round 2: Mirror
I lost the die roll. The main difference between our decks was that he played Wurmcoil Engine and Everflowing Chalice. My Go for the Throats were pretty much dead the entire first game like he wanted. I kept a hand that was insane against control and terrible against aggro so it was a gamble. I was rewarded for my all or nothing wild keep when he lead with a Creeping Tar-Pit on turn 1 and the game went smoothly.
I had some spicy numbers in my sideboard for the mirror, here’s what I changed.
His draw was pretty terrible and I killed him quickly with a Grave Titan.
Here is where the opponents got considerably more difficult…]
Round 3 *Fake Feature Match* Frank Karsten playing WW Quest
This was my first Pro Tour feature match since San Diego so I would have liked it to be covered. It was my first time playing against Frank, but I have been a fan since my FNM days. It was cool to finally play against him.
I lost the die roll again. He mulliganed and I started out with a turn 2 Ratchet Bomb. I strung together a bunch of Spreading Seas that locked him out of white mana and landed a Grave Titan right on time.
I was a little flooded this game and it went pretty long. The last possible draw before I died gave me a Preordain into a Jace, the Mind Sculptor into a Go for the Throat to destroy the creature that would kill me. I won the following turn with my Creeping Tar-Pits since that’s the only way I was doing damage that game.
Round 4 Raphael Levy playing WW/G Quest
I lost the die roll and he mulliganed to five. It’s ok to keep losing die rolls when your opponent starts out with six cards at most every game. My Spreading Seas color screwed him and Grave Titan wrapped it up in short order.
My sideboarding was the same as against Frank.
There was another mulligan from team Levy and I had a Disfigure for his turn 2 [card]Fauna Shaman[/card]. I stepped up my good beats by playing Precursor Golem into Grave Titan. The board got a little dicey at one point so I cast Black Sun’s Zenith for 4 and the little Grave Titan that could took it home.
I have never been 4-0 at a Pro Tour before so I was obviously excited at this point. The most important thing for me to do at this point was to keep my head clear because there was much work to be done. I was only finished with a quarter of the tournament so the last thing I wanted was to play sloppy for the other three quarters.
My fifth round opponent was one of my losses at Pro Tour San Diego: Lucas Florent. He is a good man that also got his start on Team Unknown Stars. He is of the French Persuasion so I put him on Tezz control or WW/G Quest.
Round 5 Lucas Florent WW/G Quest
I won the die roll! All this meant was that it was my turn to take a mulligan. My draw was very weak and didn’t stand a chance against his quick Argentum Armor.
My sideboarding remained the same as the last two matches.
I got to go first for the second time in the tournament and had to take the second mulligan of the day. My draw started out weak because the hand was a few lands shy. The first couple of draw phases got me out of trouble and I started to kill all of his creatures. Precursor Golem showed up and takes it home.
Lucas took a mulligan in the third game and started with a Quest for the Holy Relic. I Inquisitioned him and took a Kor Skyfisher only to see a hand with Ornithopter x2, Vengevine, and a Forest. He only had 2 lands so Vengevine wouldn’t be a problem for a few turns at least. My second turn involved a Ratchet Bomb so I could close out the game on the next turn by blowing it up for one to clear the Quest. Lucas drew Kor Skyfisher so he could play it and return Ornithopter, replay Ornithopter, play Memnite and search for Argentum Armor. I didn’t draw Go for the Throat and took my lumps.
I didn’t have much time to test for this tournament so it wouldn’t be fair to complain about a 4-1 start. The prerelease was useless for testing because of the faction packs so the only limited experience I had was the release. There were a few other drafts done in Paris, but I was no expert in the format.
My first pick was between Glissa, the Traitor, Virulent Wound, and Blightwidow. I took Glissa and pretty much committed to not drafting poison since there would be nothing for me in pack two. This was a terrible pick that put me into one of the worst archtypes I could have possibly drafted. The idea of first picking a flashy new rare was exciting as opposed to taking a boring common Blightwidow. There actually is not that much removal for black and green so my deck only ended up with only a Grasp of Darkness. The problem is that the few removal spells you can take also happen to be first picks like Grasp and Spread the Sickness. Green doesn’t have much going on in terms of removal so I shouldn’t have been surprised when my deck turned out so bad.
I won’t bore you with the individual games because my deck was pretty much outclassed in each matchup. My excellent start of 4-0 was topped off with a miserable 0-4. The consolation prize was that I finished inside of the top 200 for the extra pro point because my tiebreaks were obviously insane. I couldn’t believe how I went from hot to cold faster than Katie Perry. It could be chalked up to bad luck, but I need to be realistic.
