Having finished day 1, we were ready to go home – at least some of us. Luis, Gabe and a couple others decided to stay at the site to do some drafts, but Martin, Lucas, Brad, Ben and I decided we would rather just go home. It was around 8:30 at this point, so we had plenty of time to go eat something quickly and then go back for a good night of sleep.
That was when Ben received a call from Michelle, his girlfriend, saying she would like to have dinner with us. We weren’t really planning on having a big dinner – I would have been happy with any fast food chain – but Ben really wanted to meet her, and it couldn’t take very long anyway, so we just went along (and it is not like we had much of a choice since he was driving). We had no clue how to get to the place she wanted to go, but we had a local (Michelle had been born in Puerto Rico) giving us directions on the phone, so what could possibly go wrong?
Well, turns out a lot could have gone wrong. I was not on the receiving end of the instructions, but apparently they were something like this:
“Ok, you are going to go straight under the bridge, then you will see a light and you turn left.”
“What’s the street name?”
“Who cares about that? Anyway, drive a couple blocks until you see a white house with a big grey gate, and then turn left. Keep going straight until you get to the big house with a German shepherd in the garden, and then turn right and right again. By then you should see a gas station that charges $1.15 a liter. Drive past it until you reach a corner that has two medium-sized trees and
Needless to say, we got completely lost. About 40 minutes later, Michelle agreed to meet us where we were, to guide us to the Argentinean restaurant we were supposed to go to, all the while saying she didn’t understand how we hadn’t gotten there by ourselves since her directions had been flawless.
It was around 10 by the time we got there, and we just wanted to leave and go home, but Ben insisted we stayed. We ended up staying. We didn’t have the luxury of waiting for a seat inside, so we had to sit outside, where there was no air conditioning and the service took infinite time to even notice we were there. That ended up not being a big deal, since none of us had anything important to do the next morning anyway, and we were glad for the opportunity to just sit there and enjoy the pleasant weather of Puerto Rico.
The food was pretty good, though, once we actually got to eat, I’ll give you that.
We ended up going back home at around 11, only to find out we didn’t actually have any gate keys and couldn’t get inside – I had taken one set before leaving, but I had left it in the car on my way to the site, which was not the same car we were using now, and no one in this car had grabbed one. So we called the other guys and told them we were outside and needed them to come back, and they said they were on their way. Some minutes later, Martin gets a text from Luis that said, “PV Brad and Ben are outside, open the door for them” – yeah, thanks Luis.
Sometime later, everyone got back and we managed to get inside. So much for early sleep
We went to the event next morning and my pod had a couple more people I recognized – namely Gaudenis and David Ochoa, who was passing to me.
I open my first pack and take a Joraga Treespeaker from it (passing a Bear Umbra), which was fine because I knew Web didn’t like green and he was passing to me. Second pick I have the choice between Growth Spasm and Domestication, with a rare missing. I think here I should just have gone for it and taken the Growth Spasm, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that, and took the Domestication instead, which kind of jeopardized my draft. I took a bunch of green cards after that.
Pack two I took yet another Domestication, over a Magmaw, and then an Enclave Cryptologist. I ended up picking a lot of green and passing a lot of blue, including three Skywatcher Adepts and two Teachers. At some point, I had the choice between the second Deprive and the first Unified Will, and I took the Will because I had a lot of token makers and figured I would be somewhat splashing blue, but it was probably a mistake – I figured I would not want to maindeck the two Deprives anyway, and any deck I was going to side the Deprive in against I would be happy with the Will, but as it turns out I would probably have maindecked both Deprives if I had them.
In the end, my deck turned out like this:
I don’t remember if I played 17 or 18 lands, but since I cannot think of a card that I was playing and isn’t here, it was probably 18.
I thought my deck was OK – if I had had a red splash for Staggershock and Flame Slash, or a black splash for Vendetta and Induce Despair, it would have been very good – as it was, it had a couple problems with creatures. Even a Regress I would have been very happy with at this point. I did have insane mana acceleration, but would have liked a bit more to do with it than I actually had – an Artisan of Kozilek, for example.
Round 9: UR “Levelers”
My opponent was playing a hybrid of Kiln Fiend/levelers. Game one he played two spells – Kiln Fiend number one and Kiln Fiend number two. He seemed very disgusted by the fact that he had drawn a lot of lands. I sided in two Haze Frogs, because I thought he was the Valakut Fireboar/Distortion Strike/Kiln Fiend archetype, and the Frogs trade with those two beaters as well as “countering” the strike, to which I don’t have a lot of answers.
Game two he played an early Enclave Cryptologist, and I had a Domestication in my hand, but no double blue. I only drew the second Island by the time he had drawn four or five extra cards already, and that found him Lord of Shatterskull Pass, which my deck has close to zero answers to.
