Stark Reality – Trying to Repeat in Nagoya

Despite being the last Pro Tour, Paris felt like a long time ago. In the 3 months between Paris and Nagoya, I went 3-3 in GP Denver, 2-3 in GP Providence, and finished 61st in GP Singapore. Meanwhile Owen top 8ed like 10 GPs and passed me for the lead in the player of the year race. Obviously there is still a long ways to go in the season, but I did expect to hold the lead at least until the conclusion of the 2nd pt. Normally going into a Pro Tour working with Channelfireball, I feel at least comfortable and usually I’m excited. I think the current group of guys are amazing deckbuilders and we have had some really great constructed decks for the past few Pro Tours. Starting with Naya in San Diego, RUG in San Juan, Doran in Amsterdam, UB/Vamps at Worlds and obviously Caw-Blade in Paris. This time was different though. We couldn’t get anything to work. We tried everyone control deck we could think of: [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card], [card tezzeret, agent of bolas]Tezzerets[/card], [card thrun, the last troll]Thruns[/card], and [card koth of the hammer]Koths[/card]. The only thing we figured out was we couldn’t get anything to beat Tempered Steel. But wait! I guess we could play Tempered Steel. What madness was this? LSV and PV playing White Weenie in the Pro Tour, but it might just be crazy enough to work.

We got to Japan late Wednesday night and went to the chicken wing hotel. Kibler and I checked into the double room he booked for us, but it wasn’t big enough for him to stay in, let alone both of us, so I bought my own room there for the weekend. After making plans to test in the lobby the following morning before going to the site, I went to sleep. At this point we still didn’t have anything we liked, so it was looking like Tempered Steel, which no one except maybe Wrapter and NcNasty were excited about. So the next day Kibler started convincing the group that Mono-Red was probably a better choice than the Tempered Steel deck everyone was expecting and preparing for. I agreed with him and made Mono- Red. Nasty played me some games against Luis, me, and probably some of the other people and very easily destroyed everyone – and Tempered Steel was finalized as the main choice for the group. Kibler, Brad, and Conley still decided to go with Mono-Red though.

Round 1 – Gagnon, Jake – Mono-Red.
Game 1 I had a really awesome draw involving turn 3 [card]Hero of the Bladehold[/card].
Game 2 – He got stuck on 3 mana and died without ever finding lands.

Round 2 – Watsfeldt, Elias – UG [card]Birthing Pod[/card]/ [card]Grand Architect[/card].
Game 1 – I played a barrage of[card] Signal Pest[/card]s and [card]Memnite[/card]s into a [card]Tempered Steel[/card] on the play and he conceded on turn 3 with 2 Islands in play. I had no idea what he was playing which made sideboarding quite difficult. So I boarded very small like one
Plains, one [card]Leonin Relic-Warder[/card] for 2 [card]Contested War Zone[/card] or something like that.

Game 2- He got [card]Birthing Pod[/card] then started copying my[card] Blade Splicer[/card]s. I then set up a good Hero attack. Good until he [card]Marrow Shards[/card] me into smithereens.

Game 3- We had a really good long/close game that finished with him around 3 and 8 poison but he was able to assemble recurring [card]Spine of Ish Sah[/card] and [card]Phyrexia’s Core[/card] and lock me out.

Round 3 and 4, I honestly don’t remember much about but I know my opponents had fairly weak draws and I won both matches.

Round 5- Lybaert, Marijn – Mono-White control
Game 1 – I had my usual draw of lots of [card]Memnite[/card]s and [card]Signal Pest[/card]s into [card]Tempered Steel[/card] and he also conceded around turn 3 or 4.

Game 2- He killed most of my early guys then killed the remaining ones with [card]Sunblast Angel[/card]s and beat the hell out of me with them.

Game 3- Let the punting begin. So I had a good early rush then played an [card elspeth tirel]Elspeth[/card]. However instead of ticking it up and locking him out of his win conditions. I ticked it down and he locked me out of my entire deck with [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]Elesh Norn[/card]. It would have been a tough game to win if I had went up instead of down anyways because he would have still teamed me but I might very well have won and it was definitely the right play.

No complaints here. Rich Hagon interviewed me about the draft format on Thursday before the Pro Tour and I told him going into this tournament that this was a very hard/skill intensive Limited format with lots of good decks to draft and I was excited about it. WW was fine but nothing special and in this case and I was pretty happy with 3-2 from it.

