I just got back from the Pro Tour, and what an exciting weekend! I got to meet a lot of Pros, got interviewed by Richard Hagon and Tom Lapille, and most of all I got to play in the Pro Tour. It’s what you always dream of once you start playing in PTQs, and I was finally there. Everything else I had played in was less than a Pro Tour, but now I was finally on top, playing at the highest level of competition.
Plus, I got there with Kiki-Jiki, so it’s like I already won.
You would think that after looking up to the Pro Tour for so long I would really be prepared for it. Unfortunately my last four weekends were Regionals, a trip to Las Vegas, Grand Prix Seattle, and then the Pro Tour, not to mention finals the day after I got back. I didn’t have a lot of time to test.
So there I was, Friday night, sitting at the site of the LCQ with Zaiem Beg, trying to find a deck for the Pro Tour the next day. I was testing some five color control deck I made that included four Cruel Ultimatum, but I couldn’t beat the Jund deck. Zac Hill sat down and started talking to us, and the Z’s convinced me to just play Jund. The Madrush Cyclops (which I mistakenly called Bloodrock Cyclops all day) version that also plays Sedraxis Specter looked exciting, so we made up a list. This is what I registered on Friday.
I’ll admit it, this list isn’t perfect. I probably shouldn’t be playing Sarkhan Vol in the same list as Ancient Ziggurat, and the same goes for Thought Hemorrhage in the sideboard. Maelstrom Pulse was also the card most sideboarded out in favor of cheaper spells. My opinion of Madrush Cyclops also varied wildly throughout the tournament. Sometimes it was the best card, outright winning the game with Broodmate Dragon. Other times I would play it on turn four, setting up a good turn five, and they would kill it, making my turn five look lame. I was never sure whether to play the Cyclops or the Specter on turn four. Maybe the fact that it can win the game if left unanswered is good enough.
I knew this wasn’t the best deck going into the tournament, but I just needed something that wasn’t a pile of lose. Luckily Bloodbraid Elf is pretty good, so sometimes you just get there.
Jody Keith, Naya
Since I didn’t know a lot about the format, I wasn’t sure what to think about playing against Naya. I assumed it was a good matchup for Jund, otherwise Naya would be the deck to play, but I could be wrong.
I played a turn three Sedraxis Specter in game one, which he Oblivion Ringed. I thought it was going to be pretty awesome when I cast Madrush Cyclops and then Maelstrom Pulse on his Oblivion Ring, but he had Path to Exile for my Specter. Luckily that meant that he let the Cyclops live to accelerate my Broodmate Dragon into his face on turn six.
Game two was really weird. He used Noble Hierarch to accelerate into a Sarkhan Vol on turn three. I Blightning him and move the damage to his planeswalker. He adds another planeswalker to his team, Elspeth. I Blightning him again, killing his Sarkhan Vol and eliminating his hand. On my next turn I Maelstrom Pulse the Elspeth, and now my opponent is reduced to one random card in hand, a Noble Hierarch, and a 1/1 soldier token, just like that. I figured the game would be easy from this point, but things got a bit hairy as my opponent found an Ajani Vengeant and a Ranger of Eos in the next few cards. Luckily Broodmate Dragon is really big, and his empty hand was unable to deal with it.
It felt so good to win round one!
Geoff Fletcher, Bant (with Ancient Ziggurat and Bloodbraid Elf)
In the final game he accelerated a Bloodbraid Elf into play, which hit Behemoth Sledge. Yikes! My hand was pretty clunky this game, so I didn’t stand much of a chance. I terminated the Bloodbraid Elf and used Maelstrom Pulse on his Rafiq of the Many, but I was pretty sure his Sledge was going to do me in. That was until he cast, wait for it, Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund! Nice Ancient Ziggurat. Turns out this guy is a 7/7 haste even if he doesn’t steal something.
Dane Young, Cascade
I knew Dane from a Grand Prix Los Angeles dinner, though we battled at Grand Prix Vancouver, where I beat him with Ninjas. [Jon also beat LSV with Ninjas. -Riki, cacklingly] Good times.
Game one was uneventful. I mulliganed to five, and he cast Bloodbraid Elf into threats.
I was pretty worried about this matchup because he was playing Bituminous Blast and I wasn’t. He killed all of my creatures in game two with three Bituminous Blasts and an Enlisted Wurm. I had nothing left to protect my Sarkhan Vol, and he ran me over.
I was beginning to get worried, starting 1-2. I really wanted to make day two.
Robert Wilbrand, Jund
I win the die roll and start off with a turn-two Putrid Leech. I see lots of tap lands, so I play a second Putrid Leech on turn three, risking the Maelstrom Pulse. My hand is kind of sketchy, so these Leeches need to get there. He plays another tapped land on turn three, goes to eight life, then Pulses my Leeches on turn four. I never played a third spell this game because Ancient Ziggurat stranded two Blightnings and two Maelstrom Pulses in my hand. I finally got what I deserve.
In game two I had a good aggressive start while he was a little clunky. Once he stumbled it was pretty much over. An unearthed Sedraxis Specter was what eventually did him in.
I got a Putrid Leech early in game three, which he Magma Sprayed in response to pumping. I hadn’t seen a Magma Spray yet this match, but maybe I still shouldn’t have pumped. I was getting worried after he cast a second Magma Spray on my Sedraxis Specter, then used Celestial Purge on my Sprouting Thrinax. Luckily for me he never saw black mana, and Madrush Cyclops killed him.