Game three I don’t remember much of, but I think he was stalled on two lands and just died without playing many spells again.
Round 10: Grixis control
I start game one with the below-average draw of Joraga Treespeaker into level + Overgrown Battlement into Nest Invader + Kozilek’s Predator. I have no follow up, but I think it would be very convenient if I drew a Broodwarden or a Ulamog’s Crusher. I end up having to settle for the Ogre’s Cleaver that I drew, which was fine since my opponent’s board was 3 lands and a Prophetic Prism.
Even after my awesome start, though, my opponent battled hard – he played Last Kiss on an equipped guy, a Mnemonic Wall to bring the Kiss and Kiss again, a blocker and a surprise Smite out of Mountain, Island, Swamp and a Prophetic Prism. I drew a Ulamog’s Crusher, but his Prism let him play Guard Duty. In the end, though, the fully leveled Treespeaker and the Sporecap Spider were enough to kill him, since they were all bigger than his creatures because of the Equipment.
Game two was pretty non-interactive, as I had a Looter going and he was stuck on two Swamps. He played a Prophetic Prism, and I had Naturalize in hand, but I decided to just play a guy instead of getting rid of it on the spot, which might have been wrong. My hand was Ulamog’s Crusher and Deprive as well, so I figured there wasn’t much he could do. I got to 10 mana and played the Crusher, and countered his Lay Bare. I then Naturalized his Guard Duty and that was that.
Round 11: GW Auras
I boarded in a Naturalize.
Game two was also close. He played a turn two Nest Invader (I think), turn three Aura Gnarlid, and I played Domestication on it. It was somewhat of a risky play, but I pretty much knew he only had Bear Umbra for auras, since he had played against a friend of mine, so I figured I had to try it – if he had the Bear Umbra, then I would likely be dead anyway to Umbra on his Aura Gnarlid, even if I didn’t lose the Domestication in the process. He also had Might of the Masses in his deck, but that card is also going to beat Domestication anyway, and I didn’t have anything so it didn’t seem like I had the luxury of waiting.
He played a Stomper Cub next, and I couldn’t attack with my Aura Gnarlid – but neither could he. I drew a Naturalize at some point, and we both crowded the board until I drew my Invoker. He had the Bear Umbra on a flier of his, but I had the Naturalize ready and he died to the Invoker.
Game three he started with turn two Beastbreaker of Bala-Ged, turn three level it up, turn four Boar Umbra, attack, play Nest Invader and Chariot. Despite his good start, I was able to stabilize later, always playing around Might of the Masses. I had a Domestication in hand, but again only one Island. On a certain turn, he had a 10/10 trampler Beastbreaker, with the Umbra and the equipment, and I had to play my Ulamog’s Crusher to “fog”. On his turn, he attacked with his 10/10.
I am not sure why he attacked; if he waits, I have to attack my guy into his 10/10. The only upside of attacking is if I draw Naturalize – he knows I don’t have it, or I would have played it already for sure. Even if I do draw it, we are still trading, and he is keeping his Chariot. Perhaps he just forgot I would have to attack with my Crusher? There is also the chance that he thought I would double-block and he would be able to Might of the Masses it, but I triple-blocked in a way that it would die anyway, and in the end he just traded the Umbra for the Crusher, which was pretty good for me considering I was expecting to trade the Crusher for two of his irrelevant lands the next turn.
We each played a couple more guys, and I still haven’t drawn a second Island – not that I have anything I desperately want to Domesticate, but I am at one life, and if I draw it I can get a lot of breathing room, taking out one attacker and adding a blocker. As it was, I was facing a bunch of guys, one of which was a potential 8/8 trampler. We got to a point where I thought I could no longer play around Might of the Masses, and then when he attacked I just blocked hoping he wouldn’t have it, and he did and I died. I think he drew it that turn, though, since he just hadn’t attacked the previous turn.
I would lie if I said this loss didn’t make me mad, because losing is always bad, but it did feel like a “fair” loss – none of our decks was particularly superior, and I could see draws that he had and I couldn’t beat, but could also see myself winning if his draws weren’t good. I think that, if I had some more Naturalizes, I would probably have been a good favorite. Both my opponents had had mana problems in this draft, so I guess I couldn’t complain much, and I got the 2-1 record that I felt my deck deserved.
