Chasing Victory – Pro Tour Adventures


Grand Prix Oakland was just the beginning. I still had another week in California to get through.

I spent the days after the GP recovering from my illness and battling some more Extended with my brews. On Tuesday, I headed down to the lobby of our hotel and ran into Gabe Walls. We were both about to get chauffeured to Superstars by none other than Mr. 17-0 himself, Luis Scott-Vargas. Gabe handed me a decklist, one that was significantly different than anything else they had been working on.

I thought to myself, “Had Gabe been hanging out with Tom Ross while I was holed up in my room?”

Turns out, he had been, and the man called “The Boss” had turned almost everyone onto his Naya deck. Together, they had built a spicy little number with Stoneforge Mystic that fetched Behemoth Sledge and Basilisk Collar, with Cunning Sparkmages in the sideboard.

I liked it. The manabase scared me, but if they ended up playing that deck in the Pro Tour, I figured I’d be happy playing that deck too, assuming I was able to grind in. I wasn’t extremely hopeful, as it was Sealed. If it was Constructed, I was probably close to even money to grind in, but Sealed probably brought me back to reality.

I had about a 1/20 shot, if that. I figured I’d go, see what happened, and not expect much, which is basically the exact attitude you need to have.

And no, I wasn’t qualified for PT San Diego. A lot of people seemed surprised by this, but I’m not sure why. I didn’t win a match last year

We spent the next few days filming a couple videos, drafting, and testing Standard, and by that I mean everyone else was doing those while I was battling Calosso Fuentes in heads up Extended. Go ahead and ask him how that went for him

My brews were brews, and they didn’t seem to be improving. They weren’t the types of decks that absolutely crushed people some games, which is kind of what you need in Extended. Again, I was having a hard time finding a reason to not just play Dark Depths.

I scheduled my flights like an idiot. On Thursday, I left at 10 AM, which meant that I had to get up at 6:30. Naturally, I stayed up most of the night so I didn’t get much sleep. I was able to sleep a tiny bit on the plane, but it wasn’t really what I needed. Surely, a nap was waiting for me at our hotel, but they didn’t have our room ready at noon, which I should have expected. In just a few hours, I was supposed to be fighting for my Pro Tour life and if I ground in, I would be on basically no sleep for three days.

My Sealed was solid, but not great. I did have a Jace and was definitely going to play blue, but ended up playing green instead of black so that I’d have some decent creatures and something resembling a mana curve. Black had four removal spells, but green allowed me to splash white for two removal, so I felt like the deck wasn’t losing out on too much.

I started 6-0, rather uneventfully. There were some games where my opponents mulled into oblivion or simply missed land drops. My draws weren’t amazing by any means, but they were good enough to overwhelm my unlucky opponents.

Jace was a card I hadn’t really played with before, but it created some interesting situations. When I thought my opponent was pretty strong, I wouldn’t really risk Jace if I didn’t have to. There were a few situations where we would have the same number of creatures, and I could play Jace, bounce one of their guys, and keep a guy back to block their guy, but if they had anything, Jace would die.

Instead, I would just play another guy if I had the option and use Jace once it created a huge tempo advantage or if I really needed to bounce something. In the end, I won most of those games just on the backs of my animals, and had a few opportunities to run the “I still had all these Jaces!”

Round two I played against Ben Stark, who was qualified for the Pro Tour if he wanted to use his one invite from being level three. He said earlier in the week that if we were paired, he would concede, since he was already Qed and I wasn’t, but once the situation actually came up, he didn’t feel exactly the same. I told him that I didn’t expect anything from him, so we shuffled up.

Both of our decks were pretty good, but once game one started going long, it was pretty clear I had the advantage. Eventually a kicked Rite of Replication sealed it. Second game, he kept a two lander with his 18 land deck and never drew a third land until it was way too late.

So, there I was, sitting at 6-0, needing to win 3-4 matches still, when I was paired against a gentleman by the name of Shady Badran. We chatted a bit before the match and he told me he was basically playing poker for a living. When he hemmed and hawed about his opener, I was pretty sure he had the nuts. I don’t think any poker player would have been so obviously agonizing over his opener, but a poker player would definitely be used to tricking fish by using such basic tactics.

Was he treating me like a fish, or did he put me a level above them, and therefore think that I would think exactly how I was thinking? If that were the case, he would act like his hand was bad in order to make me think his hand was good, and therefore over or under mulligan my hand, or attempt to play around cards that weren’t there.

Either way, there wasn’t much of a decision to be made, as my hand was a keeper. Not great, but good enough, and we were off. I just knew I had to be careful.

