Silvestri Says – Judging Pro Tour Austin


Woo-hoo! This weekend we got to see a format that consisted of more than just one deck (Although Zoo tried its hardest to oversaturate the field) and was full of interaction, even in matches normally completely lop-sided like Hypergenesis vs. Zoo. Meanwhile the Last Chance Qualifier results were full of more misery for Standard players after seeing another top eight completely dominated by Jund decks. From what I’ve been told, the metagame of the LCQ was entirely Jund and Red oriented, with almost all of the control decks being knocked to the lower tables by the midpoint of the tourney, which I’m sure is sad times for all of you 5cc players looking for a good starting point.

First let me get my cheerleading out of the way and send props to Lucas Siow, Josh Utter-Leyton and David Ochoa for all finishing in the top 64. Further props go out to PVDDR for making the top eight of yet another major tournament and Brian Kibler for taking it down. Slops go out to that horrendous Gifts Ungiven Punishing Fire deck which was a kind of awkward that’s difficult to describe, so I’ll leave it to Chapin to explain it in his tournament report.

I was prepared to make a dash through the top Extended finishers, but something came up during the playing of the top eight that really got to me. For those who didn’t have the opportunity to see or read the coverage of the top eight matches, the following is taken from Josh Bennett’s write-up of the Brian Kibler – Evangelos Papatsarouchas G5 Quarterfinals match. .

“Kibler tried for a repeat of Game 4 with a Ghost Quarter for Papatsarouchas’s Tendo Ice Bridge and a second one on Reflecting Pool, but Papatsarouchas was long on land and followed right on through with a second Ice Bridge and a Gemstone Mine.

Kibler, meanwhile, had played Grove of the Burnwillows and Noble Hierarch, and then a Forest for a second Hierarch. Papatsarouchas played his fifth land of the match and cast Demonic Dread. Hypergenesis allowed him Progenitus and Angel of Despair. Kibler had a meaty grip as well, putting down Meddling Mage naming Firespout, another naming Putrefy, and a third just in case. Naturally, Papatsarouchas was holding both.

Kibler untapped and slammed down Baneslayer Angel. His pair of Hierarchs meant it represented a drain of 7 a turn. Papatsarouchas hit with Progenitus, still ahead in the race thanks to his Angel sitting in the way, but then Kibler showed him Path to Exile. They traded blows, but lifelink kept Kibler out of reach. After uncooperative draws, Papatsarouchas extended the hand.”

Feature Match Coverage

Anyone see the problem here?

When the Hypergenesis resolved the players skipped over the mandatory Angel of Despair trigger. Even worse were the nine levels of judge standing around the table failed to notice it either. When I saw it via the web-cast, I was befuddled as I knew the trigger had been skipped, but thought I had simply missed something in the video. This little screw-up completely changed the outcome of the match, as had Papatsarouchas targeted pretty much anything on Kibler’s side of the board, Kibler would be left unable to win. Either Baneslayer Angel never makes it into play or the Baneslayer dies to Putrefy at some point in the near future.

The kicker is that Papatsarouchas would’ve been left in a great position to win the Pro Tour, as his remaining opponents were both Zoo decks. For his semis match, Hunter Burton’s best play game one is to pray for a miracle and his post-board hate was nothing that the Hypergenesis deck hadn’t already battled through during the swiss. Meanwhile Ikeda waiting in the finals already admitted his worst match was Hypergenesis and had almost no hate in comparison to Kibler or Burton’s decks.

So what went wrong here? Certainly it wasn’t as big a cock-up as the StarWarsKid – Billy Moreno fiasco a couple of years ago, but it certainly raised some eyebrows. For example, what’s the point of having table judges if they miss things like that? Let me preemptively stop the ‘Look they’re only human; they do tons of good, blah blah.’ I’m not writing this part to slag every judge or even the ones watching the match (I’m sure they feel silly enough), but this happens often enough in situations where there’s a substantial amount of money on the line that this has to be wondered. The idea behind having a table judge is that there’s a safety net in case anything goes wrong with the game-state or a shady player interaction. If this isn’t being accomplished, then I think the DCI needs to rethink its position on how they handle top eight matches.

Again, not just putting this on the people watching; obviously Papatsarouchas probably felt horrible after realizing his blunder and under the rules Kibler is technically at fault as well (more on this later). Would more Judges watching be the answer? Do we get someone watching all the angles of the video to look for any possible shenanigans? Or do we accept this as a natural occurrence just like at the lower levels of Tournament Level Magic? In the end though, just how far do you go to stop this from happening?

One possibility that’s becoming increasingly attractive is just throwing the PT single-elimination rounds onto Magic Online so errors like that can’t happen. 99% of things that could go wrong are removed as factors when done in the fashion of the MTGO Live Series. You could argue this brings misclicks or potential bugs in as a factor, but if you planned for it I think you could iron out almost all of the kinks beforehand. If something catastrophic does happen, well then the back-up of playing it out with real cards is still there. I don’t think this will happen, at least not for some time, but with more MTGO events being run in the physical realm, I have to include the possibility for the future.

Let me be clear, I make no judgment on what Kibler did, nor do I have some magical insight into his thought processes so I won’t pretend that I knew what he was thinking. I’m only going off what I’ve read / seen in the match coverage and heard from Kibler’s interview after he won the Pro Tour. To clear something up, in the Day 3 wrap-up video in the event coverage, Kibler talks about having the Baneslayer Angel in hand when Hypergenesis was resolving and chose not to play it out of concern for Angel of Despair and then topdecked the land to cast it. This wasn’t quite clear in the video footage, so hearing it directly from Kibler should help clear this point up.

