Black Magic – 27th at PT: Kyoto, Part 1

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Wednesday, March 4th – With Pro Tour: Kyoto firmly behind us, Sam Black recounts his sterling performance while piloting the Faerie menace. Today’s Black Magic sees Sam provide a rundown of the highs and lows from the first day of competition…

Wow. What an amazing weekend. Patrick, I’m really sorry you couldn’t have been there. While your experience would have been very different from mine, I’m sure you would have had an absolute blast as well, and you almost certainly would have done well in the event. I can’t imagine how frustrating that would be. You’ve handled yourself pretty impressively, and I’m glad you got to watch a friend win with the deck you would have played.

This is going to be a report on my weekend. I’m going to focus on Magic as much as possible, but I think it would be criminal not to tell some of the other stories from the weekend. I apologize in advance if name dropping gets a little excessive, but a lot of what made this Pro Tour so awesome for me was the people.

For Standard, I played Faeries.

I won’t talk about my deck a lot because it was covered in a deck tech in Wizards PT coverage. I felt like I was favored with it against every archetype (not necessarily every exact list, but against each archetype as a whole) except Red/Blightning, and I felt like the need to be able to compete with decks like R/W would push every deck in a direction that made it less able to hold up against Faeries. I save the conclusions for the end. Here’s what happened:

Thursday night was “Mandatory Registration.” I’d like to say, “Thursday night was the player party,” but they don’t have that anymore. No PT shirts either. I think cancelling the player party makes sense, honestly, as it’s expensive and impacts very few people. I don’t like them getting rid of the shirts. Even if you don’t wear them, it’s really nice to have a souvenir. They gave everyone two draft sets instead. Just when I was about to draft, some people (I think it was Akira Asahara and Naoki Kubouchi) found me and asked me to play Dominion. That was really surprising. I taught Shuhei Nakamura how to play at Grand Prix: LA, but I don’t remember if he had time to even play a game of it, and I didn’t think he seemed that interested. It turned out he went back to Japan and got a copy, and taught some other players, and then they came back to play with me. I’m glad I was able to spread that game to Japan. Incidentally, everyone reading this, you should probably check it out. It’s a Rio Grande game.

After the game we agreed to go out for dinner in about half an hour and I went to do an interview with Lan D Ho that lasted about an hour. Naoki was still there when I finished, and took me to meet the others for dinner. On the way, I was introduced to a played I didn’t recognize, and was told he lost in the LCQ so he was going to do coverage the next day. Sometime during dinner he started talking about how he won Worlds 4 years ago, but everyone started laughing after everything he said, so I couldn’t tell if he was just pulling my leg. Eventually I figured out that this was Katsuhiro Mori, who stopped playing Magic after a disqualification a few years ago, but is still quite a character. When I asked who he thought the best players were these days, he told me about how everyone playing Magic now is pretty bad, and then he went to the bathroom for a few minutes and got some girl’s number. I found out later that rumor has it he was a professional “pretty person,” which is to say male escort.

The tournament started off as well as possible for me. I played against Jun’ya Takahashi, a Japanese player I hadn’t met before who spoke very good English. He told me he prepared for the tournament with Akira, who had told me the previous night at dinner that he was playing Esper Lark, so I figured there was a reasonable chance that’s what Jun’ya was playing. It turned out he was just Esper Aggro. Game 1 he mulled to 6 and his comboriffic start of Elsewhere Flask into Esperzoa just looked slow and clunky after I Agony Warped his Esperzoa. From there the game was pretty lopsided, but I don’t remember the details. After game 1 he told me he had gotten the idea for the deck from an article I’d written. I was delighted to know that someone was actually inspired by some brainstorming I wrote about, and a little disappointed to have to beat him for trying it out, but the fact that Esper can’t really beat Faeries is one of the reasons I gave up on it.

Game 2 he to another mulligan and resolved a Master or Etherium and a Loxodon Warhammer while I played Bitterblossom and Jace Beleren on turns 2 and 3. When I played Sower of Temptation to take his Master of Etherium, he played a Scourglass and suddenly the game was a lot closer. I had a pretty full hand thanks to Jace, and I was able to minimize the impact of the Warhammer with Mistbind Clique and eventually Cryptic Command, and I killed him in what turned out to be a much closer game than I was expecting given my excellent opening hand.


My second round was against Kazuya Mitamura, a Japanese player I played Acquire with in Kuala Lumpur. He was playing Yuya Watanabe’s Swans deck. He said he’d seen a lot of other good Japanese players playing it, so he just copied them. Game 1 went long, as neither one of us did anything until I played Bitterblossom on turn 6 with Cryptic Command mana up. He tried to counter it with Cryptic, which I countered back, and he didn’t have a Negate or Broken Ambitions. He untapped and played Chandra and hit me for one. A few turns later some faeries finished off Chandra, and Scion of Oona threatened to kill him, but with ten mana and five cards in hand he tried to play Tidings, which I let resolve (I’m pretty sure that was terrible), and then he played Seismic Assault. I had to try to counter with my Spellstutter Sprite, but he had a counter for that. I drew Thoughtseize, took his Incinerate, and went to 8, leaving him with 3 lands. He went to three from my attack, hoping to find a land or burn spell to finish me, and drew a land and killed me.

