This is my PT Amsterdam report, with some bits on GP Gothenburg too.
My trip started, as noted above, with GP Gothenburg. The decision to go to Gothenburg was easy – the ticket from Amsterdam was cheap, and the formats overlapped, so that meant not only that I wouldn’t have to do extra practice for the GP but also that the GP would be more practice for my Pro Tour. What was not easy, though, was getting to Gothenburg.
It all started when I spent hours and hours phoning a bunch of people and airlines, trying to get the optimal ticket (I couldn’t). Then I had to figure out the next best option, and came up with some pretty absurd itinerary. I am pretty sure no one in the entire tournament took longer to get to Gothenburg than I did – in fact, I would probably guess that I took almost twice as long as the person who took the second longest. I left my home Wednesday noon, and then did the following:
Porto Alegre -> Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo -> New York
New York -> London
London -> Amsterdam
Amsterdam -> Gothenburg
I got to Gothenburg Friday around 5 PM, which means the whole process, including the layovers, took around 50 hours after you factor in the time zone change, and was quite miserable. Once I was in Sweden, though, things went pretty smoothly – the country is very awesome and everything works. There are many interesting things with Sweden – the fact that everyone speaks perfect English, for example. If I go to a supermarket in Brazil and start speaking English with the cashier, he is just going to give me a weird look – in Sweden, I will probably find out that he speaks it better than I do.
Anyway, my preparation for Sweden was pretty standard – I drafted a bit on Magic Online. If you pay any attention to top 8 profiles, you will recall that in San Juan there was a question “how many hours per week do you spend on Modo”, and my answer was “zero”. At the time, that was true – I did not even have it installed in my computer. But then I came back and decided that maybe it would be cool to start playing it, so I got myself some packs and started drafting; My very first attempt saw me opening a Vengevine. I sold it for a lot, and then opened another Vengevine. Then I quit playing until M11, and decided to try a Sealed – I opened Primeval Titan. So I ended up with a bit of a “bankroll” on Modo, and, though I have zero constructed cards, I can draft pretty much whenever I want. In fact, you can probably expect a draft video from me sometime soon, as soon as I get a bit more familiarized with how those things work (though I am warning you, the first joke about my accent and I am out, and it will be all on you!)
As far as the actual tournament went, we can say I performed below expectations. I opened a sealed with no bombs whatsoever, and decided that taking the aggressive approach was better than trying anything else, since I had four Stormfront Pegasus (or Pegasi for you people obsessed with plurals). In the end, it didn’t really work out, because I could not be aggressive enough and all the creatures in my deck were very small – the only ones with more than two power were Water Servant and Stone Golem (I was UW splashing Doom Blade off a Terramorphic). More than once my opponent would kill my first and second creatures and I would start drawing small guys and they wouldn’t do anything, or they would play a bunch of Azure Drakes or Cloud Elementals (one opponent, for example, had three of those) and I wouldn’t be able to get through.
In two different games, for example, I had Scroll Thief with Whispersilk Cloak plus Crystal Ball going for a looong time and almost lost because I had nothing of impact to draw into. In one of the games, I dealt 12 damage with Scroll Thief, cycled through my entire library, and could barely finish my opponent off as I would have to double block every single one of his creatures to stay alive.
One interesting situation happened in round 7, though, against a Brazilian guy (the second one I played in that tournament). It was one of those Crystal Ball stalled games, and he had an Air Servant with Ice Cage that kills me the moment he draws a way to target it, so I have to finish him off quickly, but things are proving to be problematic even if I am drawing a spell every turn because his guys are just bigger and I can’t attack. Then, at some point during my Upkeep, I scry into Island and Elite Vanguard. I then remembered that, in the beginning of the game, I had cast Foresee, and put both Elite Vanguard and Whispersilk Cloak on the bottom – so, the next card had to be Whispersilk Cloak. I have 8 mana available, a Water Servant and he is at 6 life, so if I draw the Cloak this turn, I cannot equip it, attack and pump to kill him, because I just used one of those 8 mana to Scry on my upkeep.
I can draw the Cloak, equip it and pass, hoping to kill him next turn, but that leaves me dead to a removal spell, since we have the same number of guys and I am at one. I could draw the Elite Vanguard and count on drawing the Cloak next turn, without Scrying, so I have the exact 8 mana to kill him – but what if I am wrong and the next card is not Whispersilk Cloak?
