Back To The Trenches

Glenn Jones reflects on his latest Pro Tour! Read about which things went successfully and which things didn’t in his testing methodology and his deck selection before #SCGNY!

The Pro Tour is over.

My side of the event had only a handful of interesting moments. I thought my first draft deck was good for a 2-1, but a loss to Burning Anger and 39 cards
that likely couldn’t ever beat me combined with a match in which I played three spells following standard mulligan/keep decisions started me off at 1-2.

I liked my picks and play, though the packs broke awkwardly; there weren’t enough Satyr Wayfinders or Hunt the Weaks to go around, and my B/G deck wound up
a little more board-oriented than I’d like with basically no removal for larger creatures. I was positioned between two U/R drafters, which was ideal, but
the latter two packs lined up more favorably for those color combinations. I did have a Restock to supercharge my Garruk, Apex Predator, and I won all the
games in which I was able to draw/mill him, reinforcing that my deckbuilding plan had at least been solid. Worth noting is that it’s often worth
prioritizing a Meteorite when you have Garruk, as turn 6-ing him after eliminating a flier is very handy.

My Standard deck for this event was Jund Planeswalkers, an archetype that placed two copies into the Top 8 with a diverse range of choices available.
Amusingly, I first stumbled upon the deck while searching for a constructed deck capable of playing Nissa, Worldwaker and discovered a few copies in the
4-0 results from MTGO Daily Events. I tried adding Nissa, but didn’t really get anywhere on that end–she didn’t seem to mesh with what I was doing. The
deck itself, however, surprised me a great deal. I crushed Mono-Black Devotion over and over online, was mostly splitting matches with Mono-Blue Devotion
and Revelation decks, and only really seemed to be losing to Burn.

That got me very interested, very fast. I adjusted the mana to keep Mutavault and add Bile Blight, and had a list I was happy with.

Then the SCG Open in Kansas City rolled around, and a finals appearance along with a pair of Top 32s had me concerned that the deck would be on the radar.
I started to hear birds chirping about Green Devotion and some new aggressive strategies, and Mono-Blue had been very popular live, online, and among my

So, I went back to my list and started revising it. I talked to Joe Spanier about Anger of the Gods, a card he’d championed in a post-release Standard DE,
and he thought it was very potent at the moment. I considered it, and agreed; in addition to being great against Mono-Blue’s most dangerous start, curving
cheap flying guys up to Nightveil Specter and Thassa, it would also punish a swath of other opponents powerfully. I was boarding out any removal spell
against Revelation decks, and while Anger was certainly worse than Bile Blight in that matchup and against Mono-Black, I thought the mana might actually be
a little easier and the equity gained in blowouts would be worthwhile.

Here’s the list I registered for the Pro Tour:

I’m sure that singleton Mistcutter Hydra is raising some eyebrows. The truth was that I had Reaper of the Wilds in that slot, and I really just wanted a
single straight-up win condition capable of closing games quickly. Reaper wasn’t performing well, and I thought Garruk was decidedly mediocre considering
the mana cost involved. In hindsight I should’ve turned to Nissa at this point, but the truth was that Mistcutter Hydra really wasn’t bad against all three
of the top decks.

Against Mono-Blue, ending a series of trades with a Hydra was ideal. Against Revelation decks, Mistcutter was the perfect threat: you need a threat that
keeps them from constantly holding Dissolve/Negate up, and Hydra exploits that. Even against Mono-Black Devotion the game would often come down to the
point where you’ve Returned their hand but are low on cards, and peeling a hasty beater is a nice way to close up shop. Freeing a sideboard slot and
gaining some ground against two tougher matchups convinced me to get a little crazy, and it worked quite well for me. The temples really help you dig or
toss cards like this, which is one of the reasons a diverse removal suite works so well.

As I saw the field taking shape, I was mostly very happy. Several top teams had opted for aggressive strategies over Revelation-based decks, which greatly
favored me considering my twisted maindeck configuration. Post-board, my Revelation matchup was quite solid, but trying to win exclusively sideboarded
games isn’t a great plan, obviously.