I was pretty happy go to back to Block Constructed – despite my 3-2 record, I felt our deck was really good and I had a much bigger edge in that format. And it is not just “feeling”, either – we had the numbers to back this up. Everyone said Zvi’s was the best deck of the tournament, and it might actually have been so (in fact it probably was), but they didn’t post the biggest numbers – and neither did we, for that matter (I think the UG deck did, with 70% and three players, one going 10-0), but we did beat the Mono-Green’s percentages. Out of the five people who played our deck, we had a 69% win rate in games played – including Tom, who picked the deck up without having played a game and finished 1-4 – to the 66% of their version of Green. The reason this does not show in the numbers is because they amalgamated all the URG decks, but the difference between our build and the others is bigger than the difference between Zvi’s build and the other Green builds, and it really changes how the deck plays out, giving it a much better game 1 against the majority of things and a much better sideboard against everything else. I think it would be the equivalent of someone playing Mythic, except they didn’t have Noble Hierarchs and Knight of the Reliquaries in their decks, having those in the sideboard instead, over important cards – you would feel robbed if that person went 2-3 and everyone else thought your deck was bad because they lowered the “mythic” statistics, right?
If anyone cares about that, I think the deck is still really good in block. It is likely that the mono green deck was the best deck for that tournament, but right now this deck has an advantage over the Monument one – it is impossible to hate. If I want to beat that deck, I can play 4 Forked Bolt, 3 Cunning Sparkmage, 2 Chain Reaction and 3 Rampaging Baloths in my sideboard; If other decks want to beat it, they can play Marsh Casualties, All is Dusts, Chain Reactions, etc. If someone wants to beat the UGR deck, what do they do? Whether this advantage is enough or not, I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell you.
Round 12: Mono-Red
My opening hand had 2x Burst Lightning, Refuge, Mountain, Misty Rainforest, Explore and another card that was neither a Jace, the Mind Sculptor nor an Oracle of Mul Daya, and I kept. My opponent started with mountain, Goblin Bushwhacker. I drew and thought for a while. Normally, my sequence of playing would be to play Refuge, then Rainforest, get an Island, Explore, Mountain and Burst Lightning. Against this start, though, I figured I would play the Mountain and a Burst Lightning. In my experience, the only reason players play Mountain, Bushwhacker is that they either have another Goblin Bushwhacker that they want to play turn two, or a Teetering Peaks for turn two – and no other guys. If you have any other guy in your hand, chances are playing the Bushwhacker turn one is really bad. So, when he did that, I put him for a hand with either Peaks (possibly more than one), or another Bushwhacker, and then a lot of burn, so he just wants to deal me a little bit of damage with his guy early on. So, I played the Mountain – if he wants to deal me a little bit of damage early on, then I am going to do my best to prevent it, and it is not like I am accelerating into Jace or Oracle by Exploring on turn two anyway. I ended up looking like an idiot when he played a Mountain, attacked for one and passed. Next turn he attacked and again didn’t play anything, so I just got rid of his guy. He ended the game with a lot of Mountains, and me at a very healthy life total, and I am still not sure why he played turn one Bushwhacker instead of just saving it for turn two, where it deals one extra damage.
I boarded the same as against the other Mono-Red.
Game two he again started a bit slow, and I Searing Blazed his first guy. He played a Lodestone Golem, which I bounced with Jace. The following turn he killed Jace and replayed the Golem, and I again had Jace to bounce it. He replayed it, and I killed it with Searing Blaze, then he played another and I Deprived it, and then he was completely out of gas, with me still at a very healthy life total again.
Round 13: UGR
This match was against Lucas Blohon, playing the UGR deck but without Cobras and Ruinblasters. I definitely didn’t want to play against him, as I thought our deck was very good, so I’d just rather play against anything else, though we weren’t playing exactly the same deck. Game one he was on the play, I mulliganed and he played turn three Jace that I couldn’t deal with, and after that beating me was academic.
I boarded like this because I didn’t think he would board in Lotus Cobras in the mirror – I remembered them saying they didn’t like it much, especially on the draw. I think game two was pretty academic as well, and somewhat similar to game one – I was on the play, so I played all my spells before he could play his.
For game three, I did:
The reason for that is that Ruinblaster on the draw is not very good – it is unlikely that you can just blow them out of the game with it. Spell Pierce, on the other hand, is much better – not that it is actually much better, but it is much more needed. When you are on the play, you always tap out before they do; When you are on the draw, that doesn’t happen. Spell Pierce on the draw lets you counter turn two Explore and turn three/four Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which is huge, whereas if you are on the play you just want to play your spells instead of keeping mana up.
The Burst Lightnings come back because it is more likely that they have Lotus Cobra, and Comet Storm is not as good an answer to Cobra and Oracle as it was on the play (you can’t Comet Storm a turn two cobra if you are on the draw). I understand that this sideboarding strategy looks a bit thrown together, but that is because it is – it is not that we didn’t discuss it, we did, but we just never managed to get to any conclusions. I am not even sure this is how I boarded against him, but it probably is.
Game three he mulliganed and started with Halimar Depths, fetchland, Depths. I had turn two Cobra. Then on turn three I went Cobra #2, Fetchland, Oracle of Mul Daya, Fetchland, Jace with two mana up to play for Spell Pierce, and as I was Brainstorming he just scooped; Lotus Cobra is sweet, and the mirror is very skill intensive – shoulda practiced more!!!1!
