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Up and Down the Train – Part 2

 

I think the game itself is lot of fun. But that’s not the reason I haven’t given up playing yet. Going to my first Pro Tour was a big revelation for me. I think Wizards should keep this in mind: the Pro Tour is the best Magic experience one can ever make. They should be wary of cutting too much from it.

First of all, telling everyone I had a free flight to San Diego was already an accomplishment. I can recall the excitement, preparing myself for the trip, as it was my second time ever in the USA. Once we got there, Antonino and Ben Seck were waiting for us at the airport. I mean, we were a bunch of unknown Italians (except for Luca Chiera who was already a friend of Ant) and Antonino was on the way back from a GP in Canada. He waited for some hours at the airport, helped us rent a car and brought us to a Motel not too far from his house. If I had 100+ Pro Points and I could vote for the Hall of Fame ballot, I wouldn’t have any doubt. He’s an awesome player too, and he deserves it just for his results; and he has incarnated the spirit of the game for so long. I hope next year he will be on the train again due to the HoF invitation.

Preparing for that PT was one of the last things in my mind; I didn’t really care. I was already pretty happy to be there. Well, that’s the first thing to avoid if you want to try to make a good result. When you qualify for your first Pro Tour, you feel so excited that you just focus on the trip, how to arrange the acommadations with friends, and all the stuff related to that. No matter how hard you tried to get there, the first Pro Tour will probably be an insane free holiday. The fact it was in California and the weird format didn’t help. Ant organized some play sessions, and some very notable players were there. Watching them and just listening to their draft plans helped a bit. It isn’t always that you’ll have the opportunity to see some PT/GP winners play, so sometimes you’ll just focus on getting information from the best player in your group.

The uncanny thing I noticed was that those amazing players were listening to each other. Some players (at any level) are a bit convinced of their choices, whether they are about decks, about the format, about some draft picks, some plays, whatever. It depends on the player, but I think it’s so important to share thoughts, and I noticed the very best at this game do. Maybe just among them, but they don’t really live in ivory towers theorizing alone, even the most superb of them. Magic Online might help too.

By the way, entering the Pro Tour place was unreal. I had previously played in a few GPs so it was the very first time I saw the icons of the game. The whole environment was electrifying. Having my first Pro Tour t-shirt, plus a Pro Tour beach towel, plus chilling in the Pro Tour Lounge…Wizards, just to let you know, those were the best parts of the whole thing. Later on they cut the Pro Tour Lounge, they cut the gadgets and in Kyoto they even cut the t-shirt. I don’t know if I’m the only one who cares about this foolish things, but those are the elements that made me enjoy so much my Pro Tour experience. Even if I don’t wear the PT shirts (besides in some Magic events maybe) at least I got something that reminds me of those tournaments (other than photos on Facebook obviously).

The tournament went pretty badly for every Italian team, as we couldn’t make the 4-2 Day 2 cut and ended 3-3. I also Top 8ed a PTQ there but didn’t qualify, which was quite disappointing. Antonino took us to the airport after an amazing 2 weeks holiday, and I promised myself I wanted to play more Pro Tours.

Once you taste the caviar, you don’t go back to pasta that easily.

Just a month after San Diego, there was Italian Nationals. As I played a lot of limited on MODO, I felt really prepared for the 7 draft rounds, so I decided I would play an easy, mid-range aggro deck like RG Beats. I couldn’t really play a lot of Constructed, so it seemed like a safe choice. I also had a really good limited rating due to the multiple runner-ups I’d made in Time Spiral PTQs, so I felt like I could qualify for the following limited Pro Tour on rating, which was part of my goal. Here is the decklist, just for reference:

RG Aggro

I kicked off 1-3 in Constructed, but couldn’t really complain about it. Sometimes you just think you deserve to do bad, like if you don’t even know all the Tenth Edition reprinted cards. After that I 4-0ed my first draft pod, which was reasonably easy considering my Constructed result and the consequent pod quality. I was thinking about dropping because the 4-0 put me into the top 100 Limited worldwide, but I just decided that since there was the possibility to 5-0-1 to Top 8, it was worth trying. So i went 3-0 in my second pod, which was harder. You know, sometimes you split the 8-4 finals but you don’t actually know if your deck could 3-0 that pod. Well, mine could that time. I was really excited then, cause I was safely qualified for the first 2008 PT (at the time the schedule hadn’t been announced yet, so it was just theory). My Constructed deck was really horrible, but I was lucky enough to play twice the only decent matchup I had: the mirror match. I drew last round and went in as 8th, risking a chance of ending 9th, but I didn’t really feel like playing the last round out. If William Cavaglieri won or drew his last round, I was 8th, if he lost I was 9th. He couldn’t make it anyway, but I didn’t think he wanted to scoop to his opponent, so I easily drew and crossed my fingers. While I was at the toilet, a friend of mine phoned me: “If the opponent doesn’t draw Demonfire, they tie”. Then the guy in the toilet next to me was pretty scared by me running and screaming half-naked. In quarterfinals I was easily crushed by Mario Pascoli, who then won the whole thing, clearly being the best Italian player.

