Insider Information – Pro Tour: Austin and Me

Read Cedric Phillips every week... At StarCityGames.com!
Friday, October 23rd – Cedric Phillips ran with the Robots at last weekend’s Pro Tour: Austin. While he never quite lit up the room (other than with his natty suit), Mister Kithkin still had a fantastic time. He presents his tournament story today, with Standard chat and a funky new Extended deck…

Thursday, October 15th

I rocked an all-nighter to get the necessary schoolwork done before heading out to the bus stop to catch my ride to the airport. Rain was pouring and I was dead tired, but I made it just in time and passed out numerous times from Indianapolis to Austin. Upon my arrival in Austin, I ran into Brett Piazza, Dave Irvine and some other mizers in the airport and shared a bus ride/thoughts about the Extended format with the crew. We were all pretty unsure of what deck to play, but had plenty of options that we liked.

I was heavily leaning towards Affinity, Zoo (nothing like Kibler’s deck), or a Charbelcher homebrew that didn’t have enough games underneath its belt. Brett lost in the finals of Grand Prix: Los Angeles earlier this year with Affinity, so we talked over a few card ideas, and it was brought to my attention that he and Conley Woods had been trying out a few neat ideas:

– One maindeck Island for Path to Exile
Ghost Quarter in the sideboard

I liked the idea of a maindeck Island to lessen the blow of Path to Exile, but I disliked how it didn’t contribute to the Affinity mechanic. I also didn’t have enough time to actually test to see if the idea of a maindeck basic land was a good one. However, I was really sure I wanted to play Ghost Quarter at this Pro Tour. Dark Depths was picking up a lot of steam among the better players, and Ghost Quarter was essentially a Wasteland against poorly-constructed Hypergenesis decks. It did a lot of positive things for Affinity, and while it didn’t contribute to the Affinity mechanic, it was the one land outside of Blinkmoth Nexus that I would allow to do such.

We headed to the Hampton Garden Inn and met up with a ton of other players in their breakfast area to get some testing in. We had about every relevant deck in the format with us in multiples, so Gindy and I tried to run Affinity into a lot of decks to see how it was faring. We were 50/50 with Dark Depths game 1, and that was a place where I was happy to be. We talked some sideboard cards for a good portion of the day, and then headed out to get some sushi. The sushi was fantastic (as sushi tends to be), and we headed over to the Austin Convention Center to do some drafts and, since I was able to, sign up for the Last Chance Qualifier.

I played the R/W Boros Bushwhacker deck in the LCQ, and was extremely pleased with my decklist:

Long story short, I went 6-2, losing rounds 3 and 7 to be eliminated from the Last Chance Qualifier. My loses were to the mirror match sporting maindeck Harm’s Way, and to a Jund deck when I had him at two life and couldn’t kill him for six turns. It wasn’t a big deal, as I was already qualified, but it would have been great getting the invite there.

By the time I was finished, it was 1am and it was time to get some sleep for the Pro Tour. Tom Martell and I headed out to 6th Street to get some eats and saw everything downtown Austin had to offer. 6th Street was insane, and looked like a great time once I scrubbed out of the Pro Tour (foreshadowing?). Martell and I headed back to the room with the Napoli brothers and Osyp, to find them watching the beginning of 500 Days of Summer. If you have never seen 500 Days of Summer, do so immediately. I was blown away.

Friday, October 16

I didn’t really sleep very well before this Pro Tour. To be fair, I really don’t sleep well before any Pro Tour, but this one was worse than normal. I was feeling the pressure of this Pro Tour in the weeks leading up to it, as I needed a Top 100 finish to qualify for Worlds. What it all comes down to is I don’t want to be the guy who Top 8’d the first Pro Tour of the season and then not even qualify to play in Worlds that same season. That would really crush my spirits, and I would find it highly embarrassing.