Round 14: UGW
My opponent was playing a sort of UGW control deck, and both games were very easy; from his perspective, it probably seemed like he put up a fight, but he never really did, as my hand was always full of gas. One interesting thing happened game one, though; I had a board full of lands, two of which were Islands, and one of which was a Raging Ravine with Spreading Seas on it. I also had another Raging Ravine.
At some point, I flipped the top card of my deck with Oracle of Mul Daya and it was Sphinx of Lost Truths. Some turns later, my opponent played Spreading Seas on my Raging Ravine – the one that already had one Spreading Seas in it. I thought it was a bit weird, but it could make some sense – after all, maybe he is more scared of me playing UU spell + counter than of the Raging Ravine. He passes the turn, and as I am about to untap, he says he had targeted the other Ravine. I said no, he hadn’t. He said of course he had, and it would have made no sense for him to target this one again, but I thought it could, yes, make sense – besides, the Raging Ravines were like a board apart – there is no way he meant to hit one but it “landed” on the other instead. I knew then that he probably meant to hit the other Ravine, but I looked at it as a play mistake and not a “misunderstanding”, and didn’t let him take it back (though it didn’t really matter). If it had been a situation of someone playing Paralyzing Grasp and it “landing” on a different creature, like happened to someone at a certain tournament, I would probably have let him take it back, but it honestly seemed like he messed up, so whatever.
Round 15: UW
This round was a feature match, covered here.
One interesting situation happened in game one; I had a 4/4ish Raging Ravine and we were both in topdeck mode of sorts; I had one Avenger of Zendikar in my hand and another on the top of my library. I could have just kept attacking with Raging Ravine and try to kill him with this, but I decided I needed a little bit more pressure, since he had one or two Walls, and played Avenger of Zendikar. If he Wrathed, then it would be the same as attacking with Ravine twice, since it’d kill both his Walls. He countered it, and then countered the next one, and I drew lands for the rest of the game and died many turns later. I think that, perhaps, if I just attack with Ravine, I can kill him before he draws his Emeria Angel, but I still don’t know whether this was right or not.
Game two was very interesting; we both mulliganed, and he thought a looong while before keeping his 6. I play land, land Cobra, and he plays UW Refuge, then on his second turn thinks for about 35 minutes, plays Island and passes. I draw and my hand is Mountain, Mountain, Spell Pierce, Goblin Ruinblaster, irrelevant card. What is your play?
I figured that, if my opponent was thinking, that was for two reasons – either he had Deprive and another tapland, and was deciding which to play, or he had Deprive and Everflowing Chalice (or he didn’t have anything and was bluffing). I figured that if he does have Deprive and Chalice, then just playing t3 Goblin Ruinblaster is really bad for me – it is better to just wait a turn to have Spell Pierce backup. If he has another tapland and Deprive, it is also better to wait. If he is bluffing it, then I lose two damage by waiting, but I think the downside of running into Deprive + Chalice is so much bigger than the upside of 2 damage if he doesn’t have anything that I figured it was better just to not play anything that turn.
Then, I attacked, and he played Pitfall Trap. Ugh. I knew this card existed, but I had never expected him to board it in against me – I guessed it could only mean that he had no Spreading Seas in his list, and so wanted a couple more answers to Raging Ravine. I had to Spell Pierce that, and passed the turn. Then he played another Island, and I played Ruinblaster, which was met with Cancel – can this get any worse? It turned out that what he was thinking about was playing Chalice or holding Pitfall Trap.
Looking back, I think not playing the Ruinblaster there is definitely correct – but do I attack? I think the answer is that, if you’ve seen Spreading Seas, you definitely attack. If you haven’t, like me, well, it is hard. It is extremely more likely that he doesn’t have Trap than that he does, and even if he does you’re still not dead to it, he also has to have the Cancel, but it is such a blowout if that happens.
Regardless, the game went on and I ended up winning.
Game three is pretty well covered, and nothing very exciting happened, except that he played Coralhelm Commander against me, which seems really bad and he probably shouldn’t have boarded in.
I was pretty excited, as all I needed was a draw, but I also knew that my tiebreaks were the worst – I guess starting 0-2 does have its bad sides – so if anyone at x-3 happened to be paired down, that person would be me. In the end, I got paired against my countryman Guilherme, and we had to play.
I felt pretty confident for this match – I knew he was playing UW, which was a good matchup, and it helped that I knew him. I didn’t think he was a weak player, but I also didn’t think he was particularly strong – I know almost everyone who plays Magic competitively in Brazil, and I have a good idea of who is good and who isn’t, so if I hadn’t ever had any reasons to think he was very good, that probably meant he wasn’t.
I mulliganed to 6 and he mulliganed to 5, and my hand was two lands, two Oracles and two Jaces, which I kept.
