Feature Article – A Pro Tour: San Diego Tournament Report *4th*

StarCityGames.com Open Series: Indianapolis on March 13-14
Wednesday, March 3rd – After a prolongued break from the game, Craig Wescoe returned with a passion to crack the higher levels of the game. After a sterling performance at Pro Tour: San Diego, he’s on the way to doing exactly that! Today, he shares his journey…

Everything in this article is accurate to the best of my ability. Some of my match notes were vague and so I tried to fill them in with what I believe was what happened, though it is possible that some games played out slightly differently. Most of the report is from memory, so I apologize in advance if I left something important out or confused some of the details. Next time, I will try to keep better notes.


Before I begin my report, I suppose I should give myself a brief introduction and explain how it came about that I was competing in Pro Tour San Diego. I started playing Magic about fourteen years ago when I was thirteen years old and qualified for my first Pro Tour in 1999. My first respectable tournament performances did not come until 2001 when I made Top 8 of Grand Prix: Minneapolis and Grand Prix: Atlanta. Shortly thereafter I qualified for the World Championship in Sydney, Australia on rating. I had to sell nearly my entire collection to pay for the trip. I saw it as an investment and spent most of the summer preparing with Brian Davis and felt really good about my chances going into the tournament. Then after a very disappointing performance at the event, I was burnt out with Magic, no longer had a collection, and was not qualified for any future Pro Tours. So I decided to quit playing the game altogether. But after a few years away from Magic I realized how much I love the game and missed playing it. So I did some research and discovered there was a Legacy tournament coming up at a store called Pandemonium in Michigan, a format where knowing all the recent cards is not a prerequisite for doing well. So I scrounged together a sixty-card white weenie deck from the few cards that remained from my collection, bought a couple cards before the tournament to add to my deck, and was ready to battle. I ended up going undefeated and splitting a Mox Ruby and a playset of Force of Wills in the finals. The passion was rekindled and before long I found myself planning out the upcoming PTQ schedule for Honolulu and making plans to get back onto the tour.

The format was Extended, and I was testing various versions of Mono White and Boros for a Kentucky PTQ when a friend of mine, Ben Wienberg, suggested that I play Death Cloud since a long time friend and master deck-builder Brian Kowal said it’s the best deck. Without even playing a game with his deck, I was on board and asked BK if I could run his list at the PTQ. He agreed and I ended up going undefeated in the Swiss before losing to this Michigan kid named Kyle Boggemes playing Blue control in the quarterfinals. A couple of weekends later, I played in an Indianapolis PTQ, this time with an aggressive Zoo deck designed to beat Blue control decks, and this time I got there, beating D.J. Kastner and his Blue control deck in the finals. Back on the tour! I’d played in nearly a dozen Pro Tours prior to quitting Magic (by quitting, I mean taking a three year hiatus, because let’s be honest, no one ever really quits Magic), and although I’d had a reasonable amount of success as a deck builder/developer, I’d never really had success as a player on the tour. So this time I was determined to establish myself as a tournament player able to compete at the highest level. After finishing a disappointing ninety-ninth place in Honolulu, but going 7-3 in the Constructed portion, I qualified for Austin via Constructed rating. I then went 4-4 in Austin, failing to make Day 2, but still qualified on rating for the World Championships in Rome. Then despite starting 0-2 at Worlds, I battled back and finished 12-6 and in 37th place, qualifying me for San Diego via Top 50. I was successfully stringing together Pro Tours without having to re-enter the PTQ circuit, but going into San Diego I still had not accomplished my goal and I needed a strong performance just to stay on the tour.

Preparation for San Diego

My testing started where I left off at worlds, where I played Esper Control to a 3-3 Day 1 finish. I figured Jace, the Mind Sculptor was an obvious addition to the deck, as well as Celestial Colonnade, and possibly Treasure Hunt and Halimar Depths. I was unable to get the deck to perform better than fifty percent against Jund while still competing against other control decks, Vampire decks, and Red decks. So I took out Black and added Red for Ajani Vengeant and Lightning Bolt. I was still unable to make the deck work, so I moved on to various Green decks, including Naya, Bant, Junk, and Jund. I could not get any of the Green based decks to work out to my satisfaction, because getting Green mana on the first turn (for Noble Hierarch or Wild Nacatl) meant getting color screwed too often. Moreover, too many of my lands entered the battlefield tapped, which slowed me down long enough for the midrange decks (Eldrazi Green and Vampires) and the control decks to overpower me. Jund seemed to be the only three color deck that could recover from the early lack of tempo, and I didn’t want to play a deck that everyone knew exactly how to play against, unless of course I could not find anything better. So I made Jund the backup plan, gave up on all other three color decks, and turned my focus to Boros and Green/White.

In testing Boros I found that too often I would be holding Red spells and White lands or White spells and Red lands, and had to mulligan or keep too many risky hands in order to compete against Jund and the control decks. The Green/White deck had similar difficulties, having to commit too much Green mana to the deck in order to reliably cast Noble Hierarch on the first turn, resulting in the same kinds of hands (Green mana and white spells or white mana and green spells). Without shock lands to fetch, the Zendikar sac lands were just too unreliable for me. At this point I came to a (mistaken) conclusion: outside of Jund the mana in the format is such that the drawbacks of playing a multicolor deck outweigh the advantages (note: this conclusion failed to account for the power of man lands, which I later realized). Giving up on multicolor strategies I focused on the five monocolor decks. Red had the best matchup against Jund but was cold to White, had problems with Black, and just wasn’t performing overall. I’m no Gabriel Nassif, so my attempts at mono Blue failed miserably, though I think the tools are there for a more talented deck builder to make it work. I tried mono Green but was having lots of difficulties with the control decks, particularly with Wrath effects, and I expected a lot of players to play Blue control decks given the hype Jace, the Mind Sculptor was receiving. So that left mono Black and mono White.

I experimented with a few versions of Vampires but I could not find a build that could reliably compete against both Jund and control decks. I tried a more control Black strategy that basically consisted of Black Knights, Everflowing Chalice, Abyssal Persecutor, Malakir Bloodwitch, Duress, Mind Sludge, Sign in Blood, Gatekeeper of Malakir, Tendrils of Despair, and some other removal spells. The deck had some very explosive draws and had enough versatility to adapt to many different strategies, being able to sideboard into Deathmarks and Doom Blades against creature decks and into more hand disruption and Underworld Dreams against control decks. However, the deck had a lot of draws that were too top-heavy, and I found myself having to mulligan frequently or risk being too slow to stay in games. The deck also had difficulty dealing with Jund’s creatures, since there is no good solution to Sprouting Thrinax or Bloodbraid Elf without getting so far behind that I’m dead to a single Blightning. At this point I was pretty much at the end of the road. If I couldn’t get mono White to work, I was playing Jund.

