Big Snips in London, Day 1

Me, I’m an honest guy. Last time I regaled you with stories about winning a Pro Tour. Sadly, you don’t always win. That’s why this time I’m here to tell you about losing matches. Lots of them. Seven. In the same tournament, actually. That’s right, folks, this one is all about my miserable spiraling downfall from first to eightieth in just one Pro Tour.

I’m not Nick Eisel. Really, it’s true. I mean, I’ve heard stories that once in a blue moon he loses a match, but his writing has gone a long way into making me believe that isn’t true. I’m sure his little act works on some people, and that’s just great. But me, I’m an honest guy. That’s why this time I’m here to tell you about losing matches. Lots of them. Seven. In the same tournament, actually. That’s right, folks, this one is all about my miserable spiraling downfall from first to eightieth in just one Pro Tour.

The big problem when it came to preparing for Pro Tour: London was that Saviors wasn’t out yet on Magic Online. My testing, in all formats, comes solely from that, seeing as how actually no one plays this game in our area anymore. This problem was compounded by my unwillingness to do whatever was necessary to get the beta, so I just braced myself to not get any practice until Saviors was up on MODO, which did not give me much time. Additionally, I already had trouble with CCB draft. I didn’t know where I was going wrong, but I just assumed I was terrible at it. I could never really pinpoint drafting or playing mistakes aside from the misclicks that go along with playing two drafts and six poker tables simultaneously, but I just figured that I had to be bad since I wasn’t doing a lot of winning in the format.

I hear they will soon have special tournaments with [card name=

When Saviors was added about a week and a half prior to the Pro Tour, I started playing as much as I could. The first few days, it just involved three on threes for nothing since playing for ante is not allowed according to the Magic Online Code of Conduct, as we were rudely reminded multiple times an hour by either Adept_Lynx or Adept_Zim or someone else who needs a piano to fall on his head. By the time sanctioned drafts were up, I was at Tim Aten place in Ohio along with John Pelcak and Adam Chambers for some practice and stuff before the Pro Tour. Good times were had and I kind of learned how to draft a little. It is embarrassing to admit it, but for a while my rating online was hovering in the mid 1700 range but from there it started to get back on track. I went home and drafted some more there before going to London. By the time I left, I had done more winning in those few days than in the few months preceding them and had my rating back to a more respectable 1850 or so. With this in mind, I was fairly confident going into the event. I wasn’t really expecting to top eight or anything, but I figured if I played half monkeys and half decent players, I could finish somewhere in the 16-64 range by going X-1 against the weak players and breaking even against those who knew what they were doing.

After getting to London, I didn’t play any Magic on Wednesday but on Thursday I took advantage of the free drafts by playing in three. In the first one, I did a bit of raredrafting and still had a decent deck, but then got crushed by a guy who tried really hard not to crush me but his deck and draws just made him. In the second one, I did some more raredrafting but still won the three matches. The third draft was nice practice since it included good players such the U.S. National Champ, the World Champ, and one of the PT Seattle Champs (Jeroen), along with Jon Sonne, Mike Krumb, Jon Fiorillo, and someone else good who I don’t remember at this point. I didn’t raredraft in this one and ended up beating Craig and Julien before losing to Fiorillo’s insane deck in the finals.

Sometime during that draft, BDM showed us the changes to the Pro Tour that you’ve all probably heard about by now. One less Pro Tour, more prize money for each, Hawaii. Everything about it is basically fine, with one glaring problem that makes it pretty much a push. As a level five player, I am lucky enough to get $1500 each time I attend a Pro Tour, and one less Pro Tour means one less time I get $1500 for attending a Pro Tour. A good solution would be to raise the appearance fees of each level a small amount so that a player gets as much for their level as they would have under the old system. Randy, you reading buddy?

Anyway, it seems like time to skip to the beginning of the actual Pro Tour. On that general topic, I have this to say: I do not consider myself “an unlucky player.” After all, I did mize the last Pro Tour, right? Can’t say I didn’t need at least a bit of luck for that. But at Pro Tour: London, almost everything that could go wrong did. Here’s how it went down.

It started as soon as I sat down for my first pod:



Lo Moro, Raffaele


Harvey, Eugene


Karsten, Frank


Steinbach, Pascal


Lebedowicz, Osyp


Souza, Henrique


Szleifer, Gadiel

Oh, my! The only way a pod with Osyp, Frank, and Eugene could be any harder was if it had Henrique Souza in it… Oh wait, it did. Honestly, though, I was really hoping for a pod with more than just two people I’ve never heard of. After Henrique asked the judge to take a picture of us, things got underway.

