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Feature Article – The Last Chance Pro Tour Report, Part 1 *32nd*

 

The last week has been a blur. On Wednesday, I was on a plane flying to SJ with a standard deck and plans to hang out on the beach. On Sunday, I walked away with 6 Pro Points, invites to Amsterdam and Nationals and a real shot at getting on the train this year.

A few days ago I recounted my Standard odyssey through GP DC and the LCQ here. But that was only phase 1. Now I had real work to do”¦

Preface

Prior to the Pro Tour, I was extremely fortunate to join up with Zvi’s newly formed Team Mythic to break Block and draft. When I initially joined, I thought I was a lock to Q on at the very least rating. Seven PTQs (6 ~11th place finishes and a 3rd) and two GP Top 64s later and I found myself without a blue envelope and still 30 points shy of the elusive ratings invite. I was very disappointed, to put it mildly. I resigned myself to missing yet another Pro Tour on my quest to get back to the promised land.

I filled my time with dozens of drafts between Finkeldraft and Team Mythic drafting at Zvi’s. I felt I had a good grasp on the format, progressing from an early obsession with U/W levelers to a lasting love affair with Ulamog’s Crusher and his token-generating friends. My only contributions to the block testing were a few sporadic and content-light emails. I continued to read everything our team wrote vociferously, but I couldn’t muster the energy (or time) to put in serious testing myself.

Thankfully flights from the east coast to SJ were cheap, so I decided to maintain my streak of grinding US Pro Tours (now at 4). I made it to the airport with a solid 10 minutes to spare and found Gerard, Owen and Matt Boccio waiting in line at my gate. My flight suddenly got much more entertaining”¦

We pulled the usual in flight shenanigans to rearrange seats so Boccio, Gerrard and I could sit together. Owen was unable to sweet talk his way to the seat across from us as he was swiftly shot down by an angry looking older lady. He was forced to the back of the plane to practice his 1400s game in solitude.

A quick aside on 1400s, the latest and greatest game sweeping the Pro Tour. Just over a year ago, my fellow New York / New Jersey mates and I brought the Catch Phrase craze to the PT. We are poised to one up ourselves now with the latest brilliancy from the mind of Gerrard Fabiano: 1400s. In 1400s, the rules are simple. Everyone must talk like someone from the 1400s. The game is deceptively challenging and strategic, and so far I haven’t seen anyone overcome Gerrard’s arsenal of Pirate and Sorceror.

A short cab ride later and we were at the Sheraton. I met up with favorite magicians GerryT, Billy Moreno and Megan and Kitt Holland and then bummed around the lobby for a bit looking for a draft. We were unable to put anything together after a few false starts, but unfortunately I was unable to piece one together. Instead we went up to do a MTGO draft in the room. I rode a sweet Jund deck to a quick 3-0 and then snuggled up next to Boccio to get some rest.

The next morning Billy, Boccio and I met up with Kitt and Megan to head to Old San Juan for breakfast. Kitt took us to a sweet local establishment with some of the best pancakes I’ve ever seen. They were so good, I was inspired to treat everyone to breakfast. CC Game 1, Martell 0. The rest of the day consisted of lounging around the hotel and getting ready for the LCQ. Jumping ahead to 4am, I was Q’d for the PT and posing for possibly the worst photo of myself I have ever seen.

[Lost to Time]

 

I fired off a quick email to the Team Mythic list letting everyone know that I got there and requesting the last few cards I was missing for the tournament the next day. I tried to get to sleep but my adrenaline was pumping, I wasn’t able to finally drift off until 4:30. My alarm managed to wake me up around 7:45, and I quickly showered and headed over to the site to register.

My last Pro Tour was Houston in 2002. I still remember how nervous I was sitting down there for my first round. I was a 20 year old college student and my best magical accomplishment was winning the PTQ that brought me there. My only real goal was to not repeat my horrendous performance from Chicago 2000.
Things felt very different this time around. I’ve spent the last few years traveling to almost every US GP and playing a ton of magic against the best in the world. I absolutely still have lots of room to improve, but my game has come a long way from where it was my last time through the PT. This time I felt ready and my only goal was to win this PT.