As was stated earlier, its undeniable Kibler gained an advantage from this miscue; and under current DCI policy he is at fault in the situation for not speaking up when the trigger was missed. From his own admission, when Hypergenesis was occurring he was at least aware of [card]Angel of Despair[/card]’s ability. This naturally will raise questions about people ‘forgetting’ mandatory triggers when in their best interests to do so.

Still, you need to put this situation into context. Kibler and Papatsarouchas are playing the deciding game of their match to advance to the semifinals of the Pro Tour. Whoever wins has a major advantage over the remaining decks in the field, meaning that the difference in prize payout is potentially $29,000 in addition to whatever bonuses they get from leveling up off 40 pro points. This will naturally generate a lot of pressure on both competitors and could easily throw them off on small cues like that. In addition the onus squarely lands on Papatsarouchas to be clear about his cards; who the hell forgets to blow something up with Angel of Despair?

So this brings us to the main issue this whole debacle, how screwed up are the mandatory trigger rules at this point in time? For a long time they’ve been described nicely as “Hand-holding” and un-nicely as a variety of terms that I can’t reproduce on the site. There’s no incentive for players paying attention to want to correct their opponents blunders and if they keep them aware of everything they do, most of the time it leads to one person screwing themselves over for the greater go”¦ er, the opponent. You know why the scary MTGO thing lurks in the back of people’s minds? So this stuff never happens and nobody is put in this sort of situation.

You put me in the quarterfinals situation and my reaction would be something like, “lol he didn’t destroy anything! omg he didn’t destroy anything! I win I win!”

I don’t have the answer to fixing the missed mandatory trigger rules, especially not under the current policy of everyone being responsible for the game-state. I just hope that things like this force an evaluation on the effectiveness of the current system for dealing with these types of game-states and how the players are treated in such a situation. The idea that someone is technically cheating if they do nothing for the opponent when he makes a blunder seems like a rather bold distinction. I’ll be interested to see if any reviews happen in regards to the Kibler / Papatsarouchas match.

In regards to the actual Constructed value from the PT top eight. Well let’s just say it’s surprising to me that Zoo actually managed to take down the title despite being widely speculated to be the most popular deck before a single game was played at Austin. The build Ben Rubin came up with and gave Kibler is really a thing of beauty when you consider how much inevitability the deck has in the Zoo mirror while simultaneously punishing older-style control decks. Having that type of reach while also keeping valid options in the Dark Depths, Hypergenesis and Dredge matches was even more impressive. If you want to play Zoo this season, start with the Rubin version.

As for the general data, I’m sure more will be forthcoming this week, but I just wanted to note the highest finishers in the Extended portion of the event that didn’t make top eight.

Highest Non-T8 Finishers:

Rubin, Ben 27 (Punishing Fire Zoo)

Kelly, John-Paul 24 (W/U Control)

Zatlkaj, Matej 24 (B/U Dark Depths)

Mitamura, Kazuya 24 (Dredge)

Estratti, Samuele 24 (All-In Red)

Ootsuka, Koutarou 24 (Dredge)

Ochoa, David 24 (B/U Dark Depths)

Potovin, Nikolay 24 (Naya Zoo)

Two Zoo decks, two Dredge, two Dark Depths, a W/U Control and an All-In Red deck round out the top finishers. To me, these decks are just as important to take note of as what made top eight. For example, the top three finishers in points for the Extended portion were Rubin, Burton and Kibler, meaning the three highest finishing decks were all Zoo. Dredge also stacks up very well for its popularity considering it had four placements in the top twenty finishers. Despite Dark Depths failure in the top eight, it also posted a respectable four places in the top twenty.

And now for my favorite decks of the Extended portion of the tournament. Exactly how good they are, is up for debate, but they sure break away from the crowd in terms of what they cam do.

Lucas Siow: 7-2-1

Combo Gifts

Lucas had a lengthy Deck Tech video posted the other day, so I’ll leave the explanations to him. Needless to say, the idea of combining the Dark Depths and Sword of the Meek / Foundry combos was excellent and gives the normal Thopter combo deck a much better game against the field. He even takes it a step further by boarding in Tarmogoyf post-board, giving him three different angles of attack against decks he can’t crack easily with a straightforward combo kill.

Shota Yasooka: 6-3-1

Gifts Control

The deck eventually wins by Yosei locking the opponent via Miren, the Moaning Well and Emeria, the Sky Ruin, which is by far the coolest way to win I have seen in Extended in years. Oh, and plus his deck is configured in a way to give him insane Gifts packages against practically the entire field, while his default late-game choice could also be going for a [card]Strip Mine[/card] lock via Loam and Ghost Quarter.

Makihito Mihara: 6-4

Scapeshift Combo

This deck didn’t finish with a great record, but I like it because it tried to push the Scapeshift combo further than anyone else took it. It includes multiple ways of finding the Scapeshift and accelerating the Valakut kill via multiple land fetching creatures and Khalni Heart Expedition. With a few tweaks and possibly a more robust disruption package, this deck could become a notable contender. It’s one of the few combo decks not really hurt by the common combo hate people are currently playing and can actually buy enough time against Zoo to win.

That’s all for this week, I apologize for the judging tangent and reduced quantity of article on Extended, but I couldn’t help myself. I’ll see you next week with a full article on Constructed; until then!

Josh Silvestri

E-mail me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom


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