Heading into PT Eldritch Moon, I was feeling oddly serene. I’d already had a strong season, and if I went 11-5 and hit Platinum, that would be great. I figured Worlds was probably out of reach, seeing as I’d only reach 56 Pro Points with a 12-4 finish, and I had mostly given up on that dream after my disappointing 9-7 finish at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad.
My goal was to help my team come up with the best Constructed deck possible and hopefully earn ourselves another trophy. To that end, I decided that it was best to drop from GP Sydney at 6-3 the week before the PT. If I won out, I’d only earn 1 additional Pro Point, and the extra time testing would probably be more valuable for my ultimate goal of earning Platinum the next week. Fortunately for me, Mike Sigrist also decided to drop at 6-3, so we got to spend a productive day working back at our testing house.
We spent the first part of the day working on the UB Zombies deck our team was high on. The deck was very good against Bant, Humans, and GW Tokens, which were the “known” decks in the metagame, but it was so weak to all of the “random” black decks with Liliana and Languish. We tried a variety of sideboard strategies to help work on this weakness, but ultimately most of the team didn’t feel comfortable betting that enough of the field would play the stock decks to pull the trigger. Ondřej Stráský was the sole person on the team who decided he liked the deck well enough to run it and was rewarded with a Top 16 finish, so it might be better than we thought.
GB Delirium was the other deck Siggy and I worked on that day. I had already played quite a bit with a Mindwrack Demon deck pre-EMN and there were a ton of powerful new cards that could slot in easily. Yet, our biggest breakthrough was in deciding that we didn’t want Mindwrack Demon at all because of how clunky it could be against Bant Company.
Ultimately, I was sold on playing GB Delirium at the PT because it had a powerful proactive game plan, and was capable of taking advantage of so many of the new cards from Eldritch Moon that people might not be prepared for.
Day 1: Draft
My first Draft pod was stacked, with 3 Platinum mages, EFro, Shota, and Jason Chung all to my right as well as a few other faces I recognized around the table. I started the event off by first-picking Murder over Galvanic Bombardment and then moving right into red/black when I was passed a Bloodhall Priest second. I ended up with a very solid deck highlighted by an 8th-pick Ruthless Disposal in pack 2. My curve was high so I had to play a Field Creeper, but otherwise I had nothing but nice playables and a lot of removal.
I actually played 17 lands: 8 Swamps, 8 Mountains, and the Estuary.
After EFro mulliganed both games in round 1, I was able to edge him out in a close game 2 before being paired against Shota who had a very aggressive RW deck. Game 1 I got incredibly lucky to have the only Zombie in my deck in Thraben Foulbloods to allow my Dark Salvation to kill his Brazen Wolves with a Gryff’s Boon for 5 mana. Game 2 Shota mulliganed and missed his second land drop, and I was able to dispatch him in short order.
Round 3 I was paired against Jason Chung, making me 3 for 3 in battling the Platinums in the pod. No easy wins at this PT. He was on UW Spirits with 5(!) Drag Unders, but luckily I was able to grind him down, with Dark Salvation to finish the job.
Day 1: Constructed
I was off to a great start and really pleased to have 3-0’d such a difficult pod. I felt pretty good about my Standard deck, but it’s hard to be too confident heading into the first leg of Constructed. There’s always this nagging uncertainty that perhaps we had missed something and it would really cost us. In this case, we had missed something—the Temur Emerge decks—but luckily our deck was built in such a way that we could beat even our really bad matchups with a bit of luck and some early pressure.
I started off with back-to-back matches against GW Tokens, which we thought was a slightly favorable but close matchup. This would be the sole moment of the tournament where my Conclave Naturalists would be played, and ultimately I regretted registering the card over Caustic Caterpillar after getting my Naturalists hit by a Quarantine Field in a spot where I would have been able to use Liliana to rebuy a Caterpillar if I’d had that instead. Luckily I was able to overcome this deckbuilding mistake to win both rounds, and also get past Valentin Mackl playing an interesting Bant Cryptolith Rite deck featuring Spell Queller and Reality Smasher, bringing me to 6-0.