He started with a one drop, while I Treasure Hunted into Jace. My opponent exclaimed, “How lucky!” It was far from that actually. I cast Treasure Hunt close to ten times in the tournament and hit a land exactly once. Vampire Nighthawk was his next play, and it was clear that he had the tempo advantage, which he pressed even further by using Gatekeeper of Malakir to kill my first creature.

At this point, I didn’t want to play Jace and just have it die, so I kept trying to put up some sort of defense, but he kept killing my guys and I died with Jace still in my hand.

Second game was more of the same, right down to his openly lamenting his seven card hand. He curved out and killed all my dudes, and I was almost sure that he just figured I would assume he was one of those guys that wore their emotions on their sleeve, and would keep sketchy hands because I assumed that he did. I gave him more credit than that based on the way he composed himself, so I pressed further.

He revealed that his openers were probably not as good as I thought they were, based on how the games played out. Apparently, he had to draw some Swamps in game one and all the removal he played in game two was off the top of his deck, but I still wasn’t sure if I believed him.

His name was Shady after all

Round eight saw me fighting for my tournament life against another sick black deck, this time with Malakir Bloodwitch and Vampire Nighthawk, the former of which he played all three games. I think Jace was the decider in the first game, while I couldn’t beat Bloodwitch in the second.

In the final game, we traded cards until he played a Bloodwitch, while I was around 25 from Gladehearts. He got me down to 7 life when I finally drew Rite of Replication. SOMEONE ALERT MODOPHOTOS!

After looking at the standings, I saw that an 8-2 would make it, but that just meant that almost everyone would just draw, so I needed to win this round for sure. My opponent was pretty solid, but Jace kept his board clear while my green fatties crushed him.

Second game we did the usual trade, trade, trade until I had a ton of lands in play, but was still “mana screwed” with a white card in my hand. The remainder of my army was promptly Comet Stormed, and that was that. Sadly, I mulliganed twice in game three and died before casting any relevant spells. That didn’t stop the judge from giving me a warning for failure to maintain the game state after I had already conceded though.

So that was it. Stay up all night and lose basically playing for the slot. I stuck it out for the last round so that I could collect some packs, but for 6th place (which was basically 2nd since they didn’t give any prizes to the top four), I got 18 packs. Nice 350 man tournament

Naturally, I slept in the next day and headed to the site just as the draft portion of the Pro Tour was starting. I ran into Michael Jacob, who was lamenting his deck choice after going 0-3-1. He even had to work ridiculously hard to earn that draw also.

Still, a Standard tournament was starting, and while it was only for a camera, I needed to salvage the two weeks I was spending in Cali. I grabbed MJ’s deck while he spouted random useful information to me, which is basically the best way to pick up a deck on the fly.

I won round one, but got crushed the next two. I had mana issues to say the least. I could have been mulliganing more aggressively, and I probably could have played better, but I didn’t like the deck very much. MJ agreed that we could fix it, but we moved onto other things.

At the end of the day, I was often asked if I made day two, to which I replied, “I didn’t even make day one.” Roughly then 75% percent of those people would then ask me if they could play the same Dark Depths list that I was playing in the PTQ the next day.

Now, if you’re coming to me for advice on Dark Depths, you probably know that I won a PTQ with it. You probably also know that that PTQ is for San Juan. You probably also know that the PTQ that you are trying to play in the next day is also Extended and also for San Juan. At that point, I would assume you know how PTQs work, and that if you win one you can’t play in any others.

None of that stopped people from asking me how I did in the PTQs.

The Mystery

Anyway, back to MJ’s mastery. He was in game three against Vampires, in extra turns. He was at four life with a Baneslayer facing down two Vampire Hexmages, Bloodghast, and a Vampire Nocturnus with a black card on top no less.

His opponent, on turn four of turns, carefully weighed his options. When he finally went for the correct play, which was an all out attack, MJ quickly moved the Baneslayer in front of the Nocturnus and said, “I’ll just first strike down your Nocturnus.”

MJ’s nameless opponent quickly untapped all of his creatures that had nearly just attacked and reconsidered his position based on this new information. In the end, he decided to pass the turn and MJ escaped with a draw rather than take an “unpreventable” loss.

I hung around for a little bit longer, and tried to figure out my plans for the next day. There was a PTQ and MODO Live Series at 10 AM, both of which I had an interest in. I needed to find Gabe Walls a deck to PTQ with, and I had a little brew that I had been working on that I figured would be perfect for GWalls.

Gabe played a round and then promptly dropped and called me an idiot. That’s cool man. I only signed you up, handed you 75 sleeved cards in a deck box with a decklist and sideboarding guide, but thanks.

