Jumping on the Bearlwagon or How I Won the Pro Tour, Part 1

What’s that you say? You want the story of how Gadiel won the Pro Tour, directly from the horse’s mouth? Okay, if you insist, but only on StarCityGames.com, the home of Pro Tour winners.

The story begins one day a few months ago when someone named Gernardi on Magic Online messaged me asking simply if I was “on the list.” I wasn’t too sure who he was, so I did what any aspiring young Magic player would do: I asked him. It turned out to be Gerard – I should have figured. It turns out he was drunk while making the account and just tried to spell his name. Regardless, I asked what list he was referring to and he told me about the now famous Togit/Dutchie list getting ready for the Pro Tour. I told him that since I didn’t know about it, I must not be on it, but to please add me. He said he had to ask Osyp, and a few minutes later told me that “it was full, so I couldn’t be on it.”


A few days later, some friends of mine dropped/got kicked off of the Togit list and informed me about the new one being formed. We got right to work, with lots of great decks emailed to the list like

seriously this may be off topic but how cute is gadiel. And thats the nicest beard i’ve ever seen

from Zadjner, and

artemd, from my knowledge is a russian pothead. I thought we could

use one besides mark. Seriously though he knows what he is talking

about and has some good snake lists.

from Pelcak,

and more. Besides how cute I look here, how nice the Cak’s beard is, how Tim really really wants to off himself, and of course anything and everything about bearls, we began throwing out lists for all the obvious decks like Snakes, White Weenie, White Legends, and Gifts. We also threw around several lists of Aggro Black because a few members of the team were just enamored with it. Don Smith and Andrew Pacifico ended up playing it to pretty solid finishes. Everyone else decided pretty early that they were playing Gifts.

Right now, since I just talked about our list, it seems like a good time to thank all the bearls on it for collaborating with the deck and then once they were out, for giving me more support than any wonder-bra ever could. So here’s a shout out to: (in no particular order)

Tim Aten

John Pelcak

Eugene Levin

Rasmus Sibast


Adam Chambers

Don Smith

Andrew Pacifico

Ken Krouner

Mark Zajdner

Lucas Glavin

Matt Schmaltz

Artem Dousekovich

Sean Mangner

Our original Gifts list was a terrible pile with almost no removal and something like three Soulless Revivals and four Hana Kamis. About two weeks before the event, I started playing the deck on Magic Online as much as possible and I just didn’t lose much. Meanwhile, I kept on finding ways to improve the deck and along with suggestions from our list it kept on transforming to its final form. On the Sunday before the Pro Tour, one Rasmus Sibast, otherwise known as Big Ooooooooooooots, came to my crib all the way from Denmark for some last minute practice. We tweaked the deck a little more and got in additional playtesting, which the deck requires a lot of.

Another thing that occurred in the week before the Pro Tour was finding out about the new player’s club. I came home from school on Monday or Tuesday and the first thing I hear is “You are so lucky.” I asked why, and Rasmus showed me the player’s club announcement that I probably would have missed, since I never go to that site. First he showed me how I barely sneaked into level four, then I read the rest of it myself to see what I would get for barely sneaking into level four. I have to say, this is probably the best improvement to the Pro Tour I can remember. Admittedly, when I saw what I got for level four, I was really excited. I also immediately tried to figure out how I needed to do to grow to level five. At the time, Top 4’ing seemed almost impossible and I was kind of discouraged that I was almost drawing dead when it came to “growing” this Pro Tour. There’s really not much else to say about this, but I think it’s important for people to acknowledge good moves by Wizards like this one. That is because they are very rare and, of course, everyone complains about all the idiotic things they do, like… say… the prize structure in Philadelphia, which was absolutely awful.

I’ll spare the details of our trip and the night before because obviously nobody cares, but there is one little anecdote from the Last Chance Qualifier that is worth sharing. I was watching my friend two-time Grand Prix Top 8 Competitor Mike Krumb battle his way through the LCQ and one of his opponents just happened to be particularly amusing to watch. This guy was just one of the biggest buffoons I have ever seen. He had a big stupid grin on his face, but at the same time was staring at Mike intently, or at least trying to. He was making idiotic jokes nonstop, but also proved to be quite a bag, attempting takebacks on mistakes and other shady moves. Regardless of the details, Tim, John, some others, and myself were just having a good old time laughing about what an idiot this guy was when he randomly looks at me and says to his friend, “I know this guy already hates me, I can see him laughing at me.” He really set himself up, so I replied “I don’t hate you at all actually, I just think you are really stupid.” This was the truth and I have always learned honesty is the best policy.