For my next round, I was paired against Reid Duke with his innovative GR Ramp deck. We knew going into the event that GR Ramp was going to be a very bad matchup, but we hoped that it wouldn’t be that popular and that our sideboard package of Dark Petition for Infinite Obliteration would be enough to steal a game here and there. Of course, the way Reid’s deck was built he had 2 copies of about 6 different fatties, meaning that when I Obliterated him, it did next to nothing and he easily defeated me in 2 games.
The last round of the day was a 75-card mirror with BBD. I was actually happy to be playing a teammate because at least it meant we were doing well collectively. I also had played a good number of mirror matches in testing because we wanted to figure out how important Emrakul is in the GB mirror (extremely). I got crushed in the games, which was what we had figured out usually happens in the GB mirrors. Often one player is able to establish either Liliana or Tireless Tracker, forcing the other to spend their next turn dealing with the threat rather than advancing their board and leaving them vulnerable to a follow-up 3-mana threat. Emrakul is typically the only way out in those scenarios, and I wasn’t able to survive long enough in either game to bring her online.
Despite losing my last 2 rounds, I was feeling pretty great about my Day 1 performance. Because of the remote location and visa problems, this Pro Tour was very small so I knew if I could pull off the same 6-2 performance for Day 2 I would probably be in the Top 8. Our team had also done quite well, with 5 of our 12 members sitting at 6-2 or better. We hit up the local Thai restaurant and used the amazing Australian jetlag to get to bed nice and early.
Day 2: Draft
My second pod was tough as well, featuring Steve Rubin, Pascal Maynard, Aleska Telarov, and Ken Yukihiro as names I recognized. I was pretty fortunate to be sitting to the left of Steve, who was on my team for the event. Sitting next to a teammate is a pretty big advantage in draft because you typically have a pretty good idea of how they evaluate the cards in the new set so you can count on signals more strongly. For example, I knew exactly what cards we had rated as better than Choking Restraints P1P1 so that let me seriously narrow what cards Steve could have taken when he passed me one pick 2.
I first-picked Somberwald Stag over Galvanic Bombardment despite preferring red to green and was guided pretty strongly into white by Choking Restraints followed by Thalia’s Lancers and some late Steadfast Cathars. I had an interesting spot where I had the Lancers already and decided to pass on Geier Reach Sanitarium in favor of Borrowed Grace despite the synergy because I felt that my deck was lacking in instant-speed tricks.
In pack 2, I had an interesting spot where I could take a second Lancers (still with 0 legends) or my first Prey Upon. I ended up taking the Prey Upon because at that point Choking Restraints was my only removal spell. I was instantly punished by getting passed 2 more Prey Upon in packs that really had no other cards I would reasonably want. I was also quite lucky in getting passed a Sanitarium to go with my Lancers and a very late Sigardian Priest.
Pack 3 I was passed Odric second pick along with a ton of other great white cards. My deck ended up with way too many playables and the third Prey Upon stayed in my sideboard because I felt my creatures were just a little too small to consistently take advantage of drawing multiples. Still I was happy with what I thought was a very solid aggro deck.
The rounds went very smoothly for me and I was able to dispatch Pascal, Dominik Prosek, and Steve Rubin in pretty unexciting games to earn my first ever 6-0 in Limited at a PT.
Day 2: Constructed
I had been 9-2 at a Pro Tour earlier this year in Atlanta during the Eldrazi Winter. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off as I played multiple Eldrazi mirrors and went 2-3 in the home stretch to end up a solid-but-not-great 11-5. This time I would have been very happy with that result, but I still had aspirations of making the Top 8, which would not only get me Platinum but also qualify me for Worlds. My first round was a feature match against Yuuta Takahashi. We played a very close game 1 and I may have gotten a bit lucky.
The next round I was paired against Owen, who went 8-0 on Day 1 and had yet to lose a match in Constructed. Game 1 he crushed me with Emrakul while my hand was full of Grasps and Ultimate Prices. Game 2 I boarded into all my hand disruption and was lucky enough to draw 3 of my 4 discard spells to shred Owen’s hand and kill him quickly. Game 3 I kept a weak opening hand because of Infinite Obliteration, figuring that Owen was pretty soft to having all of his Emrakul’s removed. Luckily I was right, he had only a single Coax from the Blind Eternities that I had to fade once I removed his Emrakuls and I was able to win pretty easily from that position.