Things started off with one of the worst packs I’ve seen in a while. The three definite best cards were Gibbering Kami, Soratami Rainshaper, and Kodama’s Might. Quite obviously, Might is the best of the three, but I took Gibbering Kami for a few reasons. To begin with, I like Black a lot and not Green, which I only like in combination with Red. Additionally, I had a strange feeling that being an unknown from Brazil, Henrique on my right was more likely to go Green than normal. Whether this was enough to take the inferior Gibbering Kami over the Might, I’m not sure, but Henrique did end up going Green, so I suppose in this draft it worked out. For the rest of this pack, things went quite well. The next five picks I took solid Black cards and didn’t pass a single good Black card to Lo Moro on my left. Seventh I picked up a Kami of Old Stone looking to move into Black/White, my favorite color combination in this format. But after that, I was extremely surprised when I saw the Soratami Rainshaper from my first pack had tabled. It had to mean Blue was wide open, so I quickly added it to my pile.

As we got ready for pack two, I was sure I was about to get plenty of Okiba-Gangs and Horobi’s Whispers and other good Black cards, but instead I just got destroyed. I picked up some solid Blue, but the only Black cards I got in this pack were Skullsnatcher and Skullmane Baku. Yep, that was it. It turned out Lo Moro on my left had opened Kiku, Night’s Flower and had been too stubborn (and bad at Magic) to switch out of it when he literally wasn’t passed a single Black card that was even remotely playable. With this in mind, I wasn’t so happy with my draft going into pack three as I was going into pack two. I got some solid stuff in the third pack, including the Oboro Envoy I opened, but it was all in the form of blue flyer and not many Black cards. It turns out that somehow, both players to my immediate right had gotten into Black cutting me from any chance at good removal. I ended up with a fairly weak Blue/Black deck. Even though it did have decent creatures, it had some cutty ones as well and worst of all, only one removal spell. As we were guaranteed a 1-2 in this seven man pod, my goal with this deck was a 2-1. I was sure I could mize it if I got a bye, but actually winning two matches would be hard unless I drew my Oboro Envoy a lot.

9 Island

8 Swamp

Kami of the Waning Moon

Kuro’s Taken

Callous Deciever

Teardrop Kami

Soratami Rainshaper

Minamo Scrollkeeper

Moonbow Illusionist

Wicked Akuba

Marrow Gnawer

Ninja of the Deep Hours

Skullmane Baku


Oboro Envoy

Gibbering Kami

Shinen of Flight’s Wings

Genju of the Falls

Sink Into Takenuma

Devouring Greed

Toils of Night And Day


Phantom Wings

Death Denied

1 ? that I don’t remember

Yep, passable, but nothing to get excited about. When I looked at the pairings I was sad to see I hadn’t mized the bye, but at least I had pulled one of the randoms.

Round 1 vs. Pascal Steinbech

Well, unfortunately for Pascal, he took a little too long taking a smoke outside. About twenty-five seconds too long, actually, but being twenty-five seconds late was enough to warrant him a game loss. This tricked me into thinking that maybe I was meant to do well in this tournament as we shuffled up for “game two.”

He had a Red/Black deck with pretty weak creatures but good spells, as is expected from Red/Black, which happens to be a terrible color combination now with all three sets. My draw wasn’t stellar, but I was able to empty his hand with a Sink Into Takenuma for four. He discarded four spells that would have definitely been enough to win him the game had he cast them. We were pretty much deadlocked until he randomly cast a Painwracker Oni while I had Kuro’s Taken in play. He sacrificed an Ember-Fist Zubera to tap my Kuro’s Taken and make me take five but after that he just sacrificed the Painwracker. Eventually I drew some flyers to start attacking him, but a Blind With Anger took out two of them. I think I had gotten him to six by that point. A few turns later I drew Shinen of Flight’s Wings, which was enough to break the deadlock of infinite ground guys and give me the win.

1-0, 2-0

Round 2 vs. Henrique Souza

Now that’s lucky. Henrique got the bye in the first round, essentially giving me a bye in the second round! I don’t remember about the actual match, but I do remember that he checked my card backs for marks. When he chose to draw first, I thought for a second my first impressions about him might have been wrong, since there are some decks in this format that I like to draw with and I thought that it might show his understanding of the format. My suspicions proved to be untrue when he turned out to be running a solid three-color special featuring Flames of the Blood Hand. Needless to say, I pulled it out.

2-0, 4-0

Round 3 vs. Eugene Harvey

This was a fake feature match, as in we played in the feature match area but weren’t covered. I knew I wasn’t winning since his opens were nice – Jugan, Jitte, and Ghost-Lit Raider.

Game one he played Ghost-Lit Raider on turn 3 and I didn’t have Befoul for it. I got some damage through with some flyers but they died quickly and the Raider was just wrecking me. Oboro Envoy gave me a bit of a chance but he had Barrel Down to kill it and then Oni of Wild Places to kill me before I had a chance to peel anything else.

