Go Figure – Pro Tour: LA *Top 8*

One week Ervin Tormos was just some PTQ kid Tim Aten introduced me to at a Grand Prix. Then, attending his first Pro Tour ever, he was suddenly a Top 8 contender. This is the unlikely story of how that came about, including the inside skinny on how Ervin sideboarded PT Jank against the field.

*Riiiiiiiiiiiiiing* *Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing*

Beek: Hello?

Ervin: Hey, you doing anything?

Beek: Not really.

Ervin: You wanna test later today?

Beek: Nope, driiiinking!

Ervin: On Monday?


My testing for LA started very… slowly. And by slowly I mean not at all. Cedric Phillips started a mailing list that Beek (Aaron Vanderbeek) and I joined, but unfortunately that fell apart about a month before the Pro Tour. Ben Peebles-Mundy was the only other CMUer qualified, but he decided to do most of his testing online with his MODO clan.

Beek and I would plan times to test, but after a few games that time would be spent either drinking or drafting. As the PT drew nearer, Beek and I began to have much more sophisticated discussions on decks. What used to be, “Lets get Helldozer in Tog,” turned into “I don’t wanna play U/G Madness because I don’t think it’s capable of winning the PT… it can win matches, but probably not the whole thing.”

Three weeks later and I’m packing for the trip the following day. Ben and I are on the same flight while Beek decides to take a later one because it’s $4 cheaper and he has classes or some similar nonsense. Ben tells me to call him if he’s not at the meeting place in the morning as he has been known to oversleep in the past.

*Riiiiiing* *Riiiiiiing*


Ervin: Ye…aaaa…h?

Ben: Good morning.

Ervin: Why are you calling me…isn’t it like…really early?

Ben: We have a Pro Tour to attend.

Ervin: Oh yeah…that’s right…I guess I’ll be there in 5 minutes I guess….

After the bus ride from hell to the airport, Ben and I play some games on the floor with my U/G against his RDW splashing for White. I take some beatings and Ben proves his mastery by correctly answering some logic puzzles that everyone else gets wrong for some reason. I know you don’t actually read this for Magic strategy so I’ll provide a sample.

What is the greatest number of pieces you can cut a circle into with 4 straight cuts? The pieces obviously don’t have to be the same size.*

We fall asleep and wake up just in time to refuse some headphones the stewardess is trying to sell us for the ripoff price of $2. As soon as she leaves we find out the movie for the flight is Batman Begins and Ben practically breaks the button that calls the stewardess as we now need headphones. And by breaks, I mean he pushes it a million times because we don’t know how it works and think no one got the message. The stewardess yells at Ben for pushing it more than once because apparently there’s a little bell that goes off and it wouldn’t stop dinging.

The movie obviously rocked and I’m back to thinking about what I should play. I don’t have cards for anything, so every deck is going to be equally difficult to obtain.

Ervin: What should I play?

Ben: My deck.

Ervin: Is it good?

Ben: I’m playing it.

Ervin: Is it good?

Ben: I think so.

Ervin: You got me, I’m in.

We fall asleep and wake up to find ourselves in LA. After a $50 cab ride (that’s 25 entire Delta headsets), we’re at the convention center and I’m ready to find some cards. Ben hands me a list and I begin my journey of assembling the deck.

We’re staying with Kyle Tracy, and he introduces us to his friends Trey and Faddy Josh. What a complete master Faddy Josh is. I ask him if he has any Sacred Foundries I could borrow and he responds with, “Do you want foil or regular?” Total master.

I run into my good friend Gerry Thompson and he randomly has almost every single common I need. Quite lucky. The next day I finish up the deck by snagging some Legionnaires from Gary Cornwall and I’m ready to see what this whole Pro Tour thing is all about.

Round 1 vs. Michael Aitchinson

No better way to start the Pro Tour than against your best matchup, in this case Affinity.

Game 1 is pretty straightforward as I just try to kill every guy he plays. He gets me down to 6, but a Hearth Kami combined with some burn stop any modular shenanigans and I win easily from there.

I board in Kataki and Disenchant. Genju gets the cut along with a Lava Dart and 2 Legionnaires.

In Game 2 I wreck his board with an early Kataki, which he Shocks a few turns later. I finish off his guys and get him down to 6 before he assembles another sizable force. He plays the final card in his hand, a second Cranial Plating, and I choose not to block any of his guys taking me from 21 to 2. I finish him off the following turn with an attack and a Firebolt.