That win locked me for Platinum and I was feeling great. I would have to win one of my next 3 rounds to make my first Pro Tour Top 8 and probably qualify for the World Championships. I was paired against Andrew Brown in the next round playing the very interesting East-West Bowl Temurge deck. In game 1 I was able to ultimate Liliana early and then win a close game from there after getting hit by multiple Kozilek’s Returns and a lot of Elder Deep-Fiends. Game 2 I won handily and was almost certainly locked for Top 8 if I was able to get a draw in either of my next 2 rounds. The next two rounds I drew with LSV and Lukas Blohon, leaving me in 1st place after the Swiss.
I was on top of the world for the next few hours letting it all sink in. My parents had arrived in Sydney on Friday to go sightseeing after the PT, but they’d instead spent all day in their Airbnb watching coverage!
All my life they’ve been incredibly supportive of my playing games. My dad typically spends Saturdays where I’m competing in a tournament watching along at home. He also was the person who taught me to play Magic when I was very young and instilled in me my love of games. Having them there live to watch the Top 8 made the moment that much sweeter.
Despite my elation, I knew there was yet work to be done. Making Top 8 is great, but the whole reason it’s exciting is because it means you can still win the tournament. I would be up against Andrew Brown again in the Top 8, and I knew his deck was tricky and powerful. Luckily, I had the best team in the world behind me and I was able to get some shut-eye after playing a few practice games. I woke up and checked our Facebook group to find that people had stayed up really late playtesting for me and had posted some insights on the matchup. It was humbling to know that my friends were working so hard to help me succeed and I certainly didn’t want to let them down.
My match against Andrew went almost exactly as scripted. I tried to stay as controlling as possible, hit my land drops, and remove his threats while grinding out incremental advantages with my card advantage cards. I sideboarded out Grim Flayers, Languish, and 1 Liliana on the draw in favor of 2 Transgress, 2 Dark Petition, 1 Infinite Obliteration, 2 Kalitas, and Gilf-Leaf Winnower. You can watch the video coverage of it here:
I was nervous that I would have to face Ken Yukhiro in the Top 4 after he went up 2-0, and I was relieved to see Lukas come back to win his quarterfinal. In testing I felt very favored against the BW Control deck because of how much better GB is at using Liliana’s -2 ability. Often they’d have to spend a card killing your Tireless Tracker that already made a Clue and then you’d Liliana it back and they’d have to spend a card on each of those 2 threats again, leaving you way ahead in long games. Of course, that was not how the games ended up playing out at all.
Game 1 I kept a hand that I maybe should have mulliganed, but I was probably too attached to turn-2 Grim Flayer on the play. Lukas easily ultimated Liliana and killed me (and then I drew back-to-back Ruinous Path). Game 2 I also got buried under a wave of planeswalkers and was feeling pretty desperate.
Game 3 was the one where I had the most agency over the outcome and where I was unhappy with my play. After an early Transgress I knew he had Grasp of Darkness and Anguished Unmaking. My board was a Nissa with a handful of lands to go with a Grasp of my own and a Traverse the Ulvenwald. I had a sorcery and land already in my graveyard. Lukas knew the contents of my hand as well and on turn 4 he activated and attacked with a Shambling Vent into my Grasp. I knew he was probably trying to bait me, but I decided to Grasp his Vent anyway thinking that he’d probably unmake my Nissa, and then would have to Grasp whatever creature I found as a followup, turning on my Traverse. That played out exactly as I had planned until he played the Kalitas he had drawn turn 4, shutting me off of delirium for the remainder of the game. I think if I had held back Grasp and either killed my own Nissa in response to his Unmaking or been able to remove his Kalitas, it would have been a very different game and perhaps I could have won.
While I was a bit disappointed to lose in what felt like a favorable match in part due to my play, I was extremely happy with my performance overall. Sydney was a fantastic end to my best season as a pro player thus far and I managed to achieve my goal of Platinum as well as the stretch goal of qualifying for Worlds! I was also proud of what Team F2F has been able to accomplish this past year. We had at least 1 person in the Top 8 of every PT this season, won one of them, and had the best Constructed win rate at 3 out of 4 PTs this year. I’m really excited to see how the upcoming Team Pro Tour Series goes for us and hope we can be competitive for the team title this time next year.
Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll have a new report to write soon as the champion of the entire world!