I felt really good about this match, as everyone had told me this deck is bad against Faeries, and I had a lot of good sideboard cards against him like Countersquall and Glen Elendra Archmage, but at this point I was informed that I had a game loss of failing to register my two Faerie Conclaves. I remembered counting my spells, and the just writing my lands from memory, and counting my sideboard, but I never actually counted my full decklist once I had added the lands, and I just forgot the Faerie Conclaves. That mistake is appalling. Don’t be like me. Always count your decklist before you hand it in. Even if you’ve already counted it, just make sure the last thing you do before you actually put it in a judge’s hand is to add up the numbers again.


In round 3 I was paired against Janet Bishop, who had just come to her first PT with her 21 year old daughter who was off seeing the sites of Kyoto (or just hiding from the rain). I got worried when her first land was Auntie’s Hovel, but relaxed somewhat when I played Thoughtseize and saw a hand with one more land, 3 Magma Sprays, and Incinerate, and a Flame Javelin. This game looked like it wasn’t going to be over soon, so I took the Javelin, just wanting to get rid of as much damage as possible. Next turn she drew and played Bitterblossom, then Goblin Outlander, and suddenly her hand that looked like it had no pressure became unbeatable. In sideboarding I knew she would have Volcanic Fallout, so I wanted to cut Scion of Oona and become more of a Jace control deck, but I was also afraid that Jace might be too slow. There’s no real way to make this matchup good. I did something like cut the Scions and Thoughtseizes and brought in 2 Flashfreeze, 2 Countersquall, and a Peppersmoke. After some good draws involving Bitterblossom and Mistbind Clique, as well as plays like Peppersmoking turn 1 Figure of Destiny, I somehow barely won that match.


Round 4 was against Masaya Kitayama with Kithkin. The first play of the match came on his third turn, when he played Spectral Procession and I countered it with Broken Ambitions. I passed with four mana on turn 4; he didn’t play anything, presumably for fear of Cryptic Command, and I played Vendilion Clique at the end of his turn. His hand contained hits such as 2 Goldmeadow Stalwarts, a Glorious Anthem, and a land, or some combination of cards that had no removal. The next two turns I played Mistbind Clique in his upkeep.

I brought 3 Infest and 2 Sower of Temptation for 2 Thoughtseize, 3 Broken Ambitions. He played Figure of Destiny, Knight of Meadowgrain, and then Wizened Cenn on his first three turns. I played Bitterblossom and an Infest, and he didn’t have a play on turn 4.


I was happy with my deck at this point, but still extremely frustrated by my game loss. I felt like I easily could have been 4-0, but I had to try not to worry about it too much.

I didn’t really know anyone in my first draft pod, which is always good, and I didn’t feel like I passed anything exceptional. The packs felt generally weak, and I didn’t really see or play against any bombs. I had a pretty average deck with a plan that came together as:

2 Blister Beetle
Dregscape Zombie
Goblin Outlander
Rotting Rats
2 Dragon Fodder
Maniacal Rage
Yoke of the Damned
Cunning Lethemancer
Vithian Stinger
2 Brackwater Elemental
Shore Snapper
Obelisk of Grixis
2 Dark Temper
Soul’s Fire
Viscera Dragger
Corpse Connoisseur
Elder Mastery
Absorb Vis
Kederekt Leviathan
Savage Lands
7 Swamp
6 Mountain
2 Island

In round 5 I played against Zack Spence’s Jund deck. I love Unearth, but Jund is always this kind of deck’s worst matchup. His draws were fairly similar both games, and both featured the essentially unbeatable combination of Necrogenesis (I should stop there, since I basically just can’t beat that card), Scarland Thrinax, and Scavenger Drake. Game 1 I thought I might stabilize at 4 and kill him when I played Kederekt Leviathan, but he just untapped and killed me with Predator Dragon.


Romolo Disconzi, my round 6 opponent, was playing an aggressive Naya deck. I Blister Beetled his turn 2 Aven Squire and then hit a good curve of threats involving Goblin Outlander, Viscera Dragger, and Corpse Connoisseur in game 1. In game 2 he spent his early turns fixing mana with an Armillary Sphere while I played a turn 2 Goblin Outlander and then put Maniacal Rage on it. That had to stop attacking when he played a Wild Leotau because I wanted him to pay the upkeep rather than offering the trade. On the my next turn I drew an Island to cast the Constricting Tendrils I’d sided in for my Shore Snapper, and attacked and killed his Leotau. He played a Cavern Thoctar, but I had a Vithian Stinger in play, so it just traded with my Outlander. I had a Viscera Dragger, but it couldn’t really attack through his Valeron Outlander. I was just trying to live long enough to draw my 6th mana source and kill him with my Elder Mastery. He played a Welkin Guide to start putting pressure on me, and I finally drew my 6th mana source, but it was an Obelisk. I knew he was dead next turn if he couldn’t block, so I put Yoke of the Damned on his Welkin Guide so that if it didn’t attack, I could use the Stinger at the end of his turn to put him down to 6, and then untap and use the Stinger on itself to clear the blocker. He attacked with the Welkin Guide, and didn’t have anything to stop me when I played the Elder Mastery.


Round 7 was a mirror match against John Cuvelier. His Grixis deck was a little more controlling and generally looked more like what I wanted to draft. Both games involved both of us getting to very low life totals with no hand and nothing in play and just trying to out-draw the other. I succeeded both times.


5-2 is a satisfying, but not inspiring record. I think it’s basically par for a Pro Tour. After seven rounds of play, I packed it up and readied myself for some Japanese fun. There will be more rounds, karaoke stories, and conclusions next week.

Until then…