Constructo!

This deck is sweet. I didn’t fully realize it until later in the day after I killed some people on turns 4 and 5, but I think Zvi really broke this format. My deck was functionally identical, with -1 Eldrazi Monument +1 River Boa in my main deck relative to my teammates. They made that switch at the last minute while I was afraid of flooding on crusades, having not had a chance to shuffle up for a game yet.

Round 1: Marshall Arthurs (UW Eldrazi)

The one downside to my limited (non-existent) testing was I had no idea what decks existed. Prior to the tournament I hadn’t even looked at a single Magic Online block Top 8. I also hadn’t played a single game with my deck, though I was very confident I understood how to play it.

My first game did not start well. I was able to get in some early damage, but Marshall was able to resolve an All is Dust to take out my Beastmaster’s Ascension on 5 counters along with my threats. My hand had 2 Wolfbriar Elemental and a Kozilek’s Predator in it, so I was primed for the late game if I could make some land drops. I stalled on 4 for a while, playing out the Predator and some random dorks I drew to keep pressure on. Marshall stuck a Jace and began brainstorming. I kept playing out guys and attacking, rebuilding from his eventual Wrath quickly. Around turn 12 he died, having hit me once or twice with Colonnade and having brainstormed with Jace at least 5 times.

Sideboard:
-4 Lotus Cobra
+1 River Boa
+3 Tajuru Preserver

I wasn’t exactly sure how to sideboard here (or really in any of my matches) as my only reference were some notes Sam Black sent out the night before. Unfortunately, while both Eldrazi and U/W had entries, there was no U/W Eldrazi discussed so I had to wing it.

Game 2 went better, as I quickly killed him with Ascension on turn 5. So that is what this deck does

Round 2: Olivier Ruel (RUG) *Feature Match*

I was walking over to the pairings board when they announced my name as one of the feature matches. I thought I misheard something. 8 years since my last Pro Tour and now a feature match in round 2? I had 1 prior feature match lifetime from a team sealed GP in 2003 where we were playing against Rachel Reynolds, so I was excited to get another after such a long layoff.

The coverage here is good.

The match was pretty uneventful. Game 1 I killed Olivier on turn 5; game 2 I killed him on turn 4. Game 1 he didn’t draw a Red source until the last turn and it came into play tapped. Game 2 he had one and if he had a forked bolt I might have been in a little trouble as I played double [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] on turn 2. Thankfully he didn’t and I killed him.

Nice. Deck.

I went with my standard anti-red with blue sideboard:

-4 Treespeaker
-3 Beastmaster Ascension
+4 Leatherback Baloth
+1 Forest
+1 Monument
+1 River Boa

Getting your Treespeaker killed in response to leveling on turn 2 is such a huge blowout. One argument made by Jon after round 3 was leaving in Treespeakers on the draw, as they often have a turn 2 play themselves so you can safely level it. Instead, take out Lotus Cobra in this spot as it doesn’t boost your mana until turn 3, when they can safely kill it. I think this makes a lot of sense, and I later followed a hedged version of this (3 and 1) in my one match against Red.

Round 3: Shingou Kurihara (U/W Control)

This was another fun match. Game 1, I had the nut draw of T1 Arbor Elf, t2 Khalni Garden, Nest Invader, t3 Kozilek’s Predator, t4 Beastmaster Ascension attack for 41.

Sideboard:

-4 Lotus Cobra
+2 Naturalize
+1 Ascension
+1 River Boa

Game 2 was more of the same. I played turn 1 mana guy and Shingou cast a turn 2 Coralhelm Commander. I had a second Arbor Elf. On turn 3, he leveled his Commander 3 times and attacked. I untapped and stuck a monument, then killed him a turn later.

Round 4: Marco Orsini Jones (U/W Eldrazi)

This was possibly my most frustrating round of the tournament. I really wanted to 5-0 Constructed and the deck was performing incredibly. Game 1 I repeated the above shenanigans, playing out some guys and sticking a Monument before he could wrath. I then killed him with my one man land before he could recover.