He stalled me a bit with double Spreading Seas, but that didn’t stop me from playing Jace, and Jace is just the most important card. Some turns later I found another green mana, and in no time he was completely outlanded. I Ruinblastered some of his blue sources, Burst Lightninged one that wanted to attack Jace, and the game was firmly in my control (though I did get confused at some point with so many Spreading Seas (I think he played 3 or 4) and thought I didn’t have a red mana that I did). I could have played more aggressively to end the game faster, but I knew I was going to win, and he knew I was going to win. Since a draw was good for me, I was in no hurry, though he should probably have scooped.
At some point I played a bunch of guys and passed with Cobra in play, and a Misty Rainforest. The top card was a Ruinblaster. On his turn he drew, played and activated Tectonic Edge on my Misty Rainforest, which was a pretty good play. I didn’t really need another land, so I decided to keep my Ruinblaster on top – this way if he Wrathed, I’d still be able to take his last blue source. He did Wrath, and I just played two more guys. He played Gideon and I killed it. In the end I just activated two Raging Ravines for two turns and he died without a blue source, and with me having a hand full of gas and a counter.
Game two he started with a turn two Luminarch Ascension (you have no idea how many tries it took me to spell this word correctly) , which I am not sure is the best card in this match, but this game was going to cause me trouble since I didn’t have any potential attackers. I had the “rest” of the game well handled, so I knew that if I was going to lose the game it would be to that card. For the lack of a better beater, I had to settle for Oracle of Mul Daya. Surprisingly it survived, and I managed to attack the Ascension and play a Jace, which resolved. He had a Gideon next turn, though, and I couldn’t break through and stop it from getting the fourth counter.
He Wrathed and killed my Jace with Gideon, but I killed that with Hellkite Charger. I was actually doing fine – he was stuck on lands and I had a bunch of mana and then a bunch of guys. I also had a Comet Storm. On a given turn, I decided to just attack with everything. I had the option of activating the Charger, or attacking with yet another Ravine, but I was sure he would just make two guys and then I’d kill him with Comet Storm. He only made one, and blocked. I played a post-combat Sphinx and he Deprived that. Then he surprised me again by attacking me with his two tokens, to put me at eight – that was definitely correct, but most people do not attack when they are being pressured, and he was definitely being pressured. Especially since he had the Luminarch, it was very tempting to just pass the turn – after all, the longer the game goes, the better for him, right? All he had to do was survive but not in this game. In this game, I had too much going on – each turn that passed I was doing more than the one four/four he was getting (since he could no longer tap out or I just Comet Storm him), so, even though he had the active enchantment, he had to end the game as quickly as possible.
In the end, I had to play my Comet Storm, and he had the second Deprive to kill me the following turn. If he does not play exactly the way he played, he probably loses this game, since my next card was my own Deprive. I think I could have played this differently to win – attacking better, for example, but I just assumed he would tap out to make a token at some point and then I would kill him, and he never did, and I lost because I had underestimated him. Oh well, at least now I know better!
Thankfully, my underestimation of him didn’t cost me, as he mulliganed to five and never really played a spell in game three.
After seeing the Luminarch Ascension, I took out something – an Avenger possibly – to board in my Cunning Sparkmage.
So, I had done it! I had made top 8 after starting 0-2!! (in second place, no less!)
This is pretty big already, so next week I’ll finish this, talking about the Top 8 draft and the games.
Thanks for reading, see you next week!
I know, I know, I promised. but don’t you complain that this is too big!
When day 2 ended, we decided to go back home. I was in the car with Josh, and we were supposed to follow Matej. At some point, Matej turned left, and Josh said “no, this can’t be right”¦ I’m pretty sure we have to go straight”. And went straight. A couple minutes later, he said “well, we are probably on the right direction; as long as we don’t pass by a McDonald’s, we should be fine.” “That McDonald’s over there?” “Yeah”
So, we were lost again. About 30 minutes later, after having going to the airport and back, we made it home.
I slept like an angel
We woke up next morning and went to the event.
The Top 8 draft was about to start, and I they told me they would be covering my draft, which was fine with me. You can see the entire draft in video AND in draft viewer, so I will not go much in detail other than a few important picks:
I think both cards are very good and fine first picks, and they both fit in the same two archetypes that I like to draft. The difference is that, when Corpsehatch is good, it is VERY good. Staggershock can be good or very good, but it will rarely be VERY good. I wanted VERY good.
When I draft, you can see that I move the cards a lot. Most of the time, when I move a lot of them to the front, it is not because I am deciding between all those, but because I want to know what I am going to table. In my first pack, for example, I saw 10 pickable cards – so that means I would wheel at least two. The most important of the ones that are likely to come back is the Raid Bombardment, because it is an archetype on its own (though not very good in my opinion) and goes well with my first pick; I also know that the second pick is going to be Staggershock no matter what, and the third and fourth are likely to be two of the blue cards, for example.
