Back In Black

Known as one of the greatest Magic players of all time, Kai Budde played in his first Pro Tour since Paris at PT Avacyn Restored. Read how he became a part of Team #SCGBlack, his testing process with them, and how he did in Barcelona.

Finally, another PT in Europe; it’s been a while!

Due to a mix of work commitments and being fairly tired of travelling, I have only played those the past few years. That meant the last Pro Tour I attended was Paris in early 2011. I didn’t test much and ended up playing with Vector Asp. In Standard. That worked out about as well as you’d expect it to. While trying to figure out how to get Nassif to ship me a deck again, Patrick Chapin asked me if I wanted to join his testing group consisting of himself, Black, Cuneo, Duke, Finkel, Martell, Nassif, Rietzl, West, Vidugiris and Wiegersma. Deal!

Personally I would have preferred to name the two SCG teams either SCG Senior/Junior or SCG Black/Gray (going by hair color), but that was already decided by that point.

The American part of the group was mostly based in the NY area, so they met up the weekend before the PT. I couldn’t make that and as the only European on the team, finding someone to play against through Cockatrice wasn’t going work out.

Fortunately I don’t feel that that’s needed anyway. I always used to test Constructed against myself by opening two versions of Apprentice. Doing that is a lot more comfortable on Cockatrice, and it comes with two advantages:

You get to see both sides of the matchup. When testing for PT Amsterdam (which was Modern and I ran Nassif’s White Weenie), I had hardly played the deck before the PT at all. But I had played a lot of games against it as I was throwing all sorts of decks against Gabriel playing the WW. Now there are some decks you really have to play yourself to figure out how it works, but that definitely does not fall into that category.

Sitting on the other side of the table you get a very good idea what your powerful cards are in certain matchups and what sequences certain decks really don’t want to see.

What helps even more, especially in a new and unknown format, is that you just get to play way more games. I estimate that I can finish about 2.5 games by myself on Cockatrice in the time it would take me to play one game with real cards versus a real opponent. Just shuffling and mulliganing takes up so much time.

And if you substitute the real opponent with Gaudenis, you are looking at 3.5 games per one real game.

Once the Avacyn Restored spoiler was fully released, I mainly looked at various white decks. Champion of the Parish into Silverblade Paladin just seemed too good to be true. The RUG Self-Mill deck with Blasphemous Act that Cuneo was playing a lot on Magic Online did well too, and it’s a deck I’d enjoy playing as it offers lots of decisions every turn. But it gained nothing from AVR, and I expected everyone to have hate cards against Self-Mill in their sideboard. Not because I thought Self-Mill was that awesome, but:

a) everyone loves graveyard hate.

b) everyone hates losing to some sort of combo deck that they didn’t know about and realistically the only chance for that to exist in this format was by doing something with your graveyard.

c) the card pool is pretty narrow and sideboards weren’t exactly crowded—everyone had space for a few anti-graveyard cards without giving up much.

That turned out to be true. Just looking at the Top 8 decks, everyone had some amount of Grafdigger’s Cage and Purify the Grave available. I’m willing to wager a lot of money that the sleeves of those cards were in a ‘mint’ condition after the tournament. For my part, the only cards in my sideboard that didn’t see play all weekend were the two Undead Alchemists

So Self-Mill didn’t seem likely to be a good choice. That left the white cards. I was fairly certain I didn’t want to run a two allied colors deck. A bunch of basic lands plus Cavern of Souls just doesn’t cut it. For a while, my favorite deck was a W/B Token build. Turn 4 Sorin into turn 5 Cathars’ Crusade plus use Sorin and turn 6 Increasing Devotion is quite powerful.

That deck ended up being not aggressive enough to beat control decks built around Terminus and/or Bonfire and was only slightly better than 50% against Boros, and that just wasn’t good enough. In the meantime Patrick was working on a W/U/R control build with a fairly worrisome mana base but lots of powerful cards. I hate playing decks with shaky mana and used some time on a U/R version that closed games with Tamiyo and Lone Revenant but lacked Terminus and had issues with big creatures.

