Insider Information – A Pro Tour San Diego Report, Part 2

StarCityGames.com Open Series: Indianapolis on March 13-14
Thursday, March 11th – Two weeks ago, Cedric Phillips regaled us with part 1 of his Pro Tour: San Diego report. After a week off to bring us a timely Extended Dredge primer, Ced returns to round out his PT experience, with tales of Iona in draft, sandwich sales, turn 3 Baneslayers, and more!

Saturday, February 20

Today, I woke up rather refreshed. I didn’t sleep well the night before, but last night was a different story. I had a bed, pillow, and some John Mayer to sleep to. Life was good, and I was ready to take down all comers.

It was booster draft time again. I was 6-2 in the PT, and was ready to force Mono Green in draft again. It seemed people were onto the strategy in the last draft, but my deck turned out fairly well and I would be happy with another 2-1 in this draft if I could get it.

As I counted out the fourteen cards in my first pack, I was really hoping to open up some busted Green rare with no other relevant Green cards in the pack. Something like a Turntimber Ranger

Or a Gigantiform

Or this Rampaging Baloths!

Rampaging Baloths was the perfect start to this draft for me. There wasn’t another Green card in the pack, and there was no way I wasn’t going to take the bomb rare regardless. The rest of pack one was spent with me taking Green cards over other similar quality cards in different colors. Overall, I was happy with how pack 1 went. Pack 2, however, was a complete disaster.

Big Z (Matej Zatlkaj) was two seats down on my left and happened to open a Gigantiform pack 2. He took that, along with the Turntimber Ranger he was passed pick 2 of pack 2. As a result, he started snapping up all of the Green cards coming his way and really derailed my draft. We spoke during round 3 of the draft, as we were paired against each other, and he said that he knew I was drafting mono Green again, but that his first pack had gone so poorly that he had no choice but to start taking Green cards.

Frown Town. Population: me.

Pack 2 saw me end up with a ton of mediocre cards, a seventh pick Summoning Trap and an eighth pick Iona, Shield of Emeria.

That’s right. I got the combo! I wasn’t sure if I was going to play it, but at least I had the option.

Pack 3 saw me get a Leatherback Baloth and some other fillers, but nothing spectacular. My deck ended up looking like this:

1 Rampaging Baloths
1 Mold Shambler
2 Vines of Vastwood
1 Groundswell
1 Khalni Heart Expedition
1 Oran-Rief Recluse
1 Cobra Trap
1 Nissa’s Chosen
1 Leatherback Baloth
1 Arbor Elf
1 Grappler Spider
1 Vastwood Gorger
1 Greenweaver Druid
1 Graypelt Hunter
2 Aether Figment
1 Mysteries of the Deep
1 Blazing Torch
1 Walking Atlas
1 Summoning Trap
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria

12 Forest
1 Khalni Garden
3 Island
2 Quicksand

I wasn’t thrilled about this deck, but I tried to stay positive. For my draft to get so derailed, I believed I would be able to pull out two wins as long as things went well enough. When I showed people the deck, they mocked me for playing the Summoning Trap combo with no way to cast Iona, Shield of Emeria, but I certainly had an explanation:

Look at the above deck. I’d be lying if I said I thought my deck was a masterpiece. As such, I needed to get a little risky and do whatever it took to win matches. Ben Stark said that I should have cut the Iona, Shield of Emeria for a Spidersilk Net because at least that would have done something, but I 100% disagree with that. Spidersilk Net is not going to win me any games. There is a big difference between winning and not losing. Spidersilk Net is a card that helps you not lose.

Sure, I was going to have to run pretty well to Summoning Trap into Iona, Shield of Emeria, but I needed to run pretty well to 3-0 this draft in the first place, so I might as well throw all of my eggs into one basket, cross my fingers and hope for the best. Besides, my Summoning Trap could still hit a Rampaging Baloths, and that is more than acceptable. Furthermore, if I did hit the Iona, Shield of Emeria with Summoning Trap, I would have a sweet story to tell!