I was attracted to White’s removal spells since Path to Exile, Oblivion Ring, and Devout Lightcaster could each remove a Sprouting Thrinax from the game, thereby negating its triggered ability. I was also impressed by its efficient early threats like Steppe Lynx, Kor Firewalker, and White Knight. These creatures could each be cast early, apply pressure, and required specific removal spells from the Jund deck. So I threw together an aggressive Honor of the Pure deck that attempted to win via weenies and Brave the Elements. I quickly found that a mass removal effect was devastating to the deck and that it lacked the mid-to-late game strength to keep up with the midrange decks. Furthermore, I was getting awkward draws consisting of Honor of the Pure and Brave the Elements but only one or two threats. So I looked into various ways of gaining card advantage without resorting to clunky cards that cost more than four mana. Elspeth, Knight-Errant was a natural inclusion, helping to protect against mass removal effects with its token-generating ability and helping to force through damage against larger ground creatures like Sprouting Thrinax, Leatherback Baloths, Black Knight, and Calcite Snapper. The next inclusion was Stoneforge Mystic, even though the equipment spells in the format are marginal. I thought about and experimented with just about every equipment spell in the format, and decided playing three was the right number, and that Sigil of Distinction, Basilisk Collar, and Trusty Machete were the best ones for the deck. Sigil is the ‘big’ spell and has synergy with Kor Skyfisher, Basilisk Collar helps race and fights through Walls and big Green creatures, and Trusty Machete is there for the cheap power boost to an evasion creature, whether a flying Kor Skyfisher or an unblockable Kor Firewalker or White Knight, depending on the opponent.

Playing four Stoneforge Mystics and four Elspeth, Knight-Errants gave me the necessary reach to compete against the midrange and the control decks, and Kor Skyfisher now became the lynchpin of the deck, providing enormous synergy with almost every card in the deck. He can kill multiple Planeswalkers via Oblivion Ring, can get an extra equipment spell via Stoneforge Mystic, can jump an extra attacker via bouncing Elspeth, can activate a Steppe Lynx when I don’t have another land to play, can essentially untap a Kor Skyfisher that just attacked by replacing it with itself on the board, or in conjunction with Sigil of Distinction for 0, I can play it as a 2/3 flyer for two mana with no drawback. The deck was beginning to really come together, and I got the idea to play Tectonic Edge from reading an excellent article by Matt Sperling on the subject. I added Tectonic Edges to the deck and through experimentation determined that I can operate off a minimum of 24-25 lands, 21 of which produce White mana. The Edges allowed me to negate the advantages other decks were gaining from the Worldwake man lands, but I felt like my deck would rather just run its own man lands instead. One of the players I was testing with, Brent Gregath, suggested I add Green for a couple Stirring Wildwoods, some Sunpetal Groves, and a Behemoth Sledge. The suggestion was appealing but I did not like the idea of having to mulligan draws that did not contain Plains, nor did I like the idea of needing another Green source in order to activate the man land. I felt by adding Green I’d be losing too much of the edge afforded by mono color. So I began considering Dread Statuary.

With all the equipment in the deck, along with Elspeth, Oblivion Ring, Stoneforge Mystic, and Kor Skyfisher, the deck can make pretty good use of colorless mana, and the man land seemed worth trying out. After just a few games I saw how powerful Dread Statuary was for the deck. It immediately threatens damage after a mass removal effect, attacks for seven damage with an Elspeth, Knight-Errant activation, and provides additional pressure for the late game. Between the 20 creatures, 4 Elspeth, Knight-Errants, and 4 Dread Statuaries, the deck was practically running 28 creatures for the price of 20! The moment I was completely sold on running four Dread Statuaries was in the Vampire matchup when my opponent cast three consecutive Malakir Bloodwitches, each having to chump block my 7/5 flying colorless land just to stay alive. At this point I came to the realization that there are definitely six very powerful man lands in Worldwake, and I was happy to be running my own without committing to a second color. I also recognized the importance of running man lands in whatever deck I play, whether multicolor or monocolor. This is the deck I played:

Essentially, the deck I ended up playing was the result of a series of failed attempts at making any other strategy in the format outperform Jund. (I applaud Tom “The Boss” Ross and company for figuring out how to make Naya perform. Given my affinity for Wild Nacatl (my modo name is Nacatls4Life), you know I tried hard to get the mana to work on that deck. I also applaud Patrick “The Innovator” Chapin and company for figuring out how to make Jace Control work. I think I gave up too early on Jace decks. Both builds are excellent and each deck’s respective performance is a testament to the success of the build.) One key advantage my deck had over other decks in the format is its ability to avoid mulligans, due to a number of factors: it is mono color, it does not usually need to hit a fourth land until later in the game, and it has ways to utilize excess lands.

As far as the deck is concerned, I am confident I made the right choice. Chapin’s deck, Ross’s deck, and Jund each ended up also being good choices for the tournament, but I went with the deck I knew instead of switching last minute to a deck I was unfamiliar with or had not properly tuned. I would, however, probably make a few changes to the deck going forward. First of all, the Emeria, the Sky Ruin never triggered once for me and so that would probably be better off as another Plains. Also when I first built the deck the 4 Devout Lightcasters were maindeck, and it wasn’t until later in testing that I moved them to the sideboard. With my final build I should have realized that my opponents will (or at least should) be siding out Sprouting Thrinax against me since it really can’t block anything effectively. So splitting 2 Devout Lightcaster and 2 Celestial Purge would probably be better. I ended up going 3-3 against Jund, 2-0 against Junk, 2-0 against U/W/R Control, and 2-0 against White Weenie. I only played against those four decks. Mono Red is by far the deck’s best matchup, but it is versatile enough to adapt to any strategy and fully capable of competing against Jund. Now that people know about the deck and can figure out how to metagame for it, it might fade into tier 2 or tier 3, at least until new equipment spells get printed.

Aware of MTG superstar Gerard Fabiano aversion to mulligans, I successfully convinced him the day before the event to play the deck. For the record, Gerard told me going in that I was going to win this tournament. As it turns out he was wrong, but he wasn’t far off. (Too bad he didn’t make the bet with Luis Scott-Vargas where LSV takes the under on one Trusty Machete in the Top 8 of the tournament. He made the correct read and would have won the bet. Anyone able to make such a sick call has to be a true master.) So Brent Gregath played the deck (but splashing Green for Behemoth Sledge), Gerard Fabiano played the deck (but with only 3 Dread Statuary and a pair of Brave the Elements as a way of giving the deck more ways to outplay the opponent), and I played the deck. Here is how my tournament unfolded:

Constructed Portion of Day 1

Round 1 Bertelsen, Nathan [USA] playing G/W/B Junk

I win the die roll and take game 1 by attacking for 12 on turn 3 with triple Steppe Lynx after a fetch land activation and finishing him a couple turns later with an Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Game 2 he leads with Noble Hierarch into Knight of the Reliquary into Emeria Angel + fetch land. I cast Day of Judgment on my fourth turn. He casts Baneslayer Angel. I untap and cast White Knight and Oblivion Ring on the Angel. He casts Maelstrom Pulse on the Oblivion Ring, getting back his Baneslayer Angel. I untap and cast another Oblivion Ring on his Angel and cast Stoneforge Mystic, getting Sigil of Distinction. He draws blanks and I get there in a couple turns with Sigil of Distinction. He mulliganed once (in game 1) and I did not mulligan in the match. (I will track overall match record, game record within the round, and for the Constructed portion, overall mulligan count (mine-to-opponents’), the latter not just to demonstrate that I ran better than my opponents but rather to show that the deck actually mulligans less than most decks in the field, largely due to its construction.)