Sideboard:
-4 Lotus Cobra
+1 River Boa
+3 Tajuru Preserver

Game 2, I keep Treespeaker, double Arbor Elf, Monument, Nest Invader, Vengevine, Forest on the draw. It takes me at least 4 turns to draw the second land, and while I am doing some good work with my men, Marco eventually sticks a Felidar Sovereign and I can’t keep up.

Game 3, I have an aggressive draw but Marco Ousts my first turn Treespeaker slowing me down. I replay it on turn 3 and follow up with a turn 4 Vengevine. Unfortunately, Marco has a Narcolepsy to slow the bleeding. This is no problem as I have a Monument in my hand to free it with 2 more random dudes to cast to bring it back. Unfortunately, he also Ousts my Treespeaker again. Now I need to draw a land to cast the Monument. I draw a Wolfbriar Elemental instead and cast him as a 4/4. Marco continues to do his own thing, casting See Beyonds and whatnot. I replay my Treespeaker and level it, prepared to stick my monument. He again Ousts it.

Fine, just need to draw a land.

I don’t and instead I draw another dude. I play the guy and hit with my elemental. He doesn’t do anything relevant, and I replay my Treespeaker. Marco casts Kozilek.

This is actually fine for me if he doesn’t have All is Dust or if I can rip a Preserver. I brick on the Preserver, cast my Monument and hit him to 6. He casts All is Dust and then Annihilates me for 4, leaving me with only 3 lands. I lose a turn later.

I am bummed about the close loss, but still feeling very confident in the deck as it took a lot of things going wrong for me to lose that one.

Round 5: Marco Cammilluzzi (RUG)

I will be honest, this match is a bit foggy. Neither game was close as I kill him within 6 turns both times with minimal interaction. He didn’t draw any relevant burn spells to slow me down.

Drafto!

That win took me into the first draft at 4-1. I surveyed my first table, and it looked pretty soft. I had my good friend Matt Sperling sitting to my left, but otherwise no one notable at the table.

My opening pack was one of the worst packs I have ever seen. No good commons, no playable uncommons. At least there was this All is Dust for me”¦ After that good start, I second picked an Induce Despair out of pack 2 aiming for B/G. I third picked a Nest Invader followed by several reasonable black cards, but I didn’t see a single large monster or any other green cards. At this point I was pretty sure Matt was in Green, so I started picking up some Red cards like Lavafume Invoker to branch out.

In Pack 2, I open Transcendent Master but decide to stay on target with an Induce Despair. I get passed a third Induce Despair before receiving a pack with Growth Spasm and nothing. I take the Spasm, thinking if I can pick up the Green that Matt is hoping to reap from his hard cut, I can get enough that the Black cards + Green scraps in pack 3 will give me a good deck.

Unfortunately, the only Green that shows up is another Growth Spasm, an Overgrown Battlement and a Lifestrider.

I head into pack 3 with an awkward Black deck that is either pairing with Green or Red. I have a decent amount of token generation and I slam a third or fourth pick Hellion Eruption. Win condition acquired!

At the end of the draft, I was reasonably happy with my deck and with how the draft went. I was a little frustrated with myself for the obvious mispick when I took an Ancient Stirrings over an Escaped Null late in pack 2. I was thinking about my possible 3 color mana base when I should have been focusing on my 3 Induce Despairs and my need for creatures to reveal to them. Other than this, I didn’t have any spots I thought were obviously wrong.

I considered two possible builds during construction – straight B/R and B/G/r. I decided to go with B/R as my default as I liked the creature base more and I didn’t feel I really needed to accelerate my mana, though I am not sure this was right. In decks like this, the Green fixing spells, even if not strictly necessary, often serve as the glue holding the deck together. They help smooth out your curve and get you firing on all cylinders. I went back and forth for a while before settling on B/R.

Round 6: Andres Suarez (R/B)

This was another frustrating match. He seemed to have an awkward R/B deck featuring multiple Ogre Sentries, Vent Sentinel, etc. He did have a healthy amount of removal including two Staggershocks and at least one Vendetta. He also had a nice little man named Kargan Dragonlord.

Game 1 he perished my thoughts and left me with an Induce Despair that I used to take down his Kargan Dragonlord. This left him with 8 mana and a Black Invoker, but I had no problem coming over the top of that guy and killing him.