By then it was the Monday before the Pro Tour, and I travelled to Barcelona to meet up with the rest of the guys. The apartment Tom had found was much better and more spacious then I expected for something in the middle of Barcelona’s city center. A big table inside and another big table outside were both good enough for six people playing on each or to do a draft.

Oh, yeah. Draft. That was a bit of a problem. I had to work on the Prerelease weekend, and all I had done so far was a 30-card Sealed with a few colleagues. That meant there was no chance whatsoever I’d be able to do enough drafts to properly understand the format. The good news was that AVR turned out to be a simple format. There are no gimmick decks like Innistrad offered. Plus there are hardly any spells. It feels quite a lot like M12. There are very few decisions based on synergy with the other cards you’ve drafted. Each color has a best common that you can easily identify by just reading the spoiler, and ranking the rest isn’t too complicated either.

A few guys had already done a decent amount of drafts; mainly Reid Duke and Sam Black had a pretty good understanding of the format. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get in enough games myself, I tried to look at as many draft decks from others as possible and get input on how good certain uncommons and rares were to figure out where they fit in with the common pick order.

While ISD has a ton of different archetypes, AVR seems to have just three. The most powerful deck by a very large margin is W/R Humans. There’s a bunch of cards that are essentially combo-kills involving Thatcher Revolt. The most powerful is Goldnight Commander, but Vigilante Justice or a combination of Kessig Malcontents, Riot Ringleader, and Kruin Striker can make the deck almost impossible to beat. The downside is that if you take the Revolts high and don’t end up with the other part of the combo, you don’t have a deck.

Next up is U/G Soulbond. Nothing special here though. The soulbond creatures are mostly very good, Trusted Forcemage and Wingcrafter are a beating, and Druid’s Familiar is a joke.

And finally there’s black. The problem here is that you want to be nearly mono-black. BDM kept talking about how underdrafted black was on the Pro Tour. Newsflash: it wasn’t. It’s just that bad, and drafting it is a huge gamble. If there’s no other black drafter within 2+ seats on either of your sides, you should have a good deck. Should. The problem is black needs uncommons. Homicidal Seclusion and Barter in Blood mainly. A black deck without a Homicidal Seclusion just isn’t very good. The commons are not great and with Borderland Ranger and Abundant Growth in the set, there’s a high probability that green drafters are stealing your Death Wind. The general opinion in our playtesting group was that black is great if you are the only guy at the table drafting it heavily. Otherwise you really want to keep your fingers off.

With that in mind I wanted to really avoid black and ideally just go U/G or W/R. When you don’t fully understand a draft format, it’s generally a better idea to go in with a predetermined plan.

Reading the draft and cutting colors is nice and all, but more often than not it doesn’t work anyway. Especially early on in a format people don’t evaluate cards correctly, and what you think is a clear signal is just someone in front of you picking the wrong card. On top of that, the way the sets work for Limited nowadays is that the rares are so much better anything else that cutting/signaling doesn’t work anyway. If the guy behind you opened some bomb in the color you are cutting, he isn’t moving. If you cut black completely in pack 1 and then the guy behind you opens Bloodline Keeper, well, your plan ALMOST worked at least.

It’s weird that that comes from me, but to me it feels like a lot of people are looking at draft like we did ten years ago. Back then you really wanted to make sure you didn’t collide with your neighbor’s colors. There were lots of Urza’s Saga Rochester Draft tables with a color set up of B/X – W/R – B/X – G/R – B/X – W/R – B/X – G/R.

The reason is pretty simple: back then commons made your deck. Pestilence, Corrupt, Arc Lightning, Hallowed Healer. Or Firebolt, Wild Mongrel, Cephalid Looter, Shieldmage Advocate in later formats. With the power level of your deck relying heavily on commons, you naturally wanted to cooperate. There was a Mercadian Masques Booster Draft Pro Tour where Gary Wise advocated taking a worse common over a better uncommon in the same colour in certain situations.