Round 9 versus Peter Kesteloo

Peter was one of the other Green drafters in my pod, but I felt my Green cards were probably going to be better than his based on what I was in the draft, so I felt fairly confident. Turn 5 made me feel even better as I Summoning Trapped into Iona, Shield of Emeria, named Green, and forced a concession. That’s one!

Game 2, Peter showed that he was actually color screwed game one as he played three swamps and Sorin Markov on turn 6. I fought as long as I could, but beating Sorin Markov is just far too difficult and really not worth showing your opponent too many cards over, so I conceded a little early into the process to both save time and to prevent him from seeing a lot of cards in my deck.

Since I was in a Green mirror match, I boarded out both Quicksands for a Forest and an Island.

Game 3, I snap kept Forest, Forest, Island, Island, Leathback Baloth, AEther Figment, and Iona, Shield of Emeria. I kept this hand because in theory…

Hey! Stop laughing! I’m trying to tell a story here, okay!

I kept this hand due to the cards I saw in Peter’s deck. Peter was going to have a ton of difficulty handling a turn 3 Leatherback Baloth, and if I was able to follow that up with a kicked AEther Figment on turn 5, I really couldn’t see myself losing. I even sided in another Forest to ensure that I could cast Leatherback Baloth on turn 3!

I wouldn’t be telling you this story if I actually hit on turn 3, now would I? Of course not! Turns out I never ended up casting that Leatherback Baloth as my first two draw steps were Island, Island and I was left fumbling around for a while when I finally gave in to some flyers and a timely kicked Mold Shambler on one of my only two Forests.


This match was frustrating for a few reasons. For starters, Peter didn’t play very well. He missed three Grazing Gladehart triggers throughout the match, but that can happen to anyone, so that wasn’t a major issue. The thing that bugged me most is that my Green deck was much better than his Green deck, and you have to win the matches you are supposed to win at the Pro Tour. You cannot let one match slip away and expect to win the tournament, and that is exactly what happened here. My card quality was slightly higher than Peter’s, and as far as a Green mirror goes, I was much better prepared, but alas, it was not to be. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after this match, and it derailed the rest of my tournament.


Round 10 versus Carlos Braga

This match only further compounded onto my frustration. Game 1, Carlos was able to sure up the ground and fly over the win with his blue/white deck. His deck didn’t look to great, but flying over for the win is fairly elementary, and I was not surprised when I lost this game.

I boarded in both of my Spidersilk Nets and made the Quicksand swap yet again.

Game 2, I kept a hand ready to tackle his flyers and then cast a Rampaging Baloths. However, Carlos had other ideas as he played a turn 1 Hedron Crab and followed that up with a Halimar Excavator and a few allies. I had both of my Spidersilk Nets, but they didn’t do anything!


Carlos was gracious throughout the whole match as I was growing rather annoyed at how things were going for the day. I wasn’t upset at anything in particular, and certainly not Carlos for beating me. I was just taken aback at how I was losing for the day. I needed to get a win to get off of tilt, and quickly.


Round 11 versus Matej Zatlkaj

Ah yes! The Big Z! Big Z is one of my favorite people on the Pro Tour nowadays. We met at Grand Prix: Oakland, as we played round 5 and he defeated me on his way to a top 16 finish. As I was making my run to ninth place, Matej kept saying that I “only lose to the best,” with a giant grin on his face. Big Z is a very cool guy, folks.

However, this round was all business. As much as I love Big Z, I came to win. Big Z said his deck was really bad, but I refused to believe him. I never believe anything until the match is over.

Game 1, I had to stop myself from laughing because… My God! His deck was bad! A Kor Outfitter here. An unkicked Oran-Rief Recluse there. When he tried to cast Gigantiform on his Oran-Rief Recluse, I thankfully had the Vines of Vastwood for it, and he slumped back in his chair. The game went very long as we both had a bunch of crappy ground pounders gumming up the board. I was, of course, looking for my Summoning Trap and hoping to draw that before my Iona, Shield of Emeria. With nine cards left in my deck, I finally drew the Summoning Trap, turned it into an Iona, Shield of Emeria, and set the rest of my deck. Big Z conceded two turns later.