So, after I woke up, I did what I do best…


I had a nice tan suit for this Pro Tour that I intended to wear at Pro Tour: Honolulu, but we all know how that turned out. I grab my Affinity deck, head to the site, register for the tournament and get ready for the first round of play:

A few notes about my decklist:

This decklist is fairly stock. I think anyone not playing Thoughtseize maindeck in Affinity is clinically insane and needs to be admitted to an insane asylum. Thoughtseize is what makes the deck so good at being relentless, and it won me countless games on the day.

Tarmogoyf was in the sideboard to help out against Zoo as well as Blue decks. Yes, Blue decks are a good matchup for Affinity, but it doesn’t hurt to attack them from a different angle. Frogmite is actually pretty bad against Blue since it gets trumped by Venser, Shaper Savant; Mutavault; Tarmogoyf; and whatever other idiot monsters they have. Tarmogoyf cannot be killed via Ancient Grudge, and you have the ability to easily win Tarmogoyf wars with Cranial Plating.

Pithing Needle was for Dark Depths and Thopter Foundry decks. That shouldn’t surprise you too much.

Tormod’s Crypt should have been mixed with Relic of Progentius. That was an oversight on my part and I felt pretty stupid afterward. I did not play against Dredge the whole tournament, but others did and I felt bad that we hadn’t mixed it up.

There are no Chalice of the Voids in my decklist because I did not expect Hypergenesis to be popular. The deck is pretty bad in my opinion, and I had played enough games where my Hypergenesis opponent would cast their namesake spell and my board position would be better than theirs (thanks, Master of Etherium!).

I felt very good about my decklist and choice for the Pro Tour. Zoo is a pretty bad matchup post sideboard, but if you are on the play game 3, you can certainly steal the match out from underneath them. Blue is a very good matchup for Affinity, and we have access to the best hate cards against combo decks while still adding to our Affinity for Artifacts count. Yes, the strategy is a bit linear, but I felt that this would be a better choice than a stock Zoo deck that I would hate playing most of the day.

Round 1 versus Luis Scott-Vargas

We got a feature match so everyone could see how swank I looked in my suit, but it didn’t get covered by a reporter! What an injustice!

I was testing in the same room as LSV most of Thursday, so I knew he was on Dark Depths and he knew I was on Affinity. Game 1, I kept a sketchy hand with two Thoughtseize (the best card against Dark Depths game 1) and never drew a second land in a timely fashion. The biggest problem was that he was on the play, and he was able to slip a Vampire Hexmage underneath my Thoughtseize, which not only gave him one half of the combo already on the table, but made it so my Frogmite or Arcbound Worker could not apply any pressure

– 2 Cranial Plating, – 3 Great Furnace – 2 Myr Enforcer
+ 4 Pithing Needle, + 3 Ghost Quarter

Game 2, I had a decent start with a Pithing Needle on Vampire Hexmage and a Ghost Quarter ready to go for Dark Depths, but he had a timely Engineered Explosives to blow up both of my Springleaf Drums, as well as a Vampire Hexmage to stifle my Frogmite attacks. I was deploying threats a little slower than I would have liked because I needed a third land pretty badly, but once he Pithing Needled my Ghost Quarter, it was time for me to make my move. The board position developed to the point that he passed with five lands, six cards in hand, and a Vampire Hexmage + Dark Depths in play against my robots. He stopped playing spells a few turns prior, and wasn’t even transmuting anything so I sent in with my Master of Etherium, Arcbound Worker, Frogmite, and chose to leave my Ornithopter back so I didn’t get wrecked on the counter attack. Luis had Repeal for my Pithing Needle (decent enough read by me), made a 20/20 token, and ate my Master of Etherium. I played my freshly drawn Ornithopter which left me with two flying defenders back, as well as a way to kill him on the counter attack with Cranial Plating and Master of Etherium in hand (either would have gotten it done through the 20/20). However, LSV is LSV for a reason. On my end step, he Doom Bladed my Ornithopter and then transmuted for Repeal to take care of my other one.