Why? The common print runs were very well known as there were only four total. Pretty much everyone knew if the guy passing the pack picked a Rebel, a Waterfront Bouncer, or a Stinging Barrier. So why take a Ramosian Captain over a Ramosian Lieutenant? By taking the common you had a very high chance the guy behind you would know what was going on and ship the uncommon down the line, staying out of that color.

That just isn’t true these days. Who cares if I have a Wandering Wolf or a Diregraf Escort in my deck? Sure, I actually do. But just a little bit. As long as I can play my first pick Wolfir Silverheart, I am more than happy to fill up with Diregraf Escorts while the guy in front of me who thinks he cut green has all the Wandering Wolfs. He’s still not beating my Wolfir. Both my Pro Tour Avacyn Restored drafts are good examples of this, but I’ll get to that later on.

Now back to Block Constructed. Patrick was pretty happy with his R/U/W Control deck, and Reid looked to be on board for that as well. Cuneo wanted to run Self-Mill, which seemed reasonable but not great. Everyone else was completely undecided. Alex West had a very good Boros deck using Cavern of Souls to enable Stromkirk Noble, giving the deck a second powerful 1CC creature which really helped. Doomed Traveler just wasn’t getting there.

Jelger was trying to make a mono-white deck that incorporated an infinite life gain engine with Fiend Hunter, Restoration Angel, one more copy of either of those, and Seraph’s Sanctuary. When no one in attendance could figure out how the stacking worked, we gave that one up pretty fast.

One card we certainly missed was Falkenrath Aristocrat. If we had that, we might have looked more at G/W/R/B Reanimator with Angel of Glory’s Rise. Without that we briefly looked at other sacrifice outlets, like Demonmail Hauberk to enable infinite life and infinite Huntmaster tokens, but we gave up on that as too clunky as Alex’ Boros deck was shredding that apart. Aristocrat does a lot for that deck. It laughs at non-Terminus mass removal, spits on planeswalkers, breaks ground stalls while racing and beating Restoration Angel in a fight. This article will only go up after the Block Constructed GP, but I would expect to see the percentage of Falkenrath Aristocrats to dramatically rise from what it was in Barcelona.

Another deck Alex built was almost mono-green, which was surprisingly good. If we had to pick a deck on Wednesday, I think most of the team would have been split between R/U/W and Mono-Green. The green deck was the first that really made use of Wolfir Silverheart in our testing; the final version that Jelger and I actually had written down on a decklist ready to play in the Pro Tour on Thursday looked roughly like:

That’s a pretty focused Wolf Run Ramp deck. Most people playing midrange green decks at the PT wanted to play Huntmaster, which I just don’t understand. It’s not a great card in this format. I’d much rather minimize bad mana draws and have a more focused deck. Vorapede is a good card in general and if you follow it up with Wolfir, it’s absurd. We were actually quite surprised to not see a single Vorapede in the tournament at all.

By now it was Thursday, and we got information from the PT site. Wolfir Silverhearts went from two euro to fifteen euro to sold out. Okay then. Now we were convinced that the enemy number one had shifted from Boros to green midrange/ramp. We also expected more Naya builds than our straight ramp deck, and that made me dislike the W/U/R deck. It turned out most people ran Fiend Hunter over Wolfir Avenger, but I really didn’t want to play that control deck against a deck with four copies each of Wolfir Silverheart, Avenger, and Restoration Angel. Alex, Jelger, and I were mostly set on playing our ramp deck at that point, and we tried some stuff to go over the top in mirrors. A single copy of Craterhoof Behemoth and 2-3 Helvaults in the board looked decent.

When I came back to Jon and Tom’s hotel room to report that Helvault looked good for the green mirror, Sam was sleeving up Spectral Flight, Geist of Saint Traft, and Invisible Stalker. His logic was that Boros went from the expected 20% to about 5-10% tops, and even some Boros deck we had seen were being less aggressive and replaced Hellrider with Riders of Gavony to have an edge in creature matchups. So most people seemed to be playing defensive midrange decks that wanted to interact with creatures and do cute stuff like flicker their Huntmaster with Restoration Angel.