The draft format has changed a lot since the release of Mirrodin Beseiged. I figured that I was good enough at Scars limited to do well in the drafts at the Pro Tour. My 9th place finish at GP Toronto solidified my skill in the format right? This format is actually nothing like the old Scars of Mirrodin draft and I didn’t even have enough experience to know that.
The poison deck is so much slower which makes the two-drops in Scars higher picks. Infect creatures in Mirrodin Beseiged may be more powerful, but their curve also begins at three. Flenstermite is almost unplayable when compared to Plague Stinger, Blight Mamba, and Ichorclaw Myr. The only two common removal spells for the deck in the new set is Spread the Sickness and Virulent Wound. Poison also suffers from having too good of creatures that everyone will take them. Flesh-Eater Imp, Viridian Corruptor, Rot Wolf, and Blightwidow are some of the best infect creatures and will be played in any black or green deck.
The control decks also suffer from losing a pack with the mana myr. Most of the decks I draft have a higher curve that can finish a long game so mana acceleration is essential. I like to take myr whenever I see them unless there is a removal spell or bomb in the pack. This obviously stops when I have around two of them, but some drafts just don’t have enough myr for everyone.
I have done many drafts since the Pro Tour and learned that blue decks are awesome. Vivisection is the most underrated card in the set and goes great with Oculus, Myr Sire, and Perilous Myr. Many writers have been avoiding discussion on blue decks and that makes them less popular as a result. Steel Sabotage is such a powerful card that goes much later than it should.
My favorite draft archetype is Blue/x control with no particular preference for the second color. I don’t force the deck, but I will gladly pick up all the blue cards that come along. Expensive spells will come along later so I make sure to pick up early creatures before they get taken. There are less myrs in the draft so it’s important to have a lower curve than before.
The most important thing I learned from the Pro Tour is that you are only as good as your preparation. My classes got in the way of preparing for the tournament so the result was less than stellar. The split format Pro Tours are complex since it’s not easy to master two unexplored formats.
For future standard tournaments, I would still stick with Blue/Black control. It’s no secret that the deck got weaker due to the amount of Sword of Feast and Famines, but we can adapt.
The biggest change is the absence of Spreading Seas because it’s mediocre against Caw-Go, Boros, and Kuldotha Red. There will be a brief period where Ramp goes down in popularity because it didn’t Top 8 the Pro Tour. Primeval Titan was the biggest threat coming into the tournament and it is still a force to be reckoned with. I watched Mat Marr play against Ben Stark for top 8 and it came down to one game. If Matt had won that game, there would have been a Valakut Ramp deck in top 8 and the nay-sayers would be nowhere to be found.
I chose to add Into the Roils because Sword of Feast and Famine must be respected. It is a solid bounce spell that will deals with most threats and still draws a card. Discard spells get better when there are bounce spells so the deck becomes more synergistic. It replaced Spreading Seas so I wanted something that cycles. Don’t forget the value from bouncing a precursor Golem with this bad boy!
I cut a Grave Titan because I wanted to add two Precursor Golems to the maindeck. Caw-Go doesn’t have a good way to deal with them and they cost less mana. There needed to be another threat because the control deck of choice plays four maindeck Day of Judgment. It’s also a colorless creature so it can block a Stoneforge Mystic that is equipped with a Sword of Feast and Famine.
Duress came in as the fifth discard spell since it can hit a Sword after it is searched for with Stoneforge Mystic. It combos well with Into the Roil since you can bounce a troublesome planeswalker or equipment.
The change in the sideboard is the absence of the cute cards such as Clone and Memoricide. I cut them for Vampire Hexmage because Caw-Go and Tezzeret control decks pack a ton of planeswalkers and Everflowing Chalice. It can also contribute to a good beatdown plan with Precursor Golem and Creeping Tar-Pit. The Negate got the axe in favor of another Duress since I want a bunch of ways to discard Sword of Feast and Famine. It’s also better to be proactive against decks that play four Spell Pierces.
I think this deck will come back on top after people play more aggressive decks to combat Caw-Go. There were a couple local events in which I played UW and was not at all pleased with the aggro matchups.
The deck was heavily geared toward beating decks like Titan Ramp and UB control, but they have declined in popularity by UW. There is an increase in Boros and Vampires in order to beat UW and those are the decks I love to face with UB.
Try this new list at your next standard event and tell me what you think in the comments.
The only way I can improve on my tournament performances is to practice more. It can be easy to forget that practice helped you achieve your goals until you start slacking. Blaming it all on bad luck is easy and comforting, but it’s probably your fault somewhere along the line. All we can do is realize this early and remedy the situation.
Thanks for listening to me.