Getting to 2-2 made me a little happier than I should have been, but I was glad my Limited rounds would actually matter regardless of the outcome of round five. I wanted to draft, and I wanted it to count!
Justin Perdue, Five Color
I’m happy when I see he’s playing Five-Color because I couldn’t win with Five-Color last night in testing. I cast a few Bloodbraid Elves and showed him why his deck couldn’t beat Jund.
We’re both a little crippled in game two, but my mulligan to six on the draw has to be better than his mulligan to five. As the game progresses I realize I sideboarded wrong. I didn’t like Thought Hemorrhage because of Ancient Ziggurat, and it’s not what I want to be doing anyway. This deck wants to be really aggressive, and the moment you spend a turn not adding pressure is bad. That’s why I wasn’t a fan of Maelstrom Pulse either. I also took out Fleshbag Marauder, and regretted it the moment he cast a [card]Wall of Denial[/card].
Eventually he has a Wall of Denial protecting an Ajani Vengeant. Ajani just reached seven counters by locking down my Sprouting Thrinax, and I’ve got another random creature like Bloodbraid Elf or Anathemancer or something. I thought my Realm Razor was going to be really bad, but it ended up being exactly what I wanted in this situation. Now his ultimate on Ajani is useless, and he has to spend his turn removing two counters to kill the Realm Razor. This unlocks my Thrinax and lets me swing through and take the Ajani down to three counters, the perfect amount for Blightning to scare that planeswalker away. My opponent unearthed an Anathemancer, taking me to four, but his next two draws didn’t kill me as I finished him off with Bloodbraid Elf into a threat.
Time to draft! I had to 2-1 the draft to make day two, and 2-1 was what I expected from my drafts anyway. This is the deck I ended up with:
My sideboard was pretty blank. I could have ran a Kathari Screecher or Gloryscale Viashino over random guys, but that’s about it. Five-color is harder these days as the format is more aggressive, but I thought my deck would be ok. I had a lot of toughness in my deck with Rhox War Monk, two Aven Trailblazer, Wall of Denial, Fusion Elemenal, and Nemesis of Reason, not to mention two Grixis Slavedrivers. While my removal was light, my deck could block pretty well. I also had two Brainbites and a Soul Manipulation that could catch problems before they hit the table, so I thought I would be ok. I’ve never cut Brainbite from a deck that can run it – I love that card.
Katsuya Ueda, Jund
I don’t remember game one, though I noted that I should have scooped faster. I was pretty far behind, and when he cast Broodmate Dragon it was over.
Game two went really long. He had a Necrogenesis holding me off, and eventually we stalled. When he was at 11 cards left in his deck I played [card]Nemesis of Reason[/card]. He didn’t have a removal spell, so one swing and it was over.
I was pretty happy in game three. He had a slow hand that only produced a Necrogenesis and Pestilent Kathari by turn five. I got to untap with Nemesis of Reason and Brainbite him. I took Vengeful Rebirth and didn’t see anything else that could stop me. I went all in on the Nemesis of Reason plan, attacking and milling my opponent for ten cards, fueling the Necrogenesis. I terminated the Kathari before blockers, and thought that was the game. My opponent drew his card, cycled his Jungle Weaver [It could be anything. -Riki] with crossed fingers, and then pointed a Dark Temper from the top of his deck at my Nemesis. Damn.
He was pretty far ahead at this point with a graveyard full of Necrogenesis fuel. I played more creatures, but was falling behind in life. Time was called, and I tried to push through to kill him. I should have known that I couldn’t possibly kill my opponent with a full Necrogenesis on the table, and I attacked with too many creatures. My opponent played a Rip-Clan Crasher on turn five for exact, and I lost a game that should have been a draw, my biggest regret of the weekend.
Joshua Yang, UW flyers
Joshua’s deck was full of blue and white creatures with flying. Luckily I had Wall of Denial early in game one, which slowed him way down. I had time to develop my board position, and eventually got there with Grixis Slavedriver.
In game two he never let up playing creatures, and he simply overran me before I could get started.
I finally stabilized in game three with Aven Trailblazer and Wall of Denial, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to win. Eventually I get a Nemesis of Reason on the table, and we both have huge teams of creatures. I wait until he has 21 cards in his library, attack, and Angelsong his attempt to block my Nemesis. He doesn’t have an answer, so my next attack mills him out. What a dumb card.
Joe Lam, Jund
Joe didn’t have removal for my Paragon of Amesha, and you can’t race that creature, so I won game one.
He let me go first for game two, which I thought was crazy. As the control deck with two Armillary Sphere, I wanted all the extra time I could get. This game I have one of the dream starts with Rhox War Monk on turn three off of Crumbling Necropolis, Rupture Spire, and a basic land. His first play was a Gift of the Gargantuan for a Swamp and a creature, so he was forced to discard. I then untapped and cast Brainbite, and Joe showed me a hand full of gas. Two Goblin Outlanders threatened to shut down my lifelink, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with his hand full of threats no matter what I took. Then I realized he only had one land, the Swamp, and it was his only black source. I took the land, and his hand full of black cards was stranded for the rest of the game. I love Brainbite!
I made day two. I made day two! Sure, I barely slid in, but it was day two nonetheless! I was so excited, I bounced around the tournament hall telling everybody I knew. I didn’t really care if I was being annoying, because I made day two! I was so happy.
This ends part one of my PT Honolulu report. I’ll be back to tell you about my next draft, the last five rounds of Constructed, and the Draft Challenge that got there.
Thanks for reading,
Loucksj at gmail