Now in that world it is awesome to just be the boring guy and play a combo deck that doesn’t allow any interaction and just wins the damage race. Kind of like playing High Tide in a field of anti-creature control decks. Comparing High Tide to Spectral Flight might be a bit farfetched, but you get the idea.

Jon and I threw the deck against Naya for 45 minutes and very much liked the result, with the Hexproof deck winning about 80%+. I went back to my room and quickly played ten games against Boros, with Boros winning six of those. But the matchup didn’t seem impossible. We expected Boros to board hardly anything, while Tree of Redemption with all our toughness enhancing cards like Wolfir and Increased Savagery to turn the Tree into a permanent life gain engine (you gain the life by which you increase the Tree’s toughness every second turn while using its ability every turn) should help get the matchup to at least 50%.

So Sam actually broke the format the evening before the event, just like several people said he would. Maybe ‘broke’ isn’t the correct term, but still Jon, Jelger, Gaudenis, Sam and I were sold on the deck. There wasn’t nearly enough testing, so it was certainly a gamble.

Quite a few others were afraid that it was no real deck at all and instead ran the W/U/R Control deck. In the end if I had to play the tournament with the same field again, I’d pick the Hexproof deck once more, no contest. Here’s the list all five of us played card for card:

On to the tournament!

Round 1: Dolazza, Marco [ITA]

Marco played the same or a very similar deck to what Antonino de Rosa showed up with. I knew Antonino was on Naya so I somewhat expected Marco to be on that as well. That didn’t help much, as I got weak draws and he miracled Bonfire in both games around turn 5. He probably would have won even without that.

0-2, overall 0-1

Round 2: Görtzen, Simon [GER]

Another Naya opponent. This time it was a feature match. You could go and watch it on Twitch.TV, but I suggest not wasting that much time.

I kept a perfect hand without blue mana in one game. With seventeen sources, that’s worth keeping if you have Geist of Saint Traft and an enhancer for it, something that Naya decks can hardly compete with. I didn’t get there and the other game was even worse, as after mulliganing and him opening on Pilgrim and Scorned Villager, I did not have a two drop, his Villager flipped, and he had a turn 3 Wolfir plus attacked with a 5/5 Pilgrim. And the German guys decided to only run three copies of Wolfir. I forgot to ask for the reasoning, but it’s probably for the better as some stories are better left untold.

0-2, overall 0-2

Combined record for the people playing Sam’s deck: 10-2. Go me!

Round 3: Larsson, Joel [SWE]

Joel was playing a B/W/R control deck and reminded me in the first game of the only real mistake we made when cutting a Strangleroot Geist for a 24th land—we should have had that Geist in the sideboard against any decks with Liliana. The evil planeswalker showed up in the first game and aided with some removal spells from Joel I couldn’t really do anything.

Some Geists showed up in the second game and that went much better. In the third Joel kept a hand with some lands but only a single source of black mana. His deck had about 17-18 black sources, but he never saw another one and got to cast only one spell the whole game.

2-1, overall 1-2. Team Hexproof: 13-2.

Round 4: Koch, Florian [GER]

Another German and a friend of Simon, I knew they were playing the same Naya deck. No miracling of Bonfire and the bad draws were on his side and not mine, at least in the two games I won.

2-1, overall 2-2. By now someone else had lost with our deck as well, so I stopped tracking that.

Round 5: Papadatos, Fondas [GRC]

Fondas ran a similar W/U/R Control deck to what the rest of our team was playing. The first game can be rough as there are some bad cards in our deck, but after board I like the matchup quite a lot. He had a few Snapcaster Mages in game 2 to trade with my Geists of Saint Traft, but he never drew a Terminus the whole match and Blasphemous Act doesn’t match up very well against Wolfir Avengers.

2-0, overall 3-2.

Now to Draft! The only guy I knew at my table was Brad Nelson. My first pack was okay but not very exciting. I took a Pillar of Flame over Infinite Reflection. Brad said later he thought that was a mistake, but that was one of the few rares I had actually played with in my three drafts and I really didn’t like it. Too expensive and didn’t do anything the few times I drew it. Pretty certain Pillar of Flame is just a better card.