This reminded me of my Nationals finals situation, with Counterbalance/Top, that I just wrote about. There were also a lot of people watching this one match, and I didn’t want to do anything very foolish, such as not scrying and drawing a Plains the following turn. I also had to make sure I was actively doing what I thought was the best play – I had to avoid doing something just to impress people (I.e. showing them I knew the Cloak was there), which was somewhat tempting. In the end, I decided that trusting what I remembered was the best play – not because it was impressive, but because it let me survive a removal spell and still kill him next turn. If I was wrong, whatever, I would look stupid. I drew and played my Vanguard, and on the following turn I did not scry, drew the Cloak and killed him. I lost the next two games, though, and was then out of the tournament.
Now, if you are smart, you might be asking yourself why the top card of my deck was Elite Vanguard, and not Whispersilk Cloak – the answer is because I am an idiot. when I scried my cards to the bottom, I put Elite Vanguard before Whispersilk Cloak. That can never be right – if the game is a stall (and, for me to draw into my entire deck and get back to the cards I sent to the bottom on turn four, it has to be), Whispersilk Cloak is the card I want to draw, not Elite Vanguard. I should definitely have put the Cloak first. I generally put the cards back instinctively in the right order of “how happy I am going to be to draw them in a stalled game” even if it is very unlikely that it comes to that, so I don’t really know why I didn’t do it that time.
I woke up the next day to have breakfast with the people who were leaving to the tournament, fully intending on going back to sleep when they were gone and showing up at around 2 PM. Things didn’t go very well as planned, since breakfast was not up yet, and then I was completely unable to go back to sleep, despite being way behind on my normal sleeping schedule. I roll in bed for about two hours, and then decide it is a futile effort and go to the site. We do some team drafts and go have dinner in an expensive place that had a lot in quality but not so much in quantity, which seems to be the standard for Swedish restaurants.
On Monday, everyone leaves for Amsterdam – well, everyone but me. You see, I had this brilliant idea to stay an extra day in Gothenburg, to sightsee, completely overlooking the fact that there was absolutely nothing I wanted to see or do in that city. Even the amusement park, which is supposedly the biggest attraction, happened to be closed on Monday. I ended up meeting with one of my Brazilian friends who had also stayed, and we walked around the city for a bit, taking some pictures of King Gustav Anderson’s statue or whatever his name is, that we learn a bit about in History classes. We also end up in a kind of science Museum that had a perfect replica of a Rainforest, the annoying humidity and the miserable heath included. We met some Magic players there, and one of them laughed at us for “coming all the way from Brazil to visit a Rainforest”. He was correct.
On the next day I finally get to go to Amsterdam, and there I meet all the people I was going to stay (and attempt to break Extended) with. We had two apartments with four beds each, and during the day there were maybe 15 different people there – it seemed that every time I went somewhere and came back a new different person had arrived, some of which I had never seen before and still have no clue who they were, who vanished just as mysteriously as they had arrived.
The apartments were really cool, and they had gigantic tables we could play in. There was a supermarket nearby, in which I could buy many family-sized Nutelas to take home (I really, reeeally like Nutela, and it is very expensive where I live, so I just bring a bunch whenever I go there), and the city of Amsterdam proved to be as cool as I remembered it being. I’ve been to the Netherlands more than to any non-US country, and every time I enjoy it a lot – the city is just very welcoming, there are so many people around, the buildings are pretty, the canal is cool, the bikes are cool, it just seems like it wants me to be outside at all times. And there, too, everyone speaks English. I am probably not going to move soon, but if I do leave Brazil, then Amsterdam is included in my list of possible places to move to.
As far as extended went, well, I was miserable. I had played a whole lot of extended in the past month – more than anyone else on that house, I believe – and I still hadn’t reached any conclusions. My main problem was that, to every deck, I could look and say “this deck is terrible, because of “. Every deck had a major problem that I didn’t know how to solve, and, therefore, I had no idea what decks people were going to play – I could not create a gauntlet of decks I had to beat, because, at least in theory, no one had any decks they liked (because they all had a major problem that would stop people from playing them). Because the field was so open, I did not want to play a reactive deck – how could I answer something if I didn’t even know what the question was?
I also did not feel like losing to a specific hoser, which kind of conflicted with wanting a proactive deck – if I wanna do something every game, regardless of what they do, then it is probably easy to stop me every game with the same card. In the end, I think some sort of beat down deck is the only one that fits both requirements I was looking for. For a while, I even considered playing Mono-Red – I mean, it doesn’t get any more proactive than that, right? In the end, though, I came to my senses (and had echoes of Luis saying “what happened to you that you now want to play [card]Goblin Guide[/card] in every tournament??“ in San Juan, and then holding Goblin Guide and Jace “which one would you rather cast?”) and decided to play Doran.