Round 2 versus Patrick Chapin

This pairing had me laughing out loud for a few reasons. First, I love playing against Chapin, as it is always a competitive match. Second, I know what kind of deck Chapin plays in every tournament, so I knew I had a good pairing. Chapin loves a Blue deck, and he especially loves the card Gifts Ungiven. I didn’t even need to know what deck he was playing to know that I had a good matchup in the dark. It turned out he was playing the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows/Gifts Ungiven control deck. As much fun as that deck is, Master of Etherium and crew are pretty unforgiving and don’t give a crap about all the fun stuff you are doing. My robots and I were here to get him dead.

Game 1, I don’t remember much. The game went a pretty long time, but I finally drew a Vault of Whispers for the two Thoughtseizes in my hand and was able to attack safely past some removal spells.

I considered bringing in a few Pithing Needles since I knew he was on the Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry combo, but I figured just killing him and Thoughtseizing him instead of fooling around was a better option.

Game 2, I had the game well in control and then I made a terrible misplay. I played a Thoughtcast for two mana instead of one, and therefore could not activate Blinkmoth Nexus, equip with Cranial Plating and put Patrick to one life. It was a pretty bad mistake, and the game went on much longer than it should have, but I was able to pull it out.


Round 3 versus Jonathan Bergström

Game 1 goes for a little while, but Springleaf Drum is able to trump his Vedalken Shackles and we are off to game 2. I did see maindeck Threads of Disloyalty, which was interesting.

-4 Frogmite
+4 Tarmogoyf

I sided like this with Threads of Disloyalty in mind. My opponent sideboarded in a bunch of cards (some number of Ancient Grudges, I’m sure), so I wanted to lessen the impact of artifact destruction cards. In theory, my opponent should sideboard out his Threads of Disloyalty, as their targets are Ornithopter (lol), Arcbound Worker (lol), and Arcbound Ravager (LOL).

Game 2, I played a Tarmogoyf, it got Threads, and I lost…

Okay, what really happened is he got through my gigantic monsters (two Master of Etheriums, two Tarmogoyf) with the help of some Path to Exiles and other such nonsense. We grinded the game down to the point where I had one lethal creature in play to his land in hand and the following took place:

Him: Thirst for Knowledge, discard Chrome Mox, go
Me: Attack for the win?
Him: Path to Exile you guy.
Me: Play another lethal creature
Him: Path to Exile it.
Me: Draw Ravager.
Him: Vendilion Clique it in your draw step.
Me: Don’t draw anything and pass.
Him: Draw, attack for three, play Chalice for two.

It was at this point that I had a very good feeling I was going to win the game. Yes, win!

Me: Draw Ornithopter and equip it to Cranial Plating.
Him: Draw and play Thirst for Knowledge. Discard two lands and attack with Vendilion Clique.
Me: Attack for the Win
Him: Ancient Grudge your Ornithopter.
Me: Point to his Chalice of the Void.
Him: Awkward look. Scoops up cards.

The Chalice of the Void shuts off some of my cards, yes, but it also shuts off the cards that will certainly win him the game (Read: Ancient Grudge and Kataki, War’s Wage). We’ll take em anyway we can get em!


Round Four versus Jacob Sklar

I played Jacob at Nationals earlier this year, and gave him the Mageslayering of a life time. He remembered what took place and we had a good laugh about it. I asked him how he qualified, and he told me he took down a qualification down in Lafayette, Louisiana. I congratulated him and immediately put him on playing Zoo.

Why, you ask?

Nothing against Jacob, but he looks like the kind of guy who would play Zoo. Sometimes you can just tell who a Zoo player is, and he seemed like a Zoo player. When he played a turn 1 Wild Nacatl, I was far from surprised.