After that I got three blue cards and then a fifth pick Goldnight Commander. Frowns. I took it as the pack was empty, but I don’t like the card in U/W all that much. For the rest of pack 1 it was mostly blue cards, and it seemed like green was open as I passed on a 13th pick Pathbreaker Wurm. Now I am not really excited about that card, but if the guy in front of me was green I’d expect him to take that. There are so many terrible commons in this set that it seems highly unlikely there was a better card left for him at that point.

My second pack had no white, red, or blue cards worth mentioning. But there was a Druid’s Familiar, and I jumped into U/G. In the end I had wasted too many picks in the first pack to have a great deck and had to play a few fillers, but I also opened a Spirit Away in the last pack and had some very good uncommons.

10 Island
7 Forest
1 Spirit Away
1 Fettergeist
1 Scrapskin Drake
3 Alchemist’s Apprentice
4 Gryff Vanguard
1 Lunar Mystic
1 Galvanic Alchemist
1 Druid’s Familiar
1 Sheltering Word
1 Triumph of Ferocity
1 Tandem Lookout
1 Wandering Wolf
1 Joint Assault
2 Crippling Chill
1 Flowering Lumberknot
1 Stern Mentor
1 Vanishment

Stern Mentor and Lunar Mystic are just bad. I probably should have played an 18th land over the Mystic. But with three Alchemist’s Apprentice, I felt like I was good. Lots of cantrips and a Spirit Away aren’t terrible at least.

Round 6: Nelson, Brad [USA]

The match is featured here.

Brad had most of the black cards and destroyed me with a combination of Harvester of Souls, Undead Executioner, and Bone Splinters in the first game. He got a Homicidal Seclusion going in the second but chose to break that up by casting Harvester of Souls to not lose to bounce or Crippling Chill. He did the whole Harvester, Executioner, Bone Splinters stunt again but apparently drew mostly lands while my Gryff Vanguards kept drawing me cards, and the Druid’s Familiar was doing some heavy lifting as well. Eventually the fliers got there.

The third game was the only time I seriously screwed up this tournament. At least the only time I realized it, so I’ll go with that!

As I wrote before, I did a total of three drafts, and 80% of the cards we drafted with were Spanish. Now my Spanish is non-existent, so I had to ask people what the cards did all the time. At some point someone said he got a seventh pick Evernight Shade claiming, "This card is insane, it should never be this late in the pack." I looked at it, saw a four-mana Shade, and mentally locked it in with flying. Four mana shades all fly, right?

Now if you watch the last game on the stream with that in mind, suddenly my terrible sequence of plays all add up. I don’t attack with a flier when Brad has the Shade and mana untapped and instead of using Vanishment on the Harvester of Souls—would have been fair to play one game where he either does not draw it OR I draw my Spirit Away!—I used the Vanishment on the Shade to be able to attack with my Vanguards. On the final turn I tanked for 2-3 minutes whether I wanted to attack with my two fliers, allowing him to trade his Shade for one of them while falling to two. That would drop give him two cards through the Harvester though, and I was debating whether I just wanted to wait for a Spirit Away, another flier, or a Crippling chill.

Eventually I decided to attack and was quite surprised when Brad just extended his hand. Another case of Read The F******* Card.

2-1, overall 4-2

Round 7: Thiel, Michael [GER]

Michael was on a B/R hyper-aggressive deck with lots of burn. I ended up getting perfect draws both games though, once with turn 3 Fettergeist into Druid’s Familiar and the other game turn 3 Tandem Lookout into Druid’s Familiar. Not that close.

2-0, overall 5-2

Round 8: Chilbert, Colin [USA]

Colin was sitting behind me in the draft. And had a card for card better U/G deck than I had. His first pick was Wolfir, and I passed him some green to go with it. Then he opened an empty pack with Spirit Away, picked that, and moved into blue while picking up three

Misty Ravens in the second pack. Life just isn’t fair. And the games we played weren’t fair either. 12/12 creatures for five mana are good.