I made key mistakes in building this list, however: I didn’t go back and retest my Mono-Black matchup. If I had, I’d have realized that I’d adjusted my
removal configuration to leave me with less outs to Mutavault by 66%, with a lot of sorcery-speed removal. After sideboarding they could combine Duress
with Thoughtseize to start pressuring me with Mutavault, and trying to establish Underworld Connections to line their spells up against mine in the optimal
configuration. I’d even lost the ability to block their Mutavaults with my own! This matchup had also been easier with my last build, because I had an
additional answer to Connections in Golgari Charm, which left once its -1/-1 mode became redundant via Anger.

Unfortunately, the problems were compounded further against B/W because all of my answers to Mutavault were also my answers to Obzedat. That was a massive
error and directly responsible for two tough matches that left me behind on both sides of sideboarding against one of the most popular decks.


I split my matches against Revelation, and that left me on the outside looking in for Day 2 after Round 8. I was proud of my play; I thought I’d selected
good lines in a few complex spots and made several great reads over the course of my rounds. However, I’d handicapped myself for Standard by making a
change I didn’t fully understand, and paid for it. A great deal of Magic is contained in the hours prior to sitting down and shuffling up, and a
configuration that mixed my two decks probably would’ve worked best.

I’m happy to have been proven correct about my metagame predictions, as not only did Jund Planeswalkers look pretty good against the field, but my B deck,
G/W Aggro, and C deck, B/W Midrange, also had great weekends! Those results reinforce my confidence in having developed those aspects of my game, which
have been lacking in previous large tournament experiences.

Our team mostly played Mono-Blue Devotion, but two mages did strike rogue from the path and played a sweet Naya deck. You may have seen HeroesOfKern put up
a few 4-0s with this archetype, but Michael Majors updated it for M15 with some new tricks. I liked the look of his list, but with no personal experience I
had no idea how much of my approval stemmed from what the deck could do vs. how good the things it did actually were.

I saw Majors mess some people up pretty good with Chord for Phyrexian Revoker, and Purphoros alongside Scion of Vitu-Ghazi was capable of dealing a ton of
damage. I like the deck’s ability to implement Brimaz and remain aggressive while also playing a solid long game. It has a lot of the perks that Jund
Planeswalkers brings to the table, but significantly less interaction in exchange for an offensive filled with powerful cards that can sustain consistent
pressure on the opponent beginning as early as turn 2 with Voice of Resurgence, a dangerous card alongside populate.

It’s back to the PTQ circuit for now, which is unfortunate because my schedule is basically keeping me off all of the local qualifiers for Hawaii, meaning
I won’t have much of a shot at that all-important first Pro Tour. I’ll be exploring the new system in more depth once Khans is out and hope to make it back
on for another hurrah. I’m confident that the new system favors stronger players qualifying while simultaneously reinforcing local game stores and play
experiences for the growing Magic population, so I’m a fan of the system at the moment and look forward to seeing it optimized. I’m confident that with a
little tuning, we could have a very strong change for Magic on our hands with the revision to PTQs, so I’d encourage everyone to keep objective and provide
copious feedback, not complaints. They’re different!

In the future, I’ll be taking a more rigorous hand toward organizing my testing for large events in order to avoid getting hammered by the time crunch at
the end. Our group was pretty disorganized, and part of that stemmed from my own inability to get more involved. If you’ve got any specific questions about
my preparation, process, or experience, feel free to ask! I’d like to think I’ve covered it pretty well over the last couple weeks, but I could easily have
missed a few points of interest, and I’d be happy to expand on them in the comments or even in a future article.

I had a great time, met a lot of new faces I hope to see more of, and of course, enjoyed the wonders of Portland food and beverages. I won’t have to go
long without the latter, as I’m returning to Portland this weekend for the Team Grand Prix! I haven’t worked on the format at all as of now, but I’m
looking forward to another fantastic weekend with friends. I’ll be teaming with Travis Boese and Corey Burkhart, friends from the SoCal area I’ve been able
to enjoy playing Magic with a lot since moving out to the west coast. Hopefully we can cobble together a respectable finish alongside the good times; I
certainly wouldn’t turn down another qualification, of course!

If you’re in Portland next weekend, feel free to say hello. I’ve recently shaved my head, which had the unforeseen side effect of becoming incredibly
effective camouflage last weekend; the sheer number of double takes boggled my mind and provided endless amusement. Long story short, if you see a bald,
bearded dude that looks kind of like me and is (probably) wearing an SCG shirt, you’re a favorite to have found me!

Thank you for your support during this most recent Pro Tour adventure. I look forward to taking another shot in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future!