This guy just cracks up laughing for a few minutes, and his friend proceeds to ask my age. I quickly reply that I’m sixteen and the first guy says what a shame, he is over eighteen. The dialogue stops for a little while as they play the match and we just go back to laughing at the guy, until he peels runners to win the third game in extra turns. After casting the winning Rude Awakening, he gets up and yells “That’s right. F*** you, and YOU, AND YOU, AND YOU!” pointing to me, Krumb, and some of our other friends chilling there. Then he looks at me and goes “See? I WON. Noooooot stupid!” “This coming from the guy who’s 2-1 in the LCQ?” I asked. The guy just didn’t know when to give it up, saying “Well, are YOU qualified for tomorrow? Didn’t Think So!” He and his friend had a good laugh and went off somewhere to bearl with each other or something. There’s a good chance that from just reading it this is a terrible story, but it was so funny in real life that I just had to include it. I just wish so badly I could have seen that guy again… on Sunday night.

Back in the hotel room, we made the final changes to our deck and sideboard and watched a desperate Lucas Glavin as Paul Pierce got ejected and ran the Petey Pablo. His beloved Celtics won anyway, but I was hungry and it went to overtime and it took me longer to get food. Bearl. Our exact lists ended up being a few cards off, but this is the list I personally played.

Ken Bearl LOL-Pro Tour Philadelphia 2005-Champion

Heh. It feels good to write that.

Let me tell you, I almost audibled just so I would not have to write all those names on the decklist. To begin with, there are infinite one-ofs. Then, when they are ginormously long like Kokusho, the Evening Star or Kodama of the North Tree, your hand starts to take a beating. Right now, I’m pretty sure if I could do it over I wouldn’t change a single card. The four Sickening Shoals are a big reason why I beat six decks with Hokori in them and I am very happy LCG convinced me to add the fourth at the last minute. If you are running Gifts without the Haze lock I think you are just insane, since for one more card you basically give the deck a whole new dimension. As indicated above, Top is simply money. It is the best card in the deck by a long shot, and probably the best card in the format. There’s absolutely no reason not to play four. I will probably write a whole article going into the intricacies of the deck and sideboard, but just thought I would point out those things since judging by their lists, many other Gifts players seem not to agree with me. For some reason, I can’t access my match history, so forgive me if I miss names. Also, after so much Magic, Day One is kind of fuzzy in my memory so the matches might be missing some details.

Round One v. Steve Chapman w/White Red Legends

This was one of our big decks early on in testing, so we had done a lot of playing against it with Gifts and it is a great matchup.

Game one he had a fast start and my draw was really bad. Since I saw Lantern-Lit Graveyard, I assumed he had the Cranial Extractions in his main deck and so I made some overcautious plays that probably ended up costing me this game. Pretty much, I didn’t go for the combo as aggressively as I should have. If I had just gone for it with reckless abandon and used all my resources to set it up, I am pretty sure I would have won. Ironically, testing this matchup actually ended up hurting me since we realized from the White/Red player’s standpoint, that Extraction main is necessary in a Gifts-heavy field like we expected, so I assumed he had figured that out as well. I stabilized at low life anyway, but a series of action draws by him and lands by me allowed him to finish me.

I boarded in the extra Whispers and Wear Away and for two Kokushos and an Ink-Eyes.

Game two I got a much better draw, mostly because this one included Top. I traded removal one for one with his guys but early on in the game he Extracted out my Hana Kami. This was good in that gained me card advantage in the short run, but I couldn’t combo. I built up more card advantage with some Gifts and Reaches and eventually Gifts for Meloku, Stir, Revival, and something and got the Meloku out there. The rest of this game should have just been a formality, but I drew literally nothing and he started drawing guys so it became a real race, because I had to chump his Godo and his Eight-And-A-Half-Tails was complicating things even more. I think he should have used his Eight-And-A-Half more aggressively to try to get damage through. Regardless, if he would have peeled a Blessed Breath on the last turn I think he would have had me, but he didn’t.