0-2, overall 5-3

The next draft went a lot better. I opened another Druid’s Familiar and Angel of Jubilation. I think the effects of the two cards are similar, while I like green better than white and triple white in the Angel’s casting cost isn’t easy to get on the fourth turn. So I went with the Druid’s Familiar. Richard Bland was sitting behind me, so I figured that he must know what I first picked. There are not many uncommons you can take over Angel of Jubilation. Naturally, that didn’t matter as he just opened another Wolfir and happily settled into G/W.

This time I was quite happy with my deck. I opened a Revenge of the Hunted, got passed two Pillar of Flame and a Hound of Griselbrand, and rounded out with a 5th pick Ulvenwald Tracker in the 3rd pack.

10 Forest
6 Mountains
1 Swamp
1 Ulvenwald Tracker
1 Wandering Wolf
1 Scalding Devil
2 Riot Ringleader
2 Borderland Ranger
1 Kessig Malcontents
1 Gloomwidow
1 Hound of Griselbrand
1 Druid’s Familiar
1 Nettle Swine
2 Wildwood Geist
2 Vorstclaw
2 Pillar of Flame
1 Guise of Fire
1 Revenge of the Hunted
2 Joint Assault
1 Death Wind

Maybe I should not have splashed black. I had another Kessig Malcontents in the sideboard. But with two Rangers to fix the mana, having access to a removal that can kill most bombs in the format felt good.

Round 9: Edwards, Mick [ENG]

Mick was U/W and gave me a scare in the second game when he opened with Fettergeist into Mist Raven, which I couldn’t race. An Ulvenwald Tracker followed by a Gloomwidow shut him out of the third game by turn 3 though. Tough to beat that with U/W.

2-1, overall 6-3

Round 10: Melamed, Jonathan [BRA]

Jon had another aggressive B/R deck with three Thunderous Wrath and a Demonic Rising as highlights. The two official games were quick. The first the double striking and undying dog helped with some Joint Assaults finished it. He got the Demonic Rising going in the second match and got a Demon each turn out of the deal while using a Barter in Blood to kill a Druid’s Familiar and a Wildwood Geist. The two creatures I kept alive through the Barter were Vorstclaw and Ulvenwald Tracker. 5/5 Demons? Not big enough.

He won the next two games we played as the round still had 35+ minutes left though; his deck looked about as good as mine.

2-0, overall 7-3

Round 11: Hatch, Greg [USA]

Both games were very unexciting. One game Greg kept a two Plains hand in his W/U deck and just never saw a third land, and in the other I had the opening draw of Ulvenwald Tracker into Gloomwidow again.

2-0, overall 8-3

Back on track, a 7-1 run from 0-2 put me exactly in the same spot I was in at PT Amsterdam, where I had to go 4-0-1 in the last five Constructed rounds. At this point Gaudenis was 10-1, Jon 9-2, Jelger 6-5, and Sam 6-5, as both Sam and Jelger had bad runs in Limited.

Paul Rietzl was also up there at 9-2 playing essentially Alex West’s Boros deck. Both Reid Duke and Gabriel Nassif were 8-3 playing the W/U/R Control deck.

Round 12: Rynkiewicz, James [USA]

Another B/W Control deck, this time splashing for Garruk and Sigarda instead of Bonfire. Once again a turn 3 Liliana pretty much single-handedly beat me in game 1, and I missed the fourth Strangleroot Geist dearly. Still, after board with Wolfir Avengers, Dissipates, and Garruks the matchup got a lot better, and I won the second and third games.

2-1, overall 9-3

Round 13: Pedrakowski, Tomek [POL]

Another feature match, but this time no stream and no written coverage as far as I know. Tomek was playing a RUG Control deck, something that should be a very good matchup for me. He won the second game with some Fettergeist beatdown while I was busy drawing lands. In the third I pulled the old ‘let’s pick the one land out of your eight-card hand when you cast Desperate Ravings’ trick. Always helps!