I thought I was winning game 2 as well, despite his Kargan, but I missed on my 7th land when I wanted to All is Dust and I had to settle for Essence Feeding him. This let his Kargan hit level 8 and smack me for 9. I untapped and cast All is Dust. He did nothing and I played a beater. He cast Lust for War on my man and said go. I hit him (going to 1) and played another dude. He did nothing. Before combat, I fed on his essence again (holding the third Feed) to go up to 4 and hit him, going back down to 1. He ripped a burn spell and killed me.

I then lost game 3 when I stalled on lands and he beat me down with an Ogre Sentry equipped with Warmonger’s Chariot.

Round 7: Oskar Skold (B/G)

I thought I got incredibly unlucky to lose my last round; I ran insanely well to win this one. Oskar was probably my nicest opponent; we had a good chat and he was very happy to be playing at the PT.

Game 1 I barely squeaked out a long, drawn out win. Oskar had recursive Cadaver Imps going (one in play, one in hand) along with an Awakening Zone spewing out a chump blocker every turn. He also had a repository of spawn built up with at least 4 already sitting in play along with a few random peripheral guys. I got 4 creatures into play and cast Hellion Eruption, getting 3 4/4s after Oskar Vendetta’d one of my spawn tokens.

I traded one of my Hellions for a Kozilek’s Predator + Cadaver Imp, leaving him with only spawn in play and an Imp in hand. After combat I played a Lavafume Invoker with 8 mana out. He continued recycling his Imps but wasn’t drawing any other action. I drew Pennon Blade and equipped my Invoker, sending with him and my 2 Hellions. Oskar continued chumping with his spawn.

The next turn, I repeated my attack and Oskar, not realizing my Invoker was 5/5, blocked it with his Imp and Induce Despaired it, revealing the Imp in his hand. This obviously didn’t kill it and was the final nail in the game. If he had returned the Wildheart Invoker in his graveyard with the Imp, breaking his Imp recursion, he would have had a decent shot of winning.

Game 2, Oskar played an early Tuskcaller that I knew would be a problem. I eventually killed it 3 times; once with [card]Last Kiss[/card], once with Induce Despair and finally with All is Dust. This also took care of both of his Imps and I thought I had the game under control. He then untapped and played Keening Stone. Good game. I had 8 cards in my graveyard and only 20 cards in my library, and Oskar was at 20. Two turns later I conceded, and Oskar joked “I guess you have no Eldrazi, eh?”

In came my Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. There were 2 Keening Stones in the draft and I was worried Oskar had both. Sometimes you just need a Gaea’s Blessing. I also had a lot of token generation, so casting him wasn’t impossible if the game went long.

Game 3 was anticlimactic. I chose to draw and Oskar double mulliganed. I had turn 2 Null Champion, turn 3 level, turn 4 kill a Treespeaker, turn 5 kill a blocker, turn 6 two creatures. Oskar stalled on 1 land for 2 turns and didn’t draw his Forest until turn 4.

Round 7: Matt Sperling (B/G/W) *Feature Match*

I don’t really want to relive these two games, so I’ll just [Broken Link] to the coverage and provide some additional commentary:

….

 

….

I’m still not sure how this was a feature match as this round had Rubin v. Kibler and Ruel v. Ruel all playing for day 2, while Sperling and I were already locks at X-2. I thought someone in the coverage group was pulling for me until I saw the picture of me they chose for the round. Really? That was the best shot you had? I look like a combination of a deer in headlights and a drooler. Thanks guys.

….

 

Game 1 I had a great hand on the draw but only had 2 lands. I knew Matt moved into White when I passed him Transcendent Master, and I had 2 ways to kill it so I felt I had to keep. I missed too many land drops to keep up with his beaters.