Anyway, I was on the play and I Thoughtseized him on turn 2 to see Wild Nacatl, Qasali Pridemage, Lightning Bolt, Ranger of Eos, and 2 Umezawa’s Jitte. I figured I was in trouble if he drew a land, so I wanted to shore up the game in case he didn’t, and took a Wild Nacatl. He attacked me for two on turn 2 and passed. The next turn, I peeled land number 3 to cast a 5/5 Master of Etherium and passed the turn. By the end of the game (three turns later) I had three Masters of Etherium in play and Jacob was still looking for his second land. Success.

-4 Thoughtseize
+4 Tarmogoyf

When playing against Zoo, it is so important for Affinity to win game 1, because we have to try to fight through Ancient Grudge, Path to Exile, Qasali Pridemage, and other such nonsense with a quick clock on us. It is a very difficult thing to do, but it close to impossible to do on the draw. Predictably, I got destroyed game 2, and we were off to game 3 quite quickly.

Game 3 was the most frustrating game of the day. I played a Master of Etherium on turns 2, 3, and 4. Each was a 5/5. Each one died. Path to Exile, Path to Exile, and the first half of an Ancient Grudge made the game a rather short one, and I was rather frustrated. If any of those removal spells would have been a burn spell, I actually would have been fine, as I would have been able to play two spells a turn (Springleaf Drum), and one of them would have been a timely Tarmogoyf to stifle his beatdowns. Alas, it was not to be.


Round 5

I’m normally not one to name-call but, who am I kidding, I am about to. I believe my opponent this round was quite bad at Magic, and it made me a little upset when I lost to him. I have no problem with losing matches of Magic, and I don’t expect everyone to play perfect, but the plays my opponent was making were beyond bad. “Trying to kill a 1/3 Ornithopter with two Umezawa’s Jitte counters when Master of Etherium was in play” level bad. I have lost to people that play very poorly, and it normally has no effect on me, as not everyone is great at magic. That is understandable. We talked before the match about Zendikar draft, and he said, “It is a luck based format and it isn’t a very good one.”

Long story short, I lost, and was now forced to 3-0 a draft pod (something that I am certainly capable of doing) instead of having to 2-1 a draft pod (something I would actually bet on myself to do every time).


My pod had Ben Lundquist passing to me, and no one else notable. Ben knew that I loved U/G in Zendikar draft, so he passed me a pretty sick deck while I stayed out of B/R and gave him some pretty nice cards. We wish each other well, expecting to meet each other playing for Day 2, and went our separate ways.

I have rid myself of my deck at this point, but I was U/G with a lot of good cards, including Oracle of Mul Daya, two Glazing Gladeharts, two Baloth Woodcrashers, two Whiplash Traps, and all the other U/G fixings.

Round 6 versus Ricky Sidher

I believe my opponent was B/R this round, but I do not remember the match all that well. The games were close for a little while, but both games ended when a timely Whiplash Trap set him too far behind, one of which came at the low low price of one Blue mana.


After this round, Ben came up to me to report that he had gotten slaughtered by a Wr deck with two Trusty Machetes, two Plated Geopede, and some other ridiculous cards. I was a little worried now as UG has a lot of trouble with Plated Geopede and a pretty fast start in general, since I was lacking a lot of Nissa’s Chosen. Hopefully I can dodge this guy and someone can mana screw him and beat him? Wrong…

Round 7 versus Jonas Wallendorf

Game 1 was a pretty epic battle. My opponent went turn 1 Steppe Lynx, turn 2 Plated Geopede, turn 3 Trusty Machete + equip to lay the beatdowns. I had a Glazing Gladehart in play and actually was able to play Oracle of Mul Daya to keep up on life and pull ahead on land drops. All I needed was my opponent to miss a land drop and I would have been able to stabilize with some fatty Green creatures in play. He refused to cooperate, and on the last turn of the game, he mentioned how he needed to draw a land to win the game. He drew his top card, and it was…

Marsh Flats.


Slaughter Cry finished me off for exactsies, and we were off to game 2.