Game 2 is a blur, but I remember crushing him fairly easily with a Rampaging Baloths. After the match, Big Z called me a fish, flashed me a smile, and went on about his day. I love Big Z.


Now it was time to get back to Constructed. This was the portion of the tournament I was more comfortable with, as I really liked my Constructed deck. I have never wanted to get paired against Jund so badly in my entire life!

Here is the deck again:

Round 12 versus Orrin Beasly (Junk)

Orrin is a player I know from North Carolina. I would classify him as an up-and-comer who regularly qualifies for Pro Tours, but is just missing that one big finish to make himself a household name. He lost playing for Top 16 at Grand Prix: Oakland (and missed Top 32 as a result) and got 51st at Pro Tour: San Diego (one slot away from the invite). I expect some big things in the future for Mr. Beasly.

I knew Orrin was playing some form of a Junk, but wasn’t sure exactly what his decklist was. Either way, Junk was a very poor matchup for me and I was hoping to get a little fortunate this round. Game 1, I got crushed fairly handily by an Elspeth, Knight-Errant and some other monsters that were far larger than my ragtag group of 2/2’s.

Game 2, I snuck by with a timely Journey to Nowhere and Kor Hookmaster. Orrin showed me Wall of Reverence and Malakir Bloodwitch this game. Not good!

Game 3, not one, not two, but three Wall of Reverence came to play. If you think this game was close, you are sorely mistaken. I got completely destroyed in every way imaginable.


Going into this Pro Tour, I knew decks containing Knight of the Reliquary were going to be a terrible matchup, but I was just trying my hardest to dodge them. This plan didn’t work this round, or the next one.

Round 13 versus Gaudenis Vidugiris (Mythic)

If you thought my last matchup was bad, how about the deck with capable of casting turn 2 Rhox War Monk and turn 3 Baneslayer Angel. Don’t even get me started with Rafiq of the Many and Finest Hour in combination with either of those two cards.

Game 1, Gau thought for a little while and then decided to cast a turn 3 Baneslayer Angel. If I had Path to Exile, maybe he would have been in trouble, but I didn’t have that card in my deck this weekend so that game over on the spot.

Game 2, I was able to keep Gau off balance just enough before his lifegain machines began to take over. The first Baneslayer Angel was met with a Journey to Nowhere. The second Baneslayer was the target of a top-decked Kor Hookmaster and just like that, we were on our way to game 3.

Game 3 went exactly how it was supposed to. A turn 2 Rhox War Monk was my undoing. The game went on much longer than that point, but for all intents and purposes, Rhox War Monk ended the game.


Round 14 versus Thomas Cleberg (UWr Control)

I played against Thomas at Grand Prix: Oakland when he was piloting Death Cloud. This time he was piloting U/W/r control: a matchup I found favorable.

Game 1, Thomas fumbled around the whole time and I believe cast one spell, a Treasure Hunt, before conceding.

Game 2, a timely Day of Judgment left me without a team and without a prayer. Baneslayer Angel and Sphinx of Jwar Isle were left to clean me up.

Game 3, I played around Day of Judgment and got wrecked by Jace, the Mind Sculptor as a result. I was able to battle back however, as a Lapse of Certainty on Baneslayer Angel kept me ahead in the damage race. My next draw step was another Lapse of Certainty, and Thomas was even further behind and I knew his only other card was a Sphinx of Jwar Isle. I was able to Lapse of Certainty Baneslayer Angel again, cast a Ranger of Eos for two Elite Vanguards, and attack for exactly enough to finish him off through Baneslayer Angel’s lifelink. Phew…


Round 15 versus Aeo Paquette (UWr Control)

Aeo was also playing U/W/r Control. I wish I could remember a lot more about this match, but I am coming up fairly blank on this one. That disappoints me because it was my longest match of the weekend, and was probably the one in which I had the most fun. Aeo is an old school gamer, but he was extremely good at Magic when he played consistently, and it always upset me that he didn’t play more. Now that I have met Aeo, it upsets me even further because he is both very good at Magic and a very cool guy. If I had even half the talent that Aeo has at Magic, I would play all day every day.