Oh also, Michael Poszgay got third in the same PTQ with the same deck. But yes, I’m the idiot.

(Am I being results-oriented? Yes, but it helps solidify my argument, so just go with it.)

And don’t let anyone else tell you that I’m not barn #1, because I most definitely am.

I managed to win the MODO lottery, but was promptly annihilated round one by the man who won it all: The aforementioned Michael Jacob.


There was a Standard tournament at 4 PM, and I was ready. MJ had brewed a somewhat new list at dinner the night before. We liked the equipment package, but who needs green cards? I built Boros with Stoneforge Mystic and Adventuring Gear when MJ suggested Ruin Ghost and Sejiri Steppe. I wanted to play a ton of lands anyway, and Ruin Ghost seemed great at both protecting my threats and forcing through the last points of damage, so I was sold.

Here’s what I played:

The deck was pretty good, and I got a few turn four kills, mostly involving Kor Duelist. I started out well, then completely punted twice in round four. I still could have won game one, as I had a lethal flier that had protection from his blocker if I had a fetchland. I played and cracked Scalding Tarn and motioned for him to scoop up his cards, but he wanted to see if I had a Mountain in my deck. Turns out my four card hand contained three Mountains, and my bluff didn’t work out.

Afterward, I lost to a Jund deck to finish 5-2. LSV had finished his 16-0 run and rather than stick it out for some more packs, I dropped so that I could partake in a free steak dinner.

I assume that every single person who is reading this has also read LSV’s article this week where he describes the credit card game. As a bystander, it was extremely entertaining watching Gabe and Luis battle it out dinner after dinner, cab after cab, grocery store run after grocery store run. Gabe won nearly every single CC game they played, and on top of it all, Luis could barely buy a win when we drafted.

However, once the Pro Tour started, that all changed. The night before, Gabe lost a huge game and then bombed out of the PT while LSV couldn’t stop losing. Oh, the swings.

Anyway, I liked the maindeck, but will definitely be looking to fix this deck for upcoming events like the Midwest Masters Series. A few people mocked a lot of cards in the deck, and while Ruin Ghost only performed some of the time, he would have been insane had I drawn it at other points, so it’s hard to say exactly how good it is.

As I said earlier, I didn’t really use any of the brain cells I supposedly have when booking my flights. I was scheduled to leave on Sunday at 4 PM, which meant that I didn’t get to play in the draft challenge, the Legacy for a Mox, or even watch LSV in the top eight. I was pretty focused on just getting home as soon as possible and I guess I succeeded in that regard.

I know this is kind of a slow week for me. Not many people were insulted in this article, and I hope you guys can forgive me!


34 thoughts on “Chasing Victory – Pro Tour Adventures”

  1. Incidentally:

    Michael in his semifinals match.

    The completely unexpected Gatekeeper (I think it had just knocked off a Meddling Mage).

    Michael’s deck kind of spat up on him and served him all lands in game three, but it seemed quite solid overall.

  2. Oops. Those were meant to have images linked from my photoset.

    Click over to my article this week and the linked photoset if anyone wants to see pics of Michael in the top eight. He’s the dude with the beard and the green shirt. His was quite happy with the deck.

  3. I was going to play your trinket mage list….. but then I got pulled out for an illegal left turn on the way. 🙁

  4. OMG you actually went back to the vendillion/jitte package. How was it?
    I thought the problem was that it still gets stuffed by the same hate as the other list did, or did you not find that?

  5. I lol’d at SOMEONE ALERT MODOPHOTOS! and “still had all these jaces!” GerryT might be the funniest asshole on the pro tour 🙂

  6. @Spanner — My understanding from listening to Michael talk about the deck was that people were ineffectively hating out the nonexistent Thopter/Sword combo all day, and that he won a lot of games by beating people to death with Cliques and Confidants. Even his semifinals opponent was surprised that he didn’t have Thopter/Sword, and wasted space in his deck sideboarding in hate against it.

  7. [i]His name was Shady after all"¦[/i]

    Heh! I knew Shady pretty well before he moved out to Utah… I’ll ask him if he actually knew who you were when he was playing you and if he was pulling your leg or not.