Then we got to the draft. I opened up a [card]Phyrexian Swarmlord[/card]. This guy is just great. While I really like to first pick colorless cards and am willing to make pretty big sacrifices in card quality to do it, this guy was worth deviating from that. There wasn’t a [card]Dismember[/card] or any artifact nearly the caliber of him, so it was an easy pick. After that, the green black control cards just kept coming. I picked up a [card]Thornbiter[/card], [card]Reaper of Sheoldred[/card], [card]Parasitic Implant[/card], 2 [card]Geth’s Verdict[/card]s and a [card]Mutagenic Growth[/card] in pack 1. Pack 2 I opened up [card]Spread the Sickness[/card] and [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card]. In an aggro infect deck, I would normally take the Spread. However considering my creatures currently cost 5 6 and 6 I was pretty sure I needed the Zanith to quash aggressive starts, and deal with swarms of little guys.

I just picked up more of what my deck wanted the whole draft. I was lucky to open a [card]Cystbearer[/card] in pack 3 which was much better for my deck then say a [card]Plague Stinger[/card] would have been, though I did have to ship a [card koth of the hammer]Koth[/card] for it. Way to open planeswalkers and not even be able to play them. Then there was an [card]Arrest[/card] and nothing good for green black so I took it, the next pack had another Arrest and nothing that exciting for me. A little later I picked up a [card]Horizon Spellbomb[/card], which my deck wanted before the white splash and I was now super excited about and that was about all of note out of Scars with the other picks being unexciting playable cards.

Coverage of Limited games is pretty awkward but I had a really tight match with Shahar in an uncovered feature match in round 6. I won game 3 with him having the ability to put me to 9 poison on his last turn and I poisoned him out on mine. Then I drew much better than my opponents the next 2 rounds and won both 2-0 without any incredibly close games.

I was pretty pleased with the day on the Pro Tour. Anytime you win 75 percent of your matches against the world’s finest, you have to be pretty pleased and the Pro Tour was going pretty well for Channelfireball and my friends from Florida. Luis was 7-1, Wrapter and Matt Nass were on 6-2 like myself, and Martin and PV were at 5-3. From Florida, Sharfman and Pat Cox were 7-1, BillyP was 6-2 and Antonino De Rosa, Brad C, and adopted Floridian Orrin were on 5-3. The Florida crew and I went to Outback, which was fantastic. I am really not a fan of local Japanese food, so any chance I get to eat a steak in Japan is something I truly treasure. However, I was disappointed in their lack of wanting to credit card game for the bill. I am not used to having to pay for my own food on trips. Normally Kibler, LSV, or someone is kind enough to buy me dinner.

One of the smartest things the Channelfireball crew did this trip was deciding to do most of our testing in Asia. Since we had been there for over a week now, I was well adjusted to the time difference and was having no trouble going to bed around midnight and getting a good night’s sleep. After dinner I went straight back to my hotel room and passed out with a belly full of steak and really happy to be playing in day 2.

My second draft started out with a lot less power than my first. I first picked [card]Skinwing[/card] and followed it up with [card]Act of Aggression[/card] and [card]Porcelain Legionnaire[/card]. Even though these cards are a lot less powerful than my first 3 picks in the last draft, I actually prefer to have cards like this because it allows you the flexibility to read the draft and play whatever is being underdrafted. In this case, I was colorless almost the whole first pack. Pack 2 however, I started to realize what I was going to be able to put together. I picked up 2 [card]Concussive Bolt[/card]s and 2 [card]Master’s Call[/card]s so I realized I would have an aggressive r/w metalcraft. This strategy was one of the most powerful in straight Scars draft, but is very tough to put together out of the 3 sets. You should look for it when the cards you have gotten out of the first pack and a half allow for it, but you shouldn’t go into drafts ever expecting to play it. Pack 3 I ran well like I usually run, and got a [card]Tempered Steel[/card] and [card]Myrsmith[/card] and completed the masterpiece.

9-2. It felt really good to 6-0 the Limited portion of the Pro Tour with the Limited Top 8. Almost like already winning. However they really should do more to make it the Limited Pro Tour, because in reality it only is for the Top 8 players. For everyone else it’s just another constructed Pro Tour. I don’t understand why they don’t do 3 drafts or have the Limited matches count double or something. I don’t know the solution, but there should be some way to emphasize the Limited outside of the Top 8 at one Pro Tour a year.