Oh wait. I already do that.


Round 16 versus Mike Patnick (White Weenie with Knight of the Reliquary)

Patnick and I are very good friends from the past since we used to play in the same PTQ circuit together. He once had three Cloudgoat Rangers in the Top 8 of a Sealed PTQ that I lost playing for Top 8. Who do you think won that PTQ?

Mike acknowledged the fact that I am making a run for higher than Level 5 this year, and happily conceded to me since an extra pro point was at stake. I thanked him graciously, and happily ended a miserable tournament.


People ask me if I would play the same Constructed deck again, and I say yes every time. The White Weenie deck I played at the Pro Tour is the only deck I have found with a positive percentage against Jund. I have never in my life wanted to play against Jund every round except at this tournament. I went 2-1 against Jund with my loss being due to some timely peels by my opponent. I have been playing the deck a ton on Magic Online, and have been crushing all that choose to sleeve up the Savage Lands. The matchups against the rest of the format aren’t great, but they aren’t bad either. When you are playing an aggressive deck, you can beat just about any deck.

Sunday, February 21


There was a Legacy tournament beginning at 4pm, where first and second place took home a Mox. I decided to sleeve up the ol’ Belcher deck without Xantid Swarms (couldn’t find any) and with Guttural Response as a replacement.

Nothing too interesting happened during the tournament, sadly. Round 1, I beat a Reanimator deck that was very similar to the list that won Madrid, lost a one-game match to Merfolk round 2 (we both got a game loss), and then won out to make the Top 4.

In the Top 4, I lost to Merfolk due to Guttural Response not being Xantid Swarm. Xantid Swarm is extremely crucial to winning sideboarded games against Merfolk, but all I had were a bunch of crappy Gruul uncommons. I was even up a game too!

I spent the time after that trying my very first Reuben. I am a foodie at heart, but had never tried the famous sandwich before. I went to the local market where everyone was buying ridiculous sandwiches and ordered one as part of a combo. When I brought it back to the convention center and unwrapped it, I was blown away. This thing looked amazing!

Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that I simply do not like sauerkraut. I wanted to like this sandwich, I really did! But it was just not to be. I took bite after bite of gooey cheese, thousand island dressing, and corned beef, but the sauerkraut just ruined it for me. It’s a shame too, because I bet that sandwich was really good if I liked sauerkraut.

I did trick LSV into buying the sandwich after I was done with half of it, though. LSV had been waiting for a draft to end, and then they were going to go to his Top 8 dinner. During this process, he saw my ridiculously good looking sandwich and asked how much he could purchase it for. I went into the tank and came out with $20 as the buying price, and got laughed out of the ball park. However, this was expected, as shooting very high there is always the right play. While I was taking bites of a sandwich I didn’t really like, I made sure the cheese stretched a bunch and made noises as though I was really enjoying myself. It became too much to take, and LSV asked me how much for one half of the sandwich. I went back into the tank and came out with $10. He accepted, and it turned out that trying a Reuben for my first time was free of charge!

If only I’d won that Legacy tournament, my day would have been outstanding.

The rest of the weekend was spent drafting and saying goodbye until Grand Prix: Houston, or as I call it:

Grand Prix: Dredge (Part Two: Electric Boogaloo)

This weekend, I will be in Indianapolis for the StarCityGames.com Open weekend extravaganza, so if you plan on coming down, be sure to say hello. It should be an outstanding weekend, except that I probably have to change Legacy decks due to the results in Madrid. Stupid Reanimator!

Until next week…

Cedric Phillips

[email protected]