Pro Tours are hard. Very hard.
If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t see Martin Dang, Corey Burkhart, Ari Lax, Mike Hron, Andrea Mengucci, and our own Michael Majors all fail to make the four wins necessary to make Day 2. These are wildly talented individuals, and yet this time, they didn’t make it.
This is no slight on any of them; I used their names because they are all players I am impressed by and respect. A few of them have won Pro Tours. I’ve certainly missed my share of Day 2s.
For this Pro Tour, I had a rough target to reach: eleven wins. I needed an 11-5 to hit my goal for the season: re-up on Gold Pro status.
After the end of the first draft, I was feeling really good. I had a great U/G Emerge deck drafted, and while it was a Clear Shot or a Somberwald Stag away from being an easy 3-0, it struck me as a very likely 3-0 deck.
I went 1-2.
It all started with a Game 1 where all I needed was a second Island to win on the spot. I felt like I was playing really well, and then on a single turn, I missed a scry from Geist of the Archives. I kicked myself internally but moved on – no use scrying over spilled milk. My opponent, the very talented Ricky Chin, made some great progress on the battlefield, and now that second Island wouldn’t win the game on the spot. A card down was the formerly card winning card:
I barely lose the game. Two games later, he barely takes the last game.
Losing from a mistake was hard. I lost the next match in rough fashion and took a break to make a stateside call to my sweetie to try to recover emotionally from the blow. Five matches later, I was back up to 5-2 and hoping to make it 6-2, but then I ran into a little bit of heat:
I sat next to Pedro Carvalho a few times, watching him tear people up. His deck was exciting: Thermo-Alchemist-fueled burn, riding high on the back of Fevered Visions, one of my favorite cards from the newest block. I still recall playing it old school, sitting in the middle of Vise Age, burning people out while we drew cards.
Fevered Visions felt like that whole deck by itself, and this deck from Pedro seemed like it was built to just enact that game again and again.
We went to a harrowing Game 3. He had no cards in hand, and I had him dead on the next turn. But I was at two.
The next card was everything.
Damn. Damn, damn.
5-3 will mean a rough Day Two if I want to make my goal.
The people I worked with were largely fairly rocked. As at the last PT, Team Mad Apple wasn’t sporting a full roster as several members, like Zvi Mowshowitz, chose to sit this one out. We collaborated again with Hot Sauce Games to form “Mad Apple Hot Sauce.” After Day 1, those of us who were still in the running and playing the same deck I played went out for a quiet dinner, and then went to bed.
I still felt hopeful.
“You can rattle off another five in a row,” said my stateside cheerleader and partner. “You did it today. Do it again!”
I did feel like I could do it again. My Draft skills felt excellent, and my deck felt excellent.
However, it was not to be.
My second draft deck, a B/G Emerge deck splashing blue, was even better than the first one. Again, it felt like a 3-0 deck.
It went 1-1-1.
I drew against Willy Edel, in what I think was my first (unintentional) draw in a Pro Tour in a dozen Pro Tours. He was certainly going to win Game 3 if we’d finished it out. However, I’d boarded in all of my garbage cards to try to win the final game in the three minutes left to us in that match; somewhere around the 39-minutes-remaining mark, I’d started asking Willy to play faster, and it wasn’t until the 18-minutes left mark that that game finished. While I was grateful to Willy for playing Game 2 at a remarkably fast pace, it did mean that Game 3 was practically unfinishable.
Sitting at 5-3-1 when you need an 11-5 is not a good feeling. Sam Black, Mike Hron, and Matt Severa point out that I could also go 10-3-3 and make my goal. We laugh, but it really is (slightly) comforting.
In the next round, I had out an insane battlefield on turn 6:
And that was that.
It’s pretty crushing.
The rest of the event was mostly a numb blur. I finished out the Draft and the Constructed, utterly shellacked by the new Temur Emerge deck, and played otherwise mostly unremarkable matches that end in victory or defeat. My final record was a fairly mediocre 8-7-1.
I’ve shown a lot of good drafters my two decks and they’ve largely thought that both decks were excellent. My Standard deck I feel quite good about overall, though it likely isn’t what I’d play again in a world full of Temur Emerge.
I played The Rock, a barely delirious B/G Midrange deck, only a few cards different than what I’d been playing a few weeks before the PT. Here is the list:
- 1 Den Protector
- 3 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 3 Tireless Tracker
- 2 The Gitrog Monster
- 1 Noose Constrictor
The deck felt awesome. My four losses were to U/R Spells, B/G Delirium, Four-Color Emerge, and B/W Control. It took Greg Orange into Gold for next season, and it truly played out beautifully.
I ended up choosing the deck, in large part, because it beat Zombies. The B/U Zombies lists that were at the Pro Tour felt like they were a very easy target to take down, especially in three games, and I defeated the deck each of the times that I played it.
If I were to change anything about the list, it might be to make the deck a little less concerned about the early-game. It’s entirely possible that the deck needs zero Dead Weight, and maybe one less Sylvan Advocate, though that second step might be a step too far. In their place, I could see bringing in a few copies of Transgress the Mind.
Murder was a card that ended up being great in the sideboard, and I wish I’d had more. Online, I’d had them specifically to help fight Elder Deep-Fiend. In practice, as the deck was set up, I felt like I could have used more cards like Murder to have even the smallest chance in that fight. In addition, I probably needed far more times testing against the archetype at large, just to have a reasonable plan in mind for the matchup.
The losses to B/G Delirium and B/W Control felt a little anomalous. That being said, Jon Stern’s plan to go big with Seasons Past and Dark Petition made for some scary moments late two games where I only had a tiny window to recover the game before it was impossible. “You go so much bigger than me,” I said. “Perhaps too big,” he replied, implying that the choice may have been a mistake. With us both sitting at the bottom of the Day 2 standings, he may have been right.
My own deck mostly played for the same, consistent vision: get ahead on cards, ruin their stuff, play powerful spells. Straight Sol Malka playbook stuff. I even made sure to get Sol’s opinion on the deck.
If Temur Emerge and Four-Color Emerge disappear, I think my deck for the Pro Tour will be a great choice for any Standard event. I’d expect to beat most other non-Emerge archetypes, and I’d also expect to beat PT champion Blohon’s deck.
Of course, the other deck I lost to looked very much like the winner’s deck. I don’t have his list, but it played the same cards:
Answer, answer, answer. I love it. In this matchup, I know I want to be seeing my strict card-advantage cards: Nissa, Vastwood Seer and Tireless Tracker. Even a single Tireless Tracker feels like it is a monster in a matchup like this, particularly if they don’t Anguished Unmaking it, since Liliana, the Last Hope can just bring it all back.
Sadly, I didn’t see either of those two green gems.
If I were to do it all over again, it would probably be much the same, in terms of the choices I made in the tournament. I’d likely play the same deck. Maybe it might be different by three or four cards in the entirety of the 75, but it would look much the same. Maybe I’d use a reminder token of some kind, to help not miss things like that Geist of the Archives.
I’m Silver now. And I have a lot of work to do to get back to Gold this season.
I’m in Portland now for the GP, only slightly jetlagged from the PT, only barely delirious. Wish me luck.