1-0 matches, 2-0 games, 0-1 in mulligans.

Round 2 Pattaro, Elói [BRA] playing a R/W/U Control deck…

… With pro Red bears, Planeswalkers, Wall of Denial, Earthquake, and Chain Reaction. The first game he has the Lightning Bolts for my early creatures and then stabilizes with Ajani Vengeant, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Chandra Nalaar. Game 2 I killed three Planeswalkers with a single Oblivion Ring and get there with Elspeth and Kor Firewalker. (I cast Oblivion Ring on his Jace, the Mind Sculptor; he replays another one; I return the Oblivion Ring via Kor Skyfisher; then I recast the Oblivion Ring on his Chandra Nalaar.) Game 3 he casts two copies of some instant “gain 8 life” spell and is forced to Lightning Bolt my Stoneforge Mystics in response to equip effects. At one point I was ahead on card advantage by about five cards and easily took the game. Against Aggro White decks, Rest for the Weary seems like a reasonable card, but I’m pretty sure gaining eight life at the cost of a card is not a good plan against my version of mono White. Maybe it was part of some overall strategy of his that just did not come together for him, but more than likely he just didn’t know exactly how to play against my deck, which if you’ve learned anything from Conley Woods, is a main advantage of going rogue. Neither of us mulliganed in the match.

2-0 matches, 2-1 games, 0-1 mulligans.

Round 3 Tong, Wu [CHN], Chinese Team World Champion, playing Jund.

I win the die roll and lead out with a couple of protection creatures and a Trusty Machete to apply some early pressure. I get Elspeth, Knight-Errant active for a turn before it dies, and I am able to put him down to 3 life. I am far behind on the board with a lone Trusty Machete strapped onto a White Knight and he has a Bloodbraid Elf, a goblin token, a Sprouting Thrinax, and a Raging Ravine in play, with two cards in hand. I draw Emeria, the Sky Ruin and immediately regret my decision of replacing Secluded Steppe with Emeria, the Sky Ruin (a last minute change a couple days before the event). If it were a Steppe, I could give the Knight protection from Red and attack for lethal. Alas, it was not and I lose to an onslaught of attackers in a couple of turns. Game 2 he mulligans twice but recovers quickly with double Maelstrom Pulse into Master of the Wild Hunt into Malakir Bloodwitch. The key moment in the game was when I attack with a 9/9 White Knight (equipped with Sigil of Distinction for 7), and a 6/6 Stoneforge Mystic (equipped with Trusty Machete and pumped via Elspeth). He correctly blocks the Mystic with Bloodwitch and the White Knight with the token, but lets the token die instead of tapping the Master to put the last two points of damage on the Mystic. This mistake makes it such that he cannot attack into Elspeth with multiple creatures and gives me another turn with Elspeth to jump my White Knight for the win (since he would have to attack with Master or Raging Ravine to kill the Elspeth). Game 3 he mulligans once and gets mana flooded, and I curve out and win without much resistance. He tells me he could have won game 2 and I say “by activating Master before the token dies?” and he nods. I ask him if he had Terminate for the Sprouting Thrinax in game 1 to make Green tokens to block my White Knight, and he tells me he did. So fortunately my decision to run Emeria, the Sky Ruin over Secluded Steppe did not actually cost me game 1.

3-0 matches, 2-1 games, 0-4 mulligans.

Round 4 Gordon, Hamish [NZL] playing U/W/R Control.

Game o1he hits me with a 4/1 Calcite Snapper once and a Sphinx of Jwar Isle a couple times, but maindeck Day of Judgment catches him off guard and I’m able to establish a lethal offense before he can re-stabilize. Game 2 I get off to a quick start with Steppe Lynx and a two-drop, but then he casts Wall of Denial on turn 3, Ajani Vengeant on turn 4, Baneslayer Angel on turn 5, and Sphinx of Jwar Isle on turn 6. I still manage to deal with the Angel and get him to five life, threatening lethal if he attacks with anything, but the second Sphinx allows him to attack me for lethal in one turn unmolested. Game 3 he mulligans once and I start pounding away with a pair of Kor Firewalkers. Basilisk Collar makes his blockers into chumps, and I get there before he can draw into his fifth land. He dies holding Baneslayer Angel and double Sphinx of Jwar Isle. Being able to operate on less than five lands is one of the main reasons I chose to play the deck I did, so even though I got lucky to win the match, it was a calculated risk and a tradeoff for having slightly less powerful spells that cost less mana to cast.

4-0 matches, 2-1 games, 0-5 mulligans.

Round 5 Ho, Jun Feng Jack [SGP] playing White Weenie with Stoneforge Mystic, splashing Green for Behemoth Sledge.

I win the die roll and go on offense quickly. I curve out with early creatures backed by removal spells and he is never able to deal me any damage. Game 2 he overextends into Day of Judgment and then deals with my creatures. I am at 19 and he is at 2 life, and I have a two-power creature in play. He topdecks a creature and equips it with his lone non-land permanent, Behemoth Sledge, so I cannot attack. I draw a blank. He then topdecks Sigil of Distinction and attacks me for 11. I draw another blank and we go onto game 3. This time I play out a Stoneforge Mystic fetching Sigil of Distinction, then cast Elspeth, Knight-Errant on turn 4 and make a token. Then I cast Day of Judgment and make a token. And next turn I take over the game with a huge soldier token that races his Behemoth Sledge-yielding Stoneforge Mystic.

5-0 matches, 2-1 games, 0-5 mulligans.

Limited Portion of Day 1

Going into the draft portion of the event, I knew very little about ZZW draft. I was comfortable with ZZZ, having gone 2-1 in Austin (with U/W) and 5-1 in Rome (with U/G and R/W) in the format, but the only ZZW draft I had done prior to this one was the MTGO Live series draft (with mono Black) the night before. I ended up winning my pod in the MTGO Live series draft, but was unable to play in the tournament it qualified me for since it took place at 2pm on Saturday. I was under the impression that it took place on Sunday, which still wouldn’t have changed anything for me since I was still in the main event on Sunday, but it was a little disappointing that the slot was completely wasted and all I got were nine MTGO boosters when first place was $2000. I was aiming for Mono Black since Brandon Scheel, Ari Lax, and Chris Davis each agreed Mono Black is the nuts. I opened Journey to Nowhere and no Black cards, so I took the Journey. I never saw another Black card in pack one, so I relied on the advice of an old friend, Derrick Sheets, who told me a solid strategy for ZZW is to just take White cards and splash Blue if it’s open. I ended up with a very defensive U/W deck with 0/4s, 1/4s, lots of flying creatures, including 3 Sky Ruin Drakes, and a Basilisk Collar.

Round 6 Elfgren, Bertil [SWE] playing Red-White with a strong ally sub-theme.