This was the list I played:
I think this deck was a good choice because it was a mix of fast clock and a ton of disruption, and the disruption is the kind that is good against any deck – you don’t need to know what they are playing to have Thoughtseize be effective, for example. Its creatures were also very big, which gave it the advantage in most other creature matches, as well as against mono red.
The other appealing point was the manabase – though it wasn’t nearly as good as I would have liked (too painful), it was still miles better than any other multicolored aggro could come up with, since you effectively play 12 Bosks. Now some individual card choices:
4 Treefolk Harbinger – Harbinger was the card I was most skeptical of, at first, but he ended up being about the best card in the deck. The main reason he is good is because we have a lot of cheap discard, which means we can curve Harbinger into Harbinger/disruption (which I like to refer to as “the combo”) into Doran, and the discard spells will make sure they cannot deal with it or kill you before you kill them. You can do some very degenerate things with him, and a hand of Murmuring Bosk, Treetop Village, Verdant Catacombs, Harbinger will kill them on turn four, on the play, without any other cards (t1 Harbinger, t2 Harbinger, Treetop, turn three Doran bash for six, turn four animate Treetop bash for 14). He also helps solve the problem of many disruption heavy/threat light draws, since he is basically eight (or eleven) power by himself when you are goldfishing.
4 Tarmogoyf: When I first began building lists for this format, most green decks had the default 4 Tarmogoyfs. Then I started liking them less and less – the GR Scapeshift deck, for example, could hardly get him bigger than ½ on the first attack, and 2/3 is pretty much as good as it gets. In the end, I just cut Tarmogoyf from all my decks. In this deck, though, he was very good, because Thoughtseize and Duress usually double pump him by themselves, and we have 8 fetches and also a Nameless.
3 Loam Lion: Nothing special, just a Kird Ape that hits for three with Doran in play. There are not many ways to cast him on turn one – 10 Treefolks and 12 Bosks, plus a Caves of Koilos, which amounts to 51.35% chance to cast him on the play and 54.2% on the draw (ok, I totally made those up, but I would guess it should be around 50% chance that you can play your Loam Lion if you have it in your opening hand), but even if you don’t play him on turn one he is a fine turn two play with one of your other 11 one-drops. Some people played four, I think three was a fine number.
1 Chameleon Colossus: In most matches I figure he is worse than the third Elspeth (which is a card I really like in the deck and would never play less than two, though some people played only one – I just feel like it is really important to be able to fly your gigantic guys over Kitchen Finks), but when he is good, the value you add by having one is bigger than the value you have by having one Elspeth in his place. I would almost always rather just draw the Elspeth, but with four Harbingers, Colossus is a concession to the mirror (they were sold out of Harbingers!), and is also decent against Jund, Grixis, etc, as well as untapping your Bosks.
1 Nameless Inversion: Basically the same thing as the Colossus – not the best card to draw, but since you have 4 Harbingers, the possibility to tutor for it against a deck like Merfolk or with Sowers makes it better than running another random one-of.
0 Birds and Hierarchs: Before the tournament, I had built plenty of Doran lists (and pretty much plenty of any list you can imagine), but all of them had 7-8 accelerants, and that was the main problem with them, I think. The problem with Birds and Hierarchs is that they are a dead draw in the late game, in a deck that can’t really afford more dead draws. They sometimes speed up your game by a turn, but if you had had a disruption instead, then you’d have slowed their game by a turn, making things pretty much the same. We tried Birds of Paradise only at some point, and though it ended up being better than Hierarch, because of the multiple black spells, it was still not good enough – it is appealing when you think of turn one Birds and turn two Seize, Tarmogoyf, for example, but in the end you’d rather just play turn one Seize, turn two Tarmogoyf and save yourself a card.
Our sideboard ended up being pretty bad, and was a result of the lack of time it took us to pick a deck. We almost didn’t play side boarded games, and our sideboard was overly hateful for matches we didn’t really need help. The number of cards that came in did not match the number of cards that came out, and we’d often find ourselves not sideboarding in a card against a combo deck when the card had been there to beat that combo deck on the first place – overall it was just a mess and very unprofessional. If we had had like two more days, then I think our sideboard would have been much better. As it was, we were stuck with checking “the gatherer” for options the night before the tournament, and had to listen to things such as “Come on guys, let’s be serious, the Pro Tour is tomorrow… what do you guys think about Grizzled Leotau?” (bonus points for whoever guesses who said that… hint: it was the same person who said “I really think this deck wants exactly 1.8 four drops”)
Anyway, onto the tournament!