This was the pick I feared the most; I think that, right now, I have enough grasp on the format to know where I stand between most cards – the one card I have absolutely no clue about is the Treespeaker. In the end, I decided to just take the Treespeaker, since, again, the Treespeaker upside is way higher than the Staggershock upside, and it went much better with my first pick, and everyone kept telling me Treespeaker was insane so might as well. If it wasn’t for Luis’s, Gabe’s, and Ben’s influence, I would not have picked this card, and probably would not have won the tournament. The fact that I had already passed a Staggershock meant a little bit, but not much – if I thought it was the best card, I’d have taken it anyway.
Most of the time, when I drafted this archetype, the missing link was the big guys – I often had enough acceleration and sufficient removal, but not enough to do with my mana. Artisan of Kozilek is the best thing to do with your mana – well, other than Pelakka Wurm – and since I already had Corpsehatch and Treespeaker, I felt it was the best choice to keep the balance of my deck. Some people told me this was wrong, but I think this pick was fine.
A lot of people asked me about this pick (Arrow over Zulaport). The reasons I picked the Arrow are twofold:
1) What am I going to lose to? At that point, I didn’t feel like I was going to lose for the lack of ways to kill them. I also didn’t really feel like I’d be stomped in the ground, since I had good bodies and some tokens by then – no, if I lose, it is going to be because someone kills me in the air. That means my pick is between Arrow and Spider – I never really considered the Enforcer; of the two, Arrow is better against the fliers, but Spider is a maindeck card and better “in general”, which might have made it the best pick – but not the enforcer.
2) The games are best out of five. That means I get to play FOUR sideboarded games – and cards like Naturalize, Leaf Arrow and the two black discard spells become much, much better. It wasn’t a very big worry that Spider is maindeckable and this is not, because if I face the matchup where I really need this, then I will have four games to play it.
The real reason I picked the Leaf Arrow over the spider, though, was that I had two Mnemonic Walls, and since this was the middle of pack 2 my deck wasn’t shaped enough to know I wasn’t going to splash them. I already had a couple of worthy Wall targets, and it was a real possibility that I ended up splashing them, and if that was the case I’d much rather have access to Leaf Arrows.
I also picked a Surreal Memoir pretty late, and kept in mind that, with my two Leaf Arrows, I’d have enough targets to splash it after board against a deck with a critical mass of fliers.
I think it’s also interesting to note that I didn’t feel worried about passing Kiln Fiends and Distortion Strikes to my right, because the cards I got from that direction likely meant no one was in that archetype, but I did hate them when they came the other way, because Brad or someone after him could be.
In the end, I thought my deck was pretty good and I was very happy with it. I understand that, for someone who is not familiar with the format, it might not seem so, since it just looks weird, but it had removal, acceleration, fatties, synergy overall, and everyone in our group thought my deck was good (and we did go a combined 300-10 in draft – well, ok, not that much, but our draft record was really good; In the first draft of day 1, for example, Gabe, who had gone 0-3, had gotten more draft losses than all the other 10 people in the house added together)
This is the deck I played:
Round 1: Josh Utter-Leyton, playing UGR
I didn’t really want to play against Josh, but oh well
All my matches in the t8 are covered and on video, so I won’t go into a lot of detail about them. The games I win are particularly uninteresting, too;
Game one, there was a critical situation where I had Last Kiss, Dread Drone, and Vendetta in my hand, and he had nothing relevant. I had Arrogant Bloodlord, as well as a Joraga Treespeaker with Lust for War, and I was at 20. I had three options here – Last Kiss my own Treespeaker, Last kiss his Eldrazi Spawn so I can attack with Bloodlord, or do nothing. I figured that, since I had Vendetta still in my hand, I’d be able to kill his guy, attack for four, play a 4/1 and then I would still have a Vendetta for his next blocker, which meant he would die far quicker than the Lust for War would kill me; If that failed, I still had two Bloodthrone Vampires in my deck to get rid of it, as well as Jaddi Lifestrider to buy a lot more time.
So, I killed his guy and attacked, taking three. On his turn, he played what is probably the worst card in Magic for your opponent to play when you have Bloodlord and a 4/1 – Guard Gomozoa. I was expecting a big guy, which would tap him out – I tried the Vendetta anyway, but he had Eel Umbra. At this point I could no longer attack, and I ended up drawing land after land and losing the Lust for War.
I boarded in both discard spells I had; I figured my deck was much better than his, and the only way I lose is if I don’t know what is going on – the moment I see what he has in hand, then I will be able to play all my cards properly, and they will be better than his.