Round 2 vs. Akira Asahara

I’m not actually smart enough to differentiate between Japanese names that aren’t Masashi so I wasn’t sure about which level of mastery this guy was on. I’m worried about getting bashed by a super techy Japanese deck, but it’s just ‘Tings. Unfortunately for me, that’s not the greatest of matchups either.

In game 1 he plays an early Brushhopper, halting my Hearth Kami attack force. He attacks me and the turn 4 Genju birthday surprise arrives to take him to 11. I manage to get him to 8 before he uses the Brushhopper-Balancing Act combo to leave me with no cards in hand in addition to the usual no permanents.

I take out some Violent Eruptions and Lava Darts to bring in the 4 Dwarven Blastminers.

I mulligan and keep a hand of 1 land, Dwarven Blastminer, Grim Lavamancer, and some other winners. Now before you yell at me for keeping this gem, understand that Blastminer is the key in this matchup. I can’t kill him before he plays Balancing Act, and the chances of me getting a 5-card monstrosity that has Blastminer and two lands is a lot lower than ripping two lands in the next few turns. I also don’t need to have the lands immediately unless he has Fire/Ice, but in this situation I really can’t do much about it.

I rip the second land but stumble on turn 3 and he has the Fire/Ice. I draw the third land a turn later and play some beaters. His draw is quite slow and I manage to get him down to 6 before he plays Balancing Act, ready to follow up with the Roar of the Wurm he Burning Wished for the turn before. I Lightning Helix and Lava Dart him to 1 in response, and he flashes back Roar leaving it down to my topdecking abilities vs. his Roar token. I draw and…. it’s a Mountain! Roar smacks me and I draw…Hearth Kami. Another smack and another total loser in Goblin Legionnaire. One more hit and I get one last card… I draw… and it’s… another dooder that costs more than a Red. Boooooooo.


Round 3 vs. Francois Bricout

Another Affinity. Definitely wouldn’t mind more of these.

Game 1 I Helix an early Ravager and he sacks enough stuff to keep it alive, one of the things being a French Terrarion. I thought it was just like Chromatic Sphere, but apparently the draw a card is a triggered ability when Terrarion hits the bin. Normally this would be easy, but Francois’s English is not the greatest and I obviously can’t speak French.

Ervin. Can't. Read!

Francois: Draw a card?

Ervin: Oh, it’s when it hits the graveyard? And the other ability is make 2 mana of any color?

Francois: No, no, I’m not using the ability.

Ervin: Yeah, I’m just wondering if the other ability is pay 2 mana for 2 mana of any color.

Francois: No, no, I’m just sacrificing to draw a card.

Ervin: I’m just wondering what the rest of the card does.

Francois: Ah! *Hands me the French Terrarion*

Ervin: …

Francois: You… can’t… read?

What a complete blowout. As for the game, I stabilize at 14 after some Hearth Kami maneuvers and finish him off soon after.

The usual six come in for the Genjus and 3 Darts. Take out all of the Darts if they’re playing a list where the only 1/1’s are Arcbound Worker and Nexus. If they have a bunch of stuff like Erayo or Dark Confidant, take out some Legionnaires as you have plenty of things to do on turn 2 already. Even though it’s great at dealing with Enforcer, you have so much other removal you’re not really going to have trouble.

He kills an early Kataki, but it helps me stabilize at an extremely healthy 16. I have a second one in my hand that I can play after he commits more to the board, but in the meantime I’m more than happy to simply attack him. I get him down to 8 when he plays Duress and sees 2 Eruptions and Helix in addition to the Kataki.


Round 4 vs. Daniel Fior

I choose to play and instantly regret my decision as I discover he’s playing the same deck. He has Pithing Needle for my early Genju so most if this game is just burning the other person’s dudes. Eventually he just burns me out with a Char and some Helixes.

I take out a Genju and a Pillage for the 2 Fledglings.

I choose to draw this game and fall far behind when I have to Hearth Kami my own Nexus in response to a Flametongue as I don’t have any White mana to cast the spells in my hand. He plays a Goblin Legionnaire and I finally draw a White source to challenge it with my own. He plays a Blistering Firecat, which I can’t kill thanks to his Legionnaire and attacks with both of them. I block the Legionnaire and end up at 6 after we shock each other. In hindsight, a much better play would have been to block his Legionnaire and fry the Firecat before damage. If he saves it I only take 7, which I prefer over taking 9 and dealing 2 to him. If he lets it die that’s even better as my hand is pretty good now that I can cast my spells. He’s out of threats so I’m able to win fairly easily with random creatures and 3 Helixes I masterfully draw over the course of the game.