(A note about Bertil Elfgren. He made Top 16 at Worlds in Rome and Top 16 again in PT: San Diego. If it weren’t for lSV dream crushing him in the final round of Swiss, he would have made Top 8 of this event. I predict he makes at least one Top 8 this season.)

Game 1 I am on the play and keep a six-card hand of two early creatures, a Sky Ruin Drake, and three lands. My first creature gets removed with Burst Lightning, the second trades with one of his creatures, and the Drake dies to another removal spell. At this point I have drawn all lands for my draw steps and just pass the turn on turn 6. He thinks for about three minutes before evidently putting me on Arrow Volley Trap and so only attacks with one creature. I draw another land and pass back. He thinks for another couple minutes before attacking again with one creature. I draw another land and pass back. During his turn when he goes back into the tank I look at the clock and see we are 14 minutes into the round, and so I show him I only have lands in hand and scoop up my cards. Game 2 I get Basilisk Collar active and am able to race him in the air. Game 3 the game is looking pretty good until he casts Hellkite Charger and attacks me down to nine. I kill it with Iona’s Judgment but have nothing left in hand. Fortunately he is out of gas, and I attack him to zero before he can mount a large enough offense to attack past my ground walls.

6-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 7 Scott-Vargas, Luis [USA].

This was a feature match, though it was not covered. Luis was sitting directly to my right during the draft and went Mono Black, so there was really no way I could also try for that strategy. His deck was pretty insane, and I was never really in either of the games. Both games he curved out with Vampires, Mind Sludged away my hand, and then killed my creatures. It was a huge blowout and I offered little resistance. His draws seemed good against me, but even if we played 5 more matches against each other with our decks I doubt I would have won any of them.

6-1 matches, 0-2 games

Round 8 Ford, Jason [USA] playing U/W Aggro.

He wins the die roll and curves out, targeting my potential blockers with Kor Hookmasters and bounce spells. Game 2 the tables turn and I curve out and stick a Shepherd of the Lost that shuts down any hope of a race. Game 3 I start to establish control of the board and cast Shepherd of the Lost, but this time he has Journey to Nowhere and Tideforce Elemental with a Blue open. I cast Kor Sanctifiers on his Journey to Nowhere to unlock my Angel and he blows me out with a trapped Whiplash Trap (since the Sanctifiers and Shepherd ‘entered the battlefield’). I spend the remainder of the game recasting my creatures and he just taps them all with Tideforce Elemental and attacks me down to zero. I had the cards to beat a Whiplash Trap or a Tideforce Elemental but not both. Unlike round 7, at least this match was close and it came down to him having a couple of key cards to win the game.

6-2 matches, 1-2 games

At this point I check in with the others to see how they are doing. Brent finished 4-1 in the Constructed portion with his version of the deck (splashing Sledge), his only loss coming to a Vampire deck that blew him out with a kicked Marsh Casualties when he was outracing Malakir Bloodwitch and Vampire Nocturnus. Unfortunately, like me, he went 1-2 in the draft portion. Gerard finished 2-3 with the deck but said he could easily have been 4-1 had one of any number of things gone in his favor, like his opponent not topdecking Sign in Blood into two removal spells into creature when he had the board almost locked up and Gerard not drawing any Devout Lightcasters the entire match. He then went 2-1 in the draft and said his biggest complaint with the deck was that it did not allow enough room to outplay the opponent. So the deck was 11-4 between the three of us after the first day. Not spectacular, but not too bad either. Two of us were at least alive going into the second day of competition.

Figuring we would be playing against Boss Naya and Chapin Control in the Constructed portion of Day 2, since the numerous pilots of those decks all had similar records to ours, I called my buddy Max Unger and had him view the Deck Tech videos from the coverage and tell me the deck lists for each of those decks. So when Brent and I got back to the hotel room, we proxied up the decks and played some games with them against our decks, figuring out a general plan and sideboard strategy. Our plan against Naya was to bring in Day of Judgment and Kor Sanctifiers for their equipment and against Chapin Control to bring in Kor Sanctifiers to attack their Everflowing Chalices and to leave in a couple Day of Judgments for the Baneslayer Angels and Perimeter Captains they were likely to bring in against us, and also to give us an answer to Martial Coup. As it turns out, the draft did not go well for Brent on Day 2 and he was feeling ill so he dropped from the event, and I managed to dodge both The Naya deck and the Chapin Control deck for the rest of the tournament. So the testing did not actually have any impact on either of our tournament performances, but it was nice to be prepared in case it had.

Limited Portion of Day 2

I had the same plan going into the second draft as I did going into the first one, namely to aim for Mono Black and if it is not there to go with White/Blue. Ari recommended keeping an eye out for Mono Green as well, so I did. I open a weak pack and take Torch Slinger over Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, which were the only two playables in the pack. I opted against the land because my draft consultants each agreed that Mono Red got worse with Worldwake and at this point in the tournament I could not afford a train-wreck draft. Then I get passed Kazandu Blademaster followed by a choice between Burst Lightning and Inferno Trap. I take the Burst Lightning, but am aware that I probably won’t be seeing many Red cards in pack 2. Pack 2 I open Shepherd of the Lost and get passed loads of White cards and no Red cards. I hate draft a third pick Marsh Casualties over Malakir Shieldmate, which might be wrong, especially considering I had a reasonable ally theme, but before I could make a decision the judge said ‘draft’ and I just slammed the Black card into my pile and moved onto the next pack. In pack three I open Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Apex Hawks as the two best cards in the pack.

My only Blue card to this point is Lethargy Trap, but my only Red cards are Burst Lightning and Highland Berserker. I’d never encountered Jace in draft before but it seemed insane, and so I pretended it was a Solomon Draft and I had to choose between Apex Hawks, Highland Berserker, and Burst Lightning in pile 1 and Jace, the Mind Sculptor by itself in pile 2 — for my otherwise Mono White deck. The tie breaker was that if I went White-Blue, Jace could help me find my Red mana and I could splash a couple Mountains for the two Red cards, which seemed like a good plan since either of the two Red cards would be fine late game for my deck. So I went with the money card and recruited the Planeswalker. Fortunately I got passed two more Apex Hawks, three Join the Ranks, a tabled Hada Freeblade, and a Celestial Colonnade, along with a Treasure Hunt. I ended up playing a couple Mountains for the two Red cards and four Islands for the Colonnade, Jace, and Treasure Hunt. My plan was to board out Red against Black decks so that I could bring in Devout Lightcaster and enough plains to support it. I made an error in deck building: I should have included the second Narrow Escape maindeck since it has such good synergy with my allies, instead of running a random vanilla creature. During deck construction I was seated across from the Price is Right celebrity himself, Mark Herberholz who glanced over at my pile of Treasure HuntJace, the Mind SculptorCelestial Colonnade and joked “Looks like you drafted my Constructed deck”. Mark was playing Chapin’s u/w control deck in the Standard portion of the event.

Round 9 Massicard, Yann [FRA].