Game two was academic, like the other two games I won; The interesting thing happened in game four, in which I was ahead for most of the time but then ended up losing to Eldrazi Conscription. I had Broodwarden and Awakening Zone, so I think I should have just sat still and waited – I decided to attack, and lost because of that. Granted, he did have the combination of cards to punish me (Regress + Domestication), but I didn’t need to put myself in this position. I think that, in game 1, I played well and was unfortunate to lose, but in this game I definitely misplayed and could have won.
The only other interesting thing that happened was that I knew he had Domestication in hand game three, and I had Nirkana Revenant and Ondu Giant in play at some point, and a Pawn of Ulamog in hand, but I just held it, because I knew that if I played it he would steal it and that would give him two chump blockers instead of one (as well as doubling all his other chump blockers). At some point he had to steal the Giant, and then I was free to play it.
Also worth noting, we both chose to draw in all five games. And, also worth noting, I kept a 5 land, two 5cc spells against him, because I knew his deck was super slow and I was not in a hurry to do anything.
My semis were against Noah Swartz, playing UW. We had access to each other’s lists, but not the sideboard, which I thought was a plus for me since I had two Leaf Arrows and an Inquisition of Kozilek that I wanted to board in, and he wouldn’t know about that (even though his friends could tell him, since my draft had been covered). On the other hand, I doubted he had much of relevance to bring himself. This is another upside of the Gxx archetype – you always have very strong sideboard cards.
All my games were pretty straight-forward, and probably not worth talking about, except for the last. We got to a point where I had a bunch of creatures and a Wildheart Invoker, and he had a bunch of creatures too. I paused for a while, and considered whether he had good blockers or not; In the end, though, I realized it didn’t matter – it was irrelevant whether he had good blockers or not, the only thing that mattered was whether he would find those blockers or not. By thinking about it, all I do is give him more time to think about it; I know I have to attack anyway, so I might as well attack. When I attacked he started assigning blockers, and then I again took the time to figure out what was going to happen; In the end, I couldn’t find any configuration of blocks that would let him kill me if he drew a land, as long as I sacrificed the tapped token, that was attacking, and apparently neither could he (though he thought I was dead to a land, since he had forgotten the Guard Dutied guy, but I was not). In the end, the only card in his deck that makes him survive for one turn (if that; I didn’t do the math, since it was also a moot point) is Regress, which he didn’t draw.
Sooo, I was on the finals! I had wanted the Italian guy to win, since it looked like I’d destroy him, whereas Guillaume Matignon’s deck was definitely in the top 2 of the pod (along with mine, in my humble opinion). I knew the matches could go either way; I was expecting to lose one of the five games to the Guul Draz Assassin, and had to hope he wouldn’t draw it every time (or I’d have my one answer in Last Kiss), but it seemed like I would have the advantage if he didn’t draw either Training Grounds and a bunch of levelers or the Assassin.
I think the only game worth talking about is the fourth one – the one where he had the Assassin. At some point during the match, I had a Nirkana Revenant in play, and I attacked and pumped it to 6/6 or 8/8. I had a token in play, and a Dreamstone Hedron I wanted to play, and he had an untapped Assassin, fully leveled. I could have sacrificed the token and played the Hedron, keeping BB up to pump it past the Assassin plus Induce Despair for less than four, but instead I tapped the Swamp and kept the token. My reason for that was that the token was a very important blocker at this point, and I was hoping he would forget my Nirkana was 6/6 and would try to shoot it on my turn and then on his turn to kill it, since I only had one Swamp left. I know, I know, it is the Pro Tour finals, but hey, this is not a hard mistake to make – I remember a GP finals where Shuhei Nakamura attacked with a Shade and pumped it to 3/3, and then Andre Coimbra tried to kill it with a two damage burn spell at the end of the turn, so it can definitely happen.
The only situation this backfires is if he draws Induce Despair that turn (since he clearly didn’t have it before), and has a creature that costs more than one and less than four; In the end, I figured the chance of him making the mistake and the upside of that was bigger than the chance of him killing my Revenant because of that, which is why I made the play I made. Of course it didn’t matter and I lost in the following turn anyway, but just to make clear why I played the way I played.
Also relevant to mention that I had at some point a hand with Dread Drone, Broodwarden, Jaddi Lifestrider and 4 lands, which was better than the one I had kept against Josh, but I mulliganed against Guillaume, because his deck was faster and I knew he had two Vendetta. I also drew in all five games.
Then, there was the last game: my hand wasn’t great, but he wasn’t doing anything. I played my Shade, and, surprisingly, it resolved. and it lived! At that point, I knew I had already won. I played the Wurm precombat, just so I could attack and pump without fearing Regress. In the end, he didn’t have it, not that I cared”¦ and I won the Pro Tour!
I…won… the… Pro… Tour!
It took some time for that to sink in. In fact, I am not sure it already has. I gave that small interview to BDM and Rich, and then Craig, the Photographer, took me to the Hilton so we could take some pictures on the beach. I just tagged along; nothing really mattered.