For game 2, I decided to board in the Green plan to keep up with his acceleration and try to power into the late game. Matt had a quick draw featuring a turn 3 Growth Spasm, turn 4 Wildheart Invoker and turn 5 Mammoth Umbra with mana to pump it on turn 6 from the spawn token. I didn’t have any answers in hand, but I knew I had several outs so I tried to maximize the length of the game. I blocked aggressively and he spent his mana trampling over, leading me to believe he didn’t have much more action in hand. I just needed to deal with this guy. I managed to buy 5 or 6 turns while keeping as many creatures on the board so I could draw my Hellion Eruption, which I thought would put me ahead, or my All is Dust to equalize. Unfortunately I didn’t draw either and eventually succumbed to his large man.

Fin!

That brings us (finally) to the end of day 1. I was disappointed to be 5-3 going into day 2, as I thought with a little better luck I could easily have been 7-1. Still, I was playing in the Pro Tour and I was alive on day 2. It was time to step up and do some work.

I went out briefly that night with Finkel, Jamie Parke, Eric Berger, Richie Hoaen and the Germans to a pretty good local Mexican restaurant. I couldn’t resist sampling a few margaritas, but I made sure to keep myself firmly grounded in the present as I had a job to do the next day. There would be plenty of chances for time travel later in the weekend. I made it to bed by 11 to get a good night sleep.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to my PT San Juan adventure! Same magic time, same magic channel.

Best,
Tom

 

35 thoughts on “Feature Article – The Last Chance Pro Tour Report, Part 1 *32nd*”

  1. LOL @ all the pics randomly inserted throughout the article. Nice digs Martell, good to see you back on the train.

  2. Good on you man! Watched all the coverage I could on your progress that weekend, thought it would be an interesting story since you won the LCQ and I was not disappointed. Sucks they chose that picture lol

  3. Fantastic article, please keep it up!

    Also, love the old school Batman television show reference.

  4. That’s gotta be the best photo pic I’ve seen aside from the Trey Van Cleave “peek” pic.

  5. further proof that doing well in magic nowadays is all about having the right connections

  6. Congratulations about being on the train for now, but splitting the article into more than one part doesn’t sound about right for a top 32 finish. Mainly because by the time we get to read the second part the information will be mostly out-of-date.

  7. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  8. Yeap, funny pic. Also, great memory… trey van cleave’s pic… what a cheater, so glad he doesn’t play anymore.

  9. @existenz: Out of date? They are playing a format that will not be used for any other major tournaments? Why does it matter how current it is?

  10. @existenz – I think that’s a good point, I just didn’t want a huge wall of text as things were running long. I’ll get this wrapped up in short order for you.

    @luca – knowing people is certainly valuable but it is certainly not the most important factor in being successful. you need to put in hard work developing your skillset over many years to really achieve consistent success at a competitive level.

  11. only limited requires a real skillset, anyone with some game experience can pick up constructed in a few weeks and be (nearly) as good as anyone. Having the right deck does take alot of testing (and some luck) to do yourself or be part of a good group.
    People generally overrate the amount of skill constructed magic requires to play.. You can go through entire tournaments with only a handfull of difficult decisions.

  12. @markwerf – there are many, many people who play for years and never get good at constructed.

  13. Hi Tom,

    I have a newbie(ish) friend that the mono green deck looks just about right for. how would you update this for standard (if at all). i don’t know if it would be bell positioned in standard, but i think he would love to play it at some upcoming events.

    PS in case you’re wondering my “newbie friend” isn’t me, but i do like this deck a lot. i’ll be reverting to the time tested RDW newbie deck this season.

  14. I enjoyed the article, but it’s really a pain not having (1-0) (2-0) (2-1) etc after each round. It makes it harder to skim, for one, and even after a re-read, it is often not clear who won. I found myself scratching my head a lot at phrases like “that’s what the deck is supposed to do.” Whose deck? Yours? Your opponents? Several of your match ups, I had to read more than once to determine the outcome.

  15. @fatecreatr – I haven’t seen a list for the standard versions that were so heavily played in Sendai this past weekend, but the deck should translate very well. I’m not sure I would change anything… maybe noble heirarchs instead of arbor elves, but you attack with multiple creatures so often that this seems wrong.

  16. @Jack – sorry about that. I’ll add it to part 2 right now. FWIW, my record went: W W W L W L W L for 4-1 in constructed (losing to UW Eldrazi in round 4) and 1-2 in draft (beating B/G in round 7).