He was sitting directly to my left in the draft, so I assumed he was Mono Red with the Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Inferno Trap that I passed him in pack 1, especially considering I saw very few Red cards in pack two. My suspicion was correct and he proceeded to roll me game 1 with a perfect curve while I was flooded with Plains and Islands and holding a Burst Lightning without Red mana. At this point I had flashes of going 0-3 with a terrible three-color deck and completely punting my 6-0 start to the tournament. Then I said to myself “Not today, let’s not pull a Noah Weil, not on Noah’s birthday!” So I sided out the Red for the second Narrow Escape and a pair of Caravan Herdas and shuffled up for game 2. This time I lead with Hada Freeblade, which met a Burst Lightning. I then followed it up with Kazandu Blademaster and Join the Ranks. Caravan Herda and Shepherd of the Lost joined the team and my opponent died in short order. Then in game three I had the nuts again with a second turn Kazandu Blademaster followed by Join the Ranks. This time he did not have the Burst Lightning, so on turn seven I attacked with a 3/3 Apex Hawks, Celestial Colonnade, and a 4/4 Kazanda Blademaster, holding back a Caravan Herda to block. At the end of the game I could have pulled the “still had all these” with Shepherd of the Lost and another Apex Hawks in hand, but decided to just say good games and acknowledge that I had some really good draws in games two and three.

7-2 matches, 2-1 games

Round 10 Stone, Dennis [BEL] playing U/G Allies.

I played Dennis in Austin at the 1-3 table to see who gets a chance to 3-0 their pod just to make Day 2. This time we were each doing a bit better in the tournament. I win the die roll and play out a couple of creatures and he Harrows into Graypelt Hunter. I cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor and proceed to Time Walk him for the next three turns by bouncing his four-drop. Game two he curves out with Oran-Rief Survivalist on turn 2, Umara Raptor on turn 3, and Greypelt Hunter on turn four. I cannot recover from his tempo and he kills me while still at 20 life. Game three I keep an awkward “get there” draw, hoping he does not have Whiplash Trap. I play a turn one Hada Freeblade, turn three Stonework Puma, and turn four enchant each creature with Nimbus Wings and attack for six in the air. He has nothing and they get there. Woot!

8-2 matches, 2-1 games

Round 11 Black, Samuel [USA] playing U/B.

Sam and I knew going into the round that we were going to face each other since we were each 2-0 in the pod. I ask him what the math is on intentionally drawing this early, figuring it will take 12-3-1 for top 8. He said it doesn’t matter since we are not drawing. Fair enough. So the pairings go up and we sit down to play. I shuffle my deck and present and we each proceed to shuffle each other’s deck, as is customary at the Pro Tour level of competition. I’m on the play and I draw a hand of seven lands. So I mulligan, pile shuffle my deck, and then perform about a dozen riffles before presenting again. Again, as expected, he shuffles the deck and hands it back. I draw six cards, all of which are lands. At this point I jokingly ask him if he is a Magician since the name of his column is Black Magic, and he tells me “actually, I do practice black magic.” So even though I was watching his eyes and he was definitely looking away from my deck while he was shuffling, I called a judge over and requested that the judge randomize my deck instead of my opponent. I have little doubt that Sam Black was not up to anything shady and that my drawing thirteen lands in a row was purely a fluke, but there have been times in the past where I regretted not calling a judge, and taking advantage of the rules that are in place for the players’ protection and so for my own sake I requested for the remainder of the match that a judge randomize my deck instead of my opponent. Onto the match:

Game 1 I start with five cards on the play and he has the Disfigure for my Kazandu Blademaster and after he casts Mysteries of the Deep for three cards on turn five, there is no way I can catch up from the mulligan to five. Game 2 I keep seven after the judge shuffles me into the nuts. Turn 2 Blademaster followed by turn 3 Hada Freeblade, backed by double Join the Ranks. Game 3 the judge shuffles me into another great seven card hand where I curve out with Kazandu Blademaster, Apex Hawks, and then Jace, the Mind Sculptor to bounce his Wind Zendikon and basically put the game out of reach for him, despite his second pick Basilisk Collar sitting on the board doing nothing relevant. (For those who have not played enough Worldwake to know this, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is by far the best card in the set for draft, and Basilisk Collar is a pretty good way ahead of the third best card. And since there are no foils in the pro tour drafts, someone at our table had to have taken a common or uncommon over the Collar. Sam joked that they must have been in a color other than artifact.) After the match Sam lamented over not sideboarding out his Vampire Lacerators against me since they were more of a liability than an asset in the matchup. I’m not sure I agree though since I’m pretty sure my deck was more powerful and his best chance to win might be to get a quick start backed by a couple removal spells. Regardless, it would have taken a lot to beat my draws in games two and three, so it probably didn’t matter anyway.

9-2 matches, 2-1 games

Constructed Portion of Day 2

Okay, so the 1-2 draft on the first day was redeemed by the 3-0 draft on the second day, and now I needed to finish with a 3-1-1 record or possibly a 3-2 record in order to make Day 3. At the end of my last match of the draft Brian David-Marshall approached me and asked if I would be willing to do a Deck Tech on my deck. I agreed and he said he would come find me when they were ready but that it might not be for a couple rounds. The pairings go up and five more rounds of constructed ensue.

Round 12 Elfgren, Bertil [SWE] again, this time in Constructed and playing Jund.

He wins the die roll and mulligans to five. He still nearly recovers via Blightning followed by Bloodbraid Elf into Terminate. Fortunately he never finds an answer to my White Knight and once I equip it with Sigil of Distinction he is basically just drawing to Maelstrom Pulse as his only out, which he does not find. Game 2 is an attrition battle where he Blightnings away my entire hand, kills all of my creatures, and has a Sprouting Thrinax and Bloodbraid Elf to my lone Basilisk Collar. Neither of us have cards in hand; he is at 18 and I am at 4. Then with lethal threatening on the other side of the board I draw Kor Firewalker, cast it, and equip with Basilisk Collar. He draws his card, sees that attacking is not profitable, and passes. I draw White Knight, attack for two, making life totals 16-6, and then cast White Knight and equip Basilisk Collar to it. He draws another blank and passes. I draw another Kor Firewalker and attack with both my creatures, making life totals 12-8. I cast the Kor Firewalker, equip with Basilisk Collar, and pass. He plays another creature, this time Sprouting Thrinax I believe. I untap and cast Stoneforge Mystic getting Trusty Machete, equip it to the already equipped Firewalker and bash with everyone. He draws his last card and extends the hand. It was a pretty epic comeback from a completely dominated board, but I guess that’s why those little grizzly bears with color words on them are in the deck.

10-2 matches, 2-0 games, 0-7 mulligans (Remember the mulligans are only including Constructed rounds.)

Round 13 Boggemes, Kyle [USA] playing Jund.

I win the die roll and he mulligans once. I start off with a pair of early creatures, the first of which gets Lightning Bolted and the second sticks. He spends turns three and four casting back-to-back Blightnings to get rid of my hand while I spend that time putting him low on life. There then comes a turn where he has seven lands untapped, one of which is a Raging Ravine, and one card in hand. He had just attacked me to four life and he was also at four life. I have a Dread Statuary and a Path to Exile in hand, so I activate and attack. He activates his land and I cast Path to Exile before blocks. Naturally his last card is Terminate and we go on to game 2. This time I get a second turn Kor Firewalker and apply pressure while gaining life. Once it becomes clear that he does not have Maelstrom Pulse, I play out the second Kor Firewalker and put him on a two turn clock. He is at 8 life, and I am at 7. He then casts Broodmate Dragon and I go up to 9 life from the Kor Firewalkers. I attack him down to 4, play a blocker and pass, knowing the dragons can only put me to 1 life and the Firewalkers will still kill him on my turn. He untaps and draws Lightning Bolt targeting me and attacks with the dragons, putting me to exactly zero (since I gain 2 life from the Kor Firewalkers off the Lightning Bolt). Although both games came down to the very last play, he still won 2-0. I can never beat this guy; he’s a very good player but he also runs so good against me.

10-3 matches, 0-2 games, 0-8 mulligans

Round 14 Peebles-Mundy, Benjamin [USA] playing White Weenie with Brave the Elements and Honor of the Pure.

He wins the die roll and mulligans to six. I decide to keep a hand of two Elspeth, Knight-Errants, a Kor Skyfisher, and four lands, one of which is a Dread Statuary. He keeps six cards and starts off with an aggressive draw, curving out with a creature every turn. He has the Path to Exile for my Kor Skyfisher, so I was still able to cast Elspeth on turn 4 and make a token. At this point he makes a wise decision and just keeps attacking me instead of Elspeth, and then casts Emeria Angel and makes a bird token. On his first attack I trade the solider token for his Elite Vanguard but on each subsequent turn all I can do is chump block. I proceed to draw a third Elspeth, Knight-Errant and all lands, so all I can do is absorb two damage a turn. He even has the Tectonic Edge for my Dread Statuary. Before long he casts Brave the Elements and attacks for lethal. Game two I side in two more Day of Judgments and two Oblivion Rings for four Kor Firewalkers. I start off with a Steppe Lynx and attack for four on turn two with a fetch land. He curves out on offense and I cast Day of Judgment on turn four. He responds by emptying his hand to replenish the board. The following turn I cast another Day of Judgment. I then play out my creatures and finish him in short order. Game three I side in a pair of Kor Sanctifiers for his Oblivion Rings and Honor the Pures. He is stuck on two lands for most of this game but still seems to be operating fine, casting all but three cards in his hand. He uses Brave the Elements to attack into Elspeth, Knight-Errant and kill her, but another one comes out the following turn and I end up getting there by using Elspeth, Knight-Errant to jump a creature wearing Basilisk Collar for three consecutive turns.

11-3 matches, 2-1 games, 0-9 mulligans

Round 15 Ikawa, Yoshihiko [JPN] playing Jund.

This was a feature match and was covered by Rashad Miller here.

Both games my opening hand was good, and in the first game he just had the right mix of answers to my threats and I was unable to finish him off. Game 2 I was stuck on two lands literally the entire game. Had I drawn a third land on turn three the game would not have been close as I would have cast Devout Lightcaster on his Putrid Leech and attacked with my Kor Firewalker, threatening a Stoneforge Mystic and Elspeth, Knight-Errant in hand. Even later in the game after missing a few land drops I had Day of Judgment which would have wiped out his board and allowed me to mount a comeback with Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Alas it was not meant to be and I lost 0-2.

11-4 matches, 0-2 games, 0-9 mulligans

Between rounds I look at the standings and I am in tenth place, with only one player above me among the 33-pointers. When the pairings go up I discover that I am paired against the player above me and that the 34-pointer got paired down. This means that one player with 36 points will definitely make Top 8, and if Luis Scott-Vargas beats Bertil Elfgren, then two 36-pointers will get in. So in order for me to win and NOT make Top 8, someone else will have to leapfrog me in tie-breakers AND LSV will have to lose. So I like my chances, but now I have to win my match. (If I win my match I’m guaranteed at least $9,500 and a top 8 birth, and if I lose I will only make about $3,000. Not that there is any pressure or anything.)

Round 16 Kitayama, Masaya [JPN] playing Jund.

I win the die roll and lead with Kor Firewalker and White Knight. I eventually attempt to Oblivion Ring his Sprouting Thrinax and he terminates it in response. He casts Blightning and I keep two Path to Exiles and a Day of Judgment. Next turn I elect not to cast my second Kor Firewalker, playing around both Maelstrom Pulse and a second Blightning. He casts the second Blightning and I hold the two Path to Exiles. Being at 3 life he chump blocks my White Knight with a token, which suggests to me that he has nothing in hand to deal with either of my creatures. At this point he is getting mana flooded, plays a land with noticeable frustration and passes the turn. On my final turn I decide to go for it and cast Path to Exile on each of his tokens and attack for lethal since my read is that he did not have an answer to either creature last turn and I believe he drew another blank last turn. As it turns out, he just had terminate and land in hand so it gets there. Game two I lead out with a Kor Firewalker and follow with a Stoneforge Mystic. He has the Maelstrom Pulse for the Kor Firewalker and another for my Elspeth, Knight-Errant. He casts removal spells on all my creatures except the Stoneforge Mystic, which slowly plugs away at his life total for a few turns. I draw a Kor Firewalker and cast it. (At this point there is a big commotion at the table beside ours. Gabriel Nassif had just cast Baneslayer Angel and was about to take control of the game when Jeroen Kanis topdecked Lightning Bolt for the win and to advance to 36 points and a shot at Top 8. To put it lightly, let’s just say Gab was not happy about it. Jeroen Kanis did in fact make Top 8 as the eighth seed.) He takes some damage from three Verdant Catacombs and Blightnings away my hand. I draw another Elspeth, Knight-Errant and cast it. I jump my Kor Firewalker for three turns in a row while chump blocking his Raging Ravine so that Elspeth, Knight-Errant doesn’t die to combat damage and within a few turns he extends the hand and I turn around and high-five my buddies that are watching behind me at the rail.

12-4 matches, 2-0 games, 0-9 mulligans

While I am waiting for the round to finish, I discover that Luis did in fact win his match and that two 36-pointers will be making Top 8. So I feel safe, but I decide not to get too excited until the standings are announced. After all, sometimes crazy things happen with tie-breakers. So I do the deck tech video with Brian David-Marshall and that relaxes me a bit, being able to talk about my pet deck and what all went into its creation. The video deck tech can be found here.

Shortly after we finish, Scott Larabee gets ready to announce the top 8: “In seventh, with 36 points, from the United States, Craig Wescoe!” Got there! I high-five all my teammates and everyone else around me. Just then another piece of good news is delivered to me: since I am seventh seed instead of 8th, I don’t have to play LSV first round! After many high-fives, congratulations, handshakes, and encouraging words, we are called over to the back of the room for the top 8 player meeting where head judge Sheldon Menery tells us not to cheat and Scott Larabee gives us deck lists and has us fill out player profile sheets where of course I mention that I play FNM at YottaQuest in Cincinnati, Ohio. After the short meeting Evan Erwin and Craig Gibson take us outside for photos. I discover I will be playing G/W/B Junk in the quarterfinals and then the winner of a Jund mirror match if I get through to the semifinals.

After the photo session was complete. I gathered my roommates and we headed over to the Tin Fish restaurant to meet up with my playtest partner Max Unger. He had driven down from Los Angeles for the PTQ, but stayed to see how I did even after he was out of the PTQ. I told him I needed his help figuring out my quarterfinals matchup, so we all hopped in his car and drove back to our hotel room. My two roommates Philip Dickman and Brent Gregath tested the matchup against lSV’s Boss Naya deck while I tested with Max against my quarterfinal matchup. Initially the match looked tough since my original plan was to side in Day of Judgment and Relic of Progenitus for 4 Kor Firewalker and we figured his plan would be to side out Lotus Cobra for World Quellers and two more game-breaking mid-game threats since all the Cobras did were allow him to overextend into my Day of Judgments. I was losing nearly every game we played and Max suggested that I side in the last two Oblivion Rings because they are so necessary, even though it opens me up to the possibility of getting blown out by Maelstrom Pulse. The matchup still wasn’t looking good so I went to take a shower while Max continued figuring out the matchup. When I got out he said he has a plan. He suggested that I side in the Luminarch Ascensions instead of the Relics since my deck is faster and a Day of Judgment or a few chump blocks can turn on the enchantment. We tested it out and it was great, demanding a Maelstrom Pulse, but the matchup still was not favorable.

We continued testing, and he pointed out that most of the games I was winning were the ones where I got an aggressive start backed by a couple removal spells. He suggested that I take out the Stoneforge Mystics and all the equipment and leave in the Kor Firewalkers and bring in the Kor Sanctifiers just as vanilla 2/3s for 2W. Instead of bringing in the Sanctifiers, I suggested leaving in the Trusty Machete and the Sigil of Distinction since both of those are offensive cards. For the final cut we opted for Emeria, the Sky Ruin since it would never likely get active and 24 lands is fine for the aggro plan. We played some more games and the matchup started looking favorable. Ultimately we decided that if he leaves in Lotus Cobra then our strategy has a real good chance at working and if he sides them out for more five-drops then it is real close but still slightly favorable. It was now past four o’clock in the morning and I desperately needed sleep, but at least we had a solid plan going into Day 3.

Quarterfinals Matchup

Round 17 Gräfensteiner, Daniel [DEU] playing G/W/B Junk. The match was covered by Josh Bennett and can be found here.

The first game he curves out with Noble Hierarch into Knight of the Reliquary into Emeria Angel into Baneslayer Angel and I am sitting on Day of Judgment but stuck on three lands. I fail to find my fourth land and concede, telling him I just couldn’t keep up with all his pressure. This was a semi-bluff, hoping he overextends into Day of Judgment in a subsequent game. As it turned out, the semi-bluff didn’t seem to have any bearing on the outcome of the match. Game 2 when I cast Luminarch Ascension on turn two I looked at his face and he had a slightly puzzled expression. This led me to believe he did not expect me to bring them in against him. He had an opportunity to kill it with Maelstrom Pulse but elected to kill my Oblivion Ring instead in order to unlock his Baneslayer Angel. I was able to chump block the Baneslayer Angel with Kor Skyfisher in order to get the enchantment active and start making angels. A turn later I blocked the Baneslayer Angel with three angel tokens and another Kor Skyfisher in order to trade an angel token for the Baneslayer Angel. A turn later he still could not find another Maelstrom Pulse and the Luminarch plan got there. Game 3 was an attrition battle where he used Maelstrom Pulse and Path to Exile on my creatures and then ran out of removal for my Dread Statuaries, which finished him.

Game 4 was an epic battle that swung back and forth multiple times. We had video coverage of our entire game. (The video coverage can be found on the wizards.com main coverage of Pro Tour San Diego by clicking and downloading ‘Quarterfinals (153 MB zip)’. Coverage of our epic game 4 starts immediately after lsv’s match concludes and it plays the whole thing start to finish. You’ll have to scroll to about three quarters of the way through the video to get to it.) My opening seven consisted of lands and removal spells, but no creatures. I decided to keep, figuring my plan would be to cast the Day of Judgment on turn 4 and by that time I will have drawn a couple creatures to play on the subsequent turn, which would leave me with multiple removal spells in hand and some creatures on the board. So I kept the hand and the game played out almost exactly as anticipated. He wisely did not over-commit to the board since it was pretty obvious that I was on the Day of Judgment plan, but it worked out fine anyway, clearing away two Noble Hierarchs and a Borderland Ranger, setting him back to four lands, only one of which could produce white. The following turn he topdecked a Stirring Wildwood to set up double white for the following turn. A few turns later there came a key turn where I was at 3 and my opponent was at 10. He had Lotus Cobra, Noble Hierarch, and a tapped soldier token to my White Knight, Kor Skyfisher, Dread Statuary, and Oblivion Ring (on his Baneslayer Angel). He had no cards in hand whereas I had a Path to Exile and an Arid Mesa in hand.

I thought about my play and decided it was the correct play to attack with two creatures and leave one back to block, saving the Path to Exile for whatever he draws. Then as I began turning my creatures sideways I second guessed myself and figured there is no way he would not block the Dread Statuary with the Lotus Cobra, and so I turned everything sideways. He spent about a minute thinking about the play and ended up chump blocking the Dread Statuary with the Noble Hierarch and going to 6, threatening lethal the following turn. He untapped and drew Maelstrom Pulse. He attacked for 3 with the soldier token and the Lotus Cobra, forcing me to cast Path to Exile on the Lotus Cobra to stay alive, and then he cast Maelstrom Pulse on my Oblivion Ring, unlocking his Baneslayer Angel to keep me from being able to attack. I untapped and drew an Arid Mesa and immediately felt sick to my stomach that I misplayed to give him that out. Fortunately I still had one more draw step since Kor Skyfisher could chump block for a turn. I passed the turn; he untapped and attacked into my Kor Skyfisher with the Baneslayer Angel; and then he cast Emeria Angel, choosing to play around Path to Exile, Oblivion Ring, and Elspeth, Knight-Errant instead of Day of Judgment. Sure enough, as BDM called the game from inside the booth: “Topdeck right back for Craig Wescoe!” I drew one of my three remaining Days of Judgment just in the nick of time, clearing the board of everything but a Dread Statuary. All he could do was muster up a few chump blockers in the subsequent turns. A final Oblivion Ring off the top took away his last blocker and Dread Statuary paired with Steppe Lynx took it home. Past the quarterfinals and into the semifinals!

