Almost Top 8 at GP Portland

There is more than one way to make mistakes when you play Magic—it’s not just about the in-game misplays you make. I like to say my deck choices are sometimes fatal to my tournaments way more than my misplays. Two weekends ago, I got to experience the “I did my math wrong” mistake—and it cost me a Top 8.

I conceded to Michael Hantz after we found ourselves in a stalemate with no time left on the clock. We agreed before the match that if we went to time, we would try to figure out who was the favorite to win the game and let that player through to the Top 8—it felt stupid to knock us both out if we had a sensible way to avoid that. We both looked at the standings before the round and concluded that nobody could intentionally draw themselves in Top 8.

There was my mistake. It was true that going into the round, nobody could draw in and guarantee themselves a spot—except Michael, who had good enough breakers that if he was able to draw with anyone, he should’ve, but none of us realized that. Everyone else, including me, would be taking a gamble. After the match, after being told I could’ve made it, I looked at the standings from the round before and the final standings. That’s when I concluded that if we let that match go to a draw, we would’ve gotten 7th and 8th.

My mistake was not thinking about more than the beginning-of-the-round scenario. I quickly glanced and thought, “yep, nobody at 36 points can sit down and intentionally draw without taking a chance.”

GP Portland standings ROUND 14

In the last round, 1 is paired against 2, 3 vs. 4, and so forth. The reality was, if Max Mick won his match, there would be one less 38+ pointer in the Top 8 (because he’s paired against a 35-pointer) and there would be room for one more 37-pointer.

  • 1: 40 pts
  • 2: 40 pts
  • 3: 39 pts
  • 4: 39 pts
  • 5: 39 pts
  • 6: 38 pts
  • 7: 38 pts or 37 pts
  • 8: MICHAEL HANTZ (37 or 39 pts and 71% tiebreakers)
  • 9 to X: 37 pts.

In the scenario where Max loses to Tanner, there’s room for only one 37-pointer, which is likely Christian Keeth if he draws (but I know he doesn’t, since he’s on the table next to us), then next would be Paul Rietzl, but he played against Christian. Michael is next on the list.

The other scenario is that if Max wins, there’s room for Michael and the next best 37-pointer, which is either Max Mick or myself. He had 0.0021 more tiebreaker than me going into the round. It’s basically a coin flip who would Top 8.

Even in a theoretical world where we are all isolated for our round, it still would have been correct to draw. I’d assume Paul Rietzl and Christian Keeth play and don’t go to time (Paul plays quite fast), and Max’s match is a coin flip. In that case, when Michael and I go to time, I can let the draw happen, which in the worst-case scenario would let Michael in the Top 8, and if I win two coin flips in a row, I make Top 8 as well.

Because I didn’t consider this outline, I thought I was doing the right thing by conceding to Michael as I didn’t want to sabotage both of us.

I really appreciate how the community reacted to my concession and all the kind words I received, but I don’t think I deserved them all that much. I just made what I thought was the +EV play for both of us, and it was wrong.

Deck Choice

Abzan Superfriends

I decided to dedicate a very small amount of testing to this event, considering I was in Australia the week before and I wanted to explore. This list was constructed on my 14-hour flight to Portland, where I got to play a little bit of Magic Online, but mostly talked to teammates and theorized about the format. I wanted to play a black control deck, so I’d have access to Infinite Obliteration against Emrakul and Deep-Fiend decks. I also wanted Gideon because it’s the only way to pressure the Kozilek’s Return decks effectively, so I thought white/black planeswalkers would be ideal. My list had Oath of Liliana and was actually something like 2 cards off what Travis Woo ran to the finals. I talked to Seth about it and he told me he didn’t like the Bant Company matchup, so I crossed it off my list.

That’s when the green cards entered the equation. Ishkanah is a powerhouse against Bant, and Nissa and Sylvan Advocate are just unreal Magic cards on their own. Teammate Jiachen Tao had posted in our chat something that looked like what I had in mind—he was basically black/green splash Gideon with Oath of Nissa, Shambling Vents, and some number of white sources.

I built something, I refined it with sideboard plans in mind, played a few games, and I liked where I was going. I registered it with confidence and found myself nearly in the Top 8. Jiachen played his own version of the deck and we played each other in the 11-2 bracket—we’re on to something.

I don’t have any Standard events in this format anymore, so unfortunately I don’t have an updated 75 for you guys. But there are a few things I’d change:

  • Cut 2 Traverse and 1 Emrakul, add a 2nd Ob Nixilis, 2nd Sorin, and a 26th land.
  • Move Kalitas to the sideboard, and potentially add a 2nd as well.
  • Move Gideon completely to the sideboard as well as the 2nd Plains if you expect more Bant CoCo and less Emrakul/Kozilek’s Return.
  • Cut 1 Painful Truths from the sideboard.


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