I took pictures in the sand, in a wet hammock, in some chairs. I talked to Evan Erwin on video, and said blue when I meant green and black when I meant blue. Craig said something like, “You don’t want to get wet, do you?” and I said I didn’t mind – I’d jump in the sea if he wanted – again, nothing really mattered much (though he ended up not doing that shot).
It is hard to explain how it feels. I think if I had to describe it, I would say I was in a “State of Grace.” I don’t know if you use this expression in English the way we do in Portuguese – literally I guess it’s supposed to mean you are in the presence of a deity, or under the influence of one. We use it to explain the state someone is when they are so awed by something that they don’t really care what goes around them; The thing they are going through excuses everything, takes precedence over everything, nothing is strong enough to annoy them because the feeling of happiness trumps everything else. For example, if I had had to throw myself with all my clothes in the ocean, I wouldn’t have cared a little bit. We had a flat tire and had to wait for almost one hour and call triple A on our way back, but that didn’t really bother me (though that might have been because Luis had to sort everything out, and not because I was in state of grace). Anyway, I hope you get what I mean – I was so overwhelmed about winning the tournament that everything else seemed so little and mundane by comparison.
As for how the tournament changed my life, well, it changed a lot. I don’t think I have became particularly better after this tournament, or before this tournament – if you ask me, I played better in both Hollywood and Austin. Not to say that I played badly in San Juan, I don’t think I did, but I played like any good player would. The main point in here is that the way I perceive myself hasn’t changed after this tournament – but the way other people perceive me certainly has. I even get to read questions of whether I am the next Finkel/Budde, which, though they flatter me a lot, seem somewhat absurd – I’d have been very honored if the question had been about being the next Kenji already, even if I also think the answer to that question is, “no.”
It does feel very good, though, to read not only “congratulations,” but, “congratulations, you’ve deserved that for a long time,” and I got to read a lot of those. It shows me that all the dedication I’ve had has not gone unnoticed, and I am really glad for that.
And, after all, winning is always winning – most professional players know that the person who wins is not always the best, and that skill is measured more by consistency than top results, but history is never very kind to runner-ups; As the winner of the tournament, I got a lot more recognition than I have before. Even my new university classmates (with whom I have been studying since March) had found out, by the time I got back to class, by themselves, without me saying anything, that I had won – and they all congratulated me and said they had watched my interview and it was really cool. They also watched some previous interviews they found on youtube, and now they sometimes mockingly call me “the Brazilian Superstar,” which is what I get called in a video – how cool is that?
There is also the fact that, before, whenever the subject of Magic arrived, my non-Magic friends would say something like “he is a world champion!” to a third person, and I would always have to correct them. Then the third person would ask “then what are you?”, and I would have to settle for “a very good player” or “national champion”. Now, I don’t feel like I have to correct them anymore, which makes me pretty happy.
It was also really cool to carry a check with me in the airport and airplane, even if slightly annoying at times because it is big and fragile, though the stewardesses always did their best to accommodate it – as Luis’ wife would say, “people just love giant checks”. A lot of people kept staring at me with wide eyes, some asked me what that was for, and the others just said congratulations – I actually felt a bit like a real life celebrity as opposed to a Magic one. Where are you now, Kelly Clarkson?
To finish this report, I’ll go through a list of PROPS! I generally don’t do them, because I am always scared I’ll forget someone, but I want to do them now:
– Props to Luis and Gabe, for booking the house and the cars – I know (ok, I don’t know, but I imagine) it is very troublesome.
– Props to everyone who was in the house, specially to Ben, Gabe and Luis for teaching me how to draft, and to Brad for teaching me about Block.
– Props to Michelle, for taking us around Puerto Rico and showing us some cool places.
– Props to Brad and Josh, who Top 8ed.
– Props to Craig, who is an awesome photographer.
– Props to my IRC Friends, who always help me test and cheer for me.
– Props to the other Brazilian players who were there and kept shouting whenever I won.
– Props to the Brazilian players who weren’t there, but kept supporting me in the Brazilian magic site, as they always do.
– Props to Guilherme, who played much better than I expected him to, and definitely deserved his top 16.
– Props to my classmates, who could have thought I was a nerd and geeky for playing Magic, but instead think that I am awesome.
– Props to everyone who reads my articles and replies, playing Magic wouldn’t be the same if no one cared to read what I have to say.
– Props to Channelfireball, for giving me a place to write and cards to play.
– Props to my mother, who says “this time I want you to have a trophy when I pick you up at the airport” every time I travel, and is always very supportive.
– Props to everyone who congratulated me – it does mean a lot.
– Props to myself, because I won the Pro Tour!
– None, because I am still in a State of Grace.
Thank you for reading,
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa