Finally! Pro Tour: Atlanta *Winner*

After three second-place finishes in four PT Top 8’s, Gabriel Nassif again found himself in the finals at Pro Tour: Atlanta, this time with teammates David Rood and Gab Tsang. What follows is the story of Nova’s victorious weekend, including special guest appearances by Dave Williams and Josh Arieh of World Poker fame and a very angry Kumano, Master Yamabushi.

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything because I didn’t really feel like it, even though Ted asked me a few times – especially after Worlds. I didn’t write for that tournament, but I told him I’d write something for him the next time I did well in a tournament. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be), I started mising, missing Day 2 in five or six consecutive events, thus escaping my task. As you probably already know, the streak came to an end during the Team Pro Tour in Atlanta where I was teaming with David Rood and Gab Tsang. I ended up teaming with them because the Ruels would play with Florent again and my old teammates Amiel and Farid weren’t really into Magic anymore at the time where I had to pick my crew. As it turns out, they both would have liked to come, and Gab and Dave probably would have liked staying at home playing World of Warcraft rather than come to the PT. Pretty ironic. Anyway, here we were, having only drafted together once, and with no Team Sealed practice at all, hoping that our skills, our experience and our luck would carry us.

All three sealed decks we opened looked rather unspectacular but they always ended up providing enough playables to have three solid decks.

We won the first round against Antonino’s team, whose decks didn’t seem too hot, then lost round 2 to team Chris Jarmak. Gab won his match, but I got bashed by double Glacial Ray_Jitte.dec and Dave lost a very close match, getting screwed twice, and losing essentially because of a third Glacial Ray spliced a couple times.

We beat team Illuminati (Zvi, Justin Gary and Alex Shvartzman) in round three, as I won my first match of the day after a very close game three, which could have turned ugly for me if Justin would had kept his Hanabi Blast one time too many.

Next we got paired against team Chimera and we’re hoping for a third win, as our decks seem to be a bit better then average. Dave wins his match rather quickly after losing game one to a Torrent of Lava spliced onto Devouring Rage, but Gab and I aren’t in very good shape. I get kind of mana-hosed both games and don’t play my tightest game either, which doesn’t help, and we end up losing the match. So we’re 2-2 and we now have to win out in order to make Day 2, but we don’t really open anything too exciting in our last Sealed. We assemble a U/R deck, a W/B deck and G/R deck after much debate, as this last sealed was clearly our toughest build of the day.

Waxy Bob of Death's Wail.

We get paired in round five against what seemed to be like our weakest opponents of the day, and we take the match 3-0. I win both games thanks to Horobi in combo with Waxmane Baku (I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play Horobi during deck construction, but Dave made sure I did).

So it all came down to the last round to find out if we got to draft or not. I’m paired against a RG deck and fall to his fatties in game one, but manage to win game two thanks to a Kabuto Moth and an Innocence Kami that stall the board until I can start getting damage through. I get a pretty good draw in game three with a Moth on turn 3 again, along with a couple other guys and I lock the game with Hokori the turn after he taps out to play an Orochi Hatchery. Unfortunately, Dave’s U/R deck falls to his opponent U/W deck as he’s unable to deal with Moth, Moonlit Strider and the like, and he tells me game three isn’t looking good for Gab. No need to say I’m pretty down at this point, but Gab somehow manages to get back in the game and pull out one of the closest game ever, thanks to some soulshift action and a timely Pain Kami, as his opponent isn’t able to draw anything relevant in the last couple turns. Dave told me later that there’s no one he’d rather have playing a deciding game in this situation other then Gab, and I can only agree, as Gab’s probably one of the tightest players I’ve ever seen.

I’m now the happiest ever as we get to draft a format I really like and I usually do well at, but I don’t get my hopes too high despite the fact that my two teammates are such gas.

We go eat and as usual, Gab and Dave spend their time talking about WoW, how bad Gab wants his sword etc, etc… For those of you who play World of Warcraft or more particularly those of you who don’t play but just have friends that do, you know how it is.

So we were heading into Day 2 without much experience, but knowing more or less what to do and what not to do. Our big thing was trying to set up good color matchups by letting our opponents kick off and then try to get G/B against the Green deck, W/B against R/B and the best third deck we could.

In the first round of Day 2, we get paired against team Chimera again, and kick off the draft with a nice pack as Dave gets a good White card I think and I get Kumano. Weirdly enough, they chose to put a U/G player against me instead of giving him Rend Flesh and Gab somehow gets to wheel Scuttling Death and Swallowing Plague in this same pack. The rest of the draft goes well, as they make a few sub-optimal picks, and their B player often goes against the advice of his two teammates (in my opinion) most often incorrectly.

Our three decks end up very good, and it looks like all three of us should win. I still manage to lose as I get flooded game one and only draw Kumano once in game two but to be fair, my matchup might not have been that good, especially if I didn’t draw Kumano. Gab and Dave easily win though.

Next round, we get paired against Muerte y Destruction, a Spanish team, and the draft doesn’t go well. We manage to set decent color matchups, as I’m W/R vs, B/G, Dave is U/G/r vs. U/W and Gab is B/W vs. B/R, but I sadly realize they’re drafting really well (originally hoping it wouldn’t be the case because Spanish, drafting, etc) and they out-open us a bit as Gab’s opponent gets three Glacial Rays.

I really don’t feel confident after the draft, as I think none of us have a good matchup. Gab is convinced his matchup is fine, but I just don’t buy it and Dave says he’s paying for Gab’s dinner if he actually wins this round.