So in the end I didn’t qualify for Worlds but I was really happy about my tournament, and just didn’t complain about that.

There’s this joke about me doing a Time Spiral Limited/Constructed review which was, in fact, terrible. I underestimated a lot of really powerful cards, like Ancestral Visions. I really thought it was kind of bad. I mean, who wants to wait to turn 5 to draw 3 cards? And what if you draw it on turn 3? It costs you one mana, so maybe you can’t cast your spell in the correct curve, then you have to wait to turn 8! I didn’t expect to be alive that long. Better to tap 4 and draw 4 with Careful Consideration. Then of course I wrote something like “Spiketail Drakeling will be a staple” and “Vesuvan Shapeshifter and Brine Elemental are not Constructed playable” or something that sounded like that.

Of course I won a PTQ playing Mono Blue Pickles in block, with this decklist, really similar to another one I won a GP Trial for Florence with the week before:

4C Pickles

Actually, I got some lessons from that. First of all, previously I rarely played control decks. I always had the prejudices that everyone has for some time of his Magic career. Well, you could have listened to this tip infinite times, but I think that control decks aren’t necessarily more difficult than aggro. In some formats, playing control is just better, so if you don’t feel very comfortable with Islands, just play them. A lot. At the very least it will improve your game while you’ll face them with your Mountains/Forests. As a lot of people say, and I agree with them, some decks are just easy to win with even playing bad. Control isn’t. But if you plan to get better, just give Islands a try. In the beginning it could be painful, but at least you don’t commit to always playing the aggro deck of the format.

The second thing that came into my mind was that I qualified in the very last PTQ of the season. Well, actually the Italian season was over, but it was summer and I felt like making the trip to France to try to steal a slot. I wanted to prove to myself I could win a non-team PTQ, and I was goaded by the usual feelings that got me every PTQ season. Everyone who was at least decent was qualified, even some terrible players were, and I wasn’t. That has always been a mainstay in my mind, and the only way I found to qualify was to try to test more Constructed and play in more PTQs. And trying your decks in tournaments is a really good idea. I won the Trial with a similar deck, and the tournament helped me in changing some cards. There’s no real magical tip for qualifying. Just test, be open-minded regarding decks, and try to do your best.
And, of course, that was my golden period. Or at least, I felt like it was. You don’t really realize when you play better, you just win more. There is variance, there are hot streaks, but as you play better, you do better. Of course, playing better doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll win more in the short period, but it helps; nobody makes streaks just on the back of luck.

So I was going to play GP Florence way more relaxed, as I was already qualified for Valencia.

Manuel Bucher gave me a decklist on Magic Online, but in the end he played another deck. In the end, we decided that in case we had the same record at the end of day1, we would have made a 50% split.

 

Pickles Control

 

 

It was a hybrid. A Teachings deck without Teachings, a control deck with no counterspells, sort of a pile of good dudes powered up by Coalition Relic, and extremely fun to play. At the end of Day 1, both me and Manuel were 8-1 so we split. Day 2 i started off with a loss, then went 10-2, which meant that I needed a 2-1 to Top 8.

Then the disaster happened. I was 1-0 against a UG deck, which was a relaxing matchup, as I was something like 4-0 against that archetype. 2 minutes left on the clock, infinite Assembly Workers, and the opponent just had 2 Tarmogoyfs and no possible way to win. Besides, of course, my own Magus of the Tabernacle. For no reason, I just drew my card without paying for it as I had being doing for a lot of turns. I just forgot about it. I paid turn 1, turn 2, turn X, then forgot. Then I didn’t have any answer to his Goyfs, and died. So I drew a match I was winning with 2 minutes left on the clock. That was probably one of the most frustrating matches of my whole life. I can tell you, just be 100% focused on your game until it ends. Just do not think that you now need just a mere 1-1 to Top 8 the GP, or you will need a 2-0 for sure.

After that, I lost a very unlucky match, and the worst thing was that I couldn’t really whine, because it was just my fault, as everything would have changed without that mistake. Last round, I was playing an Italian guy who wasn’t qualified for the PT yet. He asked me to scoop as the winner could Top 16. I wasn’t sure about his math and I thought that the winner would have been 20ish. But in the end I just didn’t care about the extra Pro Point, so I crushed him and scooped.

Now listen. Just do whatever you feel in these situations, but always remember you could need that extra Pro Point. Luckily enough, Manuel Top 8ed the GP. I felt a little guilty while stealing his money, but I would have felt better soon. We’ll see all that in the next article! Plus:

– playing Counterbalance in Cephalid Breakfast will make Owen Turtenwald angry?

– playing Treva’s Ruins in an Extended Pro Tour is a good idea? It was legal obviously!

– does a 2nd turn Hypnotic Specter on the play autowin against mono blue?

– how many Shivan Meteors can you find just 5 minutes before Worlds start?

Till next time

David Besso

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