I usually leave Flametongue in the sideboard but choose to bring it in for game 3 as he has the full Isamaru/Savanna Lions creature package as well as his own Flametongues.

He double mulligans and I have a huge early tempo advantage as he chose to draw. I Genju him down to 10 and he tries to return the favor with a Firecat but I have a timely Lava Dart. He doesn’t have a Pithing Needle so I take the opportunity to trade lands for his burn spells. A few turns later he ends up having to Char my extremely powerful Mountain and I win the turn after.


Round 5 vs. Markus Pettersson

He’s playing some kind of weird Dump Truckish thing and I have no idea what to expect. In game 1 I somehow manage to run out of removal after a few Meddling Mages and a Shadowmage Infiltrator. He gets a Jitte to stick on a Meddling Mage and I die a few turns later with no artifact removal in sight.

He didn’t play a single non-basic land game 1 so I brought in Blastminers for some Lava Darts. Flametongue also came in but the rest of the details are a little hazy.

He plays a turn 2, 3, and 5 Galina’s Knight. I plan on scooping the turn after he follows up with a Jitte, but he then plays a Crimson Acolyte so I throw my deck at him instead. A judge comes over to give me a penalty, but decides to give me a cookie for my good looks and says that he’ll save the penalty for someone else.


Round 6 vs. Vavra Vit

Another mirror and I’m actually kind of happy. Many people don’t like it because it’s very draw dependent, but Ben’s version is actually very well prepared with Genjus and Eruptions.

Game 1 he has a Needle for my early Genju and we go back to the usual trading of burn for dudes. I eventually draw a Pillage to take care of the Needle and Genju goes all the way after he runs out burn.

He has the White creature package and I figure he’ll bring in his Flametongues so I’ll have plenty of targets for mine. Fledglings also come in and I take out the Pillages, a Dart, and a Genju. While Genju is very good, it’s more of a late game card, can be stopped by his Needles, and isn’t exactly stellar in multiples.

Game 2 I kill off his early guys and start trading my lands for burn via Genju. Eventually he runs out of removal and Very Stellar Genju #2 Arrives To Deal 239842398423402340981234019824391.


Round 7 vs. Carlos Ramao

After trying to find me for an entire round, the round 5 judge sees my pairing against the former world champ and decides that I’m gonna need a little help for this one. We are deck checked and after about 20 minutes of waiting he decides it’s time to bust out the penalty from before and hand Carlos a match loss. In all seriousness, I was very impressed with the way Carlos acted despite the unfortunate situation. He was obviously upset, but still shook my hand and wished me good luck in the tournament. It was very classy and I wish more people would act with such sportsmanship when unfortunate situations came up.


Round 8 vs. Celso Zampere

He’s playing a B/G deck that I can’t say is the Rock as it’s more aggressive with creatures like Wild Mongrel and Hypnotic Specter.

In game 1 Sword of Fire and Ice finds its way onto Troll Ascetic and I can’t burn him out in time.

I side in Fledgling and Flametongues for Pillage and some random hits. You may think Blastminer is worth bringing in, but he can just get basic lands with his fetchlands and I also don’t want sit there destroying lands while he’s bashing my face with Mongrel or Ascetic.

The details from game 2 are a little sketchy but I actually get down to four before I’m able to burn him out.

Game 3 starts off with my dude getting roasted by his Flametongue. I play Hearth Kami prompting him to hold back Flametongue, and he plays Hypnotic Specter as well as some hand disruption to see that I am holding 2 Eruptions. They’re chilling in my grip as I only have three lands, and Celso doesn’t attack with Specter or Flametongue. He plays a Troll Ascetic and another Specter the turn after. I draw the fourth land and he sends everybody in, letting me roast the Specters with Eruption and trade Hearth Kami for Flametongue. I have no idea what his plan was but it let me mise his whole squad sans the Ascetic. Violent Eruption is getting cast anyway, so you might as well swing for two and try to hit other cards with Specter while you can. I play some beaters and able to burn him out after a couple of attacks.


I finish the day in 14th place and Ben is in 6th with a 7-1 record. We check the coverage, get some encouragement from back home, and are off to sleep as we have another long day ahead of us.

How very clever.

Part 2 soon to come!

Ervin Tormos

[email protected]