  8. like the new boros list i was thinking ruin ghost probably isn’t good enough w/ just lynx and pede but adding the gear makes him somewhat playable i guess…. fun deck seems like the typical boros deck where you lose more games to your own deck then to others

  9. I’m rooting for a 0-4 drop from you @ San Juan.

    Getting pissed off at people asking you how you were doing in the ptq??? Pfff

  10. Nah…attack all in…first strike happens after declare blockers so all your guys still “fly” over the defense…they just lose the pump before combat damage

  11. Yes the right play there is to go in with both hex mages, attacking with everything is not the right play

  12. If I have it all correct… MJ’s at 4 life, so swinging in with two 4/3 first-striking Hexmages into the 5/5 lifelink first-striking angel means (with the “new” lifelink rules) that MJ gains 5 and takes 4 simultaneously, leaving him at 5 life. If the guy alpha strikes and MJ blocks the Nocturnus, he takes 8 and gains 5, leaving him at 1 life, then the Bloodghast finishes him off in regular damage.

  13. @blundq: No, lifelink is no longer a triggered ability, so Baneslayer would keep him alive. With all-out attack, MJ blocks nocturnis, gains 5 (at 9), takes 8 from hexmages (at 1), nocturnis dies, but bloodghast hits for 2 (dead).

    @GerryT: I’m also curious how viable you think Spread ‘Em is right now. If Chapin’s list gains much popularity (and it will), then Spread ‘Em sounds pretty underwhelming, but against Naya and Jund maybe it’s a bit better? Although the more I think about it, Naya has BoP and Hierarch, so that gives them more resilience to Spreading Seas as well…. I think I’ve just talked myself out of its viability.

  14. “Regarding MJ vs random vampire player. Isn't the right play to attack with just the Hexmages?”

    no because he would block one then just end up at 5 life. if he attacks with everything he will be at 1 after first strike, then die to bloodghast.

  15. attacking with any single vampire gains MJ 5 life

    attacking with both Hexmages, saccing the blocked one before first strike wins. (MJ takes 4, gains 0)

    attacking with any other permutation of two Vamps gains MJ 1 or 0 life (take 4, gain 5, or take 5, gain 5)

    attacking with any combination of 3 vampires where MJ prioritizes blocking Nocturnus / not-Hexmage just loses. (take 8, gain 5, win/draw at 1)

    attacking with the team: take 8 from Hexmages (first strike means they do damage at the same time as Queen of the Fatties, and still have Nocturnus pump), gain 5 from killing Nocturnus, take 2 from Bloodghast. go to -1, die.

    So, other than the additional point of damage I fail to see how attacking with the team is correct-er than just bashing with Hexmages. I guess it involves fewer actions during combat? Both attacks just fail to win to any spot removal / damage prevention.

    Obviously, the opponent hadn’t actually thought it through enough and is just dumb for doing what MJ obviously wanted. (if the attack wasn’t relevant, it would have just been processed as normal rather than going for the mind-trick resulting in take-back)

  16. Yup, dubs hexmage and sac the blocked one
    Alpha to push through the 5pt life gain.
    either way
    Mind tricked straight outta the game, the guy probably went out and laid on the trolly tracks afterwards.

  17. Gerry, love the boros, list thought up something similar.

    Try naya panaroma’s instead of terramorphic’s, you still get the landfall but you can also have a non-citpt land to help curve out.

    Also, elite vangaurd is going to be worse than more kor duelists in that deck about 60-70% of the time so I would just switch them. You also need zektar shrine’s in that deck with all the landfall.

  18. @Alex: In the last article’s comments GerryT said “but Jitte is pretty embarrassing vs Damping Matrix.”
    I guess Damping Matrix isn’t the hate card of choice anymore then. I get the idea that Some SB cards designed to beat the Thopter Combo don’t do to well against the Jitt Vendillion approach but you're really only making the Graveyard hate (Extirpate and Leyline of the Void) useless. If their SB Artifact hate won't that then just hit the Jittes?

    Btw did your zoo/random aggro mu go up with the inclusion of Vendillion over Thopter?

  19. Icebrand: Spread Em is pretty bad against non Jund green decks, so I’d say that it’s pretty bad unless something big changes.

    Sherwin: 🙁

    Spanner: It’s bad vs Matrix, but that’s about it. I would rather have a ton of spot removal vs Zoo, but vs everything else, the deck is pretty good. Jitte and Vendilion are sick in the mirror and Trinket Mage is good vs all the garbage like Elves, Hypergenesis, etc.

    Gildea: <3

    Juanito: Yes, I was furious.

    Jethro: Panorama might be alright. I don’t have Vanguards in the current list. I don’t have Shrines either, as they aren’t really what I want to be doing.

    BenS: I knew you didn’t want to concede, despite what you said earlier, so I wasn’t about to press the issue. If you want to play, then play, but there’s no reason to say you’re going to do something when you have no intention of doing it.

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  21. I think 1 Sigil of Distinction to fetch with Stoneforge would be sick in Boros, especially when attached to Kor Duelist. Seems like a sick Block Constructed deck to say the least.

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