Welcome to part two of my Pro Tour Honolulu report. (You can find part one here.) Last time we talked I had squeezed my way into day two at 5-3. My goal was to top 50 so I can make it to the next Pro Tour, and I’ll have to go 6-2 to qualify for sure, or 5-3 to maybe make it on tiebreakers.
Day two started with another three rounds of Draft, and this was what I ended up with. It wasn’t as good as my last draft, but if I drew the right cards it could work.
I wasn’t that excited about this deck because it was pretty sketchy. My Bone Splinters and Wretched Banquet were unreliable, especially with a [card]Deny Reality[/card] in the deck. Most of my spells were blue and black, but the white cards I was splashing for were early drops, so my mana was a bit suspect. My Esperzoa was also lacking cheap artifacts to bounce. I figured that if I hit with my Faerie Mechanists things would go a lot better, but this would still be a hard deck to 3-0 with.
John C. Kolos, Esper
Our decks looked similar, but I think his was better. He got to Soul Manipulation me game one, even getting a creature back. I played a Magister Sphinx that looked like it would win if he didn’t have removal, but he cast a second Soul Manipulation. That was pretty frustrating because I didn’t remember seeing even one during the draft. I thought I was done when he cast Architects of Will on me, but then I drew a Call to Heel, meaning my next two spells were probably pretty good. I got to attack my flyers into his Darklit Gargoyles now, and started dealing some damage. The next card I drew was Crystallize. Oh my, I couldn’t wait to see what that third card was! It looked like he was drawing duds, so my Executioner’s Capsule off the top let me keep my flyers pushing through. Nice Architects of Will, better luck next time.
I was still worried going into game two because he had double Soul Manipulation, and I had no real way to counteract that card advantage. I thought I had him in game two when I stabilized at two life to his six. I had two flyers on the table and a Kathari Screecher in my graveyard, but he untapped and [card]Resounding Thunder[/card]ed me. So that’s what the Mountain was for.
For game three, I kept a weird hand with no creatures, but it had all my colors, Brainbite, Crystallize, Call to Heel, and a fourth spell of some kind. He didn’t play a threat during his first three turns, and I Brainbite him on turn four. His hand was double Soul Manipulation, a fourth land, and a bunch of white cards like Sanctum Gargoyle, but he didn’t have white mana. I had drawn Magister Sphinx and I wanted it to resolve, so I took a Soul Manipulation. He also had an Architects of Will in the graveyard, and I didn’t want the card advantage to get him to white mana. I could have taken the fourth land, tying up his mana, but with a threat-light hand I didn’t think I could fight through the Soul Manipulations anyway. The game was pretty slow, and I eventually got a few threats on the board, but hadn’t gotten up to Magister Sphinx yet. He drew white mana pretty quickly and Voices from the Voided me for my last three cards, and there was no way I could overcome the card disadvantage.
Shirou Wakayama, Naya/Jund
I stalled out on Island, Island, Plains in game one. Meanwhile he cast Bloodbraid Elf into Behemoth Sledge. What a jerk! We had to play against Bloodbraid Elf for ten rounds of the tournament already, why make it more?
He mulliganed to four in game two. We still got to play a little Magic, but all of a sudden he ran out of spells and it was over. So far this match has been boring.
Game three was pretty standard, each of us trading spells and creatures back and forth. I did my favorite thing and Brainbite away a spell, and Shirou cast Extractor Demon. I Slave of Bolas it as planned, hit him for five, and he played a Blood Cultist to threaten my Tidehollow Strix. I played Esper Battlemage, Unsummoned my Strix when he went to ping it, and then got to Battlemage his Blood Cultist, which was the last card my opponent had. After I killed him with my three flyers over a few turns, he showed a Cliffrunner Behomoth off the top of his deck. That could have been dangerous, but it was too late.
Tyler Sage, Jund/Grixis
I sat on four lands for a while, which wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. Unfortunately, it meant that I couldn’t keep up with two spells a turn, and when I played and used my Armillary Sphere I did my math wrong and couldn’t play the spell after Armillary Sphere that I had planned on. Apparently that thing costs two to activate, oops. I thought I had stabilized, but he Vengeful Rebirthed me with Igneous Pouncer for exact. Normally, I would be fine with that, but he had hit my Slave of Bolas with his Singe-Mind Ogre, the most expensive card in my five-card hand. Lame.
I thought game two was going well for me. I Brainbite him midway through the game and took Dark Temper, leaving him with just Charnelhoard Wurm. Then I got to cast Magister Sphinx for full value, going from one to ten life. That’s when he cast Charnelhoard Wurm, and I used my Slave of Bolas to answer it, which was pretty awesome. I got [card]Parasitic Strix[/card] back because I felt like I really wanted to gain life, and I had Magister Sphinx and Executioner’s Capsule on the board. He attacked with his team, forcing me to use Executioner’s Capsule on his big Lorescale Coatl, and he used Drag Down on my blocking Magister Sphinx. Now out of black permanents, my Parasitic Strix couldn’t gain me life, and I got Vengeful Rebirthed again, this time for seven. Lame!
This was the match I most felt I could have won if I just played better. The games felt so close, and I think I must have taken extra damage somewhere that I could have avoided.
It was time to go back to Block Constructed. I didn’t have faith in my deck being able to go X-0, but I needed to do better than the 3-2 that I did on day one if I wanted to land somewhere meaningful.
Missing my third land drop wasn’t how I wanted to start the Constructed rounds. I felt like I was struggling with the deck the whole weekend, never drawing enough lands. I ran 26 lands because in the limited testing I had done missing land drops was a fatal mistake, and I didn’t want it to happen to me. Even so, I saw infinite two-land hands the whole weekend, and I tended to keep them on the draw. This was one instance where it didn’t work out. The Maelstrom Pulses and Ancient Ziggurats made things worse than they should have been, so it still boiled down to a deck building error and not my bad luck with mana screw. We learn.