Unfortunately, we only had like fifteen minutes left after this game. Because of this, I brought out Stir, Revival, Hana Kami, Haze, two Extractions, and four Gifts and brought in the legend package of four Graverobber, three North Tree, Keiga, Ink Eyes, and the other Ink Eyes that I had boarded out. Kokushos remained in the board because they are the worst one in this matchup and there is nothing to cut for them.

Game three he was completely surprised by my transformation and my draw was very good, curving out legends. This is the game where he drew all his Hokoris and Extractions, and I just stomped him North Tree, Keiga, and Ink Eyes.

1-0, 2-1

Round Two v. Mario Girolami w/Rats

Game one I had a good start with removal, Top, and land searchers but unfortunately I just couldn’t get anything going at all. I was able to Extract all his outs to Haze lock and thankfully he had a bunch of terrible creatures like Nezumi Ronin and Skullsnatcher. With that I was able to survive for quite a long time and eventually with like twenty-five cards left in my deck it got to where I needed something that turn or I would lose. I drew and it was a Tribe Elder. I Topped into nothing, then played and sacrificed the Tribe Elder and Topped again. Gifts was in the top three, I switched it with the Top, and Haze locked him in short order. I had infinite lands, so mana was not an issue.

I boarded in the legend package for the combo because a mono-Black deck was sure to bring in tons of discard to disrupt the combo.

Game two I don’t really remember what happened, but I mulliganed and got rocked.

Game three was really frustrating. He started with a pair of Graverobbers, and I played Cranial Extraction for something that I don’t even remember. His hand had just all creatures and he was somewhat short on land. It surely did not have Okiba-Gang Shinobi in it. The turn after I Exracted, I Shoaled one of the Robbers when it attacked. This was before blocks, obviously, but after blocks he picked the other one up and happily plopped down the Shinobi he just drew – one of two in his deck. Grumpily, I discarded two of the three cards in my once-spicy grip. I untapped, played the land that I drew and the Myojin of Night’s Reach I had in hand. After he drew, I discarded his hand, which was like six cards or so. He attacked with Okiba Gang and I blocked since I was at somewhat low life. This left the following favorable situation: We both had no hand and no guys, making it a pure topdeck war. Additionally, he only had four Swamps for lands compared to my four Swamps, four Forests, and single Island. I had the first draw step in the topdeck war, and I had ten plus legends I could draw into while his deck had Nezumi Ronins and Skullsnatchers. Instead of winning, as I should do almost always in that situation, his draws went Nezumi Ronin, then his one Patron of the Nezumi in his deck, then Jitte. Sweet skill dude. I drew some lands.

1-1, 3-3

Round Three v. Marc Dictus w/ White/Red Legends

Game one he got off to somewhat of a slow start and I made it even slower with Hideous Laughter. Meloku showed up to make it quick.

Game two was more of the same. I boarded the same way as for game two of round one, but once again Meloku showed up quickly and his deck simply cannot beat it.

2-1, 5-3

At this point I went to the Hard Rock for lunch. The only reason I want to point that out is that the lunch break they gave us was something very necessary that they finally added. I really hope it doesn’t get cut, because it’s a winner.

Round Four v. Matthew Rivera w/ Black/Green Control

Game one was our deckcheck. I won.

Game “two” he mulliganed to five. This is when I started to think that maybe I was going somewhere in this tournament. His five were actually quite good, with lands, Top, Tribe Elder and Reach to shuffle, and some action spells, but my draw was decent as well and Matthew just couldn’t recover from starting two cards down.

I have to give lots of credit to Matthew because he was totally friendly and stuff while mulliganing and getting a game loss. I know I wouldn’t be.

3-1, 7-3

Round Five v. Matthieu Le Montagne w/ White Weenie

Matthieu had the weird and annoying habit to stare straight into my eyes the whole entire time as if he was going to kill me.

Nobody foxtrots anymore.

Game one he got a quick start with several guys, but on turn 4 I was able to use Sickening Shoal removing Hideous Laughter splicing Hideous Laughter to clear his board of the five guys he had. The play of splicing the same spell you remove to Sickening Shoal is one that you’d think wouldn’t come up very often, but it does more than you might expect. In the swiss rounds, I think I did it about five or six times, and every time a judge or I had to explain how it works. If you already know, skip the next few lines, or read them just to say you read the writing of a Pro Tour Champion, heh. [Methinks success has gone directly to Gadiel’s head. Thankfully that picture of him from merely four years ago at the beginning of the article makes it all better. – Knut] When you first cast Sickening Shoal, you get the chance to attach splice spells to it. That is part of casting the spell. You get to declare that before you pay costs. Then, the game asks you to pay costs for the spell you just cast. At that point, you get to remove the card you spliced since it is obviously still in your hand.