Game two Eugene didn’t draw any of his bombs and I had a really nice curve of fliers, but his turn 2 Matsu-Tribe Sniper and turn 4 Frostwielder were something I couldn’t beat without Befoul and it really wasn’t close.

2-1, 4-2

I wasn’t too upset with the loss since I was pretty sure it would happen and a 2-1 was acceptable considering my deck and pod. When I went to my second pod, I was hoping for something a little easier. I was hoping for six or seven monkeys like most pods have, but unfortunately it just wasn’t to be and I had another tough pod that I had to 2-1 to Day 2.



Thompson, Mike



Gomersall, Sam



Szleifer, Gadiel



Ochoa, David



Nishiwaki, Kazuhisa



Rietzl, Paul



Fritz, Ziga



Cornelissen, Kamiel


This draft went better than the last one. I was able to get into my favorite color combination, Black/White, quickly and was able to cut it well. This allowed me to pick up a Horobi’s Whisper as well as two Split-Tail Mikos and other good cards. In Saviors, I opened a pack with Ghost-Lit Raider and not much else. Already have a random Lantern-Lit Graveyard I decided to just take it and splash it. Other than the Raider, I had another bombless deck, and being that it was a splash the Raider couldn’t really count either. I also had several sketchy cards like Kitsune Healer and Silverstorm Samurai, but it was the kind of controllish deck that I tend to have success with so I was pretty sure I’d pull of the necessary 2-1 to allow me to draft three more times.

8 Plains

7 Swamp

2 Mountain

Lantern-Lit Graveyard

2 Split-Tail Miko

2 Moonlit Strider

2 Shinen of Stars’ Light

Kabuto Moth

Kitsune Loreweaver

Scuttling Death

Akuta, Born of Ash

Kami of the Waning Moon

Kitsune Healer

Silverstorm Samurai

Kami of the Tattered Shoji

Kami of False Hope

Gutwrencher Oni

Ghost-Lit Raider

Death Denied

Kagemaro’s Clutch

Otherworldly Journey

Indomitable Will

Horobi’s Whisper

Round 4 vs. Paul Rietzel

This was a real feature match, and it was actually covered here. It is pretty well covered and I don’t remember enough to detail to be able to add anything to what the person who covered the match had to say.

3-1, 6-2

Round 5 vs. Sam Gomersall

This was another fake feature match. Blue/Green is not a stellar color combination, but Sam’s abundance of very good cards made up for this and he had a pretty good deck.

Game one he started with Time of Need for Meloku and cast the Meloku on turn four using an Orochi Sustainer. Luckily, I had the Kagemaro’s Clutch, but this whole time I was getting beat down by random guys. I had Kabuto Moth and Split-Tail Miko, but had the big problem of only having one Plains and he kept bouncing one of them with Kiri-Onna and I wasn’t able to use my effects to the fullest and kept taking lots of damage while trying to stabilize. Eventually I stabilized at one life when he went all in and I had Silverstorm Samurai (I had just played my second Plains). Even though I had stabilized I still couldn’t get through and deal any damage to him and we just sat for many turns. Over this time I had drawn Otherworldly Journey and Horobi’s Whisper but his Soratami Rainshaper trumped them.

Eventually he put Phantom Wings on his Moss Kami which would kill me and I had to sacrifice both Moonlit Striders I had in play and not soulshift in order to get four cards in my graveyard. Using this, I could Otherwordly Journey splicing Whisper then recast Whisper to stay alive. It also killed his Rainshaper, but he still got to keep the Mossay with Wings but I could block it. I had to make this play since it was the only way to not die. Even after that, I couldn’t even remotely get through his team and we just sat some more. Eventually he drew Inner Calm, Outer Strength and when used on his flying, trampling Moss Kami it was enough for the game. His deck couldn’t really beat my Ghost-Lit Raider and it would have won me that game at any point, I was hoping to get at least one game this match that way, but it was not to be.

After game one, Sam and I commented on how it had actually been a good game, which seems pretty rare these days. Game two, on the other hand, wasn’t a good game at all. Sam quickly put a certain Clouded Mirror into play and I had none of my three answers to it and died a couple of turns later.

3-2, 6-4

Scourge is big snips.

Round 6 vs. Mike Thompson

Mike had a pretty good Blue/Black deck with a lot of flyers and a good amount of removal. Game one went very long. I had control with Moth and both Mikos, but I never got anything to actually kill him with. Pretty soon he drew Soramaro and started gaining back the card advantage that I had gained with various soulshift creatures. Soon, his Blue Maro just got too big and I didn’t have my Horobi’s Whisper and eventually it killed me. Somewhere in between, he played a Scourge of Numai for pretty much no reason. He almost killed himself with it, and he killed me while on two life himself. Each turn I looked for attacks with which to push more damage through. While I think I did the best that was possible and got as much damage through as possible, it is not unthinkable that I might have missed an attack that would have won me the game since it was a fairly complicated board position and even while taking my time to find good attacks I was also trying to hurry in order to have time for two more games since this one was taking a while.