I got to cast spells in game two, but it felt futile. He had more removal than I did, and a Blightning, so I ran out of spells very quickly. My mulligan to six didn’t help, but he probably still could have beat me even with seven cards.
This match was the most boring of the weekend, and I walked away feeling worried. I didn’t do anything the whole match; my opponent just manhandled me, and it didn’t help that he was a big jerk. Maybe he was having a bad weekend, but there was this aura of jerk around him the whole time. A judge started to come over to collect our slip, but walked past our table to another when they called for a judge ruling. My opponent seemed to take this as a personal attack, so he preceded to call another judge over to complain about the first. Sure, the judge probably could have grabbed our slip before going over to the other match, but really, how much does this matter? He was just being a jerk. The rest of my opponents on the PT were great, so I hope this was just an exception.
Jarron Puszet, Jund
He played Bituminous Blast and I didn’t, so I was getting worried. I couldn’t afford to lose another match if I wanted a chance to finish in the top 65 for money. Game one came down to us topdecking, and he drew Bloodbraid Elf into Blightning to kill me the turn before I was going to kill him. Ouch.
Strangely I don’t remember the rest of this match. I won games two and three, but I have no idea how. It’s not a very good matchup, but I guess I pulled through.
Jeffrey T. Lynch, Naya/Jund
Once again, I keep a two-land hand on the draw and didn’t get there. I guess I hadn’t learned my lesson yet. Just because you run 26 lands doesn’t mean you deserve to draw a land. It’s entirely possible that I should have run 27. [Quick. Someone ask GerryT if he should add a land. –Riki, pretty sure the answer is always “yes.”]
Game three was very close, and I thought it was over when he cast Bituminous Blast into Celestial Purge. I don’t know how, but this deck can keep pushing, and push I did. I Sarkhan Vol a guy at some point, eventually a Sprouting Thrinax died, and then he attacked with a Uril and a Bloodbraid Elf, taking me to three. I had two tokens left, attack him from five life to three, and Blightning for the win. Phew.
Bertil Elfgren, Bant
I won the first game on turn five, which was fun for one of us. I play a turn-two and three Putrid Leech, Sarkhan Vol pumped them on turn four, and [card]Blightning[/card] killed him on turn five. His Ardent Plea into Deft Duelist wasn’t enough to stop me.
Now it was Bertil’s turn. Turn one Noble Hierarch, turn two Ardent Plea into Deft Duelist, turn four Rafiq of the Many and hit me for ten, turn five Elspeth, jump Rafiq, and kill me. Sprouting Thrinax couldn’t stop that all by himself.
I felt much more comfortable being on the play again for game three. I had a pretty good draw with turn-two Leech, turn-three Sprouting Thrinax, and turn-four Fleshbag Marauder, netting myself some Thrinax tokens. I played another Sprouting Thrinax, Maelstrom Pulsed his Finest Hour, and the Thrinax tokens got there.
Mat Marr, ID
Mat and I knew each other already because we both live in the northwest, so it was unfortunate that we got paired up. Worst of all, I had the lowest tiebreakers of the 27 pointers, and Mat had the second lowest. We did the math, and neither of us could make top 65 even if we won. He could use the points for a Nationals invite, so we drew into a guaranteed top 100 and four pro points.
I finished in 77th, a respectable place for my first Pro Tour, but I wanted so much more. I desperately wanted to qualify for the next Pro Tour, and I was really sad when I realized that I was no closer to the next PT than I was before. I still have to go win a PTQ, just like everybody else.
The next day, I showed up early so I could play in the $3,000 Booster Draft Challenge. I was hoping I could at least walk away from this Pro Tour with something to show for it, even if it wasn’t a qualification.
The first deck I drafted was probably one of my favorites I’ve ever had in this format. It was an aggressive Grixis deck that featured two Deny Reality, two Sewn-Eye Drakes, Spellbound Dragon, two Soul Manipulations, Sedraxis Alchemist, and Terminate, backed up by solid creatures. I lost round one when my deck didn’t really function, but I easily won the next three rounds. (We played four rounds with the first draft.) When I got the good draw, it was hard to stop.
The next draft didn’t go as well, but I thought it had potential. I was playing an Esper deck splashing green for Necrogenesis, but my mana was pretty bad. I had three Bant Sureblades, among other early drops, but my curve was really wonky. I had nothing in the four or five range, and then some sixes and a seven. I lost round one without really getting off the ground, and at 4-2 I couldn’t make the final draft table, so I dropped.
I did get to watch some of the Pro Tour top 8 in between rounds, which was really cool. Seeing the pros battle makes me want it even more. One day Jon, one day.
I went home happy but disappointed. I made day two, cracked the top 100, but it was back to the PTQ dregs for me – or so I thought.
A few days later I received an e-mail from Wizards of the Coast that I can’t stop looking at:
“Congratulations! You are invited to 2009 United States Nationals based on either your Top 100 Composite or Top 100 Total DCI Rating.”
I was not expecting this at all. It turns out that my total rating climbed enough through the Pro Tour and Draft Challenge that it cracked the US top 100. Jon Loucks is going to Nationals, baby! Sure, it’s not the Pro Tour, but it’s another chance to qualify. I’ll actually have some time to test for this event too. I’ve been drafting almost every day now, and I need to start testing Standard. The format will surely change with the release of M10, but getting to know the current decks wouldn’t hurt.
Oh man, I’m getting excited just writing this.
Meanwhile, I’ll be at Origins this next week demoing a miniatures game I’ve been working on, Arcane Legions. If you’re going to be there, be sure to stop by booth #829 and say hi.
Thanks for reading,
Loucksj at gmail