I boarded in a Lethargy Trap, but was never able to find it. This game my opponent went turn 1 Steppe Lynx, turns 2 and 3 Plated Geopede, and never missed a land drop. This game was about as close as the last 1 (read: very), and I kept putting him in spots where I needed him to miss a land drop, but he never did. It was quite aggravating.

This round was funny because game 1, I lost to him flooding out, and I wish he would have actually drawn spells because I would have won if he did. How strange is that?!


Round 8 versus Niels Noorlander

I explained to my opponent how I needed two more points to qualify for Worlds, and he immediately conceded. It was a very nice thing for him to do, and I expressed such. He said he still wanted to play, and I obliged.

He was U/W and all three games went pretty long, but he was able to pull the third game out even though his first play was on turn 4. I was pretty surprised I lost game 3, but Windrider Eels beat the crap out of me.


I checked the standings and ended up 249th place, nowhere near the top 200. I was frustrated with how my tournament went, but it was time to get over it. Zach Efland, Dave Irvine, Ben Stark and I all decided it was time for a Fogo De Chao trip. If you have never been to Fogo De Chao before (this was my first time), you are required to go as soon as possible. Ask no questions. Just go. Thank me later.

I drafted the night away with friends, and I was victorious in two of the three I did that evening. Up for the evening, Martell and I headed back to the hotel room to watch some Sportscenter and pass out.

Saturday, October 17

I woke up to play in the side events with my Goblin Charbelcher brew:

This deck is a bit strange, but I actually like it a lot. You can do quite a few broken things on turn 1, up to and including making 30 goblins. Goblin Charbelcher was a card the format wasn’t really prepared for, and this deck would have won a lot of games at the Pro Tour since a lot of people wouldn’t have known what was going on before it was too late, but it was simply too inconsistent. I decided to play it in the side events to see if I made a mistake by not playing it in the Pro Tour and my results were inconclusive.

Round 1, I played against a Zoo opponent who I killed on turn 3 game 1.

Game 2, I could have played a Goblin Charbelcher on turn 1, but I didn’t want to open myself up to Ancient Grudge and I would have been able to easily go off through an Ethersworn Canonist. Meddling Mage had other plans, though.

Game 3, my opponent mulliganed to five and I was in the driver’s seat as I had enough time to try to kill him by hitting eight cards in my deck (two Mountains in my deck were left). I hit three cards, dealing him six damage, and died on his next turn. It, like most of this weekend, was pretty frustrating.

Round 2, I was up against Zoo again. Game 1 was very similar to game 3 from the last round. I actually was forced to go off on turn 3 in fear of dying to a burn spell. I had already searched for two lands out my deck, and just needed to hit eight cards, but a land showed up on the second card. Are you kidding me?!

Game 2, I became good friends with Gaddock Teeg. Cool.

Even though a lot of things went wrong in this tournament, I actually felt the deck had a lot of potential due to how the Pro Tour will change things. Kibler’s Zoo deck is an extremely good matchup, since it is so much slower than other Zoo decks while still keeping the extremely aggressive Zoo decks in check. The speedy Zoo decks are a little scary, but you are a pretty fast combo deck and can just simply outrace them sometimes. Blue decks aren’t especially scary as you can slide a Goblin Charbelcher underneath their counter magic, or you can just make a ton of goblins and hope they don’t have one of their 2-3 Engineered Explosives.

This deck is far from perfect, but I think there is something here.

The rest of my weekend was spent drafting (I won 7 of 10 this weekend), going 1-2 in a Standard tournament with R/W Boros Bushwhacker, going 0-1 drop in the Sunday draft challenge, and eating lots of good food. Pro Tour: Austin was a disappointment as far as sanctioned matches go, but I still had a helluva time, and was very glad that I went.

Here is hoping I can get the two points I need for Worlds in Tampa Bay this weekend.

See everyone there!

Cedric Phillips

[email protected]