I boarded in two Whispers and Wear Away for two Kokushos and an Extraction. Even though Wear Away isn’t that great at times, one of the only ways they can beat you is a quick Jitte draw. For that reason I was bringing it in against White Weenie and I don’t regret it despite the fact that it was dead at times.

Game two I had a good draw with plenty of removal and Meloku. He used Shining Shoal to redirect to my Tribe Elder, then I sacked it, then he died when the damage wasn’t redirected. It was irrelevant though, as he was pretty much drawing dead at that point anyway.

4-1, 9-3

Round Six v. Dennis Johanen w/ Black/White Control

Game one I mulliganed and we both started with Tops. Imagine my surprise when he threw down a Journeyer’s Kite on turn 2. Since I went first, I needed to Top into a Swamp, Reach, Tendo, or Tribe Elder to be able to Extraction him for Extractions before he could do it to me. Of course I missed my open-ended straight flush draw with two overs, and he got Extraction on turn 4. I still had some game with animals, but he killed some with Final Judgement and some other removal. Eventually, after Extracting me for one of my creatures, he showed me two Final Judgements in hand for the two remaining creatures in my deck and told me to concede. This was with about thirty minutes left in the round. I said if he showed how he was going to kill me, then sure, I’d concede. He responded with “No, I’ll just deck you. If you don’t concede now, I’ll just stall you out and win 1-0.” I conceded, but called a judge to watch for slow play. Dennis played really slow anyway, and the judge did nothing about it, but I won, so whatever.

I boarded in the legend package and took out the combo, since he probably had several ways to disrupt me post-board.

Game two I mulliganed but got to start with a quick North Tree, which gets him to pretty low life. He plays Distress, presumably out of his sideboard, and some removal like Final Judgement. I think I Extracted him for Hero’s Demise and it caught one in his hand and three more in his deck. Eventually I played Myojin of Night’s Reach, made him discard after his draw, and killed him with it. Despite his excruciatingly slow play, (yes a judge was watching) there were about fifteen minutes left in the round going into game three.

Game three, he took a long time to keep and had to dig for land with Top early in the game. Meanwhile, I started setting up some beats with like Graverobber or something. I think he killed some creatures with Hero’s Demise, but he stalled on four lands while I kept playing legends. Then on one turn he played Yukora, the Prisoner and couldn’t do anything else. Nice card. Anyway, I proceeded to kill him as time ran out in the round. This match was especially key because the difference between 4-2 and 5-1 is bigger than it’s ever been before with the triple elimination format. I mean, going 4-2 and losing the first round of Day Two is the actual nut low. Literally, the worst thing that could possibly happen, ever. At 5-1, I am assured that won’t happen. Additionally, I would have been very upset to lose to a guy that just flat out told me he was going to try to cheat me and then proceeded to do it.

5-1, 11-4

Gadiel and Mike Krumb, both Chicago Bearls.

After pulling out that close match, I was pretty psyched about my deck and my chances. Contrary to some people’s belief, I am never one to get emotional during a match, but when I leave the playing area after big wins or very unlucky losses, it is different sometimes. So anyway, I really felt good about my chances, but those feelings were a bit diminished as the Bulls dropped a heartbreaker game six to the Wizards as I observed from a table at Champions.

Champions is a rather large bearl by the way, and I recommend more tournaments held at sites with Champions at them. Did I mention I am also trying to make bearl happen? You may think that after posting several good finishes, I’d be acquiring barnacles at an alarming rate. I am. However, I am becoming more of a Bearl barn than ever myself. I mean…if you’d see the man, you’d be one yourself. BDM or whoever controls the feature matches, you better make sure he gets one at Grand Prix: Minnesota.

Rant over and back to the story at hand, I went to bed after setting infinite alarms so I wouldn’t oversleep Day 2 for the second time in my career. Tune in next week to learn about topdecking, Top 8 lunches, and taking pictures with fans.