Round 1: Yuya Watanabe, Pyromancer Ascension
Though Yuya is very good, I didn’t really mind being paired against him round one, because I knew there was a very good chance he was just playing Ascension like most of the other Japanese players, and that was a very good matchup for our deck, since we had a lot of disruption (Pulse is live against them too) and a big clock with creatures that don’t die to Punishing Fire. I also think I tend to play much better against good players in general, and I’ve noticed that I do better in events in which I get paired against a lot of good players than in ones I get paired against people I don’t know, for some reason.
They announced we were a feature match, and that we had to meet them so we could be “escorted” to the arena. The place ended up being cool, but was not easy to get to, and pretty much just not worth the trouble, so there weren’t many spectators in any of the games, and I never actually went there myself to watch a match. In any case, this game is covered on Wizards.
Nothing very exciting happened in our games – game one he mulliganed to five and just died, game two he killed me with three Countryside Crushers that were 3/3s all the time because of my Leyline of the Void, and game three I made a huge mistake by casting Putrid Leech on turn two over Goyf (I just wanted to be able to hit over his potential turn two Goyf, but the damage I take is actually relevant and I can pretty much count on him putting Sorcery, Instant and Land in the graveyard, and one of my creatures is probably getting countered or killed anyway [or he is just dead] ). In the end he Mana Leaked my turn three Goyf, and though I was able to swing for four that turn because he was tapped out, I’d much rather have had a Goyf in play than a Leech.
+1 Bojuka Bog
I considered siding in Rule of Law, but it seemed pretty bad – his threatening cards are the creatures, not the spells. It is really good against Manamorphose, but really dreadful against Cryptic Command. In the end, I think if I just draw enough threats then he is not going to win.
The Leylines were OK, since they stopped Crusher and Punishing Fire, but for game three I realized I just wanted more removal spells to kill his Goyfs, and swapped them for the remaining Path and Pact. I sided in the Bog in case he kept the Ascension, and it might have been good to kill a Tarmogoyf of his after damage, though maybe the Treetop was just better.
Also in game three I attempted to cast Doran off Treetop, Bosk and Forest – oops. I did have a second Bosk in play that I could have tapped, but since I was forced to take the Doran back, I changed my mind and played Knight of the Reliquary instead, since I didn’t want to take two damage. It ended up being better, because he Mana Leaked it anyway, but ultimately didn’t matter.
Round 2 I played against RG Eldrazi LD. I know, right.
At the end of that match, I had seen Fulminator Mage, Mind Stone, Avalanche Riders and Primal Command, as well as Eldrazi Temple. I don’t really remember how I sided; I know I added Kitchen Finks and Bojuka Bog (hah take that LD, I came prepared).
Game two did not work very well as planned; I came out kinda slow and he drew some good cards after I Duressed him twice, and in the end I died to hardcast extended staples Ulamog and Emrakul.
Game three was extremely frustrating (in case you haven’t noticed yet, the whole match was). I start well, with Thoughtseize, Duress and dudes, and I have a Treetop. I know he has double All is Dust in his hand, but he only had five lands last time I checked. On his fifth turn, he draws, makes an overly exaggerated shrugging motion, plays the fifth land and passes. You see, I am generally not the mind reader or anything, but his shrug just looked extremely fake, so I think to myself that there is a very big chance he drew either a Temple or an Eye of Ugin and just wants me to over commit.
On my turn I draw a tapped land, which means I cannot animate Treetop – if I could, then I would have attacked him down to one, which means he cannot possibly win even if he casts All is Dust next turn, because of the Treetop. As it is, I attack him to four, and I am left with the choice of playing a Tarmogoyf or not. My hand is two Knight of the Reliquary. I think for a while and decide to play it, so that he does not live even if he draws Primal Command. In retrospect, that was probably wrong, but since I had two Knights as follow ups, it seemed OK even if he did draw the [card]Eldrazi Temple[/card].
As I play it and pass, he does a fist pump, untaps, draws, plays Temple and casts All is Dust. Now, I have no problem with you being happy that you drew the card you needed – you are entitled to that. But, I mean, a little bit of respect doesn’t hurt anyone. It was especially annoying because he probably thought he had “gotten me pretty good” with his gigantic shrug, when in fact that only hurt his chances (I played the Goyf because I wanted to beat Primal Command, not because of his shrug – it might have been wrong, probably was wrong, if anything because he shrugged, but his actions did not in any way convince me to play another creature). Anyway, doing fist pumps during the match and saying “yeah” when you think you got your opponent is just impolite regardless of anything, and I would be lying if I said I got sad when I checked the standings for his name and found out he had 0-3ed the remaining three constructed matches and not day 2ed.