Even though my play was clearly incorrect, I still would not have had the game in hand had I played correctly since I would have had to cast Path to Exile on his Baneslayer Angel and he would have traded his Lotus Cobra for the Dread Statuary the following turn and gone to 2 life, giving himself another chance to topdeck. The difference is that my play allowed him to topdeck to put himself into a position where I have a very low percentage to win the game whereas the correct play allows him to make a comparable topdeck but only to achieve board parity where neither of us can attack. It was still a huge misplay, no doubt. To be completely fair though, my topdeck back with the Day of Judgment was no less lucky than his topdeck of Maelstrom Pulse, and if he had sideboarded out that Lotus Cobra for a Thornling as we determined he should from our testing, he would have won the game with the Thornling the turn before I was able to topdeck Day of Judgment anyway. So it isn’t necessarily the case that I deserved to lose the game on some broader level because of my misplay either. There were still skillful decisions involved and I simply caught the last break to win the game. I’d like to think BDM put it best when he said we “both drew cards at the right time.”

13-4 matches, 3-1 games, 0-11 mulligans (Daniel mulliganed in games 3 and 4)

Semifinals Matchup

While the other players went to lunch I stuck around trying to figure out a sideboard plan for my semifinal matchup. I noticed he is not running any Bituminous Blasts maindeck and only one in the sideboard, so I decided not to play around that card unless I’m absolutely able to. Similarly there was a lone Malakir Bloodwitch in the sideboard, so I figured that was not enough of a reason to leave in Day of Judgment. I anticipated he would sideboard out all four Sprouting Thrinax since they cannot block anything except Steppe Lynx and Stoneforge Mystic and they would often just die to Devout Lightcaster. This is what he did in our match earlier in the weekend. Nonetheless I decided to still bring in 3 of the Devout Lightcasters since he had very few non-black removal spells and being able to remove a Putrid Leech or a Broodmate Dragon is still better than my other options. It was unfortunate that he had Deathmarks and five ways to put a Trained Armadon into play to block my White Knights, Devout Lightcasters, and Kor Firewalkers, but I still felt like the matchup was close and that I just needed to catch a few breaks to win the match and get to the finals.

Round 18 Boggemes, Kyle [USA] playing Jund.

The match was covered by Bill Stark and can be found here.

On the play, game 1 I lead out with an aggressive start consisting of Steppe Lynx, Kor Firewalker, White Knight, and then Oblivion Ring for his Sprouting Thrinax and Path to Exile for his Garruk-spawned beast token. I think I killed him on turn five. The second game I mulliganed for the first time in the 12 rounds of constructed, shipping back a zero-land hand. I kept six cards. The game was close but he drew his singleton Malakir Bloodwitch which put me on the “activate Dread Statuary, jump it with Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and attack for 7″ plan, putting him to 11. He attacked and killed Elspeth, Knight-Errant with the Malakir Bloodwitch and I attacked back with a 4/4 Kor Firewalker that was equipped with Sigil of Distinction with two counters on it. This put him at seven. He untapped and attacked with Bloodwitch and cast Broodmate Dragon, threatening lethal next turn. This was my chance to draw Elspeth, Knight-Errant for the win, with him tapped out, at seven life, and no way to block a 7/7 flying pro-red Kor Firewalker. I could go up 2-0 and only have to win one of the next three games to advance to the finals if only I could draw Elspeth! Instead I drew Arid Mesa. My only out at this point was to hope he blocked wrong and accidentally took lethal, but of course he did not and we moved on to game three.

Game 3 was very close and of course is the only game where he draws Putrid Leech and coincidentally also the only game where I do not draw Devout Lightcaster. There came a turn where I could activate Dread Statuary, give it +1/+1 with Sigil of Distinction, +3/+3 and flying with Elspeth, Knight-Errant and attack for an exactly lethal 8 damage. Kyle thought for a while before casting Bloodbraid Elf, cascading into Great Sable Stag. Then he thought for so long that the judge told him he needed to make a play. He decided to attack with everything. I traded my soldier token and Stoneforge Mystic for his Bloodbraid Elf, went to 9, and he passed the turn. My read was that he did not have an answer to the Dread Statuary and that is why he went into the tank for so long, hoping to cascade into an answer with the elf. So I activated the land, equipped, jumped, and swung for 8. Of course he had the Terminate. All was not lost yet though. I could still topdeck Kor Skyfisher or Stoneforge Mystic and mount a comeback, but then he cast another Terminate and attacked for lethal. I’m pretty sure going for it was correct there since holding back put me in a precarious position where he could kill Elspeth, Knight-Errant on a counter-attack and I would then have to topdeck a series of action cards to put together a win. By playing it the way I did, he has to have the instant removal spell or he loses, and based on my read that he did not have it, I went for the win. My read was wrong, but I still believe I made the right decision.

Game 4 I experienced my second mulligan of the Constructed portion of the tournament, shipping back a hand consisting of onePplains, 2 Dread Statuaries, White Knight, Kor Firewalker, Devout Lightcaster, and Elspeth, Knight-Errant. On the draw I probably would have kept it, but on the play I really needed to hit a Plains right away or I would almost certainly not be able to recover. After declaring my intent to mulligan I looked at the top few cards of my library and none of them were lands, so regardless of the mathematical correctness or incorrectness of the mulligan, fate would have delivered me a loss had I kept. My next hand was not much more exciting, offering two Plains, Trusty Machete, Basilisk Collar, and two Kor Skyfishers. I considered going to five cards but opted to keep since five cards basically meant I needed the nuts and would likely still get blown out by Blightning. At least with this hand I could put him on a quick clock and he would be forced to have two removal spells since pretty much none of his creatures could deal with the Kor Skyfisher before it kills him. I was fully aware that the odds of him having two removal spells are pretty high, but I figured it was my best chance to force a game 5. As it turns out he not only had two removal spells but was even able to cascade into one of them with Bloodbraid Elf. The game was not close and he basically just rolled me to end my tournament. I had my chances and played reasonably well but ultimately came up just short. C’est la vie.

13-5 matches, 1-3 games, 2-12 mulligans (both of mine coming in the semifinals)


My tournament was now over, and just like in the very first PTQ that I played in after my three year hiatus, I got knocked out by this Michigan kid named Kyle Boggemes. (Kyle and I are friends and I refer to him in this way purely for comedic value and to set up a protagonist versus antagonist interplay to make the report more exciting.) And just like in that same PTQ, Kyle lost in the finals. At least this time instead of us each receiving a box of product and a Top 8 pin, we received $25,000 and $13,000, a trophy and a plaque respectively. (Kyle and Simon agreed to a prize split where the winner gets 35K and the loser gets 25K ) And instead of neither of us qualifying for the Pro Tour, we each essentially qualified for the next seven Pro Tours (on pro points — level 4). So at least this time there was a silver lining. This was approximately my 15th Pro Tour appearance and only my first time playing on the Sunday stage. It felt really good to finally get there and it felt just as good to find out how many people were rooting for me to do well. Thanks to everyone who contributed to my success this weekend and to everyone who cheered me on!

I would like to thank Max Unger for helping me figure out a strategy for my quarterfinal matchup and also to congratulate him on becoming a father of his newborn son David. Also thanks to Brent Gregath and Philip Dickman for helping me test, Chris Reiley for giving me a jumpstart on Standard and ideas for new decks, Pete Hoefling for requesting to publish my article, and to everyone who was rooting for me to do well. I’ll do my best to keep it going this season and next. I still have more to accomplish!