So basically it’s time to get lucky, and that doesn’t seem like it’s gonna be the case when I don’t draw a single Plains in my first 16 cards or so in game one. Dave is up a game, but Gab is quickly down a game too. Fortunately, my opponent gets mana-screwed the next two games while I get good draws and Dave wins his match more easily than I would have thought. Gab manages to win a game too but not the match, so no free diner after all.

We get to play team NFC next (Osyp, Gerard and John Fiorillo), a pretty scary pairing as they probably team drafted more times then I’ve played poker hands in the past few weeks. The draft goes pretty well though, as we get good openings and Gab switches from U/W to W/R in the middle of the draft which turns his matchup in his favor, as he gets to play two Yamabushi’s Storm, which are almost Plague Winds in the matchup vs. Osyp’s R/B deck. I get a decent matchup too, settling into G/R with tons of good cards and two Matsu-Tribe Snipers vs. Gerard’s U/W deck whose only really threatening card is the Shining Shoal, but Dave isn’t looking too good as he’s BR vs BG.

Thankfully, the matches go as planed as Gab and I both win 2-0 while Dave gets crushed by John.

At this point, I think we might have to only need to win the next round to be able to draw into Top 4 so I’m pretty excited, especially as we’re drafting really well, given what little practice we had.

I don’t remember much about the fourth draft against team Boat, composed of three of the best Portuguese players. I think in the end we all had decent matchups except maybe for Dave, and I think Gab and I won our match while Dave lost or just scooped in the middle of the match. I ended up mono-black against R/B and got superior draws, holding off his Ink-Eyes with rats and Marrow-Gnawer.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t draw into the Top 4, meaning we had to win out. We also had a small chance of getting paired against Les Baltringues de Ludipia, who were still undefeated and could scoop us in, but this didn’t happen either.

We get paired against one of the multiple very talented Japanese teams instead, Gatas Brilhantes, whose roster includes PT: Nagoya champ Shu Kumuro. The draft is rather uneventful, as you can read on the Sideboard, and I think it could go either way but I like our chances as I think Dave and I have slightly favorable matchups and Gab can pull it out too. As it turns out, we sweep them with Ornate Kanazashi essentially winning me game one and three in the mirror match.

The three other teams in the Top 4 are team We Add, who got an intentional draw from Les Baltringues de Ludipia in the last round, along with yet another Japanese team, One Spin, which we get to face in semi-finals on Sunday. Good friend Luca Chiera’s Team No Links finishes fifth on tie-breakers.

Dave and Gab both go back to the room rather early, while I choose to hang out with a few MTG’ers including Dave Williams. I didn’t know what I was getting into though, as he decided to call his buddy Josh Arieh (of World Series of Poker fame) who lives in Atlanta and Josh, probably pretty bored and wanting to spice things up, suggested a 500$ a head money draft with Dave, Neil and Bob on one side, and Gabe Walls, Jelger and I on the other. I only played for $100 because I’m not too big about making huge bets, so Gabe bought most of my action. Jelger 3-0’d, and Gabe and I managed to get one each, so we ended up on the winning end of the most expensive money draft in history. I head back to my room around 2 am, and fall a sleep in a heartbeat.

Kumano masters Tsang, but Nova still win.

The semis and finals draft are extensively covered on the Sideboard (along with some very good video coverage), so I won’t be too long on them. Basically, we get good openings in semis and it seems like we have three good or very good matchups until Gab’s opponent cracks a Kumano in their last possible CHK pack and Gab doesn’t manage to get a single removal spell to deal with the big Legend. Fortunately enough, Dave and I both get decent draws to win our matches while Gab falls to Kumano in both games two and three despite having quickly won game one. Sadly, my countrymen fall to the team they let get into Top 4, and it starts reminding from my first team PT in New York. Back then, Illuminati had helped us get in the Top 4, giving us an intentional draw in the last round of the swiss only to fall to us in the semis. This year our team had the exact same look that Phoenix Foundation did that year, with the player of the year getting his two (semi) retired friends back in the game, looking to take home a trophy. I was just hoping the story would end the same way as it did back then.

The draft kicked off weirdly, as they took Honden of Cleansing Fire over Frostwielder for their B seat (Pacifico), who ended up W/R anyway. Once again, we got our colors right where we wanted, Gab’s W/B facing Don Smith’s B/R, my B/G/r deck facing Adam’s U/G and Dave U/R against Andrew’s W/R. We got fairly good openings and I must say that out of the seven drafts we had played, this was the one in which I liked our chances the most.

I lost game one despite a decent draw, as Adam was able to hold back my monsters with a Traproot Kami while getting in with his Mirror-Guard and making sure he kept the advantage thanks to his Honden of Seeing Winds. The next two games were not very close though as my draws were just too good – very action packed – while he got a bit flooded in game three. At this point they had stopped the other two matches, and I thought Gab and Dave were both only up a game when in fact, Gab had already won his match. When I won, it all happened very quickly and there we were, Pro Tour champs.

This was my first win after “only” three lost finals. It felt very good, especially as I really think we deserved it, never getting out-drafted once on the weekend and hopefully having out-drafted our opponents a few times. Gab and Dave played very, very tight Magic all weekend long while I had a slow start but rallied quickly enough.

I was pretty proud of my 16-2 record in Team Rochester in PT’s, but when I asked Kai what his record was (25-2), it reminded me I still have a long way to go.


  • Gab and Dave for being such insane teammates;

  • Les Baltringues de Ludipia, Adam Chambers and his LCQ crew, and all the crazy Japs;

  • All the pros for being such good times as usual;

  • Efro, Huey and Kobe cause they’re such dg.