Game two he only played Nezumi Cutthroat and Villainous Ogre. It wasn’t too hard to pull it out when neither of his creatures could block and I had a regular draw. On the last turn he played the 2/3 Blue Soratami guy but I killed it then killed him.

Game three it turned out that he kept a sketchy hand with only three Swamps and nothing he could cast. He missed his fourth land drop once then drew another Swamp for the not-very-helpful Scourge of Numai. That was all he had until he drew an Island several turns later. It allowed him to pump out some guys that last few turns but he was already almost dead and it was too little, too late.

4-2, 8-5

At this point, for the second time in the tournament, I was somehow tricked into thinking that I was meant to do well in this tournament. After making it through to the second day with two mediocre decks in two hard pods, I was confident at this point that I would at least end up with a Top 32 finish. I just figured that one of my coming pods would just be absolutely awful and I’d get the 3-0 as well as some other wins in the other pods. How wrong I was. My third pod was no easier than the first two.



Kaji, Tomohiro



Russell, Paul



Adebo Diaz, Juan Carlos



Faustino, Manuel



Nahodil, Petr



Szleifer, Gadiel



Herzog, Nicolai



Wiegersma, Jelger


From the first pick, this draft went horribly. I started by taking Hideous Laughter, a card I hate, over Yamabushi’s Flame and Kitsune Blademaster. Of course Laughter is supposedly better, but I just hate the card. It feels like it’s terrible. Even though the effect is powerful, it’s very easy to play around and oftentimes is a terrible draw. Despite the fact that I already had all these negative feelings towards the card, I took it anyway. I followed it with Cruel Deceiver out of a weak pack then Order of the Sacred Bell out of another one. I picked up a great deal of playables, but most of them were mediocre. I also lacked removal. I pretty much just had a bunch of solid guys with a good curve but nothing else. My tricks were a lowly pair of Roar of Jukai. Even though they are at their best in a deck like this one, their best is not all that great.

In the third pack at some point, I had the choice between Green Shinen and Kagemaro’s Clutch. Even though my deck desperately needed removal, I took the Shinen because in a deck with as many creatures as mine, I felt like it would be very hard to lose a game in which I drew the Green Shinen. I still think in this particular deck the pick was right. As for removal, I picked up an Exile Into Darkness later to go with the Laughter, but obviously did not have as much as I would have liked. Here is what I ended up with. I thought I could 2-1 but a 1-2 seemed just as likely.

9 Swamp

8 Forest

2 Cruel Deceiver

2 Kuro’s Taken

2 Order of the Sacred Bell

Child of Thorns

Okiba-Gang Shinobi

Shinen of Life’s Roar

Kami of Empty Graves

Deathmask Nezumi

Painwracker Oni

Scaled Hulk

Nightsoil Kami

Loam Dweller

Orochi Sustainer

Takenuma Bleeder

Elder Pine of Jukai

Exile Into Darkness

Hideous Laughter

2 Roar of Jukai

Manriki Gusari

Round 7 vs. Nicolai Herzog

“I think I screwed you,” said Nicolai, as soon as we sat down. I had been passing to him in the draft. As it turns out, he did in fact screw me. He had gone my same two colors, Black/Green, directly to my left.

Game one he started with some guys which got Laughtered but I didn’t have much else. He got through with an Okiba-Gang (which should have been mine) and there wasn’t much I could do but just take the beats as I continued to draw lands. I played more turns than I should have since he attacked very cautiously while muttering to himself about every possible card in the format I could have, but since I just drew more lands it was irrelevant.

Game two my draw was even worse than the first game. It had a few quick creatures but nothing else and after getting some early damage through Nicolai stabilized and I drew hundreds of thousands of lands in a row and got smashed again. For the second time in a row, he took a lot of extra turns playing around everything possible but for the second time I drew nothing of note.

4-3, 8-7

This loss was very frustrating. When someone reads signals badly enough to go into your very same two colors directly to your left, they deserve to lose matches. Especially when they are matched up against you, and your strictly better deck. My deck was strictly better, and his less than stellar play even gave me extra turns. But there was just nothing I could do against the superior draws and all of a sudden I was 4-3. Now that is a terrible record. Only one more win than losses. That’s pretty depressing. With that in mind I went to eat and then to bed hoping to pick up some much-needed wins in the second day. Obviously, I didn’t end up getting enough of them, but that is a story for another day.

Gadiel Szleifer

Said to have the Heart of a Champion

Luckiest Constructed player in the world

UNluckiest Limited player in the world