My story of travel and adventure starts a few weeks ago in Seattle with the Super Sunday Series finals. I wrote a tournament report about it, but it was an amazing event. It’s hard to take many lessons from that tournament, since the Top 8 was decided by a Modern Masters booster draft. I could talk about my Standard deck which I went 3-2-1 with, but that’s been done to death. I will say that winning the event felt amazing and $6,000 is a lot of money. I hope that someday the tournament turns into something even more incredible than it already is and people hope to win a Super Sunday Qualifier more than they want to win a Pro Tour Qualifier.
I played my old standby, Excalibur:
I also got this cool security badge, how many people can say that?
Also I met a scary dragon.
Next up was the Pro Tour in Valencia, my flight took me from Seattle to Chicago to Zurich to Valencia. Somehow on the flight they had One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, my all-time favorite movie. At the airport I met up with a few other members of Team Pantheon and we got a rental car and drove to where we would be staying. The place wasn’t half bad either.
The testing was pretty fun overall. When we got to the house, Huey and I claimed the biggest room there that had a jacuzzi in the center of it. People were pretty jealous of us until one of the sewage pipes backed up and sprayed all over our bathroom and made the entire living area smell horrible. I guess that’s what they call justice.
I came into the house liking my big Naya zoo deck and that’s basically all I ever put time and effort into. I tested almost any kind of configuration you could think of, trying stuff like Bant Charm, Voice of Resurgence, and Chained to the Rocks.
My testing consisted of designing a list for the perceived metagame, and playing tons of games against different configurations of those decks. I literally had a list starting with Affinity, Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin, and Fast Zoo which I had played multiple sets against that resulted in favorable numbers for my deck. I was feeling quite confident.
In the end I went 7-2-1 with a deck entirely of my own design which made me feel pretty amazing coupled with a 4-2 in the draft portion that landed me in 15th place. I feel like my play was great almost all weekend, I regret keeping some hands in a few spots but nobody is perfect. With a little bit more luck and little more focus I could have easily seen myself in the Top 8. Regardless, with this finish I locked up Platinum for next year and I continue to keep the dream alive. Since moving to Team Pantheon my results in Pro Tours have been as great as they have ever been, twice I have missed Day Two and the other 3 times my finishes were 8th, 15th, and 55th.
Here is the deck I played:
The team is just a great group of guys whose respect for one another is only surpassed by their own incredible talent.
I felt great after the Pro Tour, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Nobody really talks about the immense stress involved in trying to accumulate points to hit Platinum. For someone like me, 44 points is much closer to Zero than it is to 45 since the difference between Platinum and Gold is roughly $20,000 when you factor in $3,000 appearance fees at each Pro Tour, airfare, and hotel on top of the appearance fees for Grand Prix all year. You really can’t call yourself a Professional Magic Player without hitting Platinum, otherwise you’d just be a Professional Magic writer. Currently I’m not in a situation where I need to be winning Grand Prix tournaments to pay for groceries but it certainly helps, and the prize money from tournaments with my Platinum benefits make up a very real portion of my income.
The Monday after the Pro Tour consisted of a train ride from Valencia to Barcelona with Reid Duke, William Jensen, Shahar Shenhar, Brock Parker, Eric Froehlich, and Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa en tow. It was fun to just relax and hang out for a bit without the pressure of preparing for such a big tournament looming. It was nice to even talk to a competing team about their preparation. We could speak freely about what decks we were considering, what we felt the field would look like, and even how we rank certain cards in draft. It’s cool to hear from players who you respect about how they tried to tackle the tournament. As a team, we were off on a few cards and they were off on a few cards as well, but that’s to be expected, and if you combined our hard work with theirs you’d get very close to having the optimal perfect strategy for draft.
The week I spent in Barcelona was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had before a Magic tournament. The majority of my time spent there was either playing in Magic Online drafts or playing in 1v1 Team Sealeds. My team against the team of Shahar, Brock, and EFro was the common matchup, and after six practice runs we found ourselves with a 3-3 record against them, and the most common result was a 5-4 match record. I was roughly 6-1 against Shahar and 1-6 or 0-7 against Brock. #humblebrags.
These practice runs were incredibly valuable, we timed how long we had to build the decks, identified the best strategies, and knew what the best versions of those decks looked like. We knew exactly how to maximize our chances of winning and how to build the decks so that no good rares were left in our sideboard. I don’t mean to sound arrogant but I feel like our result at the team GP was no fluke, we prepared extensively and had more experience than any other team in the field with Theros, Team Sealed, and each other as a team.
Starting out 11-0 felt pretty great too, no matter how many times you play in a Magic tournament it still feels great to succeed and there have been times when people on coverage and social media say that we’re a great team or they expect us to do well and we do poorly, at least this time we were able to prove all our supporters right. We took two tough losses before winning our final round and making it to the Top 4 where we eventually lost. It was a real bummer to get knocked out of the event but I’m supremely happy with my teammates and the result.
With that finish, my 5 results from GP that count to my point total are 1st, 1st, top four, 12th, and 12th. This ties me for #1 American with none other than Reid Duke, so hopefully one of us can be captain of the American team this year. I can’t think of anything cooler than that.
My season of Magic has stellar so far and I couldn’t be happier. This is such a stark contrast from last year when I barely made Platinum and it had been over a year since I had a Top 8 in a Grand Prix. Excluding my Top 8 at Pro Tour Montreal I hadn’t had a single good result in any Magic tournament in over a year. After my two Grand Prix wins people would come up to me and say “do you ever lose?” and all I could think of was “what? Do I ever win??” It’s silly to think like this, but it’s because I push myself hard to have consistently good results. Deep down I don’t want Pro Points or money, I just want to succeed. My biggest worry now is that I don’t get lazy or complacent now that I’ve found myself in a good safe situation. I’m still going to attend some Grand Prix and try to improve on my two Top 16 finishes, first because I love to play Magic, but second to get a few more points and solidify my spot at the Players Championship. I bubbled last year getting that 17th slot in the 16-man tournament, and that was heartbreaking. I hope my motivation and hard work continues to match my good fortune so far this year. Wish me luck.
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