Round 12 – Cipolleschi, Francesco – B/R kill stuff.
Game 1 – I held back with [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] in some spots I shouldn’t have and ended up losing to a [card karn liberated]Karn[/card]. Sure is nice to start the Constructed portion back off with a punt.

Game 2 – I had a really good draw and just rolled him before he could get any of his late game going.

Game 3- I missed land drops and he played a Koth on turn 4. I was able to take it out using an Inkmoth Nexus and double [card]Mutagenic Growth[/card], but now I was already at 12. He decided to continue attacking my life total and played a [card]Oxidda Scrapmelter[/card] not killing anything. I missed some drops but did draw out of it. The game ended up being in a spot where I had [card elspeth tirel]Elspeth[/card] and had to go up to avoid burn or down to avoid removal. I thought he had burn because of how agro he played but really he could have burned me out earlier and I should have played around removal. So for not the first time in the tournament I went the wrong way with Elspeth and cost myself another game. Nothing beats losing a match 2-1 and having punted both games you lost.

Round 13 – Ketita, Nassim – Mono Red Control.
So the strange thing here is Mono-Red players played Mono-Red thinking it was bad against blue and [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card], but had a good WW matchup. We crushed Mono-Red with our Tempered Steel lists in testing and considered it one of if not our very best matchup. Our list was tailored to beat red though. The [card]Origin Spellbomb[/card]s and 4 [card hero of bladehold]Heroes of Bladehold[/card] main were huge in the matchup. Also we had a few copies of [card]Blade Splicer[/card] main and 4 Mutagenic Growths in the sideboard (thanks Conley – they were awesome).

Game 1 – I kept a hand with Hero, Spellbomb, and lands on the play. I wouldn’t keep this hand in the dark but I knew he was playing Mono-Red which is not fast, and Hero is our best card against them. He killed the Hero with double [card]Galvanic Blast[/card] and I draw mostly lands and lost.

Game 2- I had a much better hand on the play and won pretty easily, while I think he missed a land drop or two.
Game 3 – We had a long game, where I played [card]Indomitable Archangel[/card] he answered with Phoenix. Then I played Elspeth. I had the Mutagenic Growth to save the Angel from burn, then he couldn’t really get through to Elspeth so there was a lot of sitting around and eventually he drew into lands and Elspeth grinded him out.

Round 14 – Thiele, Fabian – Mono red control
Game 1 – I won the roll and had really good draws in this match. I remember casting Tempered Steel and just running him over.
Game 2 – I had a good draw again and this time with a Tempered Steel and a Mutagenic Growth when he went for the kill. I think he got pretty poor draws because the games really weren’t close.

Round 15 – Gaudenis Vidirigus – mono black infect.
Well the winner of this match would get to draw into top 8. Would I be able to top 8 back to back Pro Tours or even win back to back Pro Tours? To my knowledge that is a feat only accomplished by Kai and Kai alone. LSV and Rietzl both came really close, getting 2nd in the Pro Tour after they won one but I don’t think anyone but Kai has actually won back to back, though I could be wrong and if I am someone please tell me; I love mtg stats and like to have mine correct.

Well just like I put an end to Paul’s shot at it, Gaudenis crushed mine. The match was a covered feature match so you can read about it here.

Round 16 – Lukas Jaklovsky – UB Tezz
I was really drained after missing top 8, so I offered the draw. I was in 15th and he was in 16th so it seemed like I would almost definitely make top 16, which was more important to me than the loss in value monetarily by drawing. A win would put me in 10th, which is 8 pro points, where as a draw into 15th or 16th is also 8 pro points. A loss would put me around 26th, which is only 6 pro points.

As it turned out, it he held 16th and my breakers plummeted and I got 17th. That’s still 7 points, so pretty much the same value as playing for 8 or 6 and I definitely had a good shot at the 8 with the draw so I am confident it was the right decision. However, if I knew I would end up in 17th I wouldn’t have drawn so I can’t really be happy with that outcome. That said following up the first place finish with a 17th is pretty exciting. While it doesn’t have the shine of a top 8 or a win, 17th is always an amazing finish on the Pro Tour and I am quite proud of it. I played really well throughout the majority of the tournament, but I would kill to have back a couple of those Elspeth decisions that I made the wrong way.