After that I played my Knight, and he All is Dusted again. I played another Knight, which was 6/6, and he played Primal Command to search for a Baloth and gain 7, which was somewhat weird, since I knew he had Titan in hand and Khalni Gardens in his deck. This way, I just attacked him with both Knight and Treetop, dealing 9 and putting him to two. He then plays Baloth and Titan, and I have a four turns window to draw Elspeth and win, which doesn’t happen. On a certain turn he plays his third All is Dust, and my next draw is Elspeth, but that doesn’t help me anymore and I lose.
Round 3: Shuhei Nakamura, Ascension
This match was very similar to Watanabe’s, except this time I did not bother to side in any hate, siding in Pacts and Paths instead. Game one he even mulliganed to five, too. I think I played well when I held the Doran for a turn so I could play turn four Duress + Doran, because I had a Harbinger and a Doran and no other creatures, so if he Mana Leaks or double Bolts it then all my offense is gone and he has time to recover. In the end he has neither, though, and just dies.
Game two was close, but I ended up taking too much damage from my lands (including 2 to cast the Elspeth that I kept in) and lose to triple Punishing Fire the turn before I would end up killing him.
Game three I just overwhelm him with bigger creatures.
Round 4: Brian Kowal, GW
He was playing the GW hideaway deck, with Titans, Baneslayers, etc, which seems to be a bad matchup. Game one I get a decent draw and he is stuck on two Cobras and two Lands, and then his next land is one that comes into play tapped, and the only thing he can muster is a [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card], which is not nearly enough (especially since I had my one Path in hand).
Game two we got to a point where he has multiple Cobras and one Iona in hand, which means pretty much anything he draws that is not a mana creature is excellent for him (since a land casts Iona). He draws Summoning Trap, and I can only hope it fizzles for me to have a chance; It hit’s a Titan and I die.
Game three my hand is excellent – Forest, 3 Harbinger, Doran, Nameless, Loam Lion. I play Harbringer for Bosk, then turn two Harbinger for Bosk, Loam Lion, turn three Doran. He has a Nest Invader to trade with my Harbinger, but can’t do much other than that.
Round 5: Shaheen Soorani, 5cc
I had seen Shaheen’s deck before the tournament started, and it didn’t look like a very good match, since he had a ton of removal, Damnation, Grave Titans and Kitchen Finks, which is just a beating against this deck, gaining like 14 life by himself.
Game one I kept a hand that I shouldn’t have kept – it was 5 lands (no Treetop), Doran, Duress. I think I got seduced by the fact that I had a Doran and a way to protect it, but it was definitely wrong, since the fourth and fifth lands are pretty much mulligans already, and it is not impossible that his hand has two ways to deal with my Doran, since his deck is pretty much all answers. My first draw (Chameleon Colossus) made it much better, and I Duress to leave him with Titan and Cruel Ultimatum, but only three lands total. Five turns later it turned out his five draws were Damnation for my Doran and Colossus (which would race his Titan) and the four remaining lands to Ultimatum me on turn seven, and then I just die.
-2 Treefolk Harbinger
Anyway, this is how I THINK I sideboarded. I might have boarded in the other Path, or even Kitchen Finks – I don’t really remember, but it does not really matter anyway since this format is completely dead (which is very puzzling on WOTC’s part, by the way, to have the format die after a Pro Tour).
Game three I kept a hand with Swamp, Bosk, Duress, Leech, Elspeth, Elspeth, Knight, or something like that. I decide to start with Bosk, since I want to guarantee Leech on turn two. My Leech resolves but my Duress on turn three does not, and on turn four he has Jace to bounce my Leech and put me in a terrible position – this deck has no haste creatures and I didn’t have a Pulse in hand or a Treetop, so now I am pretty much “Jace-Locked” – I can only play one creature a turn and by Brainstorming every turn he is going to find an answer. I don’t know if he had that Mana Leak or not when I played Leech, but, if he did, it was very well played of him to let it resolve and save it for the Duress – a lot of people will just counter everything that moves when they have a Planeswalker, and doing it the other way was much better for him.
I still have a decent shot at winning if I draw a fourth land to play Elspeth that turn, but I draw a third Bosk and then he just kills everything I play and Ultimatums me.
I was not really happy with the result – 3-2 is not bad, but it is not good either. Looking back, though, I beat two good matches, beat a bad match because I got good draws, lost to a bad match, and lost to what I can only assume is a good match, so it seemed about average for my pairings (but then again you never really top 8 a pro tour by having “about average” results).
I’m going to leave you now, and then I will just group the draft and the last three rounds of the Pro Tour (in which nothing very exciting happened) into my GP Portland report (which I am planning on winning, by the way, to climb back to the PoY Race, just so you know), since they are both limited and it should make things a little easier for my schedule.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this, see you in Portland!