After Oakland had concluded, the group I was traveling with and I had to switch gears and begin focusing on different things. For three of us, Standard and the Pro Tour was the number one priority, but others needed to work on their sealed evaluations and still others were most interested in Legacy. This led to a little more chaotic of an atmosphere than I had originally hoped for when I drew up the trip and resulted in the only mutual format of liking being multiple drafts a day.
Now while this technically was considered testing for the Pro Tour, it was definitely the area I already felt most comfortable in and thus was not as needed as Standard attention. If nothing else, the eventual lack of intense testing done over the week did teach me a lesson that life has taught me plenty of times, but not when dealing with Magic in particular: always prepare for the worst.
I had done so much Extended testing for the months leaded up to the Grand Prix, but had done no actual testing for Standard. Sure, I had plenty of decklists and ideas ready to go, but very few actual games were tested. I was relying on the five days of what I thought would contain nothing but free time for Magic to really cram for the Tour. The situation was much like that night before your biology final where you begin to study and then get called into work which interrupts your studying. I did not get near the quality or quantity of testing that I would have liked, and it definitely cost me in the long run.
We managed to get in enough testing to rule out ideas, as well as find some high points along the way, but were never able to gel an entire deck together. For example, I learned very quickly that I did not want to be casting Harrow at the Pro Tour, as every time it got countered, it was nearly impossible to recover from and win. I expected a big resurgence from the blue contingent thanks to Worldwake and therefore quickly ruled out Harrow and strategies that relied on it. On the opposite side of the spectrum though, I found out just how insane Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs was. I had quite a few games just become entirely locked up against Jund and Boros Bushwhacker due to the efficient 5/4 which ultimately led to his inclusion in my deck of choice.
The PT Meta
The metagame going into the Pro Tour was strange in that we knew there would be Jund, random blue control decks, and random aggro decks, but the homebrews would be rampant as there was not a true established metagame. I wanted to employ a resource denial strategy against the Jund decks and control decks, but also have game against all of the random decks I would encounter.
This started off as a huge mana ramp deck, similar to what I ran at Worlds, although with Terastodon and blue instead of black, for the inclusion of Aether Tradewinds and sideboarded Dispels. This path led me to discover that sad fact about Harrow and I quickly aborted all-in mana ramp strategies. I moved to a more modest ramp strategy, with nothing over 5 mana and fewer slots devoted to ramp. I originally turned to Explore (alongside the Cobra obviously) but was very unimpressed. Instead, I went back to some technology I was running just prior to Worldwake’s release from this gem:
I was running this just prior to the new Standard, and Worldwake just made it even better. With manlands in the format, Trace of Abundance tripled in value, as now it was nearly a must counter against control. In addition, Tectonic Edge made for a nice Knight target and would supplement my resource denial strategy. In fact, the Edge proved to be such a valuable card, that I kept upping its numbers again and again until I settled on this list for the Pro Tour:
Unfortunately, while fine, this was definitely not what the metagame ordered. I guess I shouldn’t complain as 3 of the 5 people playing the list did top 60, but no one went better than 7-3 meaning it was only “good enough” and that is just not something I pride myself on when it comes to Magic. The one question that will surely come up in the forums, even after I point out just that, is why we splashed black for Pulse when O-Ring does something very similar.
The first answer is that we could, as we were running 4 green fetches anyway. The second reason is that originally we had other black options in the board and made the last minute switch away from them, making the 2 lone black cards look pretty awkward. Given a total reboot and enough time to work it out, Oblivion Ring would have worked fine, although it is scary against things like Into the Roil and opposing Pulses.
As I would typically claim, the deck can be molded into something more appropriate for the metagame, but it just isn’t there as of yet. This was the result of not having enough time to continue to refine the original list and discover new technology.
Basically, long story short, the lack of testing led to a fine, but not outstanding deck, which led to a fine, but not outstanding 3-2 finish in Constructed for me, paving the way for an atrocious draft. Basically I opened a pack with the only relevant cards being the following:
As you can see, 6 of those 7 cards are green, and as I like to avoid blue in this format when possible, pairing it with green the most when I do go for it, it was pretty easy for me to justify snagging a green card here and happily taking whatever green card tabled, as they were all above average. I took the Oracle (as it has the potential to be the best) and waited on the edge of my seat to see what would table. I took a Harrow, then an Oran-Rief Survivalist as I waited. Back came my original pack, with not a single green card in the pack. 5 of the remaining 7 drafters took a green card from the pack. Needless to say, this did not lead to a good conclusion for me.
I ended up in U/G splash black, and pieced together a miserable 1-2 finish.. typical.
Meanwhile, back at the sleeping grounds, an elaborate game of musical beds was taking place. You see, some people in our group insisted that we stay at a hostel about 4 blocks from the convention center. Now while the location was pretty awesome, very little else followed suit. Two rooms were to be split among the 9 of us, with one room holding 6, and the other 3. This seemed fine, until a mysterious 10th was somehow booked into the private room of 6.
Of course, we went to the front desk to figure out the situation, but they informed us that there were no other rooms available and that this 10th would not be able to stay at the hostel at all. One of our members took a 20 dollar bribe from the front desk to sleep on a couch in the hallway, allowing said 10th to sleep in our room. None of us were very excited by this, as now our valuables were potentially at risk, but we had little choice, other than to berate the member who gave up his slot which we obviously did.
Turns out, this stranger’s name was Rusty, which was only odd due to his age, which came in at something like 65 years old; an odd age to still maintain the name Rusty, but c’est la vie. Rusty ended up getting to about 2 in the morning before the staff stormed up and told him they booked a different stranger in his bed and that he should leave immediately. In came the newest member of the hostel, who we quickly dubbed Trusty.
Trusty ended up not showing up until the next afternoon, meaning Rusty was kicked out of the hostel for no apparent reason. Musical beds did not end there however, as the hostel decided to double book another one of our parties beds to a 3rd stranger, who we couldn’t resist calling Machete. Our friend ended up staying in a hotel the remaining two nights, as Machete rolled around in his bed, happy as can be. Machete actually turned out to be the worst, as he performed the most sinful of acts for a 6 person room and clogged up the toilet via “natural” methods.
Despite the chaos back at the hostel, there was still Magic to be played. I had decided to enter the sealed side event for an Xbox and was handed one of the most disgusting pools I have ever seen, resulting in the following deck.
While the mana was awkward, as B/W normally is, this was sealed, meaning I had plenty of time to recover from any mana issues as opposed to draft, which usually ends before you pick yourself up after a stumble. Even the few games where I was restricted off of a color, the power level of the cards I could cast were more than sufficient to either buy me time, or just go ahead and win the game on their own. I ended up taking home an Xbox, which was a nice consolation after bombing out of the Pro Tour, although it was much more difficult to bring home than a check would have been.
The back to back trip was definitely memorable, so there are no complaints. I am looking forward to Houston and will likely be attending a cash tourney or two before then. As for now, the PTQ grind should start back up on its regular schedule now that there is a short break in premier events. Madrid would be fun although a bit expensive for just a Grand Prix, which means I will not be attending. LSV will though and of course some major congratulations need to go out to him as he continued to demonstrate his mastery of the game at the Pro Tour. Thanks for reading.