Congrats to LSV, Sharfman, Pat Cox, and Gaudenis as well as everyone else who had a good Pro Tour. The good pt finishes were long overdue for Pat, Sharf, and go. Everyone knows Go from his 2 gp wins but Sharf has been quietly putting up good PT finishes for almost a year strait and Pat has 2 GP top 8s and multiple more good finishes. People are so obsessed with firsts that most people seem to have been unfamiliar with both of them until Sharfman’s win at gp Paris or Pat’s win at the SCG invitational but if u search the final standings of tournaments for the past few years you would see them quietly in the money of quite a few. As far as myself, I couldn’t be in a happier spot Magic wise. I’m leading the Player of the Year by 1 point, with Owen and Sharfman right on my tail and some amazing players like Paulo, Martin, Shouta, Rietzl, Shuhei and LSV not far behind them. I am working with and for the best team in Magic and most of the remaining GPs I will be competing in are Limited, so hopefully I can continue this.

22 thoughts on “Stark Reality – Trying to Repeat in Nagoya”

  1. If I opened a New Phyrexia pack with a Skinwing in it, I’d probably ask for a new one.

  2. i think nicolai herzog won back to back pro tours…he def won 2 limited pt in one year (to win poy), not 100% sure they were back to back though

  3. Herzog won back to back in 2005, but he didn’t win POY (Nassif did). There were 6 PTs back then.

  4. I’d really love to see some draft videos from Ben. He seems to have quite the stranglehold on NMS limited.

  5. “…they really should do more to make it the Limited Pro Tour, because in reality it only is for the Top 8 players. For everyone else it’s just another constructed Pro Tour. I don’t understand why they don’t do 3 drafts or have the Limited matches count double or something. I don’t know the solution, but there should be some way to emphasize the Limited outside of the Top 8 at one Pro Tour a year”

    You are absolutely right! I was thinking exactly the same. With a limited top8 they should def run a pt with more rounds of drafting instead of block (they should also run a block-oriented pt imo). How about 9 rnds ? Much better than 6 anyway.

    Also you have not punted against red 1st constructed rnd day 2, game 3. Your reasoning behind elspeth was perfect. The only way I could say you’ve punted is giving you a better reason for going down with elspeth instead.

    As far as I know (and I play since 1999) Kai is the only one who won back to back pts.

  6. A bit less amusing than Ochoa’s culinary adventures, but it’s always nice to see some Stark limited reports. I second the request for some draft videos, though I realize it might put a damper on your ability to multiqueue.

    Good luck in your next event!

  7. Kai is not the only one to win back to back pro tours,
    I believe Nicolai Herzog won back to back pro tours back in old mirrodin block.
    “His greatest achievement was winning two consecutive Limited Pro Tours in 2004”
    (from wikipedia.)
    he also had highest rating ever recorded at 2351 (good luck with that one)


  8. mind posting your list? I mean, it’s hard to evaluate an article involving constructed matchups without it.

  9. Draft videos gogogo.
    Also, winning 2 PTs in a row would be really really sick. Not to take anything away from Kai or Herzog, but MTG evolved quite a lot in 7-8 years. The edges are a lot smaller as there are so many resources for anyone to look into nowadays.

    I can draw a comparison to poker pre and post poker boom. Winning the main event in 70s or 80s twice was reasonable as the fields were small (150 players or something) and pros knew that much more about the game compared to average Joe, compared to the most current MEs with 7k+ players and the huge amount of strategy resources nowadays. I guess any single tournament in poker is also a lot more luck dependent, too.
    Tho that’s kinda off-topic

    BenS fighting!

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  11. i dont want to complain about free material, but your reports are always so bad… basically you said nothing special…

  12. Iirc Herzog won both the limited pt’s in (original)Mirrodin- there was a booster pt and a rochester pt every year and he is the only one to win both of them in that fashion.

  13. (but they were not consecutive, as the rochester pt was typically early in the season and booster was late)

  14. Great report. As to the whole “limited pt thing” i hadn’t considered it so much as this should have been the “block constructed pt”. I remember being quite dissapointed when i found out top 8 would be drafting. This puts a different and probably much warrented spin on the matter. As it stands I’d forgotten to consider that all the PT’s sorta focus on constructed play and maybe that’s not right…

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