  17. Tom this is a great, humble, tournament report and the picture is just “LOL” ! Congrats on your invite to Amsterdam!

  18. @Luca-

    You can’t build connections at the highest level without achieving SOMETHING though. I can’t just walk up to LSV and say “hey man love your draft videos… Amsterdam, what’s up, let’s test!” Success breeds more success.

  19. @markwerf: you’re most definitely wrong about constructed. If that were the case you wouldn’t get players who consistently top 8 in constructed events. If you only needed a little skill basically every top 8 would be different.

  20. Liked the article a lot. Of all the pro articles I’ve read, this is the first time I feel I can really identify with the author.

  21. I don’t understand how you can win several times on turn 4-6 and call that skill and not the deck. Sure, you have to know how to pilot it, but you picked the deck up the night before FROM FRIENDS who had “broken” the format. Without such a good hookup, do you really think your skill would have gotten you the same record so easily? This scenario isn’t probably typical, but I think Luca has a very valid point that who you know played a very valuable role in how well you did in constructed.

  22. “This is actually fine for me if he doesn't have All is Dust or if I can rip a Preserver. I brick on the Preserver, cast my Monument and hit him to 6. He casts All is Dust and then Annihilates me for 4, leaving me with only 3 lands. I lose a turn later.”

    By “brick on the Preserver”, do you mean that you got the Preserver or no?

  23. @chris – I didn’t draw it. Brick is a term originally I believe from basketball which means to miss the shot. As such he was able to All is Dust the next turn and make me sacrifice all of my guys, and then hit me with Kozilek making me annihilate my lands.

    @j_klimek – this deck is not trivial to play. there were games were I could go for a turn 4-5 win but decided against it because the risk reward was not appealing. Other times I had to induce my opponents to make plays that left them exposed to the threats I had available.

    There were also a lot of hands that were difficult mulligan decisions that I had to conceptualize the course of the game from turn 0 to decide if they were viable to keep.

    Certainly the deck was powerful – I think it was clearly the best deck at the tournament. I was fortunate to know the people behind its design from my previous body of work in magic. I was also fortunate to not have to play against mono-red a bunch as that matchup was very challenging. These are always factors in tournament success.

  24. I like how the picture was spammed throughout, funny stuff. Great article and the match details were great.

  25. Tom. Don’t listen to the haters. Its the average “beatdown is for morons, control is for thinkers” argument that is just bullshit. Conceptualizing a game plan and putting it into action is not easy and if any of the people had actually played the deck list, they would realize its not as simple as it seems. People who think Constructed is simple or skilless are the same people who “only lose because of mana screw or flood or a god draw from thier opponents,” etc.

    Grats on the excellent finish. Keep writing.

  26. Another nice article, and while my awesome pic from Saturday night was not in the coverage, I think it takes the cake for your worst pic, but that was kind of the point at the time 😛

  27. @TomM what would you think about swapping some or all of the wolfbriars with master of the wild hunt?

  28. @fatecreatr – I can see doing this with 1 or 2 of them but I am hesistant to recommend this change.

    My analysis:

    Pro Wolfbriar:

    -Sink your extra mana or upgrade spawn tokens into 2/2s
    -Produce multiple creatures immediately for sacrificing to Monument or triggering Ascension the following turn
    -One stop recovery from a wrath
    -You get the wolves even if they have immediate spot removal available

    Pro Master:

    -Much better when you are stalled on 4 mana
    -Gives you a way to interact with your opponent’s board

    I think having to wait multiple turns for the creatures to hit play exposes you to spot removal and slows down your game plan considerably. From playing with the deck I am not sure Master is really where you want to go, but I can see the merit in switching 1-2 of them.

  29. @ Comment by Mark Conkle – June 9, 2010 @ 5:57 am:

    Exactly. But I find that not writing at all would be a waste. So do it while the event is still fresh on everyone’s memory. If it is not that relevant right now (format-wise), then why bother next week?

    Maybe do it like Web: Keep it strategy-light, tell your story (very much indeed worth sharing considering CF’s crew great finishes) and move on onto a more relevant topic the following week.

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