Before I begin this article, I want to give a shout-out to Mike Sigrist. I want to state, for the record, that I am under no duress while making this shout-out. I’m not being held at gunpoint in a hotel room or fearing for my life as I type these words. None of that is happening. A hotel room, I might add, that Mike Sigrist earned by virtue of being a Platinum-level professional Magic player. No small feat.
The truth of the matter is that for many of the last Pro Tours, I’ve stayed with Brad Nelson in his Platinum room. I thought for sure I was doing the same thing this time around, but it turned out that it was actually Mike Sigrist. I, like many other Magic players, suffer from a problem where I am unable to tell them apart. I got confused, and this shout-out is me paying the ultimate price for my error. Mike Sigrist is great. I can’t wait until he has to use the restroom and I get to escape, but until that happens, he’s great.
I don’t hold myself responsible for confusing the two of them, though. Even Brad Nelson’s own father couldn’t tell them apart.
— Brad Nelson (@fffreakmtg) April 24, 2016
But that’s getting ahead of myself a bit. I’d like to share the story of my Pro Tour, and to do that, I have to start at the beginning.
The beginning, in this case, is actually way before the Pro Tour. It all started with my last Pro Tour team dissolving. That team had players like Brad Nelson, Steve Rubin, Seth Manfield, and Andrea Mengucci on it. Those names sound familiar? They should, because 4 former members of that team made the Top 8 of this Pro Tour, all on different teams, this time around.
You can have a team with a lot of really talented players on it but no team chemistry, and that’s what we had. While it’s hard to break up a team of good players who are all friends, sometimes it is the best thing that can happen.
I ended up going back to Team Face to Face Games. I played with those fine Magic players for previous Pro Tours but ended up going my separate way after Pro Tour Portland in 2014 for a variety of reasons. Like the classy gentleman that I am, I came crawling back in 2016, and thankfully they accepted me onto the squad, at least for this Pro Tour.
Steve Rubin ended up also making the swap over to Face to Face, which was certainly quite the net positive for the squad.
Team Face to Face has been really successful over the last year in building powerful Pro Tour decks. They were one of the teams along with East West Bowl who came up with a version of Eldrazi for the last Modern Pro Tour, and they also came up with the UR Thopter deck that Mike Sigrist (he’s still standing behind me in this hotel room) finished in 2nd place with at a Pro Tour last year.
I had high hopes about our chances for this Pro Tour.
Flash forward to Tuesday before the Pro Tour. Those high hopes had dried up. We were in complete panic mode. None of our decks were good. I felt like there were huge flaws in our testing. We had resigned ourselves to playing Bant Company or UW Humans for the Pro Tour—2 decks that everyone was expecting to play against. These were decks people would come prepared to beat. I did not expect that I would do well at the tournament or that our team would perform well.
I was feeling pretty down about the whole thing and pretty resigned to a poor finish at the Pro Tour. It was Tuesday night, and I was sitting outside of the house we were renting in Barcelona mulling things over. Mike Sigrist and Steve Rubin came outside to join me and Siggy asked me: “Do you think we failed this Pro Tour?”
I didn’t know anything about the Pro Tour, but I did know that they had failed this city, and I put an arrow into both of them.
In actuality, my answer was yes. I thought we failed pretty hard. He then asked me, “Do you think there is anything we didn’t really explore well enough?” I thought back to some of the cards that I was really excited about testing out. One combination in particular was Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. It’s like a little Zendikar themed planeswalker party. I love planeswalkers, and I love these two especially. One of my favorite decks last Standard season was a Bant deck I built based around these two planeswalkers.
We had put together a Nissa and Gideon deck earlier in testing, but other people tested it while I was asleep and had dismissed it by the time I woke up because it had a weak Humans matchup. One problem I tend to have in testing is getting attached to cards I like and being blind to when they are bad. I didn’t want to repeat that error, so I moved on to other decks.
There was one problem with the results we had used to dismiss the deck. We only tested game 1, not sideboard games, and our first take on a GW Token list wasn’t built very well. Not only was Humans a solvable problem, it became a good matchup with a proper build of GW Tokens.
On Tuesday night, when we had that conversation, I wasn’t sure that we had enough time left to test. On Wednesday, we would be traveling a solid chunk of the day to Madrid, and Thursday was the day we had to register for the tournament. Was it even worth working on GW Tokens? The deck could be a bust, and we’d waste even more time we didn’t have.
Thankfully, Steve Rubin and Siggy assured me that there was enough time to test the deck out, and Steve volunteered to play games against me. We played about 25 games in the basement of our house that night, and GW Tokens was absolutely obliterating both Bant Company and Humans.
Steve and I locked in on the deck that night. Over the next two days, most of the rest of the team was convinced to play the deck as well. I couldn’t be more happy. My mood went from sour on Tuesday to excited on Wednesday. Not only was our deck good, but I got to play the Pro Tour with cards I loved playing with. There’s nothing better than playing a deck that is good, fun, and fits your play style.
We even jammed a bunch of random mythic Angels into our sideboard, mostly because they were mythic. I mean they have to be good, right? Sigarda and Linvala are both super powerful cards in the right matchups and situations. Quarantine Field is also a guilty pleasure of mine, so I was quite happy when it was suggested for our sideboard. Get it in there.
How did we end up doing with the deck? Well, we had a 70% win rate with it. That may not seem like much, but on the Pro Tour level, 70% is absurd. It was a better win rate than Team Face to Face had with the Eldrazi deck that absolutely broke the Modern format for that Pro Tour. I ended up going 7-3 for 10-6 overall. It was good for a Top 75 performance and gave me Gold immediately. Previously I had locked Gold, meaning I would achieve it in Sydney for the next Pro Tour, but my performance here means that I have it right now.
Steve Rubin also won the Pro Tour with the deck. Steve is a great player, great person, and great teammate. I’ll admit that sometimes as Magic Players, it’s hard for us to cheer for other people’s success. We envision how “it could have been us instead” or get jealous when other people who played the same deck we did end up doing so much better. I’ve fallen victim to that mentality in the past, which can sometimes ruin what should otherwise be a time to celebrate for our friends’ successes.
That was never the case for Steve. Watching him crush people with Ormendahl, Profane Prince in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour was awesome. It was great for Magic, great for our team, and more importantly, great to see a bunch of friends doing so well in such an important tournament. I’ve played in double-digit Pro Tours, and this was by far my favorite one. I would have never expected that Tuesday afternoon. Thankfully, a lot can change in a few days.