2-1, overall 10-3

Round 14: Hawley, Bryan [USA]

His green deck looked a lot more like the version we almost played, only with Pillar of Flame and four copies of Bonfire instead of Vorapede. He went first in game 1 and miracled the mentioned Bonfire on the fifth turn, and that’s all there was to be said. My draw in the second game was not great but with a fifth land on turn 5, I could have Wolfir Silverhearted my Invisible Stalker, which is most likely game over at that point. Instead I drew another Invisible Stalker that was promptly greeted by another miracled Bonfire. And that burned right out any Top 8 hopes.

0-2, overall 10-4

Round 15: Kuo, Tzu Ching [TWN]

I must admit that I didn’t know who Tzu Ching was, but I realized that he’s been around for a good while when he pointed out we were both using deckboxes from the same limited series that was only sold in 1999. Mine is sporting a Covetus Dragon, of course. His was the inferior Lightning Dragon, and I felt that the inside of his deckbox also was inferior to mine. He ran a straight G/W deck with Champion of the Parish and Mayor of Avabruck.

I thought I had the first game with an Invisible Stalker that was enhanced by Spectral Flight while I was holding Increasing Savagery. He was on sixteen life and dropped Seraph of Dawn. Frowns.

That meant I could not attack him as he would go up to eighteen life with the lifelink and I could only attack for eight twice, dealing sixteen and dying to his attackers. Still, my Stalker was playing a pretty good defense, and I had a few turns to draw the seventh land to flashback Increasing Savagery and win. I finally found a Pilgrim, but the turn before that would enable the Savagery he found Riders of Gavony and all my blockers were Human.

He stumbled on mana in the second game, and I kept a somewhat risky hand in the third. It had the full nut draw with Geist, Spectral Flight, Pilgrim, and Savagery but no blue source. I kept it, he had a turn 1 Pilgrim into turn 2 Fiend Hunter on my Pilgrim, and I didn’t draw another land.

I was a bit unsure if I was getting frustrated and kept a loose hand, but the others playing the deck said they would keep that on the draw. Oh well.

1-2, overall 10-5

Round 16: Blohon, Lucas [CZE]

Lucas was in 31st place going into this round and needed a top 25 to secure Platinum. I was a bit unsure what to do but ended up conceding the match. Sadly, the final standings were a slap in the face as Lucas finished 27th and my buddy Antonino 26th. That didn’t work out so well.

0-2, overall 10-6

Losing the last three was a bit rough, but after the first two rounds of the tournament I didn’t expect to be in reasonable range of the Top 8 at any point on Day 2, so there’s not that much to complain about. I really liked the deck for the tournament as well, but I don’t think it’s very well positioned for future tournaments. The midrange green decks that the Hexproof deck wants to play against will in all likelihood cease to exist. The Top 8 just had too many decks that are geared towards beating them.

The field had a huge percentage of midrange Naya decks. Only two made it to the Top 8. In that Top 8 the only match a Naya deck won was the mirror. Spirits, the miracle deck, and the four-color Angel of Glory’s Rise Reanimator decks are all very well positioned to beat Naya. From now on I would expect the environment to shift towards decks that have better long game cards than Naya (the miracle deck and Reanimator) and faster decks that want to out-tempo those slower decks (Boros, Mono Black, possibly Mono Red). Such a metagame isn’t what the Hexproof deck is looking for. The control decks have mass removal that ignores hexproof, and the faster beatdown decks are bad matchups in general.

I haven’t played Block after the PT and it’s very doubtful I will play this format again at any point, but my feeling is that Hexproof was a good silver bullet for this one Pro Tour but that this pure tempo/combo build won’t be a good choice for upcoming ISD Block tournaments.

Finally, huge thanks to Patrick and Tom, who did most of the organizational work for the team, grouping people up and booking the apartment in Barcelona. Largely thanks to those few days of testing with a group of great people, I had a blast and am now considering going to PT Return to Ravnica in Seattle. If you asked me if I was going before Barcelona, it would have been a snap, "No way."

Until then, have fun!